Tag Archives: grant morrison

Say You Want a Revolution

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Say You Want a Revolution [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Grant Morrison with Steve Yeowell, Jill Thompson, Dennis Cramer, book 1 of The Invisibles series.

Morrison The Invisibles Say You Want A Revolution

I can neither laud nor condemn Morrison’s Invisibles comic on the basis of this first trade volume. I appreciate the content, and it’s easy to see how it was ahead of the curve later occupied by The Matrix and its derivatives. Even by the end of this book, the plot was still sprawling to the point of incoherence, though. I never learned to care much for the protagonists, although the villains are plenty distasteful. The four-color art is adequate to the story, but rarely impressive in its own right. 

The physical production of this reprint book is dismal. The paper is cheap and flimsy, and the glue-bound cover fell off entirely after a single reading. And the list price is $19.95? Good grief. For that price, I’d rather borrow the subsequent volumes from the public library. But they aren’t there, nor are they likely to be, given the extreme graphic violence in sections of this book.

The Filth

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Filth [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Grant Morrison, with Gary Erskine, Chris Weston.

Morrison Weston Erskine The Filth

I read The Filth as a complete bound collection, rather than the thirteen individual comics issues. In that format, it amounts to probably my favorite graphic novel. It includes science fiction, satire, superheroism, sex, drugs, and violence. It’s something like The Matrix reconstituted on the basis of a scatological rant from Antonin Artaud. It has a completely freestanding mythos, not dependent on any prior superhero or comics franchise, highly coherent when it’s not completely mind-blowing. Despite its evident balls-out insanity, The Filth tackles serious issues and ultimately offers a sense of profound redemption.

I’m not an unequivocal fan of Grant Morrison’s work: sometimes I find him indulgent and meandering. But when he hits his mark, he’s awesome; and I’ve never read anything where he has hit it as hard as The Filth. Weston and Erskine’s art is both surreal and gritty while strangely conventional, just the mix of H R Giger, William Blake, and Joe Kubert that the story requires.

Edited to add: Morrison is on the record as having written The Filth as a companion piece to his earlier and longer series The Invisibles, even though there is no narrative continuity between them. There is certainly a lot of conceptual and thematic overlap. They can be seen as perfectly complementary, though, if viewed through the cops-and-criminals dichotomy that each eventually collapses. The Filth works initially from the cop’s end of the spectrum, while The Invisibles does from the criminal’s.

Batman R.I.P.

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Batman R.I.P. by Grant Morrison, Tony Daniel, Lee Garbett, & al.

Morrison Daniel Batman R.I.P.

Although published as a fancy “deluxe” hardcover graphic novel, this collection of eight Batman comics is rather dependent on plot elements developed by writer Morrison in earlier numbers. (Notably: Batman’s son Damian, a love interest Jezebel Jet, the Black Hand crime sodality, and Dr. Hurt.) Even within this sequence, the developments can be very difficult to follow: the story is concerned with attempts to destroy Batman through psychological manipulation, and there are few cues to help the reader distinguish between fantasy sequences, false memories, alternate histories, and the “objective plot.” Both actuality and temporality are often displaced, giving the reader perhaps a slightly greater share of Batman’s own confusion than would best facilitate the story.

Still, there’s a lot of worthwhile inventiveness here, as I would expect from Morrison. The third and fourth issues of the sequence were my favorites, with the “hazardous personal odyssey” of Honor Jackson, and the unveiling of the “Batman of Zur-en-arrh.” (“Bat-mite?” I thought, “Are you kidding me?” But Morrison pulls it off.)

Tony Daniels gets the lead art credit, and the illustration seems competent on the whole, with panels and pages that communicate the action effectively, and certainly exhibit the dark and gritty mood required. Still, I can’t help suspecting that some artistic invention could have helped to solve the basic comprehensibility problems in this book.


Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Superman: Action Comics, Vol 2: Bulletproof by Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, &al.

Morrison Morales Bulletproof

Although this second collection of the new Superman Action Comics still sports a cover byline for Grant Morrision and Rags Morales, the contents are the work of a larger mix of creators. Ben Oliver supplied art for some Morrison stories, and the writer-artist team of Scholly Fisch and Cully Hammer contributed pieces both in the main narrative plot-line and on Earth 23, where a black Superman has the “secret identity” of US President Calvin Ellis. Hammer’s art reminds me pleasantly of that of Howard Chaykin.

There is less of a linear, serial plot in this collection, although the stories are all clearly tied together in a larger continuity. One of the most significant developments is the death of Clark Kent, as Superman sheds that persona in favor of the firefighter Johnny Clark. Although it becomes clear that this change is temporary, the status quo ante is not restored in this volume.

