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Across the Universe: The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore

By Mark Clapham on 01 July 2003

This impressive collection brings together short stories, fill-ins and one-offs written by Alan Moore for DC Comics in the mid 1980s. Some of these have been reprinted before – notably the Superman stories ‘For The Man Who Has Everything’ and ‘The Jungle Line’ – while others have been the province of bargain bins for far too long. Some of the entries are substantial, like the two stories mentioned above, while others are short back-ups similar to the Moore’s ‘Time Twisters’. All are worthy of attention, and there isn’t a single story here that isn’t worth owning.

There’s some very nice stuff here. Aside from the Superman stories (which should be treasured alongside ‘Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?’, Moore’s other story featuring the man of steel), there’s a two part Green Arrow story which demonstrates Moore’s early, more poetic and narration-heavy writing style. In his two-issue ‘Vigilante’ fill-in, ‘Father’s Day’, Moore not only deals with serious social issues, but finds time to mock the rather dumb lead character, who Moore clearly has little time for. While Moore has little time for right-wing power fantasies, he’s always had an interest in magic, and as such the Phantom Stranger comes off a lot better than Vigilante. Moore’s possible origin story for the stranger, ‘Footsteps’, parallels biblical angels with the subway ‘Guardian Angels’ of the time in a story about the perils of indecision. As with his work on ‘Swamp Thing’, Moore’s theological horror sets the tone for about half of Vertigo’s output to this day.

It’s ironic, then, that ‘Fables’ creator Bill Willingham is the artist on ‘In Blackest Night’, one of the cleverest uses of the Green Lantern Corps I’ve seen (not much of a claim, but a claim nonetheless), a delightful little SF story about a world in total darkness. The other GLC stories in the collection are equally well thought through gems, but ‘In Blackest Night’ remains a personal favourite because of its intelligence and efficient world-building. Moore, as ever, packs an amazing amount into each four or five page story. Also included are a couple of similar SF back-ups from ‘The Omega Men’, the latter of which, ‘A Man’s World’, has one of the bleakest, horrible endings to a story I’ve seen, an ending made even darker by the cheery, cute art style used.

The collection is rounded off with a Batman story, ‘Mortal Clay’, a perverse romance between Clayface III and a mannequin. It’s a fittingly perverse end to a collection of diverse stories that map an emergent talent in his pivotal first years working in US comics. As many of these stories were previously lost in the depths of back-issue bins, this is an essential collection, both for hardcore Moore fans and anyone who likes good comics.

Buy ‘Across the Universe’ from Amazon today!


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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