The Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures #1



Monday, Tuesday,  Wednesday, Thursday, Sivanaday ...

There's a new day come-a calling, it's the one day of the week when evil Dr Sivana can defeat Captain Marvel. The 'synthetic' day is the result of the Sivanas of many worlds combining rare time-bending element Suspendium to alter fundamental forces as first step towards joint rule of the Multiverse.

And where did they get this idea? From a comic book, the Society of Super-Heroes, one of the chapters of Grant Morrison's Multiversity project, of which this is the latest.


And possibly greatest. I flat-out adore this comic, which takes us to Thunderworld - that's pretty much Earth S to us old-timers - where Captain Marvel is the World's Mightiest Mortal. And yes, that's Captain Marvel, wizard and protege alike get to keep their own names. Alongside Cap are Mary Marvel - clad in the white costume from Jerry Ordway's superb Power of Shazam series, Captain Marvel Jr., Uncle Marvel, the Lts Marvel and Tawky Tawny. On the other side are Sivana's kids Magnificus, Georgia and Thaddeus Jr, souped up after saying one magic word ... Sivana (Mag's sister Beautia isn't around, presumably because three is the magic number when it comes to taking on the prime Marvel Family). Also on hand are the Monster Society of Evil, big as life and twice as ugly.

While Multiversity motivates this adventure - titled, old-school style, Captain Marvel and the Day That Never Was - I pretty much forgot that. I was having such a good time with a classical Marvel Family story that I was 11 again, discovering the magic of CC Beck's creation for the first time. Sure, some of the alternate Sivanas are a tad creepy - I'm looking at you, Dr Saw-vana, and then running away - but so far as the Big Red Cheese and chums are concerned, there's no updating in the approach here, not a whiff of cynicism. Captain Marvel is appalled when he sees the type of thing that happens in the SOS comic, and instantly allows it to wash over him like a quick, nasty rain shower. If anything as nasty as that enters his world, well, he'll kick it right out again, with the power of the wizard, sheer goodness and a smile.

The inclusion of Suspendium made me smile - that was the device used in the Seventies Shazam #1 to explain the decades-long absence from the comics landscape of Billy and co after DC sued Fawcett over Captain Marvel's supposed similarities to Superman. I also grinned at Mary Marvel's choice of reading. 




And I laughed out loud at Billy Batson's boss's admiration for his TV reports, the stinker.  



Illustrator Cameron Stewart and colourist Nathan Fairbairn could not be more suited to this story. Stewart's compositions draw the eye in, while his open, clean linework is perfect for the Marvel Family and transformed Sivana siblings. There's not a panel that doesn't invite wide-eyed appreciation, even as Stewart's storytelling skills work with Morrison's absorbing script to propel you through the story.

I love the classic, unfussy Captain Marvel design, especially the crinkly eyes and snub nose. There's a lovely grace with which he soars through the air, an elegance shared by Mary and Jr, which follows through into their fighting styles. The sheer joy of the Marvel Family is back for the first time in decades.


And a big part of the visual appeal is Fairbairn's well-chosen, superbly applied, unashamedly bright colours. The red, blue and white of the Marvel Family uniforms blaze off the page, daring us not to fall in love with these delightful heroes. Cooler tones surround Sivana, while a transdimensional subway tunnel trip is sheer psychedelia, a paradise of pop art. I could show it, but it's such a wondrous moment in the narrative that it's best to discover it for yourself.

Steve Wands' lettering looks good throughout, but is never better than in the opening narrative, when the friendly, forceful font evokes classic Marvel Family adventures.

In a book of nothing but excellent images, this panel is an absolute standout: the sense of crazy motion, the trick with the word balloon, the planes of colour - it could be used as a visual calling card by all three artists. 



Other pleasures include Georgia's rubbish attempts at seducing Jr; a new take on the Rock of Eternity;
 and Sivana's crumpled magic lightning. The only off-note is Saw-vana's closing threat around Mary Marvel, which is incredibly at odds with the prevailing tone - no doubt deliberately so, but I'd rather it weren't there. 

Thunderworld Adventures being part of a big old Grant Morrison storyline, there's likely a rich subtext, arcane references and Easter eggs aplenty. I'm afraid I missed them all, if such there be - I simply wallowed in a smart, funny, charming Marvel Family tale. Chances are this is the only time Morrison, Stewart, Fairbairn and Wands will team up for a Shazam story - I'm so glad we got this one. 

Comments

  1. would anyone think less of me if eye thought that sivana is smarter than lex luthor also happy sivana day

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    1. you said that the monster society of evil is in this mind telling us the roster

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    2. Couldn't tell you offhand, didn't recognise them all - maybe someone can help.

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    3. pretty sure mr atom is on the roster

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  2. Yes, I was pleasantly surprised. It was almost like a proper comic.

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  3. This issue is much more optimistic than the series second issue (Society of Superheroes) where the heroes win but were forced to do things they hated to do.

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    1. It was, though, I liked that one too.

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  4. I think Sivana's daughter Beautia is not present because she was the "good" Sivana; the other children were more like their dad.

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    1. Yesh, but wasn't Magnificus also a good guy after his first appearance?

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  5. I straight up *loved* this book! It could easily stand alongside any of the stories found in the pages of the Marvel Family. So so so good! Like you, Martin, the only thing that seemed out of place or off-side was the Saw-vana threat towards Mary.
    I loved the costume choices and the looks of the characters. In particular, there was almost something of a Dave Cockrum look to Junior, which I appreciated since he was one of the artists that drew Junior's adventures in the seventies, I believe.
    More more more like this, please!

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    1. Cockrum Cap Jr did indeed look great, I wish we'd seen more of that artistic combination.

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  6. To Anonymous: Sivana has ALWAYS been smarter than Luthor. Heck, it's why Winick using the unholy scientist as a recurring villain without the marvels was genius some years ago. Sivana's hubris is his downfall as much as Luthor but his imagination and brilliance always takes him much further than Luthor...

    And I find it ironic that the issue focusing on my least favorite pre-Crisis Earth would be my favorite issue of the mini. See, even though this is Morrison, I expected a love letter to long gone concepts and a playground left behind for other writers. Instead most of the previous Earths have been warped and darkened beyond recognition and they are left unusable in the state Morrison left them. I think I'm done with this mini for that reason. Unless I read a review that states a future issue is as good as this one, why bother reading twisted tales of old Earths when I have read proof in Thunderworld that Morrison could have given me the mini I wanted to and chose not to?

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    1. Great thoughts on Luthor vs Sivana, Steve. And that's a rather bittersweet view of Morrison's Multiversity, but I see just what you mean.

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  7. Definitely the best issue of Multiversity. Lots of fun.

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    1. I hope DC sees all the positive reactions and follows up with a series similar in tone.

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