Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Two if by Morrison

Vimanarama: written by Grant Morrison; illustrated by Philip Bond (2005/ This edition 2016): 18ish Ali is about to meet his arranged bride Sofia in London, England. But then Ali's baby nephew crawls off, down, and into a strange underworld that's opened up beneath Ali's brother's convenience store. 

Ali and Sofia pursue. The baby accidentally opens the gates to an ancient prison, releasing Ull-Shattan and the Fire-born. The dark creatures steal a bunch of UFO-like ships stored in the underworld and start attacking London. Ali and Sofia manage to summon the Ultra-Hadeen. The battle is on!

Well, it's sort of weird but not without precedent. Morrison and Bond's Ultra-Hadeen are god-like superheroes who resemble figures from various religions, led by the Hinduish Ben Rama. They're not gods -- they're more in the line of Jack Kirby's Eternals or New Gods, powerful beings who we once took for gods, long ago.

Vimanarama (oh, look it up) is a clever, Kirbyesque action-romp that centres itself on the growing love between Ali and Sofia (look 'Sofia' up too while you're at it). Philip Bond does a terrific job delineating both the otherworldly and the mundane. He's one of the best when it comes to cartoonish but realistic humans, which makes the out-sized attributes of the Ultra-hadeen 'pop' even more by comparison. 

I'd like the story to be a bit longer. Moreover, I think Morrison goes a bit astray when the satiric ultra-violence of the Fire-born takes centre stage for a few pages: it really stops the joyful weirdness of the narrative absolutely coldly and unpleasantly. One satiro-violent scene in particular seems like it arrived from another Morrison comic -- perhaps The Invisibles. It's jarring to say the least, but thankfully soon passes. Recommended.

Kill Your Boyfriend: written by Grant Morrison; illustrated by Philip Bond (1994/ This edition 2016): Kill Your Boyfriend came out at almost the same time as Natural Born Killers. And they're certainly similar. One of Grant Morrison's rare non-superhero, non-fantasy comics sets two young London lovers on a kill-crazy spree across England. Along the way, gobs and gobbets of satire and social commentary fill the page, along with a fair amount of bloodshed and some PG-13 sex. 

Philip Bond's witty, humanistic cartooning helps keep things light, as does Morrison's relentless, anarchic characterization and commentary. It's certainly better written than Natural Born Killers, and both use as their foundation Terence Malick's distinctly non-funny, elegaic tale of Charles Starkweather, Badlands. Not for everyone, but recommended for those who like their satire bloody and colourful.

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