In case you forgot (and how could you?), we here at MC are big Grant Morrison fans. We’ve made boastful claims about his work, and I personally have defended and reviewed a multitude of books by him, such as Seven Soldiers, We3, and Final Crisis. A weekend or so ago (depending on the time this actually gets published), I went on a bit of a graphic novel spree and, in turn, picked up a few Grant Morrison titles I’d never read before. Since they’re all rather small I decided to throw them all together rather than make a lot of little review posts that clutter up the site with Morrison this and Morrison that. You probably all get enough of that every time Batman And Robin comes out! So enjoy some short reviews of Vimanarama, Seaguy, Kill Your Boyfriend, JLA: Earth-2, and the very old Batman: Gothic.
You guys know me by now, right? I’ll read anything Morrison. Slap his name on it and I’ll pick it up. I’m kind of a junkie like that. In picking up Vimanarama, I knew I’d heard of it before but I had never actually read it or read anything about it. I was just curious, and hey, it’s Morrison! What I got, however, was easily the most disappointing thing by him I’ve ever read. That’s not to say that I didn’t like it or that it didn’t make me laugh/cry/bite my fingernails. It’s just that when you take this book and you compare it to the multitude of work that man has done in his life, you’re left very empty by the end of it.
Vimanarama is a very simple concept. You’ve got an Indian boy who lives in London, about to go meet his wife-to-be in an arranged marriage scenario he’s very upset with. Why? Well, he’s pretty she’s going to be ugly. When his baby brother goes missing, he ends up on the hunt for the child where he actually meets his fiance, and he falls in love with her very quickly due to her exquisite beauty. Unfortunately, the child got lost in this super secret underground city, and before long a very ancient evil is unleashed and rampaging through the world, destroying everything in it’s path. What makes it worse is that the only one who can stop the evil horde is this ancient being, practically a super hero, who recognizes the girl as the reincarnation of his old love and promptly whisks her away to be at his side as he and his kind save the world from total destruction. That’s about the whole first issue (of three) in a nutshell.
While this book is filled with Morrison’s signature weirdness, obscurity, and odd humor, it just doesn’t cut it where his other little books cut it. Most of his mini’s have a lot of heart or character to them, and in this, while I enjoyed it very much visually (with excellent work being brought to you by Philip Bond, who also did the art for Kill Your Boyfriend in a very different fashion), I just didn’t find a lot for me to really latch on to. It doesn’t spark the same joy I got from reading other work by him, and while I’m more than happy to have this book on my shelf, it’s not one I really feel the need or care to loan out to people in order to show off his abilities. There are much better works to choose from than this.
Although, I do have an amusing little story from this book. I was attending one of my night classes, and before class started I was sitting reading Vimanarama to myself. Someone looked over and asked me, and this is an exact quote, “Are you reading The Boondocks?” I was so furious inside I didn’t even bat an eye in response. I just kept reading quietly to myself. That story isn’t so much amusing as it is excessively aggravating to the elitist in me, but it’s still something I felt that was worth a share.Continued below
I read Seaguy in it’s entirety on a fifteen-twenty minute train ride, and I’m pretty sure the entire train thought I was obnoxious as I laughed my ass off while reading. It is pure oddity and hilarity and is easily one of the funniest things I’ve ever read by Morrison, and I love it. Right off the bat I had connected with the characters and found myself very involved in their well being in the way I was when I read WE3. This, to me, was and is a must have.
Let me break it down for you in terms of what you’re getting into when you pick up Seaguy later today/tomorrow. Seaguy is the last of a dying breed – no one really wants to be a superhero anymore, especially not after the giant universe shattering fight against Anti-Dad. The only thing there really is to do these days is sit around, watch TV and drink soda, play chess games against death, and go to theme parks. So that’s exactly what Seaguy does, along with best pal Chubby the Chuna, a cigar smoking talking fish that hates the water. But, of course, they get sucked up into the craziest of conspiracies ever that takes them from their cozy town and Mickey Eye theme park everywhere from Atlantis to Stone Hedge and the Moon. Best be prepared for insanity and hilarity before you open the book.
While it is extremely hilarious, I should note that the serious implications behind it are also excessively apparent. The book is fully of social commentary and in itself is a send-up of actual superheroes in the way that Watchmen was, which is how Morrison describes the book’s purpose. It’s supposed to be a trilogy in which, through hilarious adventures and writing, Morrison talks about the decline of the superhero as well as the commercialization of our culture. Now, since it is a trilogy, it’s important to remember that the story doesn’t wrap up 100% by the end of the book. All the original bases are indeed covered, but there are still many unanswered questions. Seaguy 2, also known as The Slaves of Mickey Eye, just recently came out, and who knows when Seaguy 3 (Seaguy Eternal) will be released due to poor sales on the book. However, I would urge you to go and find a trade if you can. I found Seaguy to be a quick but great read in a way that’s very truly Morrison at his crazy best. It’s an easily accessible book and I really can’t express how much I loved it. Despite the shortness of this review in which I don’t fully go in-depth to the inner workings of the book, trust me: there’s a lot to it’s 3 issues.
