Now, anyone who knows me probably knows that The Invisibles (written by Morrison and drawn by an army of artists) remains my favorite comic. I'm also quite fond of Seven Soldiers of Victory and pretty much anything Morrison has done with Frank Quitely.
Even so, I have to admit that Multiversity was ... not very good. Ivan Reis' art was rarely more than serviceable, and while the beginning and the end of the extra-long issue were fun, it really sagged in the middle, with lots of indistinguishable characters shouting nonsense exposition at each other.
I'm still cautiously optimistic about the whole series, especially since subsequent issues will feature art by some of Morrison's best collaborators like Quitely and Cameron Stewart — but yeah, definitely waiting for the collection on this one.
What struck me about the discussion around Multiversity was the sense conveyed by both Joe McCulloch's and Abhay Khosla's reviews that Morrison's work is starting to feel awfully dated, like dispatches from the early-to-mid-'00s. Take, for example, this bit from McCulloch (written from the perspective of the supervillain Intellectron — just go with it):
"You see, before I became a feared supervillain, I was a comics blogger, and in the great comics blogging expansion of the mid-’00s there was no more compelling a topic than Grant Morrison, whose comics offered all the hegemony of volume expected of mainline superhero serials, while also betraying not a little allusive depth, both in terms of superhero history and general esoteric knowledge, to say nothing of the writer’s tendency toward self-reference."
That's a pretty good distillation of why a particular type of comic nerd used to be so interested in Morrison. I suspect, however, that the key words are used to be.
Anyway, as a result of all that Morrisonian discussion/eulogizing, I've decided to write about some of his earlier work — Seven Soldiers, Flex Mentallo, and, if I'm feeling particularly ambitious, The Invisibles.
Before I get started in earnest, let me offer a tentative response to idea (which comes up in both McCulloch and Khosla's posts) that Morrison has a specific set of ideas about superheroes and "evolution" (or whatever) that he keeps returning to.
Basically: Yes, he does, and constantly harping on those ideas rarely shows off his best side. It's not that those ideas are bad or dumb, just limited. When Morrison writes a comic that's all about the awesomeness of superheroes, what makes it work, when it works, is his ability to package the concept in a compelling action-adventure narrative. Plus, those narratives are sometimes brought to life by amazing artists — as drawn by Quitely, All-Star Superman is probably the prime example.
But not all of Morrison's work is a presentation of his pet ideas. Sometimes, it seems like he's writing to figure out what he actually thinks about something, and he's surprised by what he finds.
That side was hinted at in an interview with Invisibles artist Phil Jimenez (published, I believe, in The Disinformation Guide to The Invisibles), where he suggested that the series was, ultimately, a failure. The reason? The Morrison who wrote the first issue was clearly a different guy from the guy who wrote the final one five-plus years later. His perspective on the relationship between the good guys and the bad guys, between order and chaos, had clearly changed.
To me, that ability to change his mind, and to embody that thought process in narrative, is one of the best things about Morrison's writing. That's why that he can admit in his final issue of Animal Man that he doesn't know where this conversation is going, and you totally believe him. It's what allows him to basically sweep aside the rickety sci-fi edifice of The Filth and admit that he's really bummed out because his cats died.
That's the Morrison I love, and who I hope to see more of in the future.
[image via Twitter/Grant Morrison]