Annihilator #1 by Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving. Legendary, 2014.
Did I mention I’m not ‘keeping up’ with comics anymore? It’s not something that happened on purpose, like
“ARRRRRGHHH comics! I’m so mad at you! I’m not going to pay attention to the latest news and gossip about you Any. More.”
It just kind of happened accidentally. I blame Google Reader shutting down, a reality I’m just beginning to accept like…I don’t, seven years after the fact? This technologically driven 21st century time dilation is really fucking with my perception of history. What came first, Faith by George Michael or the Iraq War by George Bush? The world may never know.
Anyway, I couldn’t even begin to guess at what Grant Morrison is up to these days. I saw my local comic book shop had lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of copies of another new book of his, Multiversity. I thought Multiversity was already the name of a site that does in depth breakdowns of the latest issues of Morning Glories and shit, so that’s already confusing, and then Morrison is naturally confusing, and then obviously from the title there are multiple universes at play so I was like
“Girl, nuh uh. I am not going down that road again. He say he changed but no, we all remember Final Crisis.”
But, way in the back of the store, there’s this other new Grant Morrison comic. From a publisher I don’t really know. And a proper Grant Morrison artist — that is to say, British, weird, and mostly famous from 2000 AD.
I’ve often felt Morrison lives and dies by the artists he works with. His writing can be accessible, enjoyable and fun, or obscure, masturbatory, and overblown, and it depends more than anything on who is turning the script into art. Frazer Irving immediately brings a grandiose and cinematic vision to this series that complements Morrison’s big imagination perfectly, but he also possess the visual storytelling skills to keep the focus on the imagery over text. The first few pages of this story could be totally understood without any of the accompanying captions or dialogue balloons, and that’s a real strength. And the digitally painted textures give everything a bit of a peak 90s-era Vertigo look, which certainly puts me in the mood for a vintage Morrison yarn.
Here’s the broad outline of the plot, as I understood it: There’s a black hole called the Annihilator at the center of the galaxy. There’s a fight in space that pits an evil empire against a lone hero. There’s a guy who looks a bit like Terrence Trent d’Arby who is very okay with the fact that the house he is about to buy is a legendarily haunted murder house. That fellow is Ray Spass. He is a screenwriter and he hasn’t had a hit for a long time. He wants to write a ghost story — hence the importance of moving into a haunted house. The studio wants science fiction.
So just put the haunted house in space.
The screenplay Ray is writing is Annihilator, and his protagonist, equal parts Riddick and Thanos, is Max Nomax, a hero in the capital R Romantic mode.
From there the comic caroms back and forth from Ray’s world to the fictive world of Annihilator, each reflecting the other as such things tend to do. All very predictable until…Max Nomax shows up at Ray’s doorstep.
Oh bravo Mr. Morrisson. How very meta of you. No one would expect the author of Animal Man from THIRTY YEARS ago to play with the ‘ol boundaries between creator and creation, would they?
But I guess I asked for some vintage Morrison, and that’s precisely what I got.
Wild’s End #1 (of 6) by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard. BOOM! Studios, 2014.
From the Improbable Mash-Ups Department: Anthropomorphic Animals + Edwardian English Countryside + Alien Invasion = Pretty Fun.
You could also call it H.G. Wells meets George Orwell, which is convenient because I get them mixed up (along with Orson Welles) all the time anyhow.
Southern Bastards #3-4 by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour. Image, 2014.
Four issues into this series and every major character has been beaten either to death or within an inch of their life. Some of these beatings we are supposed to interpret as bad and undeserved. Others are supposed to be good and well-earned.
All of the major characters are also white men. There is apparently one woman in Craw County, Alabama — the waitress at Coach Boss’ BBQ restaurant. There is also precisely one black man, the Sheriff, who is actually a puppet sheriff controlled by Coach Boss.
Jason Aaron’s previous creator-owned series Scalped (which, like Bastards, was the story of a disenchanted adult man returning to the hometown he was supposed to have left behind in order to work out some not-insignificant Daddy Issues) featured a complex moral universe in which it was rarely clear who was a hero and who was a villain. The book pivoted around the idea that there is no universal morality. The institutional morality of the American justice system, the personal morality of assorted cops and killers, and a higher morality hinted at by the few remaining practitioners of the traditional Oglala Lakota way of life were all constantly at odds with each other. Death and violence, which are rampant in all of Aaron’s works with the possible exception of the lighthearted Wolverine and the X-Men, took on a new meaning in that context.
In Bastards, Aaron seems to be hinting at a conflict between City morals and Country values, with the suggestion that there is no higher value than high school football. And no better way to resolve a problem than with a hickory stick. The trenchant realism of Scalped’s Prairie Rose Reservation (based on the actual Pine Ridge res in South Dakota) is here replaced by an uncomfortable pastiche of the rural South, a South that I suspect will be more familiar to regular viewers of Dukes of Hazzard reruns than to contemporary residents of Alabama. So far the flatness of the characters, the dullness of the setting, the emptiness of the message, and the repetitiveness of the violence does not impress.
Prophet Strikefile by Brandon Graham, Simon roy, Grim Wilkins, Sandra Lanz, Matt Sheehan, Malachi Ward, Bayard Baudoin, Onta, Giannis Milonogiannis, Joseph Bergin III, Ron Ackins, Tom Parkinson-MOrgan, and selected colors by Amy Clare.
If you ever obsessed over the lavishly illustrated sourcebook to a tabletop game without playing the game, if you owned any edition of the Star Wars Technical Manual, if your favorite Punisher issues were the Armories*, if you think any drawing of a machine or vehicle could be improved by making it a cutaway, if you’re obsessed with properly ordering the timelines of completely contrived universes, if you ever bookmarked an online encyclopedia of Babylon Five aliens, if the numbers 1701-C and 1701-D mean anything to you…
…then for chrissakes be the nerd you want to be already and buy this book. Also if you’ve been reading Brandon Graham’s Prophet and have suspected the whole time that you have no idea what’s going on, this might help. I can’t wait to go back and reread the series — I could never have guessed how epic and psychedelic it would become.
From 1990, the Punisher Armory was basically just a bunch of really detailed drawings of guns accompanied by some thoughts from the Punisher about those guns, and how much he likes guns. I’m not a gun guy or an NRA fan or anything, but I loved this comic just for the way it dug into technical minutiae. The issue was illustrated by Eliot R Brown, a technical illustrator who was called in by the Big Two from time to time to illustrate things like cutaway diagrams of Iron Man’s armor, a topographic map of Gotham City, or the Teen Titan’s satellite base. I strongly recommend a visit to his website.