What I thought of Nameless #4

Thoughts about #1, #2 and #3.

Nameless-4Last issue saw the shit splatter all over the fan. The crew trying to stop asteroid Xibala from smashing into Earth have seen their spaceship destroyed, their colleagues killed and possessed and things look bleak to say the least.

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This is probably the best issue so far of Grant Morrison’s venture into horror and on the whole it’s an effective little issue that plays with dream, reality and some old dark horrors. Yes it feels like Morrison’s ‘inspired’ by Garth Ennis and in particular, his work on Crossed. As much as this feels like Morrison going over old ground and nicking bits and bobs from other writers, it is a good read and it is a nice horror comic but it’s still not Morrison on peak form.

What I thought of The Multiversity #2

Thoughts about The Multiversity #1,  Society of Super Heroes, The Just Pax AmericanaThunderworld AdventuresGuidebookMastermen and Ultra Comics.

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Grant Morrison’s Multiversity which seems to have went on for as long as this election campaign finally comes to a close. This has been a tour round DC’s new multiverse and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster with some issues being excellent (the Captain Marvel issue) and some being dismal (the Watchmen ”homage” is pretty dreadful) but it’s been an interesting sight to see Morrison plug on with something that is essentially aimed at the hardcore DC Universe fan.

This has been an excuse for Morrison to dig up, even revamp old ideas from not only DC, but ones from himself like this version of John Constantine from his Doom Patrol run in the 1990’s.

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This issue does start tying up previous threads, so the Marvel Family’s attack on the base of the multiple Dr. Sivana’s follows on and we see the surviving Sirvana’s escape to the Old West world of the Justice League of Earth 18 not to mention we see the crisis break out across every world in DC’s multiverse.

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Seeing as this year is the 30th anniversary of Crisis on Infinite Earths this is trying to reference that series, but that was a series that genuinely was original as that sort of massive company wide crossover hadn’t really happened before, not to mention all the characters were ones we’d all got used to. Even the more obscure ones. This just feels like Morrison ensuring DC’s intellectual property is sheered up and as much as he tries to impose a sense that there’s something deeper going on via his usual meta commentary, it really feels like corporate comics writ large.

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Essentially this is the story of superheroes from different worlds teaming up to fight The Gentry, a typically Morrisonesque threat that draws upon Lovecraft, not to mention the original Crisis of 30 years ago.

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There’s a huge fight scene where Captain Carrot is beheaded. Really.

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I dread to think how creators Scott Shaw and Roy Thomas take this. OK, Captain Carrot doesn’t die (he is a funny animal after all) but it’s depressing that a fun character is being dragged into DC’s obsession with gore and especially decapitations.

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The fight progresses with meta references flying as fast as punches but there’s a curious lack of whether I actually care about these characters, I really don’t that much, plus this all reads a bit like fan fiction but then again most superhero comics these days read like fan fiction. Morrison for all his recent flaws still turns out a good story and this is ok, but it’s empty. I don’t feel anything when reading this apart from seeing the gaps between the big set pieces and the feeling that there’s something missing from it all.

I have mentioned previously that Morrison’s decade plus embedded in superhero comics hasn’t always produced good end product, and this sums it all up really. It’s the meta picture of Morrison’s career in the 21st century. The odd high, some average stories, the odd clunker and influences drawn from the Silver Age to Alan Moore all thrown in for all to see. I just wish we’d see Morrison out of his comfort zone to do something new and different as it seems like a long, long time he’s tried to do that.

What I thought of Nameless #3

Thoughts about #1 and #2.

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The thing is about Nameless is that it’s not a bad comic, it’s actually quite alright, but it’s just a odd mix of what is obviously a film script/treatment (or at least has one eye on that) and Morrison’s usual themes. This issue at least finally takes us into the mysterious asteroid that threatens all life on Earth.

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This issue takes a few beats from Prometheus as the crew use drones to investigate the depths of this asteroid and they discover the remnants of an alien civilisation designed to be in a state of perpetual war. The further they go they discover this is a prison ship designed to hold the worst prisoners in this war and once they discover this things go very, very badly wrong.

I’ve been quite harsh on this comic til now, but it has frankly fannyed around as this issue really is one of the best things Morrison’s written in some time. It’s an effective SF/horror story that although it borrows from the aforementioned Prometheus, not to mention a massive chunk of Event Horizon, actually starts developing it’s own direction. It’s a cracking issue and hopefully sets the next issues up well as this is Morrison telling a story in simple (though never simplistic) ways and with Chris Burnham’s effective art, this is a comic worth picking up.

What I thought of The Multiversity: Ultra Comics

Thoughts about The Multiversity #1,  Society of Super Heroes, The Just Pax AmericanaThunderworld AdventuresGuidebook and Mastermen

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Multiversity comes to its penultimate issue and it makes us, the readers, part of the story from the off.

