Comic Corner: Morning Glories Review

Morning Glories Promo Art

Morning Glories Promo Art

I read a review of issue 16, the most recent issue, of a comic series called Morning Glories that I’d never heard of before on Sunday night. Well, I didn’t read the whole review. I got about halfway through, was spoiled on a few minor points, and stopped reading. I stopped reading not because I was bored, but because I knew I had to read the comics. The next day I read all 16 available issues of the series, and loved every minute of it. A brief summary of the premise and a few general observations on the series after the break.

Morning Glories is about an evil prep school and the boatload of mysteries that surround it, its current and former students, and instructors. The first issue begins with a new class (the main characters, seen in the photo above). They’re separated from their parents and subjected to various tortures, from near-drowning to detention (sometimes both at the same time).

I’ll grant that the premise seems a bit ridiculous. But the writers and the artists on the series have worked hard to create stories, structure, and imagery that brings Morning Glories from silliness into excellence. At times there are frustrating mysteries, the familiar Lost dilemma of too many questions and too few answers. But my advice to potential readers is this: focus on enjoying the individual stories in each issue, and you may find yourself less aggravated by not knowing what it all means.

The Structure

Morning Glories occasionally doubles back on itself. Like Lost, Glories often focuses issues on developing a particular character. It’s not uncommon to see an event from the perspective of one character at one point and then later on see the same panels in another issue. This works well because it’s always done in a way that gives readers a new perspective on the reappearing panels. You might understand character motivations better, or simply see how characters’ stories intersect with each other, giving the feeling that the stories of the characters are intertwined, not just discrete short stories.

The doubling back also gives a fuller perspective on the events of the series. Often in ensemble shows, certain characters will fall to the wayside as the plot advances. The Good Wife sometimes falls prey to this when it benches characters for multiple episodes in a row, only to have them reappear later with no explanation for why they’ve been gone. Revisiting moments from past issues, and not just to remind readers that such-and-such happened (Glories trusts its readers to keep up), is part of why the series succeeds.

It’s almost uncanny how later reveals about the characters make you understand how and why things happened in the early issues. That’s why the flashbacks and other digressions from the present work so well. I’ve yet to see a story where the flashback was not as, or more, intriguing than the present-day plot of an issue. I’m confident that the writers will be able to keep this up going forward.

The Style

I’m not much of an art critic. I enjoy the art in Glories a lot, but I couldn’t tell you if the shading was off or the lighting was funky. I tend to overlook whether or not the light source in a panel is coming from an actual light source in the story. It doesn’t bug me.

The imagery of the series, however, is very interesting. First, the Glories artists are not gore-shy. People die. People are injured. You’re going to see blood, teeth flying, violence, etc. It’s necessary to create a Game of Thrones-esque atmosphere, where no character is immune to death or suffering. It’s not a supernatural soap like The Vampire Diaries, where people die all the time but all you really see is a body falling to the ground.

The Story

Issue One, Fourth Printing Art

Issue One, Fourth Printing Art

Most importantly, the mysteries that pop up are interesting. They’re fun. They’re violent, confusing, headache-inducing, and difficult to get your head around. What they’re not, though, is abstract. A lot of mystery shows suffer from making their central mysteries too vague. In Battlestar Galactica, the mystery of who the final five cylons were was supposed to be the big puzzle of the final season of the show. There was the mystery of Starbuck: ghost or not-ghost, angel or not-angel. The problem with these puzzles is that the answer isn’t really going to be that interesting. The answer is going to be yes or no.

Either so-and-so is a cylon or they aren’t. Why are they a cylon? Well, they just are. And they always have been. Lame. You can’t answer the question without boring your audience. The Morning Glories mysteries are presented in a number of ways: as slogans, displayed in various locations, as a smoke-monster type monster that lurks around, as a bald woman in the nurse’s office speaking Spanish, or a big whirring doodad. These questions don’t have simple answers.

In Battlestar Galactica, when Starbuck disappeared (poof!) in the finale, I didn’t really care that she had been dead for a while, and reappeared as an angel/ghost/whatever to guide the fleet. When I learned the origin of a particular slogan in Morning Glories, it not only illuminated a few confusing pages from earlier in that issue, but also set up future plots. The best mysteries are intriguing before, during, and after you know the much-heralded answers. So I hope that when Glories finally gives us a bunch of answers, it’ll be more satisfying than when Lost told us that the sideways world was in fact a purgatory, and everyone in it was already dead.

So go out and buy issue #1. You’ll be hooked halfway through.

One Response to “Comic Corner: Morning Glories Review”
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