Grant Morrison writes some odd stuff; no doubt about
it. You don't have to look far to find it -- head over to your local comic shop,
and look for The Invisibles, Kill Your Boyfriend, Doom Patrol,
But as strange as those books might strike you, he's
also reinvented the two biggest teams of modern comics, arguably of all time:
DC's JLA and Marvel's X-Men. With big ideas, a unique characterization, and
a gift for story telling, Morrison is perhaps the best reason to pick up a 'typical'
super-hero comic today. Except, of course, that his books are anything but typical.
Morrison's first splash came with 1989's Arkham Asylum,
a ground-breaking look behind the walls of Gotham City's infamous home for imprisoned
criminals -- criminals like the Joker, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, and others in
Batman's Rogues Gallery. His writing was dark, ominous, suggestive of an underlying
chaos; it was perfectly complemented by Dave McKean's fully painted artwork.
Morrison continued his groundbreaking work, revitalizing
DC characters like the Doom Patrol and Animal Man, gaining a fan following and
critical acclaim for his work. His run on The Flash examined Wally West
and his powers in a new light, both hard-edged and human. He did a few issues
of Hellblazer and Swamp Thing for Vertigo, all of which were among
the standing highlights of each series to date.
In 1997, though, Morrison began producing his most incredible
work to date, writing DC's JLA. While the series had seen some successes
in various incarnations over the years (most notably under Keith Giffen in the
1980s), the book had fallen flat too many times, wandering from its origins
as a grouping of the most powerful and popular heroes in the DC Universe. This
time, though, would be different, as Morrison realized that heroes this powerful
would only come together to face the most dangerous and potentially world-ending
situations and enemies.
The team consisted initially of Batman, Superman, Wonder
Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman -- not only
the strongest and most notable characters that DC had to offer, but also a team
that provided strengths and weaknesses for Grant to exploit. The challenges
were usually spread out over four issues or so, and they were big -- never once
did you wonder how Morrison would pull the team out of the fire by the end.
He pushed the characters to their limits and beyond, in turn making them stronger
Most importantly, though, Morrison seemed to understand
the intricacies of the individual characters. Never did it feel like each was
a two dimensional creation of the Golden Age (or Silver Age, in J'onn Jonzz's
case); instead, everyone had their own voice, their own agenda, their own actions
and reactions. More than any other team book in the history of comics, JLA felt
(Coincidentally, all of the JLA storylines by
Morrison have been collected in trade paperback form. It's well worth it to
order these and read them in as close to one sitting as possible.)
Most recently, Morrison was tapped (along with Joe Casey)
by Joe Quesada to put the X-Men back on track as the premiere comic book team.
Only two issues have hit stands as of this writing, but Morrison has already
shown his touch on the book, invigorating the characters with individuality,
and marking the X-Universe indelibly after only a few issues. The book is, for
the first time in years, something to look forward to, month after month.
On occasions, Morrison's eccentric nature still shines
through, but what really makes his books worth seeking is the big nature of
his thinking. While others are content to rehash old plotlines ad nauseum, waiting
for the next big summer crossover, Morrison makes his books read like what all
crossovers should be -- the end of the world as we know it.
And it feels fine.
JLA #1-41 (DC)
Flash #130-138 (DC)
The New X-Men (Marvel)
JLA: Earth 2 (DC, graphic novel)
Hellblazer #25, 26 (Vertigo/DC)
Marvel Boy #1-6 (Marvel)
Batman: Arkham Asylum (DC, graphic novel)