Review: Superman Vol. 3: Multiplicity (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)


Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's Superman Vol. 3: Multiplicity is the best of the three volumes so far, spinning a Superman-centric super-tale that, with hardly an exaggeration, steals the fire of the (Grant Morrison-ian) gods and dares to wield it in "everyday" twice-monthly comics. As with "Escape from Dinosaur Island" and as with "Super-Monster," Tomasi and Gleason's creativity has never been in doubt, and "Multiplicity" is wonderfully wild.

The story is only hampered by where it ends up, and really the denouement if what Tomasi, Gleason, and Dan Jurgens have been setting up between their two Super-books is going to have to be good or there's going to be plenty egg-on-faces to go around. My disappointment in Multiplicity's final tally only reinforces to me how eager I am to see Tomasi and Gleason do their own thing here; the Rebirth Superman title has been consistently stronger when dealing with its own ongoing internal storyline than external ones, and that's the direction in which I'd like to see the Superman title continue.

[Review contains spoilers]

Grant Morrison's Multiversity was such an epic work that in some respects it seems no other creator dares touch it; it was the same with Final Crisis that despite potentially reality-rending consequences, most books just shrugged and went back to their own thing. Leave it then to Tomasi and Gleason to touch the third rail and enmesh their new Superman title in Multiversity, from the Justice League Incarnate to the Ultima Thule, Harbinger (and there goes that Mr. Oz theory) to frozen music. It's gutsy, and also a gauntlet thrown; it says nothing's too great and nothing's off-limits for what should rightfully be DC Comics's flagship title.

And indeed the three-part "Multiversity" is good. The most mundane and yet perhaps most important part of all of it is the first meeting of Superman and New Super-Man Kong Kenan. Tomasi and Gleason have always presented a caring, heroic Superman, and they do fine work here with a Superman who's both a fine leader but yet deferential -- especially in recognition of the presidential Superman of Earth-23 -- and also self-sacrificing; I thought our Superman was too willing to sacrifice his own life now given Lois and Jon, but he's still very admirable. And the multitude of Supermen is fun, and the book surely achieves the epic tone I've been hoping for when all the Supermen are lit up in the end.

But wouldn't you know it, there's no mention of whomever's been controlling the giant monsters that Clark and Jon have been dealing with lately, and rather the threat that "Multiplicity" villain Prophecy is so worried about turns out to be, yep, Mr. Oz. Now, I'm speeding through these Super-books because I'm that eager to find out who Mr. Oz is, but it's still a let-down that the answer to "Multiversity"'s mystery is Oz; Tomasi and Gleason's focus on Superman has been so scattered, and they finally settle and tell a real Superman story that puts Superman front and center ... and as it turns out, it's still in service to the larger Rebirth story and not Superman proper.

Not to mention that we have an Oz now so terrestrial that he has to send mortal soldiers to collect Doomsday in Action Comics and they fail the first time, and yet so cosmic that he threatens the entire Multiverse in Superman and is able to snag and chain the godlike Prophecy. Either Oz's identity is going to be really astounding or otherwise that's what we call inconsistency, letting alone that whatever Oz's plan is, it also motivated him to send an entire blank journal to the New 52 Superman and compelled him to reveal himself to the alternate-continuity Superman. I still think DC is handling Oz better than Pandora before him, but I worry that different writers have tried to make Oz too much in too many different places for it to ever all work out.

Multiplicity begins and ends with one-off stories, the first being the first Rebirth Superman annual. I have enjoyed Jorge Jimenez's loose, manga-inspired style as the pitch hitter artist on Superman with Gleason and Doug Mahnke (and now on Super Sons), but in almost 40 pages the book has about four splashes and four two-page spreads (about a third of the annual); this is not unusual but still the annual feels padded.

I was eager to see the "new" Superman meet Swamp Thing, but a lot of it is either mindless fighting or vague mumblings about the new Superman's origins that won't make sense until we finally get down to Superman Reborn (if ever). As with the Mr. Oz material, I grow impatient of pages upon pages of vague hints. Tomasi and Gleason's intention here actually seems to be for the new Superman to finish mourning the not-insignificant loss of his entire continuity, which would've been interesting to explore but never really gets the focus it deserves.

The second "one-off" is a horror story of sorts starring Jon and his friend Kathy. What I liked here was simply that Tomasi and Gleason devote an issue entirely to Jon after he's been basically been absent from this title for five or so issues -- I like that they gave him an issue, and I also like that they felt confident enough to bench him for a while. Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman plus the "World's Smallest" story from Superman Vol. 2: Trials of the Super Son began to make this book feel Jon-centric, elbowing out even Superman himself, and Multiversity's manner of spotlighting Superman and letting everyone else peek in around the edges suits me much better. Art by Sebastian Fiumara is nicely creepy, though Tomasi and Gleason get too cute for their own scariness when they have vomiting cows drowning the children in milk (not the end of the cow that milk comes from, guys).

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Superman Vol. 3: Multiplicity

The same as I was thinking in my review of Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: Welcome to the Planet, at some point this Rebirth story is going to come to an end and Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are still going to have to write Superman. As with Planet, Superman Vol. 3: Multiplicity suggests to me the creators can handle it; "Multiplicity" is a good story despite and not because of its Rebirth ties, and I'm eager in some respects to leave all of this behind and get down to the actual telling of the actual workaday stories.

[Includes original and variant covers, script excerpts and preliminary art from the Superman annual]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Superman Vol. 3: Multiplicity
Author Rating
3.5 (out of 5)

Comments ( 4 )

  1. I just had to check and see if I even read this, and I had back in September. I really didn't like this and thought it was just a hot mess. Convoluted to say the least. Plus there was little context of Kenan Kong and his being counted alongside the other "super" Kryptonians of the multiverse. Plus, I felt the overall Multiversity story was a retread in so many ways.

    And the Superman/Swamp Thing tale was just incessant navel gazing that makes a plodding story.

    I really like Jon and think he adds a lot to the Superman books. Can't get enough of him, actually.

    I really liked the first two volumes. This one, not so much.

  2. Hm, I haven't heard good things while this volume was out as single issues. Guess I'll give this a chance now.

    On another note: I really wish more comic teams would take snipits of Multiversity. Wasn't it created so that other people can play in that playground? I'm just sad that we have nothing from it except this.

    1. I wonder if there's editorial resistance against utilizing Multiversity, as there was with Hypertime?

  3. I was quite excited about this but Tomasi took a lot of shortcuts in this volume, one issue longer explaining a bit more of the proceedings would have helped. I felt that the The Multiplicity took a lot of elements out of the Multiversity playbox (good!) but failed on capturing the spirit of that series (bad!). Great art overall though. The lesser volume of the three, in my opinion.

    Keep up the great reviewing though! One of my fave blogs.


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