Saturday, December 20, 2008

Grant Morrison - "In every style and fashion" part 2


By the time Morrison's run on "Doom patrol" ended in 1993, it was clear that Morrison was not only a fan of superheroes in all their multiple incarnations, but a deep thinker with a penchant for writing experimental works, that challenge their readers and serve as the examples of the medium at it's very best. It was logical then that he was made part of DC's new mature readers oriented "Vertigo" imprint. Morrison started out with "Sebastian O", a steampunk mini-series that used Oscar Wilde's writings as a starting point, instead of the usual Conan Doyle/HG Wells motifs. It was another collaboration with "Zenith"'s Steve Yeowell, and although fun and very witty, it is definitely the 1994's "Mystery play" graphic novel that shows us the most of Morrison's versatility at the time.

Writing a slow-building drama with deep religious undertones, with "Mystery play" Morrison presented us with a detective story that takes a simple idea and makes the most of it, in the stark contrast to his usual kaleidoscopic storytelling. The work shined under John J Muth's painted approach, in a way not seen since "Arkham asylum".

It is at the same time then, that Morrison attempted his most-ambitious creator owned work, the much-debated "Invisibles". At all times both heavily referential to Morrison's inspirations, and deeply personal, Morrison's three volume magnum opus stands to this day as a series that is extremely hard to understand. The ever changing staple of artists did nothing to help the book settle into a specific atmosphere, except for the period when it was penciled by Phil Jimenez. And yet, the basic plots, while often very complex, could be understood as easily as a new James Bond adventure. Prepared to present his readers with his own take on conspiracies, magic and religion, Morrison was always careful to keep the characters front and center, layering his meanings beneath the bed of psychedelic spy thrillers. And yet, while most of the series is notoriously hard to understand for someone uninitiated in Morrison's reading background, it also spotlights perhaps the first notable example of the writing style that is currently leaving his readers so perplexed.

"The Invisibles" v1 #12, "the Best man fall" is a single issue story focusing on the bit player henchman dispatched in "the Invisibles" v1 #1. What is interesting about this tale, beyond the gimmick that could have made it a mere fill-in issue in a lesser title, is that Morrison makes himself work in a very odd format, presenting every scene as it flashes before the dying man's eyes. This makes for a very haphazard storytelling, that is at the same time engrossing on its own, as the readers are witnessing the scattered memories of one whole life. Steve Parkhouse's artwork is at the same time very realistic but still distorted just enough that Morrison's bitter-sweet dialogue comes through in a way that the complete experience is that of a success, largely because of the focus on the main character whose fears and relationships we visit in such a novel way.

The remaining years of Morrison's first staying at DC, since 1997 and until the completion of "the Invisibles" were spent concurrently writing "J.L.A.", DC's flagship superhero title, with Howard Porter's passable but unremarkable art. And yet, for all the fame that assignment brought him, along with his collaboration with Mark Millar on "the Flash" (they were asked to do a short run while Mark Waid takes a break from the regular scripting duties), the more technically innovative Morrison could be read in the reprints of another early Vertigo oneshot.

"Kill your boyfriend" debuted at roughly the same time as "the Invisibles", but brings to the fore a wholly different side to Morrison's writing at the time. A fierce tongue-in-cheek farce, "Kill your boyfriend" is another very British offering, mixing together the teenage side of the rebellion to the society's norms Morrison so often writes about, with the Bonny and Clyde satire satire right out of Terrence Mallick's "Badlands". Rarely has Philip Bond illustrated a script so in tune to his own quirky sensibilities, and the creators collectively brought to fore a story so innovative that it brings to mind "the Clockwork orange".

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