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Right away Morrison attempts to draw the reader in and make them culpable for the events within it, but this is hardly something new as Morrison is really taking this from the Flash stories of Gardner Fox and Julie Schwartz from the 1950’s and 1960’s. This though is the ‘haunted comic’ that’s popped up in most issues of this series, and that by reading it to the end the reader is going to unleash something terrible upon our universe.

The idea is that Ultra Comics is alive. the very comic we’re reading is sentient so it reacts to the reader. This allows Morrison to get more meta than he’s even been before as he makes a few comments about superhero comics or every era.

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We’re also warned at regular intervals that we can stop reading, to turn back and to leave this comic alone, which really is lifted from Fox and Schwartz but there’s a slight difference in tone.

multiversity28Morrison has the reader connect directly with Ultra that allows him to fire out some comments you’d expect to hear bloggers like myself say (and indeed, have said) about Morrison’s work, not to mention superhero comics in general.

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Ultra Comics is an interesting experiment that on one hand is the most interesting issue of Multiversity so far but there’s little bitter barbs that are perhaps more than just Morrison trying to have a living comic that’s reactive to the thoughts of the readers.  There’s an oddly bitter tone Morrison takes that isn’t just about the story but a reaction to the criticism he’s taken over much of the last decade or so. This is what makes this an odd read as Morrison is trying to do something different here in the entire narrative structure of this comic, but I can’t help feeling this is letting him preempt a certain amount of criticism before it’s even been made. As said, it’s interesting but doesn’t always convince. The art by Doug Manhnke is good but fairly unspectacular.

With one issue left to go Morrison has to wrap everything up. It’s not that Multiversity hasn’t worked as this issue fills in the gaps that makes previous issue work better in the context of the larger series, but it’s been a series that’s never fully convinced although its worked hard to make it work. Perhaps if Morrison is going to crack on doing superheroes in the future he should so a simple adventure story just to shut his critics up?

What I thought of Nameless #2

Thoughts about #1.

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I didn’t really think that the first issue of Grant Morrison’s latest comic was especially bad, but I didn’t think it was especially good, though there were signs that perhaps Morrison was trying to do something different for the first time in a while. Issue two is much of the same  in that we’ve got the usual Morrison things of an alienated loner as the only person that could save the planet, strange secret organisations, hi-tech space adventure, Lovecraftian horror and Glaswegianisms.

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The problem is that it’s too cinematic, too obviously designed to be adapted into a film which is really something that’s a bloody pain in the arse with far too many comics in the mainstream these days.

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This said, Nameless is incredibly readable mainly because although Morrison may be treading water these days, he can still turn a good story and Nameless is a good little story. Pity that it really isn’t something that isn’t going over Morrison’s past ground.

What I thought of Annihilator #5

Thoughts about #1#2#3 and #4.

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I’m a bit late with this review mainly because I totally forgot all about it. This isn’t that memorable a series though as I’ve said, had this come out in the early or mid 1990’s, this would have been a fantastic series rather than going over the same ground that Morrison’s trodden into a trench by by now.

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It’s not that Annihilator isn’t an engaging story, it is, but it’s so tired in it’s characterisations with the moody anti-hero, the Hollywood druggie writer and the sassy female lead that could have appeared in any mainstream comic over the last couple of decades.

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Even Fraser Irving’s art makes it look like a product of the 90’s, and his art is good, but again, it’s like a 90’s band dragging itself out for one more album and tour to pay off a tax bill. This however could me being entirely cynical.

This isn’t a bad comic, just uninspiring which is a huge pity as you expect better from these creators.

What I thought of The Multiversity: Mastermen

Thoughts about The Multiversity #1,  Society of Super Heroes, The Just Pax AmericanaThunderworld Adventures and Guidebook.

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This issue of Multiversity takes a bit from Grant Morrison’s own creation Zenith, and Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son, and bizarrely it sort of works because Morrison manages to spin this issue out well as opposed to the self-indulgent twaddle of last issues Guidebook. It helps that there’s only the one artist this issue, and that artist is Jim Lee, someone I’ve had a love/hate relationship with his work since his early days but here turns out good solid superhero comics.

 

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The story revolves round Hitler finding baby Kal-El (Superman) in Nazi Germany and raising him to be a Nazi hero, rather than an All-American one after seeing an American comic book and being inspired by it in a scene that is no way ‘inspired’ by Alan Moore’s Marvelman.

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Thanks to having a Nazi Superman, Hitler manages to conquer the United States, but this new Nazi empire and Overman isn’t without it’s resistance that manages on the next 60 years to land blows upon Overman and his fellow Nazi superheroes.

