Story: Grant Morrison Pencils: J.G. Jones, Ryan Kelly (#6 page 20 only) Inks: J.G. Jones, Sam Parsons (#5,6)
#1 “Hello Cruel World”: The Kree dimension-schooner “Marvel” crosses billions of realities, powered by Kirby Machines. It’s shot down by Earth defense systems, leaving only one survivor: Noh-Varr. He’s temporarily taken captive by Midas, a villain mashing up Doctor Doom and the original Iron Man. Silver Age monster trophies fill his laboratory. He's an intellectual parasite who turns every idea to his own advantage.
#2 “Boy vs World”: In vengeance, Noh-Varr attacks the United Nations. The Bannermen, three Captain America clones, are tasked by S.H.I.E.L.D. to face the alien threat but are defeated.
#3 “Digital Concentration Kamp X One”: “Hexus, the Living Corporation from the Sunken Galaxy” uses evil technology to suck the creativity from every artist that crosses its path. Marvel Boy leaks Hexus' trade secrets to the world, and a fickle public moves on to the next fad.
#4 “Exterminatrix!”: Midas returns! Catching Nov-Varr in a moment of weakness after the battle against Hexus, Midas and his dominatrix daughter Oubliette beat up Noh-Varr under cover of filming an action movie on the streets of Manhattan. Midas has clearly been emotionally and physically abusive to Oubliette, and she switches sides, helping Noh-Varr escape.
#5 “Zero Zero: Year of Love”: Noh-Varr and Oubliette find a moment of respite and exposition in the ruins of his crashed spaceship. Her facial scarring proves not nearly so disfiguring as her father would have her believe. Midas tracks them down and destroys the ship’s sentient Plex computer, which looks like the Kree Supreme Intelligence.
#6 “Mindless: The End": Exposure to energy from the core of Noh-Varr’s Marvel ship has given Midas the combined powers of the Fantastic Four. Noh-Varr and Oubliette team up to banish him to some sort of Limbo. S.H.I.E.L.D. sends Noh-Varr to prison. Oubliette goes on a one-woman guerilla campaign against American culture. Marvel Boy declares that he’ll soon be running the prison.
My Two Cents: This is the Grant Morrison I like, mixing cosmic concepts into a zippy action plot with wit and satire. We know from the start that we’re dealing with an alternate reality, and off-kilter elements along the way (e.g. The Fantastic Four setting out to explore the “Positive Zone”) reinforce the playful sense. Many alternative worlds are seen in cameo, including one representing The Authority, then a brand-new series.
Marvel’s helmet is of particular interest inasmuch as it strongly recalls both the “flying wing” airplane and the green-garbed “Third Eye” hero so prominent in Morrison’s Flex Mentallo series in 1996.
Issues #3 and 6 hit on anti-corporate themes that Morrison would express more fully in Seaguy a few years later, with Disney looming large in his mind.
“Hexus the Living Corporation” spoofs all the “X the Living Y” monsters of Marvel’s pre-superhero days, which would include the time period in which Marvel published two issues of a Russ Heath Marvel Boy comic book in 1950-51.
Noh-Varr’s dimension-schooner is very much like the Slip-Ship of The Authority and the Yellow Submarine that Superman uses to traverse the interdimensional Bleed in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond. Also Authority-like is Noh-Varr's singleminded determination to remake this terrible Earth into a better one by force. Unlike the 1950s Marvel Boy who came from Uranus to maintain the status quo, Noh-Varr intends to upend everything.
Does Grant Morrison know enough about Marvel lore for Hexus’ “Brand Hex” to refer to “Brand Ecch,” Marvel’s derogatory term for DC Comics in the 1960s? I wouldn’t think Morrison would elevate Marvel at DC’s expense, knowing his preference for DC overall.
Last Edit: Jul 21, 2020 17:08:03 GMT -5 by rberman
I haven't read Marvel Boy, but could Brand Hex akso be an X-Men reference - and thus a stand-in for Marvel, Inc in egneral? However, the main point seems to be "the Living Corporation from the Sunken Galaxy that uses evil technology to suck the creativity from every artist that crosses its path" - which as usual would seem to me to apply to capitalism in general (which I think Morrison would go along with) but also, on the comics level, to both Marvel and DC, not just Marvel as Morrison seems to imply here. A relatively trivial poiint but one that continues to puzzle me: just what was it about DC that made Korrison and other comics writers give them a free pass?
#1: “Once Upon a Time… on Yancy Street” (October 2001) Reed Richards is locked in the lab again, neglecting his wife while he pursues the secrets of the universe. Sue speculates that Reed’s lack of human connection is due to autism.
Ben Grimm, perpetually upset about his monstrous appearance, accepts a secret deal from Doctor Doom to turn back human. The Faustian bargain doesn’t turn out well, of course. Ben ends up hospitalized and maimed.
#2: “Staring at the Fish Tank" (November 2001) Sue visits blind sculptress Alicia Masters but stays invisible during the whole visit, in front of the one woman she has least cause to do so. The two women gossip about Reed’s cold-fish routine and Namor’s warm ocean blood. Namor knocks at the door…
#3: “Darkness and the Mole Man” (December 2001)
Namor makes his pitch for Sue’s affections: “Come away with me, because I have teamed with Dr. Doom and Mole Man to murder your husband anyway.” That’s the way to a woman’s heart, champ!
