The Multiversity: Ultra Comics 1 (May 2015)

The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1

What’s Grant Morrison doing with Ultra Comics, a Multiversity tie-in issue? Well, he’s giving Doug Mahnke a lot of great stuff to draw. If you ignore all of Morrison’s breaking the fourth wall (but not really–it’s not like it’s a “Choose Your Own Adventure”), the comic just gives Mahnke a chance to realize this quick superhero story in the apocalypse.

What’s caused the apocalypse? A Cthulhu-like monster. It might not come across as a big Alan Moore knock if Ultra–he’s the protagonist of Ultra Comics–if Ultra didn’t look like Miracleman. The issue has a credit to Siegel and Shuster and there’s a Shazam reference; but what isn’t clear is if Morrison likes Miracleman or not.

There’s lame stuff about the reader interacting and generating the life of the comic (and protagonist) and Internet whining. But it’s thoughtless.

Except the Mahnke art makes it all worthwhile.

CREDITS

Ultra Comics Lives!; writer, Grant Morrison; penciller, Doug Mahnke; inkers, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Keith Champagne and Jaime Mendoza; colorists, Gabe Eltaeb and David Baron; letterer, Steve Wands; editor, Rickey Purdin; publisher, DC Comics.

The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes 1 (November 2014)

The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes #1

Besides the awkward bookends, which writer Grant Morrison seems to be writing as close to pulp as possible, The Society of Super-Heroes is an excellent Multiversity tie-in. Chris Sprouse is the perfect artist for the time period–it’s set in the forties or fifties, with some familiar heroes in newly designed, functional, period appropriate garb.

Morrison is real fast when it comes to establishing the characters–the Al Pratt Atom and Doc Fate get about the most attention–and there’s a mix of pulp sensibility and old science fiction magazine stories. It works out pretty well in the setup, but then Morrison and Sprouse get to the action and nothing else really matters. The comic is fast and entertaining.

There’s some rather nice work in the dialogue too, with Morrison handling the large cast through brief expository dialogue.

Until the really lame, tying to the greater event denouement. Until then, it’s quite good.

B 

CREDITS

Conquerors from the Counter-World; writer, Grant Morrison; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inkers, Karl Story and Walden Wong; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Carlos M. Mangual; editor, Rickey Purdin; publisher, DC Comics.

Annihilator 1 (September 2014)

Annihilator #1

A Hollywood screenwriter discovers his creation has sort of come to life and he also has a brain tumor. The writer, not the creation.

Grant Morrison has clearly seen Barton Fink and a bunch of other movies. What originality does he bring to the idea in Annihilator? Getting artist Frazer Irving to do a lot of sex scenes? Umm… Oh, Morrison's seen Lord of Illusions too, I think.

Would Annihilator be better if it were Grant Morrison's movie reviews, with Irving illustrating? Probably. Morrison gives Irving L.A. or some other planet to draw. Irving's got a spared back style–he doesn't seem to want to work too hard on this one–and occasionally his figures remind of Corben. So the comic's interesting looking, even if none of the visuals are particularly impressive.

The Fountain. Lots of it reminds of The Fountain too.

Why read a knockoff when you can watch the original?

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Grant Morrison; artist, Frazer Irving; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Greg Tumbarello and Bob Schreck; publisher, Legendary Comics.

The Multiversity 1 (October 2014)

The Multiversity #1

If Grant Morrison needs help breaking the fourth wall–he does it poorly in this first issue of Multiversity–he should have asked John Byrne. But with the exception of Captain Carrot, Morrison’s references to other comics are all mocking and derisive.

Whatever he says he’s doing with the comic, Morrison is actually trolling for fanboy outrage. Superman isn’t just black, he’s Obama. And all the other superheroes are black. Flash and Green Lantern are gay. Marvel Comics are stupid. Real stupid. Especially the Ultimates, Fantastic Four and Infinity Gems. There are probably a few more.

It’s all very contemporary and hip, but I assume Morrison will get around to throwing poo at Alan Moore and Mark Millar.