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That’s from a dream sequence but it’s still fun to see Morrison and Lee riffing on that old cliched comic pose.  So on this Earth there’s an evil Nazi Batman, Flash and an entire Justice League that fight for the Nazi cause against Uncle Sam and his Freedom Fighters, yet this Overman has feelings of guilt about the Nazi Final Solution.

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What follows is the best issue of this series so far apart from the Captain Marvel issue. The main reason this is actually good is that like the Captain Marvel issue, Morrison sticks to telling a story and telling it well, while only nudging along the main storyline slightly. It also features the Human Bomb, and old 1940’s hero I’ve loved ever since seeing him in an old Len Wein issue of the JLA back in the 1970’s.

multiversity25This is a fine superhero comic that does borrow from others but thanks to Morrison having the story crack on at a ridiculously fast pace, and Lee’s solid (though at times his characters are ridiculously proportioned) art it manages to be a standout issue in a average series. My problem is with the entire series is that it’s not a sum of it’s parts but is instead a patchy, often overly pandering to continuity, and sometimes just badly written but this issue isn’t and deserves a look.

What I thought of Nameless #1

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Nameless is the new horror comic from Grant Morrison and artist Chris Burnham. The synopsis is as follows…

An astronomer kills his family, then himself, leaving a cryptic warning.
A Veiled Lady hunts her victims through human nightmares.
An occult hustler known only as ‘Nameless’ is recruited by a consortium of billionaire futurists for a desperate mission.

And the malevolent asteroid Xibalba spins closer on a collision course with Earth.

But nothing is what it seems-a terrifying inhuman experiment is about to begin.

Abandon all hope and experience ultimate horror in NAMELESS.

 

I’ve been saying that Morrison needs to drop not only writing the same things about superheroes, but perhaps get out his comfort zone by exploring new ideas, and to an extent Nameless does this, but Morrison doesn’t quite stay out of his comfort zone for long. The other thing hung round Morrison’s neck are the accusations he liberally borrows writing styles from other writers, most notably Alan Moore, but in this case perhaps Morrison should send Warren Ellis a cheque as this could easily be one of those SF/Horror strips Ellis bangs out for Avatar whenever he needs the mortgage paid, though Morrison’s comic is better than some of those, it’s not entirely convincing.

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Yet the bits that shine in this are the bits where Morrison exposes himself in barely hidden autobiographical snippets sneaked into Nameless that shows his possible mindset in writing this. This panel especially gives a bit away.

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Morrison’s said in interviews that he finds the world since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 something he can’t come to terms with because of the sheer horror of those attacks. It’s not an uncommon feeling among people but it also shows perhaps a previous reluctance to accept the horrors of the world until it more or less dropped in his lap via television on 9/11.

The other thing is that Nameless is set in Glasgow, Morrison’s home city. Though most of the time in this first issue it’s in part of a very odd and nightmarish dream reality.

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Nameless is a odd mismatch of a comic that’s mixing SF, the occult and horror but it’s the little snippets of Morrison himself that shine in this comic that frankly, isn’t doing anything too different from the sort of material Morrison’s done in the past but there’s perhaps signs in this that Morrison realises that the superhero comic isn’t helping him develop his obvious talents, and that trying to do something at least different from somewhere in himself is better than yet again hacking out a Batman story where he beats everyone.

I’ll be picking this up purely to see where it goes and how Morrison develops it as it might be his first really quality work in some time.

What I thought of The Multiversity: Guidebook

Thoughts about The Multiversity #1,  Society of Super Heroes, The Just Pax Americana and Thunderworld Adventures.

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If I’m spending over a fiver on a superhero comic it really, really has to be special, and sadly, the Multiversity: Guidebook is a stew that features some nice meaty chunks but often feels half cooked. It is however a DC Comics continuity freak’s wet dream and that seems to be the entire point of this latest issue of Grant Morrison’s latest superhero epic.

Guidebook is meant to remind older readers of those great 80 or 100 page giants DC used to do in the 1960’s and 1970’s, though as the issue starts off with childlike versions of DC’s superheroes being murdered it’s easy to sneak into a black depression as it seems Morrison is indulging in the boringly bleak ‘dark’ bollocks writers think make their comics ‘adult’.

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In these stories Morrison furthers the story of how the Multiversity comic is helping parallel worlds be invaded through the comic itself, and also as the Dr. Sivana’s of various world’s have also realised this, they’ve used these comics to also invade other universes though this hasn’t stopped the Marvel family from finding them or indeed, heroes of other worlds coming together, not to mention the return of the New Gods.

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Morrison manages to do a very good history of DC’s multiverse that reminds me of how fund DC were at one point, not to mention that the days of superhero comics throwing around big ideas are now reduced to endless cross-overs and unrelenting sex and violence.

