Sunday, May 31, 2009

Top Ten Grant Morrison Works

Since everyone’s doing it, I figured I might as well jump into the fray and offer my own Grant Morrison top ten list. It’s not definitive, but this is how I feel about the stuff now…

10. Batman - To speak what may seem like a heresy to some, Morrison’s Batman before Tony Daniel are some of my least favorite comics of his, but starting with the three part torture chamber arc, the run took off into some of the most exciting, darkly psychedelic Batman stories ever told. I totally loved All Star Superman, which was released concurrently, but it was so remote and perfect, it was at times hard to even engage with. Morrison’s Batman is a lot messier, the art is nowhere near Quitely, but it was in some ways more exciting, full of weird concepts and surreal moments that brought the character to new, surreal heights. And, I even think Daniel worked for the story being told. His generic Image style only made it even more surreal when Batman rocked the purple and yellow costume, or Bat-Mite made an appearance.

9. Animal Man - Animal Man is another slow starter for me. The first four issues are really weak, and the mid section takes a while to get going, but the final ten issues or so are right up there with the best stuff Morrison’s ever written, emotionally devastating and surreal, the perfect epitaph for phase one of Morrison’s career.

8. Marvel Boy - Midway through The Invisibles, Morrison segued out of his subdued 80s style into a glamorous pop world, and Marvel Boy was all about bringing that pop approach into the Marvel universe. It’s his best collaboration with JG Jones, full of wild ideas, and really great energy. This is the purest dose of Morrison ever to drop in the Marvel U.

7. All Star Superman - This is in a lot of ways the most well realized Morrison work. The art is perfect throughout, and reading it, it’s hard to believe that a story this definitive could be getting released in the present day. It feels like this story always existed, it’s the greatest Superman story in the characters’ entire seventy year publishing run. Issue #10 in particular is a masterpiece.

6. We3 - This work is a perfect collaboration between Morrison and Quitely, each innovating new methods for telling stories in comics. It’s a technical marvel, but the real strength is the emotion. I don’t even like animals, and this really got to me, it’s one of Morrison’s simpler stories, but perhaps his most emotionally potent.

5. Kill Your Boyfriend - A concentrated dose of teenage rebellion, KYB riffs on films like Natural Born Killers and Badlands, while also serving as a meta commentary on The Invisibles. Unlike a lot of GM’s work, it hews closer to the rules of our world, and the characters are recognizable as the kind of people you might meet, or might have been. I first read it at 17 or so, and it tapped perfectly into this need for rebellion, while at the same time criticizing that violent rebellion. And, the Bond artwork is just sublime.

4. New X-Men - I love a lot of Morrison’s DC work, but I think I’m at a disadvantage there because I didn’t grow up reading or loving those characters. I got to know them in his JLA, but there was no inherent change to reading about Martian Manhunter or the Huntress. The X-Men were the characters I loved growing up, and Morrison’s work on the title is the perfect collision of his philosophy and the soapy character based plotting that typified Claremont’s finest work on the title. The art has its ups and downs, but I think it’s the most satisfying of any of Morrison’s long runs on a major superhero title.

3. Seven Soldiers - This is the book that made me love the DCU, and it’s the core experience of this work that helped me appreciate JLA, 52 and Final Crisis. Seven Soldiers is structurally unlike anything else I’ve read, this book is the next evolution of the interactivity of The Invisibles. Fully understanding the book requires detective work to piece the disparate pieces of narrative that are spread across the seven miniseries. I love bits about all of the individual series, but Zatanna in particular was the one that just blew me away, and in four issues made me totally understand and support this character. And, it’s also got some of the best art of any GM work, with each individual artist perfectly complimenting the story they’ve been chosen to tell.

2. Flex Mentallo - Why does Morrison spend so much time writing superhero comics? The answer’s in here, it’s because they’re out there somewhere, trying to move us forward into a better world, and the only way they can talk to us is through the comics. Simultaneously riffing on the complete history of superhero comics, serving as an alternate world biography of Morrison, and a delirious acid trip origin story for the entire universe, this is the definitive statement about why superheroes matter, and what our fictional heroes have to say about our society. It’s also one of the most surreal reading experiences you’ll ever have. And, Quitely instantly proves why he would become Morrison’s most valued collaborator with his dazzling art. Every other superhero comic he’s ever written

1. The Invisibles - No question here. It’s not only my favorite GM work, it’s my favorite work of fiction period. It’s a living, breathing entity that burrows into your mind in a way nothing else can. Morrison has talked a lot about how he lived the events that went into the book, and hearing him talk, it’s clear that even calling this a work of fiction is a bit off. It’s fiction in the way a dream is fiction, a heightened reflection of the world around, mixing real events and fantasies into something totally unique. It’s a great action story, it’s a great character story, and it’s a great mindbending piece of philosophy. The Invisibles changed my life, without it, and played a role in many key decisions that led me to the place I am right now.

1. The Invisibles
2. Flex Mentallo
3. Seven Soldiers
4. Kill Your Boyfriend
5. New X-Men
6. We3
7. All Star Superman
8. Marvel Boy
9. Animal Man
10. Batman


Timothy Callahan said...

"I don’t even like animals, and this really got to me, it’s one of Morrison’s simpler stories, but perhaps his most emotionally potent."

I feel the same way. I was once told by someone, "you can't say, out loud, that you don't like animals, because then people think you're an asshole," then that person whispered that he didn't like animals either. So, We3, the heart-tugging animal comic for animal-haters.

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