There are some amusing moments with Captain Carrot and Ivan Reis and Joe Prado do well on art.

Unless someone’s researching for a book about Morrison’s ego, there’s no worthwhile reading here.

C- 

CREDITS

House of Heroes; writer, Grant Morrison; penciller, Ivan Reis; inker, Joe Prado; colorist, Nei Ruffino; letterer, Todd Klein; editor, Ricky Purdin; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 143 (June 1994)

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The Parliament of Stones? What’s the Parliament of Stones?

Morrison and Millar end the issue on a couple ominous notes, the aforementioned new Parliament being one of them. They also have the handful of strange guys playing handheld video games (the video games have to do with Alec’s quest).

The rest of the issue is an awesome action issue. Phil Hester doing Swamp Thing monster action needs to be seen. He manages the brutality, the size and the various plant roots quite well.

And it’s good the writers have the end surprises, because there’s really not much else to the issue. Abby and Alec break up again, after he saves her. Apparently, Morrison and Millar change continuity a little–Abby lost Tefé to the Parliament of Trees, she didn’t abandon her–and the break up feels like a repeat of a few issues ago.

It’s fun. Fake smart, but fun.

CREDITS

Desert Hearts; writers, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 142 (May 1994)

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Well, Morrison and Millar sort of explain how Alec Holland ended up separated from the Swamp Thing but not really. At least not to anyone who has been reading the comic for a while. And it’s not a particularly visual sequence, so it comes off perfunctory. They wrote themselves into a corner and have to get out.

The Swamp Thing monster doesn’t have a lot of scenes; Alec gets on its trail eventually. Abby has some scenes–she’s on the run–but the writers don’t give her much to do. They try to be very writerly, actually, with this awkward moment with a chauvinist pig.

Most of the issue is talking. Not quite talking heads–Hester does get some good stuff to draw–but it’s the Traveller (a new, long haired mysterious guy versus the Alan Moore stand-in who had a beard) telling Alec about the world.

Just okay.

CREDITS

Soul Train; writers, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 141 (April 1994)

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Morrison and Millar open this issue with the Alan Moore Cajun dude stand-in getting killed. The new, mindless Swamp Thing kills him. Cajun Alan Moore dies protecting his family.

Mindless Swamp Thing is after Abby next. It’s kind of hard not to read into what Morrison and Millar are doing–violently refreshing the series. An indeterminate amount of time has passed since the Collins run ended too–little Tefé is old enough to call Abby on the phone.

Wish there’d been a panel of a pay phone in the Parliament of Trees.

The writers take a very black magic approach to the series. Nothing gets explained–it’s either wanton violence, mystical mumbo jumbo or Alec Holland’s internal blathering about his scientific research.

Good art from Hester and DeMulder–there’s not a single mundane panel in the whole issue–and the weirdness carry it. The writing is just over complicated.

CREDITS

Bad Gumbo; writers, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 140 (March 1994)

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Grant Morrison and Mark Millar take over the book, starting with Alec Holland–a human one–waking up in Peru. Swamp Thing was just a bad trip but he’s better now.

It’s a good idea of how to relaunch the character, only they don’t even keep the concept the entire issue. Abby shows up about halfway through, then some people in Chester’s house, then something looking like Swamp Thing.

All while Alec Holland is in Peru getting stoned.

The structure’s a mess–half the comic carefully exploring the new Alec, the other half a lot of action involving the old Alec. Morrison and Millar are obviously trying to get the reader curious, but they don’t actually do anything else.

Phil Hester’s art is nice. He handles the human scenes with a lot of emotion and the horror elements are definitely disturbing.

The lack of personality makes the writers seem desperate.

CREDITS

Vegetable Man; writers, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes 1 (February 2012)

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Famously (or infamously), the Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes special burned off the remaining Inc. issues from before the “New 52.” It’s less a cohesive big issue than just two issues packaged as one, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Actually, the big reveal in the second story–Leviathan’s identity–isn’t a bad reveal. Morrison even jokes at the obviousness of it all; he just did a good job distracting with all his busy work. He keeps up that busy work for the second story and, though Burnham’s art is excellent, the payoff’s lackluster.

