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Zenith: Phase 1 Hardcover – October 21, 2014
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About the Author
Grant Morrison has authored too many bestselling graphic novels to count. Batman: Arkham Asylum, Doom Patrol, Animal Man, Flex Mentallo, Happy, Batman, and The Invisibles are just a few of the books with which Morrison has established himself as one of the modern masters of the medium.
Steve Yeowell is justly famous or his work on Zenith, but he has illustrated many further 2000 AD stories, including Red Seas, Judge Anderson, Devlin Waugh, Sinister Dexter and many more.
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Top Customer Reviews
This first book (I believe four are planned), introduces the reader to Zenith, a young, brash British pop star that also happens to be the last person with super human abilities on Earth (or so we are lead to believe). The story revolves around Zeniths entanglements with the "Many-angled ones" (think Lovecraft), a race of extra-dimensional "Gods" that have plagued mankind for over 20,000 years. This book wraps up the first arc nicely and sets the stage for the pretty epic story lines that follow from here.
For anyone familiar with the work of Grant Morrison, this is one of his earlier stories and really showcases why he has been such a huge success. Fantastic story and not to be missed.
However, my favorite Morrison work remains his first substantial work for 2000 AD, which brought him to the attention of DC Comics and other American publishers - Zenith. Perhaps that's because of the perfect combination of his writing with the art of Steve Yeowell - or perhaps because his more flamboyant and mind screwy elements remain subdued in its elegant story and classic deconstruction of superheroes.
The starting premise of Zenith is similar to that of Captain America - the Second World War and a serum that creates superhuman powers. Unfortunately, it's the Nazis that have the serum to create their Nazi superman, Masterman. Even worse, the Nazis obtained the serum from the lloigor, who are nothing other than the extradimensional beings of the Cthulhu Mythos, down to their very names - although Morrison adapted Yog Soggoth to Iok Sotot and made him even more terrifying. The serum is simply their means to create superhuman bodies capable of being occupied by the lloigor as they come into this world. True to their Lovecraftian roots, the lloigor are beings beyond time and space, beings of infinite power and infinite cruelty - well, either that or the most dangerous lava lamp in history (read it and see)…
Fortunately, German defectors help the British to replicate the serum for the British superhero, Maximan. That's effectively where the comic starts - and it illustrates Morrison's ability to juxtapose words and visual images perfectly, as well as to cut from one scene to another. The opening scene is in the style of a kitsch British wartime newsreel, proudly displaying the feats of Maximan defeating German forces and declaring "it could all be over by Christmas".
Cut to Berlin, 21 December 1944 - the Nazi Masterman stands gloating over the broken and fallen Maximan. "Does it hurt? I hope so. Even if I let you live, you'll never use your legs again, you know that?" All Maximan can do in reply is murmur his hopeless prayer - Psalm 23 - and Maximan gloats further. "Save your breath. No one is listening. There's no one up there"
Except…there is, although not quite in the sense that either of them had in mind, as we cut to an American plane, about to drop "the big one" - the atomic bomb - except in this history on Berlin. And we cut back to Masterman and Maximan as they are enveloped in light.
The story continues with a new generation of British superheroes created by the serum - but which have apparently lost their powers, been killed or disappeared, except for Zenith, a second generation superhero born of two superhuman parents, both killed by the American 'Shadowmen' agents. However, the Cult of the Black Sun - the secret society behind the Nazis - have other plans for Zenith, as they revive the Masterman twin for a new and more powerful lloigor. From this relatively straightforward contest, the story becomes increasingly complex and dark - more superhumans are introduced due to secret illegal testing of the serum and still more to a cosmic battle across parallel worlds as the lloigor seek the 'alignment' that will deliver the multiverse to them, concluding with the truly apocalyptic climax as the lloigor are finally unveiled for what they truly were, are and will be.
It would be amiss of me to conclude without reference to my favorite characteristic of Morrison - his ability to write perfect comic one-liners and dialogue. And we've all mocked villain monologues - but Morrison shows how it is done, to chilling effect.:
RATING: IT'S A RAVE - 5 STARS*****