Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Careful with that box, Eugene

Just got a huge box of comics from my pusher, Ivor, and delved right in. As usual with the pre-ordering system, there's always a certain amount of buyer's remorse (as much as I love Ashley Wood's art, IDW's METAL GEAR SOLID comic proved to be a bit of a stinker). However, there's also a revelation or two within each box, and this month, that revelation was JLA CLASSIFIED #1 by Grant Morrison and Ed McGuinness
Mmm... Guinness. Whoops, lost my train of thought, there.

I'll start by pleading ignorance of McGuinness's previous work, but with a name like that, he's obviously got some Irish in him, which is always a good thing. Stylistically, he's of the post-Weiringo school of cartooning, and he puts in a slick and confident job here, but then I would even have bought this if it had been drawn by an infact with a muddy stick due to the writing of Grant Morrison.

Lovers of THE INVISIBLES make all kinds of high falutin' claims for Morrison, but the reason I love this book is for the same reason that MARVEL BOY #3 is one of my all-time favourite single issue comics - the man is the natural heir of Jack Kirby when it comes to superhero comics. A strange comparison, bearing in mind that Kirby was an artist and Morrison is a writer (though both have also done both jobs, with mixed results). But, like Kirby, Morrison throws down ideas and concepts onto the comics page at an amazing (and totally instinctual) rate. Reading this comic, there seems to be an outrageous new concept, or a new character, on every page. Flick it open at random: a mobile city of superhumans. A metallic Sumo that speaks only in mathematical equations and haiku. "The infant universe of Qwewq". The quantum keyboard that allows it user to rewrite reality like a word processor (it wouldn't be a Grant Morrison comic without throwing in a little meta-fiction now, would it?).
Like Kirby, Morrison has little truck with realism in dialogue: exchanges are clipped, the words picked often as much for effect than for utility ("I'm opening the sci-fi closet, Alfred" anyone?). But when neccessary, he has a fine ear, too - the affectionate antagonism between Knight and Jack O'Lantern is maybe the best example of the subtext-heavy banter between English and Irish characters I've ever read in comics.

I read this, and wish Morrison had the time or the inclination to follow up the ideas he creates and discards just as fast: that The International Ultramarine Corps got their own book by this creative team; that Morrison was writing THE FLASH again just to see more of his Gorilla Grod; or that (contrary to the received wisdom in comics fandom that Morrison was born to write Superman) Morrison would take over the writing of Batman, too, as his take on the Dark Knight always seems so note-perfect, a cross between James Bond and Machiavelli. Sarcastic, self-aware, manipulative but always charming enough to get away with it.

Great stuff - this has got me all enthused about Morrison's ambitious new superhero project SEVEN SOLDIERS, due to start next year. Now, I've got to go read some more of these comics, including another Morrison project, issue 2 of the heartbreaking instant classic WE3. Now that's a comic that deserves to be published in a Tintin-sized album, and distributed throughout schools and libraries alongside books such as Raymond Briggs' WHEN THE WIND BLOWS. Yes, its that good.
And I realise I'm saying this when its not even finished yet.