On Multiversity: The Just
The Just is unlike any of the other Multiversity books out right now, primarily because it reads more like a gossip magazine, and features semi-photorealistic art from Ben Oliver (someone you wouldn’t expect to collaborate with Morrison in any shape or form) that is distinctly un-psychedelic. It is very much unlike a typical Morrison comic, but at the same time is about as typical a Morrison comic can get, with metatextual aspects and a reverence for the legacy heroes of DC past.
The Just feels like a Morrison nostalgia trip in a way unlike the other Multiversity books. It doesn’t long for the golden age nor does it recount the various decades in which Marvel exists. Its nostalgia exists solely for an era Morrison actually wrote in: the 90s. The 90s, at least for DC, had a bevy of new superheroes introduced to take over from the old ones: the oft-forgotten Connor Hawke to the much-missed Kyle Rayner and Wally West. The 90s was beginning to feel like a progression for comics. Even Batman got a temporary replacement in the form of Azrael, whose costume is the most distinctly 90s thing. All it lacked was a giant mullet.
Morrison indulges in his nostalgia by invoking a whole new cast of legacy heroes that one could imagine existing in a past time. Megamorpho, Miss Miracle, Alexis Luthor – These all exist as theoretical could-have-been’s had the 90s message of ‘out with the old, in with the new’ still existed. The book even brings back Morrison’s own concept of Damian Wayne as a future Batman. Morrison’s sentiment is nice, but what’s the purpose of all this? Is it a simultaneous mix of nostalgia and deprecation? Is it taking a serious look at an era that was critically panned for spawning comics powered more by style than substance?
It does have something to say about the consumerist fan-boy culture trying to spew faux-intellectualism in articles that are ultimately pointless because comics hold little cultural significance in the grand scheme of things. Maybe that sentiment can be conflated with the collectivist culture of comics in the 90s, where consumerism of the medium became a mass entity that seriously decreased the medium’s overall worth. As if Death of Superman meant anything right?
One of the things I did notice when reading it is the underlying message of heroes having done their job too well in the past, leaving nothing for the legacy heroes and in turn leaving them as selfish, brat-packers. It says something when there’s no longer a standard to be held to? Does it turn our heroes lazy? Does the byproduct of hard work and a perfect world turn us into lazy automatons? This theory works when the re-enacting’s happen because it showcases that the legacies are living off of past glories rather than going out and finding their own adventure. This could be a critique on the comic medium as a whole where stories get rehashed like it’s going out of style and nobody can create new characters anymore. The Just acts as a gateway in to the past, with all of its good and all of its bad converging into one 40-page issue.
That it ends on a cliffhanger feels like a technique that was highly prevalent in the crossover-mentality of the 90s, where events like No Man’s Land were spread out across dozens of series, and collector mentality meant that all of it was going to be worth something (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). It’s hard to grasp exactly what Morrison is saying about the legacy heroes and the 90s comic culture as a whole, because there are a number of conflicting messages at play. I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s telling us it’s okay to have nostalgia for an era that was particularly good for DC, but that we must also recognize the problems it spread to comics as a whole, and how some of the things in comics now are symptomatic of the comic’s culture of yore. Still, it was a waste to not have Rob Liefeld draw the thing.