Friday, January 12, 2007

Book-A-Day #178 (1/10): Doom Patrol, Vol. 4: Musclebound by Grant Morrison and various artists

Wednesday night I had dinner with The Secret Cabal (well, one of the Secret Cabals, I guess), so I got home late and had no time to blog then. I'd tell you what we planned, but this was my first Cabal meeting, so I really don't think it's my place. You'll have to wait and see.

Anyway, I finished this off when I got home. It's the fourth volume reprinting Grant Morrison's late '80s/early '90s run on Doom Patrol, with art mostly by Richard Case. By this point, we're up to the middle of 1991, so Morrison was no longer the shock he was in 1989 when his Animal Man started (with Doom Patrol about six months later, if I recall correctly). And we were all used to the bizarre epistemological villains of Doom Patrol by this point (and starting to wonder how many different ways Morrison could threaten consensus reality).

Here we have the big Flex Mentallo plotline, a couple of other weird reality-changers, and the big return of the Brotherhood of Dada at the end. It's fun stuff, and, at the time, it felt like it (this and Animal Man and Shade the Changing Man and Swamp Thing -- all the stuff that turned into the Vertigo line a couple of years later) was going to kick at least part of mainstream superhero comics into something like adulthood. Instead, Image happened soon afterward, the '90s went first grim & gritty and then into distribution hell, and Morrison ended up doing incredibly mainstream comics (Justice League, The X-Men) that I've never been able to bring myself to look at.

So there's a whiff of lost chances here, but only for those who were there at the time. And serialized American comics are all about lost chances now, anyway -- take any long-underwear comic at least fifteen years old, and I can guarantee you that whatever was going on then (new costume, new love, new planet, new cross-over, new team, new powers, new new new) has nothing at all to do with whatever's happening to him now. Long-term continuity is dead, and short-term continuity only exists to sell crossovers.

If the idea of superheros fighting existential horrors intrigues you, start with the first volume of Morrison reprints, Crawling from the Wreckage. You might get to this book eventually, but it's no big deal if you don't.

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!


RobB said...

You should give Morrison's JLA a shot, and/or his Earth-2 graphic novel a shot.

His JLA, in some ways, is a precursor to the Justice League animated series, if that's your thing.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Morrisson's JLA ranged from decent through excellent to awesome. No existential horrors, and the heroes were played straight, but... well, it's like watching someone write a really good sonnet, or make magic with the Three Classic Rock Chords.

And Morrisson's X-Men got delightfully weird. To the point where the fanboys are still arguing about it six years later.

Also: his X-Men run contains the single best surprise shock cliffhanger big reveal final panel of any issue of a mainstream comic anywhere ever. This is not my personal opinion, BTW... there's a broad consensus on that point. Morrisson planted a bomb early in his run, right out in plain sight, and did it so well that even in these crazy postmodern Internet times, not one single fan realized what he was doing... until the bomb went off ~30 issues later. It's bloody brilliant, it is, and well deserves your attention.


Doug M.

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