Alicia and Johnny have been captured and taken to the mole realm, while a giant Doom robot stalks ashore in Manhattan. Namor may consider Doom his equal, but Mole Man disgusts him, and the Super-Villain Team-Up fractures under the weight of Namor’s ego.
#4: “Prime Mover” (January 2002)
A curve ball cometh. The first several pages appear to be Reed Richards describing the course of his life. But the details seem more Doom-like, including murdering a classmate during a college science experiment gone wrong. It’s all part of a mental attack by Doom to make the FF members doubt themselves and turn on each other.
Reed recognized Doom's attack has been spending the last day formulating a counterstrike, stretching his mind into new shapes instead of his body. The giant robot is defeated. Sue takes Ben to Latveria, where Doom’s time machine restores him to health and Thing-ness. Sue chides Doom for squandering his talents.
My Two Cents: It’s an oddly unambitious series for Morrison, with a minimalist title to match. But for modern art decompression, it could have been a two-part Silver Age tale about three villains teaming up against our heroes. An FF story can go all kinds of directions. Morrison might be expected to go cosmic and meta-narrative, but there’s only a feint in that direction at the end of the story.
The emotional heart of the story is “Overly cerebral man neglects woman, and temptation ensues.” Not the first time a Namor/Reed/Sue love triangle has been teased, to be sure. But it’s worth noting that Morrison was setting up this exact scenario between Scott Summers, Jean Grey, and Emma Frost over in New X-Men at exactly the same time that 1234 was published. Even just from reading New X-Men, I suspected Morrison was going autobiographical. This adds further evidence.
Speaking of autobiographical Morrison elements, Johnny compares Read’s elastic consciousness to the effect of drugs, a perennial Morrison topic.
Plus a reference to Morrison’s own parents, rabid peace activists always looking for a fight.
Overall, a minor work. Johnny, Alicia, and Ben are just sorta there because it’s an FF story.
I usually steer clear from Morrison's mainstream stuff, so not sure I want to read this one either - especially given my impression that he didn't have much rapport with the Marvel characters. Still, it is Morrison and I like Jae Lee a lot so it's possible I might give this a try some day.
Yes, I just finished reading the entire run of The Invisibles. Am I going to write a review thread on it? No way. I do have a few thoughts on it, though.
The omnibus edition contained valuable documentation in the back, including Morrison's initial story proposals for each of the three volumes of the series as well as essays published in the lettercol. Morrison envied the critical and commercial acclaim Neal Gaiman experienced with The Sandman, and particularly the freedom that Gaiman felt to use the series as an umbrella to tell all sorts of stories about all sorts of characters who were not The Sandman.
Morrison envisioned a series about revolutionary ideas and the upsetting of the status quo whose heroes were outcasts and freaks of various stripes. There would be five main characters, based on the theories of beat author Robert Anton Wilson, whom Morrison had already explored in Doom Patrol. King Mob was Morrison himself in a "fiction suit." Ragged Robin was his paramour, a wounded goth girl calculated to appeal to nerd fantasies like Gaiman's Death character or Morrison's own Crazy Jane from Doom Patrol. A girl named "Boy" and a transvestite "Lord Fanny" would provide a transgressive gender-bending element.
The fifth character is, I believe, where Morrison made his first mistake. Dale McGowan is a juvenile offender who assaults a teacher and is sent to reform school, from which he is rescued by the secret society of the Invisibles and is indoctrinated into their mysteries and given a code name Jack Frost. Apart from the extremely unsympathetic set-up which we are apparently supposed to forget after the first issue, this is pretty much a classic fantasy bildungsromans origin story of an unremarkable youth ushered into a world of magic, given a mentor, shown how to use super powers, etc. This is the part of The Invisibles that most appears to have inspired the film The Matrix. But we could make a long list of stories with similar beginnnings, from Morte d'Arthur to Star Wars.
Yet Morrison's own precis was clear that the protagonist of this series, such as it is, is King Mob, not Jack Frost. So when Jack Frost fades from the story after the first few issues, the reader is understandably confused. And then King Mob fades as well, as the series moves into a more anthological mode. I've read the individual issues, and then I read Morrison's summaries of what those issues were supposed to be about, and frankly he did a poor job of communicating his intended ideas. Was he so drugged up in the mid 90s that he couldn't tell, and nobody at Vertigo was going to reign him in?
Morrison complained in the lettercols that sales were slipping dramatically, and the book was in danger of cancellation by #16. He blamed the book's failure on his decision to use different artists on different story arcs. That was not the problem. The scripts were. Morrison pleaded with his fans to buy extra copies, and also to perform a sex magic ritual which he detailed in the lettercol, in order to bring new readers around. The readership hemorrhage must have stabilized once Morrison started writing JLA in 1997 since The Invisibles ended up running 25, 22, and 12 issues across its three volumes, with the last volume's issues being numbered in reverse from 12 to 1.
One trait that comes across is Morrison's need for affirmation. He complains that Doom Patrol did not get the plaudits that it deserved. I have trouble imagining Jack Kirby or Neal Adams worrying about that. Every page was a paycheck, an opportunity to keep family fed and clothed and sheltered. Acclaim mattered only as a means to that end, a bargaining chip to ensure a steady stream of work, a better page rate. No thoughts of gallivanting off to a mountaintop in Nepal to smoke hashish with a guru. Work ennobles by itself. Tie your esteem to the crowds -- and to the notoriously nitpicky comic book fandom in particular -- and you're in for disappointment.
Last Edit: Jul 31, 2020 21:36:20 GMT -5 by rberman