The first story, with Cameron Stewart art, which involves Stephanie Brown going undercover at a girl’s school of assassins is a lot of fun. Stewart’s art is slick and Morrison’s script is fun. He writes Stephanie better than anyone else in Inc., except maybe Selina.

Instead of writing the best story, Morrison’s too concentrated on seeming smart.

CREDITS

Chapter 1: The School of Night; writer, Grant Morrison; artist, Cameron Stewart. Chapter 2: Leviathan Strikes!; writer, Morrison; artist, Chris Burnham. Colorist, Nathan Fairbairn; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Katie Kubert, Rickey Purdin and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman, Inc. 8 (October 2011)

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Who knew Morrison was a fan of Batman: Digital Justice? Or is he just a fan of Tron?

Batman and Oracle team up to play a really cool VR game where they have to defeat a bad guy in the grid. Artist Scott Clark contributes the digital art, which at times sounds like it’s supposed to look cheap and retro, but Clark never changes up his style.

The result would be a disaster if it mattered. Morrison plays a lot with Batman, Inc. This time, the play leads to a crappy comic. The writing isn’t terrible–just dumb when it comes to technology–but Clark can’t integrate the text into the art. It’s ugly and confusing.

Morrison’s idea of the future of technology is a lot like the mid-nineties, only he drops modern tech buzzwords. Those moments particularly distract.

I’m failing to think of anything I liked.

The end?

CREDITS

Nightmares in Numberland; writer, Grant Morrison; artist, Scott Clark colorist, Dave Beaty; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Katie Kubert, Janelle Siegel and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman, Inc. 7 (July 2011)

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This issue might be Morrison’s best Inc. so far. He doesn’t try anything special, just tells a good story about a Batman and Robin pair on an American Indian reservation. When Batman shows up, he admires how the Batman–or Man-of-Bats–has done it low budget. The Man-of-Bats is a doctor too (and his identity’s public knowledge). It’s the most realistic Morrison’s been on the series and it’s to the comic’s benefit.

All of the global conspiracies and shadow organizations have made Inc. distinctive but, combined with Morrison’s literary influences, they’ve also made it distant. This issue features real people with actual problems. Morrison usually deals in icons. It’s nice to see him expand.

Morrison’s pacing is particularly effective. He introduces a cast, a ground situation and has time to refocus the narrative on Man-of-Bats’s sidekick, his son.

It’s a fantastic comic all around.

CREDITS

Medicine Soldiers; writer, Grant Morrison; artist, Chris Burnham; colorist, Nathan Fairbairn; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Katie Kubert, Janelle Siegel and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman, Inc. 6 (June 2011)

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Had I just slammed my head against a wall three times, I would have produced about as much confusion as this issue of Batman, Inc. Admittedly, I would have missed out on some funny dialogue and nice art from Chris Burnham. Not a fan of Burnham’s Bruce Wayne however. He draws him like a big, dumb oaf.

This issue is worldwide setup. Setup for what? Something mysterious and bad. It’s like Morrison wrote a bunch of single-page “countdown to Crisis on Infinite Earths” he’d usually put in regular monthlies and threw them all together.

The only time this comic has any actual personality is when Damian makes wisecracks or Jim Gordon pops up. Otherwise, it’s a mess.

It’s a funny, beautifully drawn mess, but a mess.

Morrison’s rattling the sabers–announcing how cool Inc. will eventually get to be. So what? It’s not there yet; he’s burning through goodwill.

CREDITS

Nyktomorph; writer, Grant Morrison; artist, Chris Burnham; colorist, Nathan Fairbairn; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Katie Kubert, Janelle Siegel and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman, Inc. 5 (May 2011)

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Saying it’s all red herrings might be a little harsh, but it is accurate. Morrison went through a lot of creative trouble to introduce a new villain–and a new Batman, Incorporated franchise (while never exactly explaining what happens in Argentina). But the whole thing with Batwoman? Both Batwomen? Unresolved. The modern Batwoman is a very nice cameo though. Morrison writes her better than Batman here; Batman hasn’t had a personality in Inc. since Catwoman left.

