Monday, 28 December 2015

Nameless Review (Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham)

An asteroid 14 miles long and 6 miles wide is hurtling towards Earth at 50,000 miles an hour - it’s called Xibalba after the Mayan underworld, the “place of fear”, and the extinction-level impact will be in 33 days. An eccentric billionaire called Paul Darius launches a crew into space to save the world, among them the occult expert Nameless whose sigils will hopefully stop whatever evil is contained within Xibalba. It’s Armageddon by way of HP Lovecraft with a dash of Inception and Prometheus! 

I’m a huge fan of Batman Incorporated so I was really excited to see Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn reuniting for this Image series. But holy fucking hell, what on earth is going on in this comic?!! If you’re one of those readers who can’t stand when Morrison goes completely off the reservation, don’t even consider picking up Nameless; if you’re not, buckle up - it’s a bumpy ride! 

Xibalba is apparently emitting evil which is causing humanity to do evil things. Nameless is some kind of dream thief who goes into the nether realms, or something, to steal magic symbols like keys to somewhere. But once at the moon base he realises he wasn’t the first occult expert recruited - the last one went a bit mental and committed the first lunar murder! Then they land on Xibalba and wander around its black insides - from that point on it’s anyone’s guess what's happening! 

The action we think is taking place in the present is set on New Year’s Eve/Day. The only other plotline with a caption tells us it takes place on Halloween where Nameless meets up with characters he’s in space with at a haunted house for a seance that goes horribly wrong. Then Morrison starts throwing different story threads at the reader as characters go from being dead to being carved up by something to being on a beach somewhere to a psychiatrist’s office to a hospital to a hot house, razor house, dark house, Wormwood Palace - what’s the timeline, what’s real, what’s a dream, what’s important, what’s not? It’s like hurtling through different levels of inception and ALL of them might be dreams! 

Burnham’s art is gorgeous but be warned - this is an extremely gory book and the sequences in Xibalba are nightmare fuel. Some of the panels are in the shape of glyphs or sigils while some warped versions of tarot cards pop up throughout but I’m not into chaos magic or tarot or any of that stuff so I have no clue if they have any significance. It looks right purty though, especially with Nathan Fairbairn’s colours! 

Nameless says “Nothing is real” at the end of the first issue so maybe that’s the key - this is all one long horrible fantasy? I enjoy Morrison’s out-there stuff and am happy to follow him down whatever rabbit hole takes his fancy but this one went way over my head. The art is amazing and I enjoyed the roller-coaster ride of guessing what the story’s about, but the ending is completely unfathomable and left me completely cold by its inscrutability. Invisibles fans might enjoy Nameless but I think this is another instance where Morrison came up with an outstanding storyline and then mangled it by being way too abstract in the telling.


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