On this week’s Pull List, where we read the first issues of new comic titles, Nameless is full of that Morrison panache, made of equal parts mysticism and sci-fi. We’ve got magick battles in the dreamplane, ancient civilizations, the occult bleeding into next generation technology, and a Lovecraftian motif that does the genre true homage.
Nameless starts bloody and ends apocalyptic. Scenes of an observatory suicide/murder and copycat cult killings, seemingly worldwide, devolve into a dark mantra of dire headlines: “Female genital mutilation; Breakdown of negotiations; Death Toll Horror. Death Toll Horror. Death Toll Horror…” Morrison’s touched on end-of-days themes before, but this time it feels like he’s specifically summarizing the constant apocalypse happening daily in every headline, in this form or that. Maybe it’s fitting then, that this time Morrison’s chosen the classic doomsday scenario: the giant asteroid. But of course, Morrison’s asteroid is anything but a simple asteroid.
As per his penchant for occult and mythological references, the asteroid is also named Xibalba, the Mayan Underworld, and bears the sigil of the Gate of Az, the gateway to the anti-universe. An interesting side effect to Morrison’s profuse use of references is that oftentimes, you can’t tell what’s the name of an alchemic demon, what’s the title of an actual archaeological mystery civilization, and what’s completely made-up, which is the point to some degree, I’m sure. But consequently, the asteroid that’s threatening the end of human civilization is simultaneously an astronomical event, a religious eschaton, and a culmination of a century of human politics spiraling faster and faster towards god-knows-what.
The protagonist of Nameless is the man called Nameless, a foul-mouthed occult adept perhaps too similar to Constantine, but similarities aside, he’s a self-assured asshole who wears his potency on his sleeve, and someone I wouldn’t mind following into the depths of a tentacled hell, just to hear his one-liner. Nameless has stolen an artifact from the Polynesian ruin of Nan Madol (that one’s actually real) at the behest of unknown clients, and we follow him through a blended mishmash of memories and dreams-within-dreams as the frog-headed henchmen of that sunken city try to apprehend him.
Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn favor a grittier art style for Nameless, one that revels in the texture and grime of fish-scaled bodies, the ragged edges of wounds, and exaggerated looks of terror. They keep pace with Morrison’s maverick imagination, and do a particularly good job of rendering the 7 (or was it 8)-sided room that is the Veiled Lady’s lair in dreams, and painted in retro 3-D blues and reds.
The book closes with a rescue from Nameless’ clandestine clients, who inform him of the current doomsday scenario and enlist him in an effort to avert it. It looks like the next issue is headed to the dark side of the moon, undoubtedly to do battle with whatever amphibious, outsider entities dwell there, and all I can say is that it’s good to be back into a Morrison book. How I’ve missed the scent of fishmen and sandalwood.