Paquette is back on the art and he has the same problem he had last time. Everything is great except Batman. Paquette’s Batman is just wrong.

Morrison’s lack of ambition is frustrating. He’s a tease… All those labyrinths he promised? They’re not even real in a labyrinth sense. He doesn’t just fail to realize the comic’s potential, Morrison eschews the idea of it having any potential.

Still, it’s a breath of fresh bat-air.

CREDITS

Masterspy; writer, Grant Morrison; penciller, Yanick Paquette; inker, Michel Lacombe; colorist, Nathan Fairbairn; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Katie Kubert, Janelle Siegel and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman, Inc. 4 (April 2011)

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Morrison should have titled the story, “Pay Attention.”

He juxtaposes Batman and El Gaucho dueling against Batwoman, but not just one Batwoman. He also goes into the history of the first Batwoman–the first Kathy Kane–and her relationship with Batman. Seeing Morrison try to marry the Golden Age Batman to the modern one is always a lot of fun and this issue is no different. But it remains to be seen if he’s going to pull off a deft narrative or just provide some amusement.

It helps he’s got Chris Burnham on the art. Burnham does a fantastic job with the modern Batwoman and also the flashback stuff. His Batman pages are questionable, but only because they’re barely present in the issue. He doesn’t have time to define himself.

Batman, Inc. remains a lot of fun and rather well-written, but it’s hard to say if it’s truly successful.

CREDITS

The Kane Affair; writer, Grant Morrison; artist, Chris Burnham; colorist, Nathan Fairbairn; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Janelle Siegel and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman, Inc. 3 (March 2011)

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Sometimes being too ambitious–especially if well-read–can get a writer in trouble. In this case, Morrison tries marrying a Batman comic to a Borges labyrinth. It’s an interesting comic, but the pacing is all off and that pacing ruins the reading experience.

There’s just too much “regular” comic here. Morrison opens with a prologue set in World War II, he then has a Bond-like intro with Batman and an Argentinian crime fighter, then he finally gets the actual story going. Wait, I forgot… he has Bruce tango with a female assassin. Very Bond this issue.

Anyway….

He gets to the Borges part and it’s intriguing, but then it turns into a regular Batman comic again for the finish.

On one hand, maybe Morrison is introducing Borges to a new audience. On the other, he should be concentrating on producing the best comic, not doing a literacy campaign.

CREDITS

Scorpion Tango; writer, Grant Morrison; pencillers, Yanick Paquette and Pere Perez; inkers, Michel Lacombe and Perez; colorist, Nathan Fairbairn; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Katie Kubert, Janelle Siegel and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman, Inc. 2 (February 2011)

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All in all, Morrison’s resolution to the first Batman, Inc. outing is conventional. Batman and Catwoman take down the bad guy. Sure, he’s an interesting bad guy–Morrison mixes an absurd character with some creepy powers–but he’s nothing special. Morrison amps up the violence (though it’s all action-oriented or off-panel) in an attempt to make the reader take him seriously.

Paquette still draws a strange Batman (and Bruce Wayne), but otherwise the art is good. He brings an element of fun to Selina, both obvious and implied.

The most peculiar element of the issue is Morrison’s handling of Bruce’s ethics. Killing a heinous villain is out, but a fate worse than death? Well, it’s okay. And Selina being a high profile jewel thief? Just as long as Bruce can foil her, it’s okay with him too. His condescension could even be considered sexist.

Nevertheless, it’s great stuff.

CREDITS

Resurrector!; writer, Grant Morrison; penciller, Yanick Paquette; inker, Michel Lacombe; colorist, Nathan Fairbairn; letterer, John J. Hill; editor, Janelle Siegel and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman, Inc. 1 (January 2011)

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Yanick Paquette is a fine artist for Batman, Inc. but he’s not a good artist for Batman. He draws him very large than life and Inc. has enough Tom Strong similarities, it doesn’t need one more.