I might have it in me to read a third one of these volumes before my current interest in Superman wanes. [via]

Superman and the Men of Steel

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Superman: Action Comics, Vol 1: Superman and the Men of Steel by Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, &al.

After his stunning turn at a multi-issue Superman keystone story in All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison returned to a full-on 21st-century reboot of Superman in a revival of the original Action Comics title. Rags Morales provides solid art, and does a good job of collaborating with Morrison’s aim to restore elements of the 1940s Superman in this version of the hero, although the visual content here falls a little short of Frank Quitely’s turn in All-Star Superman.

The “Men of Steel” in the title of this eight-issue collection are an assortment: John Corben as the Steel Soldier cyborg of the Metal-Zero experimental military program, the robotic Terminauts unleashed by the Collector of Worlds, and the backup superhero Steel who is the Metal-Zero metamorphosis of inventor Dr. John Henry Irons.

There are many changes to the accustomed details of the Superman story. Most notably, it takes the hero a while to acquire his traditional suit (rationalized here as Kryptonian formalwear), until which he wears the trademark cape with an insignia-blazoned t-shirt, blue jeans, and work boots. Clark Kent isn’t working for The Daily Planet, but rather for its muckraking rival the Star, which makes him and Lois Lane full professional competitors. In these first eight issues, Morrison hasn’t even started to ramp up the amorous tension between Lois and Clark/Superman, although she’s certainly excited by the hero.

This story arc starts from the beginning of Superman’s crime-fighting career, making him a righteous vigilante on the wrong side of the corrupt establishment. And it sketches in the full origin story with the retrospective issue “Rocket Song” and the back-up features “Baby Steps” and “Last Day.” The first six issues are the real “Men of Steel” arc, while the last two are the aforementioned “Rocket Song” and an episode involving emissaries of a future Legion of Superheroes, “When Superman Learned to Fly.”

Ongoing villains include a Lex Luthor who, like Superman, is a bit less puissant than the Silver Age version of the character. The Collector of Worlds turns out to be a reinvention of a classic Superman nemesis. There is a “little man” working persistently behind the scenes for Superman’s downfall, and he is not much explained, but he is able somehow to muster the “Kryptonite Men” who are prosecuting a vendetta against Superman, seemingly from the future.

The thing about the Superman franchise is that it’s heavy. I mean, it has accumulated so much weight, so many precedents and expectations, and the hero himself is so presumptively stolid that it’s not easy to get readers engaged. But like Newtonian physics demands, a creative team that can get that ponderous weight in motion can deliver a compelling force. Having read this volume on loan from my local public library, I expect to go on to further ones. [via]


Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus review Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human by Grant Morrison.

I’m a fan of Grant Morrison’s comics writing and I picked up Supergods when it was first published six years ago, but it took me a while to get around to reading it. Although he did fulfill his ambition here to write “a personal overview of the superhero concept from 1938 to the present day” (419), it is mixed with a personal memoir of his own comics career in increasingly liberal doses as the book advances. This feature, which some might find objectionable, is I think fairly inevitable given the reflexive and metafictional approach involved in Morrison’s creative work. His notion of the “fiction suit,” by which a writer can enter a fictional world exposed in those writings, is not only instrumental to many of his comics, but also to his novel perspectives on the superhero phenomenon.

Morrison’s verge-of-the-2012-apocalypse thesis is that we can all undergo apotheosis into the “supergods” of the title, if we are possessed of the sufficiently optimistic narratives he aims to supply. At the same time, he does observe the brutally frank counterpoint: “A growing population of ‘kidults’ could be sold on boys’ toys and the new, improved on-screen adventures of Batman, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Green Lantern, helped along by books like this one–which would suggest some hidden value in the smeary power fantasies of the disenfranchised” (312). Other passages in the book reveal that his ability to see himself as a villain is part of what contributes to his distinctive comics vision.

The book does treat the emergence and maturation of superheroes across various media: print comics, radio, television, and film. It omits their entry into more literary, non-illustrated fiction, such as Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. In fairness, such expressions have been pretty marginal to the development of the collective, mass-mediated superhero concept.

The cover of the book showcases Frank Quitely’s art from All-Star Superman, which is in many ways the destination of Morrison’s story. Throughout the book, there are a smattering of covers and pages reproduced (in black and white, alas) from DC comics. Morrison does give comparable discussion to the rival house Marvel, albeit unsupported by illustrations. An engaged reader of Supergods will benefit from occasional ‘net searches to view the significant designs that are discussed, especially in the first half of the book.

