Shuddertown – Nick Spencer

shuddertownMorning Glories was quite an obscure book but this goes off the scale. Designed to be a noir mystery from the start, the fact that only four out of the five issues were published means you will never find out what it was all about. It seems a bit of a cheek for Image to go ahead and print an incomplete story, particularly as a hardback.

It does capture that shady (police) detective genre with first person narration and a cast of suspicious characters. The mystery could be supernatural or could be a conspiracy, you aren’t sure. Our protagonist is believable and you do want to know what is going on.

The art is extremely bold. It does look rotoscoped and Adam Geen has come under a lot of criticism online for allegedly lifting images from TV and film. The abstract nature of the style and the weird textures of the background actually illustrates the hero’s disturbed and confused state of mind perfectly. They also suitably obscure the sex and drug use scenes.

As it is incomplete I can’t give it anything other than a Thumbs Down.

BONUS REVIEW Morning Glories Volume Six – Nick Spencer

Morning Glories Volume SixWelcome to another instalment of Teen Lost. I was about to give up on Morning Glories before this book. Not because it isn’t great but because enjoying such a rich and ambitious story in such infrequent instalments is really unsatisfying.

This short volume continues on with the usual mind-bending complexity, time travelling and flashback-laden action. It lurches between behemoth plot and touching human drama with its massive cast getting the screen-time of Mayflies.

But it is just so beautiful. The art is fantastic and only breaks out of square panels where absolutely necessary. The colouring is luxurious to the extreme. The covers are, of course, to die for.

This is an easier read than the last one with the talking heads spread out more and interleaved better with the visuals. There are a lot more literary and pop culture references in this book which can be quite distracting but it’s nice to see Spencer showing off his reading habits.

There is a variant cover gallery some of which have interesting ideas but none of which can match the majesty of Esquejo. There are also two pages of art process examples, presumably just to fill space.

Thumbs Up!


BONUS REVIEW Morning Glories Volume Five – Nick Spencer

Morning Glories Volume FiveThis marks the start of Season Two but things pick up EXACTLY where they left off and with the same gigantic mystery.

There is a wonderfully wordless beginning and early on there are a lot of mute pages. Clearly Spencer is now assured of his success and can get comfy. Unfortunately there are a lot of talking head pages later on and no matter how much dialogue takes place very little light is shed on what is going on.

The art is so gorgeous that in some senses this doesn’t matter. You are happy just to hang on and let the story meander through the surreal in its own sweet time.

Some readers might be getting grumpy about the lack of revelation and this is certainly one series that deserves to be read in one sitting and not a book every six months.

Still a Thumbs Up!


BONUS REVIEW Morning Glories Volume Four – Nick Spencer

Morning Glories Volume FourIt’s back! The cross between Grange Hill and Lost hits us with another chunky volume ending season one of its story.

This title is almost a victim of its own success. The plot is so elaborate and sophisticated it is almost impossible to comprehend in separate parts. The easiest and most enjoyable way to deal with this wonderful series is to read the whole thing from start to finish after it has ended. But if you have already started you will be clamouring for this volume. Just make sure you re-read what has come before as this hits the ground running.

To be fair this volume does give you a better idea of what is going on and who people really are. There is also enough Biblical mythos thrown about that you can put some of the bigger picture together too. The ending is dramatic but has a sense of closure.

There is a lot of time travel in this issue and we are jumping backwards and forward every few pages. While this works in TV it isn’t so hot in print. Things are very clearly labelled both in art and words so you don’t get confused.

The art is just staggering as always. It is almost impossible to appreciate standards this high in a monthly title. The colours are amazing with fabulous lighting and wonderful characterisation. There is a mute beginning and plenty of full page panels showing off just what pictures can do. The art needs to be this good however as this is an incredibly wordy book with endless dialogue. Every few pages you will have a disembodied black or white background. Whilst these don’t derail the flow entirely they are a disappointment to such a sumptuous book.

A very high Thumbs Up!


Morning Glories: Volume Three – Nick Spencer

Wow! Just wow! Even though the mysteries are getting deeper, the puzzles more cryptic and the answers few and far between you are completely hooked.

This volume continues to focus on just a few characters at a time so that it can tell a proper story and really engage you emotionally. Those you thought were mere stereotypes get a lot of time to shine and really surprise you.

The time travel/ alternate reality goes through the roof and you start to think taking notes might be a great idea. You have no idea who is who and behind what but everything is just so well-crafted and enthralling you don’t care. You hang on tight and place your trust in the writer that everything will be explained when the time is right.

There is some fantastic dialogue here with brilliantly natural conversations, but that doesn’t make the most of the format. Although the accompanying art is superb there are a lot of talking heads.

The art is superb with amazing colours and some brilliant lighting effects. All the jazzy stuff like digital blurring and silhouettes are used only when absolutely necessary. These are here to tell the story not to cover up how bad it is. The covers – most of which are mini works of art – are within the book, which given the episodic nature is fine.

I am totally lost and my head is spinning but I really, really, really need the next volume NOW! For that expert addiction I give it the Double Thumbs Up!


Tomorrow: CSI: Intern at Your Own Risk – Sekou Hamilton

Morning Glories: Volume Two – Nick Spencer

This is kind of an origin book, not for the evil school, but for our six characters. Each of them gets an issue which delves a little into their past. It does double the amount of questions that you have and makes the book seem much more fragmented than the first volume but you don’t mind.

This is definitely a brave book with the mystery increasing exponentially and flashing back (and maybe forward) in time so there is a lot to keep track of. There are some interesting decisions such as the importance of a cheerleading team in a school for psychopaths but on the whole you want to stick with it. It’s the throwaway comments that really get your interest and make this feel like a very measured and controlled enigma.

The art is just as good as the first volume and there are some very subtle changes to the style during flashbacks that works particularly well. The covers – which are gorgeous – have been included before each issue. As these are single issue tales this works but hopefully we will go back to the seamless story of the first volume next time.

A very high Thumbs Up indeed!


Tomorrow: Morning Glories: Volume Three – Nick Spencer

Morning Glories: Volume One – Nick Spencer

A group of teenagers are sent to an exclusive prep school but quickly learn it has a nefarious agenda.

This is a really fresh, exciting read. It is full of original ideas and doesn’t ape any previous titles or genres. It is engaging and gives you just enough information to keep you hooked but always stays half a step ahead of you. It does remind me of the films The Cube or The Exam in that you have people in a dangerous and unknown situation; perhaps with a little bit of Lost thrown in for the mystery.

The art is good solid fare that Image is known for. Less detail and more colour. There are some superb dialogue free action scenes that really capture you and don’t just feel like padding. The panels are straight edges and traditional grid but the size and layout varies according to the needs of the story and not for gratuity. There are no issue covers within the book so the whole thing seems like one seamless read from start to end which is a nice touch.

You can never quite work out what is going on but always feel like the answer is just out of reach. It is everything a great mystery should be. Despite all the lead characters being modern teenagers their annoying habits and grating personalities all feel appropriate to kids today and don’t alienate you from them. While they may start as stereotypes they do grow and you get to see the layers in their personality.

This is a great read and everything a Thumbs Up should be!


Tomorrow: Morning Glories: Volume Two – Nick Spencer