Now if only Seaguy 2 would come out in trade already… *sigh*
Kill Your Boyfriend
Oh, Kill Your Boyfriend… how unlike Morrison’s other work you are, yet how insanely similar in your entirety. I found this book as a tiny little sliver for $5 mixed in with all the other titles and, since I love Morrison, shrugged my shoulders and bought it. What I got in return was an odd little teen romp with Morrison’s flair for twisted tales, social commentary and insanity.
Basically, the story runs like this: you’ve got this innocent British school girl, right? She has a boyfriend who won’t sleep with her, friends she doesn’t really care about, hormones going through the roof, and parents she despises. It’s pretty typical, really. You remember what that was like! Then along comes this guy. This amazing guy. He smokes, he drinks, he swears, he skips school. He’s bad in all the ways that make her feel good. For whatever reason, he has a liking for her and gets her to come out with him one night after she’s run from home crying. He lures her in with his seductive lifestyle and, after getting drunk, she admits that she hates her boyfriend and wants him to die. So what does he do? He says, “Well, let’s kill your boyfriend!” They go to her boyfriend’s house, shoot the guy several times, and run away, turning to a fast lane life of crime, sex, and violence. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.Continued below
While all of Morrison’s work contains some social commentary (Magneto and his death camps, Seaguy and the analysis of the super hero and commercialism, Vimanarama and it’s analyzing of the loss of myths plus stabbing at politics), this one is so apparent and dripping with commentary that you can’t miss this one. It’s easy to get lost in his stories, but with this one? Nuh uh. It’s all there. For example, at one point in the story our “heroes” meet up with a group of “artists” traveling the world on a bus. They’re committed to changing the world and doing something with their lives, yet they never take any kind of action and run away at the first sign of violence (not including sexual violence). This leaves Morrison open for writing in a rant about how all the people like this are jokes and need to stop talking and start doing something, which eventually leads straight into the stories climax (which has it’s own insane twists and turns regardless). Morrison takes a stab at pretty much every subculture or entity in Britain in this book, especially in a memorable scene involving a politician. He also glorifies the crap out of the runaway rocknrolla lifestyle that kids seem to oddly look up to (and, to be honest, if this was a movie? It’d be a smash hit with indie college kids). It’s easily the most commentary filled book I’ve read by him to date.
Not only that, but this book acts as two things for Morrison. The first is an ode to Dionysus, the Greek God. Through the book, the boy represents Dionysus, in the way he seduces the heroine and brings her on this crazy adventure. It’s something you might not pick up on right away, but Morrison’s afterward in the book explains this pretty clearly, as well as the second thing I’m going to mention: this book is an ode to a girl who drove Morrison crazy in a good way. The entire afterward has Morrison completely explaining what drove the inspiration for the book and how it was created and who it was created for. It’s actually kind of amusing to read because in a way, Kill Your Boyfriend is almost a love letter to a girl Morrison apparently lost. My favorite part of that is when you actually read the story and know just how it ends, you look at Morrison and say, “Really? This is your ode to her?” It’s pretty wild stuff.
I should also mention that Phillip Bond, who I had previously mentioned working with Morrison on Vimanarama, did all the art for this book in a completely different style. If you didn’t know that it was Bond, you probably wouldn’t recognize the artist right away. I’ll tell you what though – if you find these two books? Look at the faces. That’s where you can tell. See, Kill Your Boyfriend was written 15-20 years before Vimanarama (that’s me saying without looking up the actual date on Google), and the art and writing reflect the times in which it was made. The whole work is really rather reflective, and it’s very impressive.
Kill Your Boyfriend isn’t like most of the Morrison books we’re used to. There are no super heroes. There is no crazy and extensive plot that takes hours to understand. It is easily the most straight forward book I’ve written by him. That being said, it’s obviously not for everyone, but I enjoyed it. As “simple” as it was, there really is a lot to it under the surface, and it’s a quick read. Definitely a nice addition to my library.
This book is pretty awesome. I am biased towards instantly loving Morrison/Quitely collaborations (New X-Men, WE3, All-Star Superman) and this is no different. It’s everything you normally love about them, but older and, dare I say it? Cooler. Well, maybe not cooler, but still very awesome.