Morrison is a practical occultist, and the second half of Supergods is full of his confessions regarding his engagement with ritual, drugs, and hermetic symbolism. I realize that he may have been trying to glamorize himself a little here, and that these elements may exoticize him for some readers. But as someone with similar (though perhaps less sumptuous) experiences, I found that these credible accounts humanized him significantly, contrasting with his magisterial “overview” voice. When he drops into the memoir format, though, he has a tendency to jump around associatively in a way that repeats or scrambles chronological items. On the whole, the writing is witty and entertaining, and I enjoyed my engagement with this rather hefty book. [via]

All Star Superman, Vol. 2

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews All Star Superman, Vol. 2 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.

The two volumes of All-Star Superman collect a 12-issue series of comics that are the best Superman stories I’ve ever read. These honor the canon of Superman lore, while redeeming its corniest features, and facing down its perennial difficulties. Unsurprisingly, Morrison emphasizes certain elements to elevate half-baked science-fictional aspects of the character into mythic tropes, most significantly the yellow solar energy (radiant golden sun of Tiphareth) associated with Superman’s power, and the various super-others of Krypton and Bizzarro-world. Quitely’s art is clean and spacious, never busy, and really suits the mood of the narrative.

Much of the story arc, which includes the “Twelve Labors of Superman,” concerns his foreknowledge of his impending death. As a result of that anticipation, he builds a simulacrum “Earth Q” to explore the consequences of an Earth without Superman. I adore the metafictional/metaphysical conceit that our world is actually Earth Q! And here on Earth Q, Superman is just a story, but a story that is obviously important to Morrison and many of his readers. [via]

Marvel Boy

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Marvel Boy by Grant Morrison and J G Jones, from Marvel.

Grant Morrison J G Jones Marvel Boy

The turn-of-the-millennium short series collected in this volume is pretty standard Invisibles-type fare from Morrison: alienated, paranoid, psychedelic science fiction, with sex-fetishist costuming. It’s put together in a neat package here, and tucked into a convenient corner of the “Marvel Universe.” The shipwrecked starfaring (Kree) protagonist Noh-Varr has for his chief nemesis Doctor Midas, a sort of evil Gold Man who is basically a socio-moral inversion of Tony Stark (paternal rather than filial, covert rather than celebrity). I especially appreciated the clever insertion of the Mindless Ones of the Dark Dimension (of Doctor Strange lore) as a connection to the Marvel story continuity.

Morrison’s professed objective in this book was to distill an adolescent power fantasy, and he seems to have realized it well enough. J.G. Jones provides excellent, highly cinematic artwork that does full justice to the story. Appended to this collection of issues 1-6, the book also includes alternate cover art, design sketches, and a Marvel superhero dossier page for Noh-Varr. [via]


The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The Invisible Kingdom

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Invisibles Vol. 7: The Invisible Kingdom by Grant Morrison:

Grant Morrison's The Invisible Kingdom


This trade paper volume collects all twelve issues of the third and final Invisibles series. New characters are introduced, and the boundaries between the various conspiracies motivating the action become ever more porous as the eschaton is immanentized.

The closing series of the comic—especially its last issues—suffers from a surfeit of artists. It gets to the point where a single illustrator rarely has contributed more than two or three pages in sequence. In some cases, a shift of artistic style seems to be deliberately communicating a shift of perspective, but these seem to be the minority, and the visual idiolects are so divergent that the reader must struggle to identify characters and settings in panel after panel.

Once in a while, I would pause and try to bring “beginner’s mind” to bear on the dialogue of the book (especially the pronouncements of “expert” protagonists like King Mob and Helga), and I found that it was mostly sesquipedalian gibberish. For better or for worse, though, it’s the sort of gibberish that my conditioned mind understands and enjoys.

These comic books were originally issued in 1999 and 2000, and they are very much a product of their time. No one could or would write this sort of thing today. Even though the essential fears expressed here remain in force, our political context has rather dampened and shifted the corresponding hopes. Another book from the same period that has dated similarly is Hakim Bey’s Millennium. I would contrast Morrsion’s more concentrated and coherent effort in The Filth, which addresses many similar themes. [via]



The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Kissing Mister Quimper

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Invisibles Vol. 6: Kissing Mister Quimper by Grant Morrison:

Grant Morrison's Invisibles Vol 6 Kissing Mister Quimper


This sixth collection of Morrison’s The Invisibles doesn’t introduce much in the way of new ideas (and no new characters), but plays deftly with the ones put in place by earlier sequences. The emphasis is all on mindfuckery, with lots of discontinuous psychedelic sequences. One way to read it is as King Mob in bed with Ragged Robin, letting his drug-addled fantasy run riot until the Fight Club ripoff ending. Still fun. [via]



The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.