Comixology Sale Picks: Grant Morrison
Posted by Seb Patrick at 11:23 on 23 Oct 2015
The first and foremost, toppermost-of-the-poppermost item on any Grant Morrison list. A three-issue saga once described as "The Incredible Journey meets The Terminator", it's about three weaponised animals escaping captivity and attempting to return "home", if they can find where that is. It's harrowing and beautiful in equal measure, and although it will make you cry, you can't afford to miss it. Also happens to feature Frank Quitely turning in basically the best work of his career, with some astonishing storytelling that still hasn't been matched by anyone since.
Out of print for years for complicated rights reasons, this four-issue mini (featuring a character Morrison had created for Doom Patrol, although it's otherwise entirely out of any semblance of continuity) is a meditation by Morrison on four distinct eras of comics: the so-called Golden, Silver, Bronze and Modern Ages. It's a bit of a headfuck, and is almost entirely metaphorical from start to finish, but if you feel equipped to take it on, it's well worth doing so. It's one of the earliest series that marked out Quitely's singular talent, too.
Also a headfuck, and also almost entirely metaphorical, Morrison has described this as a spiritual sequel to The Invisibles but it also feels like a post-Authority companion to Flex Mentallo. It's probably the most challenging of Morrison's works that I've actually managed to get to the end of, but is worth a look, especially at four quid for a twelve-issue volume.
Many have written about The Invisibles better than I can, not least because I've never actually read past about the second volume. For some people, it's the most important comic ever published. I'm not one of those people, but a sale like this is the perfect opportunity to find out if you are.
Again, I'm not coming at this from a totally informed position as I've never sat down and read this run in full - when it comes to the stuff Morrison was doing in that era, I'm much more on the side of Animal Man (which, frustratingly, is nowhere to be found in this sale). But (and despite the fact that I haven't done so) I'd imagine reading it is a pretty key part of understanding Morrison's history, so you probably should.
What? Another mostly metaphorical musing on comics and fiction? Seaguy is beloved by some, but it didn't quite click for me, despite its cynicism-free adventure outlook seemingly being right up my street. It does feature terrific work by Cameron Stewart, however. The second volume, The Slaves of Mickey Eye, is in this sale in single-issue form but not collected.
Somewhat disappointing miniseries reuniting Morrison with Philip Bond, with whom he'd memorably collaborated on Kill Your Boyfriend (not, sadly, in this sale). Worth it for Bond completists (and he really is excellent) but otherwise a bit flat.
Joe the Barbarian
Quite good fun, this, but struggles to sustain its premise for its entire length. However, totally worth getting for the Sean Murphy art alone, which is utterly spectacular, particularly allied with Dave Stewart's colours.
I'll repeat what I said at the time of the Batman 750 sale, as the same basically applies. These stories are all available in the sale as collections, or you can gather the single issues selectively:
The first tranche of Morrison's mega-bat-epic runs through issues #655-658, #663-683, and #700-702 of Batman. That brings you up to the point where the Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman & Robin series - essentially Act II of the saga - begin, but none of those are in the sale.
It's really recommended that if you go for this, you do the whole thing, but here's an arc-by-arc list:
#655-658 - Batman & Son
#663 - The Clown at Midnight
#664-666 - The Three Ghosts
#667-669 - The Black Glove
#670-671 - The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul*
#672-675 - Batman Dies At Dawn
#676-681 - Batman RIP
#682-683 - Last Rites
#700-702 - Time and the Batman/RIP: The Missing Chapter
(*SKIP THESE unless you're going uber-completist on Morrison, as they're two parts of a wider storyline that he wasn't the architect for. Some of the other issues of that arc are in the sale, but not all of them.)
The only arcs that really stand well on their own are "Batman & Son" and "The Black Glove" - and of those, "The Black Glove" is much, much better (not least because of JH Williams III's incredible art). However, the best arc overall is "Batman RIP" - but if you're going to read that, you could really stand to have read the various bits of complex setup threaded throughout the arc as a whole.
So, in short: if you're only going to buy three issues of Morrison Batman, buy The Black Glove. But if you can stretch to six, buy RIP. Really, though, just buy the damned lot. You won't regret it.
The difference between now and then is that the succeeding volumes - The Return of Bruce Wayne, Batman & Robin (1-3) and Batman Incorporated (1-3) are all here now as well. Return is quite skippable, and if funds are tight then at a pinch I'd say skip the first volume of Incorporated as well; but the rest are all completely essential.
If you want to give Morrison's interesting but ultimately slightly disappointing Action run a go, then you may as well grab the whole thing while it's cheap. If you're only going to sample one issue, however, then by a country mile it should be the Ben Oliver-drawn issue #0, a standalone story titled "The Boy Who Stole Superman's Cape". It'll make you wonder why the whole run couldn't have been that good.
