Well, no one can accuse Grant Morrison of pandering. I consider myself a fairly sophisticated comic book reader, but this was a difficult comic to get through. In addition to the unique presentation of the story (Morrison starts at the end and works backwards), the art is a challenge as well. I noticed that the sense of motion on the page was unique, but it took interviews for me to realize that Morrison was explicit in his instruction to artist Frank Quitely. Most if not all of the pages lay the motion out in a figure-eight style; infinity on a comic page.
There are a few ties to the overall Multiversity plot, but more than any of the other one-shots so far, Morrison seems to be telling a self-contained, experimental story. Clearly, Morrison is challenging himself (and his readers) with this one-shot. That might even be more of the goal than furthering the Multiversity core plot.
I have a ton of affection for both of the “sources” for this issue. I love the Watchmen; it blew my mind when I first read it. It obviously still holds up as one of the best stories ever. But at the same time, I have sort of moved away from the dour, grim, and depressing attitude that permeates its pages. Alan Moore’s intellectual exploration doesn’t accept much of the inherent joy of super-hero comics. And that is the tone that Morrison is directly channeling here. Captain Atom isn’t really Captain Atom in any way I recognize. He’s totally the distant, thoughtful Doctor Manhattan.
That brings me to the other source. The Charlton super-heroes. My exposure to them began in DC comics, the versions of the characters we see here are in no way related to their DCU counterparts. They have the same mental afflictions, guilt, and neurosis of the Watchmen. It is almost painful seeing Quitely’s beautiful take on Blue Beetle, Nightshade, and Peacemaker, but to see the characters in such a unique and off-putting presentation. This is Rorschach, not the Question. This is Nite Owl, not Blue Beetle. Heck, in a world that produced a million Before Watchmen titles, I wonder why DC didn’t just make an Earth-Smiley for the Watchmen to live on.
This is a challenging, challenging read. Much like the issue of Earth-Me, this comic takes characters I am very fond of and presents them in a way that really leaves me wanting more. This is good stuff. The story is interesting. The art is absolutely wonderful and immersive. But man, am I the only one who finished this and thought “man, I’d really like to read about these characters in a normal book?”
So I probably sound like a moron. I can accept that. This is a comic that simply must be re-read in order to understand Morrison’s message (or even get close). I understand sales were insane at my comic shop, I wonder how most people responded to this? Surely the average new 52 fan isn’t keen on treating a comic book like a college-level English discourse?
This is a GOOD comic, because it is so challenging. But I can’t give it an EXCELLENT, because Morrison is determined to make me work while I read. This comic isn’t one for relaxing and unwinding. You’d better bring some paper to take notes.