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Morrison’s thesis for some years is that our reality is part of a larger one that contains these characters from DC Comics and that Multiversity is part of his plan to make the DC universe live. Much of the issue is also given over to a Who’s Who description of the 52 worlds that make up DC’s multiverse.

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In this section Morrison ties up every alternate universe DC (we’re Earth 33) seems to have ever done into a combined, unified multiverse and it’s pure continuity porn.

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This is either great fun or overly self indulgent twaddle, and in fact, it’s both.

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The story doesn’t need minute details of different worlds to make it work as after all, most readers should be able to follow what is a typical Crisis type storyline spun into a slightly post-modern narrative by Morrison, but this is fun but seems to be there only to keep geeks happy.

There’s a lot though going on in this issue, including the obvious return of Darkseid and red skies on multiple worlds to make it a proper Crisis event. It is however still a patchy affair made not so much confusing but annoying as the guide part of this book is dropped right in the middle of the story and that breaks up the storytelling to cram in lots of continuity. Of course if you’ve picked this up as a fan of Morrison but are unfamiliar with the DC Universe, then you are quite simply going to be utterly and totally lost.

Multiversity isn’t bad. It’s a passable superhero event that’s probably going to be better than Marvel’s Secret Wars, but this isn’t going to change comics, let alone superhero comics. It’s going over old ground as yet another incredible menace threatens the multiverse and only a few heroes can save it! I do wish though that Morrison would stop treading water and actually do something with his obvious talent that isn’t superheroes, or even going over old ideas. I’d love to see him try something new rather than tread old ground.

What I thought of Miracleman Annual #1

 

Thoughts about #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9#10#11, #12 and #13.miracleman-annual1

 

Around 30 years ago Grant Morrison wrote a Kid Marvelman strip for Dez Skinn to appear in Warrior. It never got published and for years was thought long lost, until earlier this year when Marvel Comics editor-in-chief announced he’d spoken to Morrison and that Marvel were going to publish it along with the first all-new Miracleman material from Mike Allred and Pete Milligan for 20 years.

Now it’d be impossible to review this without mentioning that Alan Moore interview or indeed, the accusations (some true, some tenuous) of how Morrison hasn’t just followed in Moore’s footsteps, but has actively copied his style. These allegations simply are not going to go away nor will they after reading this story as it really does read like mid-80’s Alan Moore, though Joe Quesada (who has liberally adapted the script to spin out for longer than originally written, and I do like the Steranko-esque splash page) has tried to somehow tone that down, it still reads like Morrison doing Moore.

The story itself is set in 1966 and is a conversation between a priest and Kid Marvelman, who by this point has not turned back into Johnny Bates for three years and is in the process of generally becoming a total bastard. Also, Quesada draws Kid Marvelman to look like Grant Morrison and that’s a wee bit odd.

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Essentially Kid Marvelman returns to the place he landed after the British government tried to kill the Marvelman Family in 1963, and in this story, to the priest who saw him survive the blast to clean up some loose ends and panels that have captions that read like it’s 1986.

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It’s only a short story padded out by some nice storytelling from Quesada, but it’s not a terrible story, rather than an oddity brought back to life. It’s not going to add to the overall story as opposed to reading as it probably was which was to see if Morrison could ape Moore’s style enough to get himself a job writing Marvelman. On this evidence, he did a very good job copying Moore’s style.

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As for the new story by Milligan and Allred, it’s a charming little story done int he style of the 1950’s stories, but again, it’s slight for the first new Miracleman material for over 20 years.

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We do get to see Marvelman fighting some dolphins though.

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It’s got a nice Mick Anglo feel and a nice comment upon the trend for dark comics, but it’s fun and nothing more than that. It’s also telling Marvel haven’t used the Alan Moore updated version of Marvelman in this new story which does add to suspicion that perhaps there’s plans for that version after they finish the Neil Gaiman run,

As for the rest of the annual it’s made up of Morrison’s original script (rusty staples and all) and a comparison with what Quesada has done in padding the story out.

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It also becomes clear from the script that it’s not Quesada who decided to draw Kid Marvelman as Grant Morrison, but he’s only following Morrison’s instructions in the script and from a photo reference of Morrison himself from 1984.

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I’m sure they’ll be those putting a lot into Morrison dropping himself into a Kid Marvelman story, but creators have done it before where they drop themselves into a story, so it’s really not a huge issue even if it is odd in this case in retrospect. As for the annual, it’s thin picking for three quids worth of comics but it’s about worth it mainly because the Morrison story isn’t all bad even if it’s a Happy Shopper Alan Moore script, and the Milligan story is fun. Just don’t expect anything too revelatory on display here.