Welcome to The Pull List, a weekly column where we check out a first issue of a new series and tell you whether or not to follow the comic based only on that. This week sees the release of the first issue in a new Grant Morrison series, Nameless, and while a new Morrison series is always cause for celebration, I think it might be time to really dissect some of his work.
Morrison seems, to me at least, to be a very divisive author. Folks either seem to really love him or they seem to just find his particular brand of insanity and near-surrealism a little too off-putting. I can understand both points of view, but at the end of the day I’d put myself in the former category.
Aside from being one of the more out there comics writers (which, believe me, is a hard thing to do in this medium), Morrison is also one of the busiest and probably most successful. That being said, it’s understandable that Nameless feels like something I’ve already read from the man before.
It makes sense, what with the sheer amount of output that Morrison manages, that this series might have some overlap with past works, but it really feels like all the hallmarks of a Morrison story are there. Occult obsessions? Check. Other worldly presence? Check. Characters that either live or travel through another realm of reality wedged somewhere between our typical perceptions? Check.
It’s not that these topics aren’t interesting subject matter – far from it – it’s just that it feels like they’ve been mentioned, brought up, or discussed plenty of times before, with more or less the same voice.
The problem is that Morrison has a bad habit of cramming these things in all at once. While just one of these topics or themes is enough to carry a series on its own, it becomes almost too cluttered with all of them there. I’ve barely got time to understand the obscure references to a Mayan Underworld before the comic’s moved on to it’s next topic.
If I can, for a moment, draw a comparison to Morrison’s excellent run on All-Star Superman, I’ll point out that that run also has several bizarre, obscure, and out-of-this-world topics that come up, but it’s centered by the (surprisingly) humanness of the main character, who gives everything else some grounding that we can understand.
With Nameless, the main character is in this stuff just as deep as everyone else, potentially leaving some readers in confusion over just what the hell is happening.
Meanwhile, at least, Chris Burnham’s art (reminiscent of Nick Pitarra’s art in The Manhattan Projects) gives the comic some much needed reality. While the comic remains conceptually lofty, reveling in its references, Burnham’s art focuses on the little details – the hairs on the main characters face and his lines of worry giving the whole thing a sense of ugly, gritty realism that actually makes the comic a little bit more human.
Still, though, it’s a bit hard to grasp as a whole, and while I happened to like this brand of wacky bizzaro writing and the gritty art, it’s difficult for me to really recommend it to people. If you’ve never read a Grant Morrison comic before, I’m not sure this is the best place to start, and if you have read a Grant Morrison comic before, you’ve probably already read something similar.