The Magic Bullet Mystery and Multiversity: Ultra Comics No. 1!
Why the flashback to a nostalgia filled series of books from the 80’s? The so called “Choose Your Own Adventure” franchise, which was written to the reader, in the second person, with them as the protagonist, featured reader involvement at various decision trees, which caused a fork in the story events. The protagonist could succeed or fail based upon the decisions (all plot based) of the reader. On some very large level, Grant Morrison’s very experimental Multiversity Comics: Ultra Comics No. 1 was effectively a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.
It frequently speaks directly to the reader. In doing so, it advises you to not read the book, or not turn to certain pages. It has a complex backstory for how you, the reader, are part of the protagonist of the story, the character Ultra, who is on some level a living, breathing comic book. It’s all very metafictional, and at the end of it, I felt that Morrison had almost tried too hard with certain ideas, rende3ring them inert.
I like the idea of trying to expand comics, and the ideas inside those comics. I really respect Morrison for continuously trying to do that, without sacrificing the story or genre conventions. I felt, upon reading it, that this was a bit too far, without the payoff. Also, given the plot, it’s a whole lot like the “Magic Bullet Mystery” proposed above. No choices that you make are going to solve the Magic Bullet Mystery. We know that, as the reader. Likewise, Morrison’s involvement of the reader in a plotline that is statically heading toward one endpoint seems either futile or useless, depending upon the mood you are in while reading it.
For all of the self-referential mocking and metafictional content that Morrison puts into the book, “The Multiversity: Ultra Comics” No. 1 can be read strictly as a simple adventure comic. At it’s core, it’s the story of a hero who goes up against a world-destroying evil and uses his wit to manipulate the villains into engineering their own destruction. If viewed simply that way, it’s fun…no more, no less than fun. Morrison, even when being experimental, rarely loses sight of that idea. The idea that the reader is somehow involved is like a “hanger on” of a concept. It doesn’t subtract a whole lot, but doesn’t really add anything.
In the end, I find myself torn with this book. I didn’t cover much of the actual plot here, because I wanted to avoid spoilers for those of you that might be reading it. On some level, it’s your standard fair of Morrison being Morrison. The book is full of ups and downs, and for the most part IS fun, but the negatives barely justify their presence in the narrative for me.
Unlike the “Magic Bullet Mystery.” Check out that cover, above. Fidel Castro, Jack Ruby being taken out, a big JFK Portrait, the Book Depository, the open car, and just for good conspiracy measure, an alien. I wanted to go with the odd hodge podge montage style of cover that was on much of that series’ books. Also the odd border around that, which was an earmark of much of the series. It was fun to draw, although I have little hope that the protagonist and Pony can solve it.
Next Issue: Preludes, Nocturnes and Dreamscapes.