Signals from the Multiversity #6: the Guidebook Edition

It’s weird, but I don’t have much to say about this issue. And what’s even more surprising about that statement is because it’s one of the biggest issues of the Multiversity saga yet. Hell, it’s the freaking guide to the whole thing. Something like this is absolutely crucial to understanding the story, but at the same time I’m thinking, well it’s mostly a guidebook. It leaves me wondering more as to what the impact of it will be on the overall story or if it’s just a handy little reference book for all. Sure there’s an awesome story involving a kiddie batman and what seems like some weird dystopian mecha-cyberpunk batman (earth-17), and the legion of sivanas, but it just seems more like a nifty guidebook than anything. One of the cool things in the book is the history of preboot-DC summarized in 4 pages.

What I really want to talk about in this entry is the increasing frequency of guidebooks in the worlds of fiction. There may not be many as of now, but it just seems like a trend waiting to be kicked into the world. Think about it: a reference guide would be a handy little tool that would allow writers to continually world-build while keeping track of even the most minor obscurities. Hickman and Morrison are both doing it, although they are both severely different in terms of what they’re guiding the reader towards. These things can work in a number of different ways, and there’s so much potential for them in the field of comic books.

Yet, this worries me.

For one, it kind of eliminates all mystery and mystique from the idea of a story’s fictional world. For instance, if I had a handbook guiding me through the Marvel and DC universes, it would deny me the pleasure of finding out what those bizarre, cool things are on my own. It would present the facts for me right then and there, therefore denying me of the mystery I desire and crave as a reader. Once you put the cold, hard statistics into something, it sacrifices wonder for calculated ordering.

Maybe this is just me projecting and/or being really vague here, but I like and dislike the idea of guides for comic books. Even videogames and tabletop games have guides to help move the player along a path, predetermined or otherwise, so why not comics? To me it feels both cheap and valuable, unless it really comes into play later down the line. We’ll see where this ‘trend’ goes in the next five years or so. A sudden emergence of guides would be great if executed well, but they also have the potential to backfire as much as a particular part of the medium. It’s a very confusing sort of idea to have here. Morrison uses his guide to great effect, by having it advance the story while acting as a library of the multiverse. It’s so satisfying and gets so much right and it never feels light on content. If this becomes a thing, this Multiversity Guide should be the gold standard.

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