There are a number of reasons why The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1 is one of the most interesting comics coming out this week. First and most obvious—it’s more Multiversity (the fourth installment, for those keeping score.) But it also marks the latest collaboration between writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely, a pairing that consistently puts out career-defining work. Also of interest is Pax Americana‘s setting—Earth-4, home to the characters DC acquired from Charlton Comics, which were the inspiration for the cast of characters used by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in Watchmen.
Interested? Below, see some stunning exclusive preview pages and read a Q&A with Morrison and Quitely.
EW: Grant, one of the great things about the series is the strong thematic core at the heart of each universe on display. If we could say that Earth-Me [the setting of the previous issue, The Multiversity: The Just # 1] was about legacy and celebrity, what’s Pax Americana about?
GRANT MORRISON: I suppose it’s about America and specifically about America’s self-image as the world’s policeman. It tries to make a mind-devouring narrative Mobius strip out of the complicated, contradictory idea of using violence to enforce “peace.”
On a narrower wavelength, it might also cast a jaded eye on how lessons learned from the leftist, deconstructionist “realistic” superhero stories of the 1980s were assimilated and re-tooled to create post-9/11 Marvel Studios-style “realistic” super-soldiers and champions of the Military/Industrial complex.
Otherwise, it tells the Twilight Zone-ish story of a man’s life in a series of backward jumps through time—from his assassination as U.S. President on the first page to the traumatic boyhood event on the last page that explains everything we’ve just read in the 38 pages in between. It’s set on Earth-4 of the Multiverse of alternate worlds and it’s a kind of political-philosophical-thriller thing featuring the superheroes DC acquired from Charlton Comics back in 1983. The Charlton originals helped inspire the protagonists of “Watchmen,” of course, so we thought it would serve symmetry to put Captain Atom, the Blue Beetle, Nightshade, and the Question into a highly formal, “Watchmen”-style deconstructionist murder mystery story they can call their own!
This is also easily one of the most anticipated issues of The Multiversity because it reunites you with Frank Quitely. What about Frank’s work makes him ideally suited for this story?
MORRISON: I had very specific quasi-mathematical ideas for layouts and page structure based on a repeated 8-panel grid and something about octaves in music. I had to be able to work very closely with my artist on account of the complexity of the storytelling in this particular issue along with the necessity of making sure the story was clear to follow in spite of its intricate nature. Frank and I live near one another, we’re good friends and I see him a lot more socially than any of the other artists I like to work with but who live in distant lands or cities; it’s easier to work out some of the hardcore technical stuff when you’re in the same room together.
I knew that only he could create exactly the effects I saw in my head. This one needed his absolute clarity and precision. The way the figures move across the page is almost like animation and no-one draws figures moving through space like Frank does. His understanding of sequential visual storytelling is unequalled. In terms of artistic inovation, I think Pax is up there with We3 while working with a completely different set of rules.
Frank, what’s your approach like to this particular world and cast of characters? What about the Charlton characters appeal to you in this context?
FRANK QUITELY: To be honest, it wasn’t this particular world or cast of characters that appealed to me, it was working with Grant again, and in particular, the way that he pitched it to me—this marks another new way that Grant and I have worked together.
This is the first time he’s given me simple thumbnail layouts for most of the pages, which was really helpful to me some of the time, but more challenging at some other points. It’s been a fascinating and rewarding project to have been involved in, and we’ve produced something very different from all our previous collaborations.
Below, see a sneak peek of The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1, which is on sale this Wednesday.