Obviously, Morrison is having a lot of fun–he ends it with the “Batman” TV teaser for goodness sake, but his most impressive thing is Bruce and Selina. He writes a sexual Bruce Wayne, which is sort of strange to actually read, but it works just great. The banter between Bruce and Selina alone would make the book.

The humor all pays off too, which is nice, and Morrison creates a likable side character who the heroes end up saving. Sort of. They get there a little late, which lets Morrison reveal a hilarious cliffhanger.

His storytelling is abbreviated, letting him make an impression without spending too much time on exposition.

It’s excellent Batman.

CREDITS

Mr. Unknown is Dead; writer, Grant Morrison; penciller, Yanick Paquette; inker, Michel Lacombe; colorist, Nathan Fairbairn; letterer, John J. Hill; editor, Janelle Siegel and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Action Comics 3 (January 2012)

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Almost nothing happens this issue. Clark has a nightmare of Krypton (where we learn of some new menace who can follow him to Earth), he argues with the cops and then Lois. He’s got a “Deep Throat” source too. It’s kind of hilarious how Morrison writes a thirties crusading reporter in the modern newspaper age.

It’s less realistic than the flying alien.

And then the bad guys show up at the end and Lex wants to get busy with them.

Get busy in the supervillain team-up sense.

Somehow, it’s Morrison’s best issue of Action even without the action. He’s finally establishing the setting with nuance, instead of neon. Too bad it’s not Morales’s best issue. While Gene Ha does some nice work, Morales just draws Clark Kent as a nerdier Harry Potter. It’s sort of ludicrous… his body shouldn’t change shape between identities.

But the comic’s finally getting compelling.

CREDITS

Superman in Chains; writer, Grant Morrison; pencillers, Rags Morales and Gene Ha; inkers, Rick Bryant and Ha; colorists, Brad Anderson and Art Lyon; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

Action Comics 2 (December 2011)

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Oh, good grief.

Really, all Grant Morrison can come up with is Lex Luthor unknowingly working with Brainiac? Did he even come up with it, or did he just watch the pilot to “Superman: The Animated Series?”

I’m trying to be open minded about Action, especially with Brent Anderson coming onboard as Morales falls behind, but really….

I already read Geoff Johns’s Superman origin story. I don’t need to read it again. I also find it a little hard to believe Lois Lane’s all right with her father being a monster. I mean, she’s generally okay with him torturing people?

There’s also no action in Action. There’s a jail break, but it’s not a lot of action, and the talking heads stuff is boring. I don’t read Morrison on Superman to get a reference to Steel before he’s Steel.

The art—Morales and Anderson—does generally hold up throughout though.

CREDITS

Superman in Chains; writer, Grant Morrison; pencillers, Rags Morales and Brent Anderson; inker, Rick Bryant; colorist, Brad Anderson; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

Action Comics 1 (November 2011)

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Well, this one is certainly disappointing.

Morrison’s fresh take on Superman—a young Superman, so young he’s practically just Superboy without Krypto—is problematic. But it’s the first issue and one would usually give Morrison time to get things sorted.

But Action doesn’t remind of All-Star or anything good Morrison’s written. In fact, it doesn’t remind of Morrison at all.

It reads like a politically minded Geoff Johns comic book, down to Morrison regurgitating Johns’s Superman: Secret Origin with General Lane stepping in for Thunderbolt Ross. I think Lane’s in the new movie as a bad guy… one can feel the corporate synergy at work. Especially since Morrison rips off the ending of Batman Begins for this issue’s action finale.

And what’s up with Rags Morales? He’s lazy when it comes to detail. There’s the pretense of it, but not the substance.

Action’s off to a bad start.

CREDITS

Superman Versus the City of Tomorrow; writer, Grant Morrison; penciller, Rags Morales; inker, Rick Bryant; colorist, Brad Anderson; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

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