Not collected in trade form in the sale, but go to the "DC Single Issues" section and you'll see all twelve there. Obviously, if you've never read it, it should be the first thing you buy, because it's the best Superman story of all time, and one of the best comics ever made full-stop. However, we don't particularly recommend picking it up at this price (unless you want the single issues), as the twelve together cost around £8. You'd be better off waiting for the collection to show up in another sale.
The Authority: The Lost Year
DO NOT TOUCH THIS. The first two issues are, admittedly, brilliant - but then Morrison walked off the series, never to return. Keith Giffen finished it based on his plot notes, but for all of his effort, it's basically a worthless exercise.
Aztek: The Ultimate Man
Sorely underrated twelve-issue run about a new character Morrison and Mark Millar tried to add to the DCU (and briefly put in Morrison's JLA) but who didn't really take and has never been seen again since. But it's really strong, fish-out-of-water fledgling-new-hero kind of stuff, although it suffers a little from late-90s-ism in the art. Well worth your time, though, especially at this price.
Honestly, doesn't stand up particularly well. Some great individual moments but the main story is heavily rooted in trying to build up a new DCU mythology that simply wasn't followed through on by anyone else. Kind of works in tandem with The Multiversity in some ways, but is still largely unsatisfying.
Batman: Gothic (Legends of the Dark Knight)
An oft-forgotten early (1990) Moz-on-Bats story, with art from Klaus Janson that reminds you that he deserves more credit than he often gets for how Dark Knight Returns looks. It doesn't share a whole amount thematically with what Morrison would later do on the character (except that he writes Alfred in exactly the same way), and it sees Batman somewhat unwillingly on the same side as a group of mob bosses as they try to stop a seemingly immortal serial killer who has an unlikely (and, to be honest, somewhat unconvincing) personal connection to Bruce. Not the best thing he'd do with the character, but worth a look, and fits well in with where he was at the time.
A pretty damned significant run on DC's premier hero team (not to mention that it actually made them so again, after decades of the Justice League being largely made up of second or third-tier characters) that laid all kinds of groundwork for comics in the decade that followed. Large-scale, blockbuster superheroics for almost its entire run, it's not entirely consistent, but when it's good it's truly brilliant (particularly whenever Batman is given the chance to shine).
JLA Earth 2
A really great little miniseries, and one of the earlier Morrison/Quitely collaborations, this is a parallel-universe story from a time when parallel universes didn't technically exist in the DCU, and reintroduces the idea of a world where all of the superpowers are evil except for a good Lex Luthor. As the story is predominantly from Lex's perspective, the amusing hook is that it's "our" world that gets designated as "Earth 2". Later continuity fudges have shuffled this setup back off the table (although the version of the Crime Syndicate that would later come about bore significant resemblance to the ones here), which is a shame, as it's pretty neat.
Seven Soldiers of Victory
A group of four-issue miniseries that theoretically stand alone but also link together, this is probably best read as one big whole (although I've never done that myself) in which case getting the two big collected volumes at three quid each would make sense. But personally the only one of the miniseries I really got into was the Ryan Sook-drawn Zatanna one, which I really wish had been the start of an ongoing series. So if you want a big sprawling Morrisonian epic that doesn't quite come off but is still pretty interesting, read the whole thing. But if you just want to get a fun four-issue miniseries, get Zatanna.
Morrison and Millar filled in for a year in the middle of Mark Waid's epic run on The Flash, and while it's not the standout superhero work of his career, it's pretty good all the same. Note that the second of these two volumes contains the final storyline that was written by (or is, at least, credited to) Millar alone rather than with Morrison; however, it also includes a lovely Morrison story from Secret Origins #50 that's a retelling of "The Flash of Two Worlds".
DC One Million
The core miniseries of a DC-wide crossover that saw various titles publishing their "one millionth" issue, as if publication had carried on until the 853rd century (sadly nobody foresaw the New 52 reboot, eh?) There are some pretty big Morrison ideas in here, and some concepts that would carry through to his later work (including the future version of Superman, who later turns up in All Star, as does the villain Solaris), but it doesn't entirely come off.
Panel Beats Must-Read Checklist
- Flex Mentallo
- Batman RIP
- Batman & Robin vol. 1: Batman Reborn
- JLA Vol 1
- Aztek: The Ultimate Man
- JLA Earth 2
- Action Comics #0
- Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #1-4
- All-Star Superman #1-12
Total cost: $51.76 / £32.66
(or $39.88 / £24.38 without the All-Star single issues)
The sale runs until Monday 26th October.