In Earth-2, the Justice League find out about an alternate Earth within the multiverse where everything is opposite of ours. Lex Luthor is good, and Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are all evil. They run the Crime Syndikate of Amerika and rule the world with an iron fist. Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and the Flash and Green Lantern all agree to go to this world to help their Luthor take out the CSA and make the world a better place. Unfortunately for them, in a world where evil reigns supreme and good falters, they don’t stand as good a chance to bring peace as they originally thought.Continued below
This book is classic Quitely and Morrison together. Plenty of excellent two page spreads and plenty of Quitely’s signature “liquid capes,” as I’ve heard them called. The evil CSA, headed by Ultraman and Owlman, are made all the more devilish looking by Quitely’s style of art, and Morrison’s twisted vision of this alternate world (who refer to us as Earth-2) is quite signatory. It just shows why these two are perfect collaboraters with one another, in the same way that Warren Ellis/John Cassaday makes my heart sing and Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch makes my knees tingle. It’s pretty much a match made in Heaven with these two because the stories Morrison writes, Quitely clearly just gets (did you see their work in the new Batman and Robin book?). I can’t imagine anyone else doing the art for this book because Quitely’s style is just so perfect in it.
Anyone who was a fan of any of their DC collaborations should be sure to pick this up. It’s a single graphic novel that was never released in issue form (per my understanding, anyway), and it’s pretty hard to find these days. If you do find it, though, don’t hesitate. It makes a great addition to any library.
The funny thing about this book is I actually recognize the characters from a Superman/Batman Annual. In the annual, Supes and Bats are on a cruise and they’re chasing after Deathstroke, and a parallel universe gate opens up and out comes Ultraman and Owlman, the evil versions of Supes and Bats that are from this book! The best part of that issue was that the “evil” Deathstroke that came out was someone who looked and sounded exactly like Deadpool, but in any situation where he would say his name, something would happen and he’d be interupted.
Long before Morrison came and killed the Batman, he wrote a little five issue story entitled “Gothic.” It’s a story involving Batman and the occult and, in many ways, acts as somewhat of a tribute to early Batman stories. I know that a lot of people had problems with the way Morrison told his Batman story due to esoteric concepts and an absolutely insane storyline that didn’t make sense unless you read every single issue. I say to these people, these criers for days of Batpast, to hunt down a copy of Gothic and give it a read – it may change your mind on how you view Morrison’s take on Batman.
In Batman: Gothic, the Dark Knight is brought in to investigate the murders of several mobsters on their behalf. It appears someone with no shadow who cannot die has been making the rounds, taunting them with classical poetry and murdering them in horrific ways. This man is known as Mr. Whisper and he has everyone spooked. This is about as much plot as I will give you.
What this story does is expand on several items of Batman (some of which Morrison would later once again call upon). This story is definitely one for his Black Casebook, as it were. What we have here is a dark and creepy trip through the halls of Satan’s world as Batman discovers the connections of this Mr Whisper and elements of his own past. While I’m not sure how big this book is on canon, I will say that it does refine his childhood quite a bit and it adds new elements into the death of his parents that makes you wonder how many people currently writing Batman actually read this story. There are several scenes that are very truly nods to the classic and more ridiculous Batman, as at one point Whisper ties Batman up to a very elaborate machine involving burning candles and bowling balls and drops, all the while explaining his elaborate plan (it’d be funny if it weren’t so damn creepy). It’s safe to say that the story in itself is actually the darker of Morrison’s Bat-writings, but it’s definitely not one to miss. It’s no Arkham Asylum or RIP, but Gothic is a very wonderful Batman story that puts together all the classic elements that made Batman books so great.Continued below
In many cases I have a hard time writing about Batman. To be honest, the modern fandom surrounding him has pretty much ruined the character for me. I love Morrison’s current work on the character, and Yost’s Red Robin is great as well, but all in all I shy away from Batman stories. As this is Morrison I of course read it, and I found that while the story is very short and very sweet, it was a really great read. The story doesn’t revolutionize the way you look at Batman in any way and it doesn’t give changes to the stories as Morrison’s later work did, but it does remind us now how Batman used to be: a detective just trying to figure out odd case after odd case. I’m sure my review here doesn’t do this book any true justice (as I’m writing it rather late at night), but I would highly recommend giving this book a good old read.
I’ve got more coming in the future, but this will do for now, I suppose. Keep your eyes open in the future as I review books like Kid Eternity and The Filth. And in case your pallette is savoring for the extensive capability to find Morrison’s work in an easier way than I’ve been doing, someone on Amazon created this nice list featuring a highlight reel of some of his greatest. While all of the guy’s comments aren’t neccesarily accurate, it’ll give you a hell of an easier way to get Seaguy than the route I took (searching for months and months in comic stores)!
One other thing of note: when I was buying up books, I saw a little book called Grant Morrison: The Early Years. As I am an avid fan of him, I plan to go back and buy this when I have a bit more money. Through a brief look, though, it does appear to be quite the interesting little biography/look into his twisted mind that could be a great read for fans and/or writers alike. I can’t offer any real comments as I have not read it, only browsed it, but I figured it was worth a mention.