Thursday, May 03, 2007

Multiple Multiverse Meanderings

52 week 52: Well, that was a hoot. I have to admit, 52 was much, much better than I thought it would be. I plan to go back and re-read it all now, so I can’t comment on the specifics, I’m sure we’ll see lists of unanswered questions and inconsistencies, but it seems like all the major threads tied up pretty nicely. I’ll even take back some of my complaints about World War III, because at least it kept the least interesting of the initial concepts for 52-the events that caused the One Year Later changes–off in a separate series. Trying to include all of that would have made 52 much messier, and I’m glad it was dealt with elsewhere. What we got was a look at different aspects of life on New Earth post-Infinite Crisis, and a great story that elevated some damaged characters to star status topped with one final gift.

Yes, the best part of all this is, we got the multiverse back. I was around for the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and I never did like the elimination of the parallel Earths. Twenty-one years ago, the concept was an albatross for DC, and they felt that the multiverse was too hard to explain, and that having one timeline would be for the best. To be fair, I think it did work to improve sales and increase readership, but the cracks started to show early, and there were plenty of ‘em. The problem of explaining the multiverse was quickly replaced by the problem of trying to explain how various pivotal stories could or could not have “happened”, and as characters like Hawkman and Wonder Woman were reintroduced as if they were new, the problems multiplied. Today is very different from then, though. As pop culture caught up with and embraced the comics, it’s probably fair to say that the concept of multiple earths has become more common in our entertainment, and even my 5-year old son understands that the animated, movie, and comic book Batman are three different stories, each with their own rules and timelines.

So the multiverse is back, and we’re jubilant over the return of something that probably shouldn’t have been taken from us in the first place. Of course, when hostages are returned, it’s unseemly to complain about the time and cost of freeing them. It leads me to wonder though: Were the last twenty-one years a waste? For all the continuity troubles that CoIE caused, DC had only just recently finished ironing out most of the problems caused by that event, only to turn around and render all that work unnecessary. Or so it seems. Was all of John Byrne’s work rewriting the Superman legend in vain? Were all the Legion reboots for naught? I’ll argue no, for the post-CoIE landscape did allow for the molding of a singular, all-inclusive DCU, one that folded in all DC’s character acquisitions and their classic characters. It also allowed for a legacy-centric DCU, with a JLA that formed from the JSA, and a rich tapestry of character dynasties that never would have happened had the Earth 1/Earth 2 JLA/JSA division stood.

Now, many Earths that became one have become many again, albeit with some retooling. Costume designs hint that these are not the same infinite earths that disappeared 21 years ago, allowing for many, many possibilities, but with a bit more structure. Fans can now have their cake (charming classic Captain Marvel) and eat it too (Trials of Shazam), and if someone wants to do a Vic Sage Question series, they can, and it “counts”.

The only caution I would extend (like they're gonna ask me) is not to get too anxious to catalog everything. Half-a dozen or so Earths introduced is enough, and there's no need to rush in there and close off all possibilities. I do hope that the DC Animated Universe is one of the 52 Earths though-that would be great.

Whatever the case, color me tickled pink to see the DC multiverse back in action!


SallyP said...

52 WAS great, wasn't it? And to think, they said it couldn't be done.

Mark Engblom said...

While most of 52 left me cold, the end result (the return of the Multiverse) was the best thing to come out of it...though the same result could have been achieved at the end of last year's Infinite Crisis without the rather creaky set-up with Mr. Mind hoovering up papers to symbolize reality-change.