Thursday, January 14, 2016

Born Kree

Marvel Boy: written by Grant Morrison; illustrated by J.G. Jones (2000-2001; collected 2012): One of superhero-comics super-writer Grant Morrison's projects from his relatively brief stint at Marvel Comics in the early oughts, Marvel Boy seems like a perfect example of how Morrison was always more suited to DC Comics and to his own creations than he was to Marvel. 

Marvel Boy is a lot of fun. But it's fun in the post-modern, DC-Silver-Age manner that Morrison made his own, with breathless plotting, weird events, alternate universes, and an anti-Establishment vibe. There's none of the angsty characterization that made Marvel Marvel. There's barely any characterization at all. And in the beginning of the NuMarvel era of 'decompressed storytelling,' Marvel Boy is instead as dense as neutronium.

'Marvel Boy' was the name of a Marvel Comics hero in the 1950's -- a time when Marvel wasn't even called Marvel yet. He's never called that in this miniseries. He's the last survivor of a super-powered Kree diplomatic team. But they're not the alien Kree who've been around since the 1960's in the Marvel universe. They're from an alternate universe where the Kree seem to be a lot more helpful to other alien races. 

His crew killed, his ship crippled -- all by a new trillionaire super-villain who seems to be wearing a really old set of Iron Man armor. Weird new things continue to happen. SHIELD disastrously deploys genetically engineered superheroes created specifically for the United Nations. An escapee from the Kree ship's prison threatens all life on Earth, forcing 'Marvel Boy' to save the planet: but the escapee is an intelligent idea, a living corporation. How do you punch that? And so on, and so forth.  It feels like a great DC Comics miniseries in which the postmodern and the gonzo, hyper-caffeinated Silver Age collide as they so often do in Morrison's 'mainstream' superhero work. 

The art by a relatively young J.G. Jones is very good (he and Morrison would later and very successfully collaborate on DC's Final Crisis). Jones may occasionally have the over-rendering tendencies of modern superhero artists, but he's also got a real sense of page design and an old-school, Neal Adams/ John Buscema hyper-realism to his pencils. He's one of a handful of contemporary superhero artists who can handle the bombast and the epic ridiculousness of a superhero epic such as Marvel Boy. Only 'Marvel Boy' himself remains somewhat inert, a character always in motion without there being much interesting about his character other than his stubborn refusal to give up, give in, or drop dead. Recommended.

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