Sunday, 13 September 2015

Annihilator Review (Grant Morrison, Frazer Irving)

Ray Spass is a washed-up Hollywood screenwriter who needs a hit movie soon. Cramming himself with booze and drugs during a Satanic orgy in a haunted house, he stumbles across the idea for a new movie: an intergalactic villain called Max Nomax sits in a prison on the edge of a supermassive black hole trying to bring his dead girlfriend back to life. And then Max is no longer in the screenplay but sat in Ray’s house telling him they have to save the universe. 

This book is Grant Morrison come full circle - he’s now become a parody of himself. If you’ve read enough of Morrison’s books, you’ll notice a number of familiar elements in Annihilator. The “fiction is reality and vice versa” idea, drugs/alcohol, characters who look the same but have different identities, aliens, magic, rock star main character, horror, alternate worlds, and pontifications on life and death - Morrison’s comics are littered with these things, particularly Annihilator. If you wanted to write a mock Morrison comic, you’d include all of the above. 

I think I understood the comic - it’s a discourse on life/death. Like Max in his prison, we’re imprisoned in our human bodies, futilely trying to figure out ways to cheat death even though, like the prison orbiting the black hole/infinity, our existences are constantly circling it. In getting Ray to tell Max’s life story to him, that’s all we’re doing every day to ourselves, telling us our stories to try to make sense of it. An imaginative visual metaphor, sure, but hardly original thinking. 

The narrative sort of makes sense in the first issue or two - and then it descends into gibberish for the rest of the book. Characters running about trying to kill one another, cutting back and forth in time, universes being created and destroyed, the usual Morrison madness. He’s got themes and ideas but not really a coherent story. As a result it’s difficult to follow and care about anything that happens. 

I’m not a big fan of Frazer Irving but he’s definitely the ideal artist for this book. His dark art style is perfectly suited to the gothic space horror story full of skinny men wearing black. Some pages are superb - a lot of the stuff set in space were my favourites - and, of his comics, Annihilator contains his best work yet. 

The book has a grand, ambitious premise but Morrison’s treatment of it is sloppy and ultimately rote given how substantially similar it is to his other work. It has some fine art that Frazer Irving fans will enjoy. However even as a Morrison fan I found Annihilator to be tedious and a chore to finish.


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