Drawn by Frazer Irving
Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by Legendary Comics
The burden of being a dreamer or artist is a terrible thing. And by that I mean the burden of being Grant Morrison is the burden of being the storytelling prophet for an era that would rather have Geoff Johns or Brian Michael Bendis. Since the 1990s, Morrison has tried to show us the way of his truth and his light in comics, working on such mainstream titles as New X-Men and JLA but also giving us smaller, more intimate works like Seaguy and Kill Your Boyfriend. In Morrison comics, the world/universe/reality is always on the brink of forced extinction but there are those King Mobs (The Invisibles) out there, striving away for our salvation. Or, at least, a salvation. Grant Morrison wants to heal your soul the only way he knows how to-- through comic books.
In Annihilator #1, Morrison and artist Frazer Irving take us from the farthest fringes of space all the way to sunny Los Angeles. It’s up to you to decide which setting is more strange and alien. Irving’s “haunted” house in L.A. is far more twisted and unreal than the prison that sits on the edge of a distant black hole. In L.A., Ray Spass tries to revive a once successful screenwriting career. For inspiration, he purchases a house that's supposedly haunted and has a sinkhole in the front yard. Already a has-been, Spass tries to lose himself (or as he view it, he tries to find find inspiration) in drugs and sex. Meanwhile, on the far side of the universe, Max Nomax finds himself imprisoned on the edge of a black hole. Max is the true artist of this duo, trying to find a way to overcome death.
Irving's supernatural reality makes you question what you're seeing in L.A. as much as you question the scenes at the intergalactic prison. In both locales, his color schemes of blues and oranges emit pulsating waves of heat and cold. This is a comic that makes you shiver on one page and then sweat on another. And then there are the pages where Irving mixes both colors, this blending of outer space and California that makes you question the reality of both Spass and Nomax. Through his use of color, Irving unifies both parts of the story to the point where the colors tells you more about the headspace of the two characters more than his drawings or Morrison's words can.
But even visually, this is not a story about the real or the unreal because Irving makes everything unreal. Max Nomax's adventures and imprisonment are fantastic simply because of the setting and the characters. Morrison and Irving are tapping into a very British, 2000 AD vein with this story. It's very theatrical and over-the-top as Nomax has a role that he needs to live up to. It's Spass's L.A. existence that is far more twisted and unrecognizable. Irving makes L.A. more alien than the space prison, making visual choices that quite intentionally disorient his audience. A walk through a house or an orgy take both become their own psychedelic experiences. The drugs that Spass is on throughout the book change our perception of the world and the story as much as it alters Spass's perceptions.
That fits perfectly into the story because Nomax's story is Spass's latest screenplay. The outer space, science fiction portions of this, with a hero/madman trying to conquer death, are words in a half-conceived story from a writer trying to reclaim some past glory. As Spass finds out that he has his own inescapable black hole in his brain in the form of an inoperable tumor, Morrison and Irving subtle blendings of L.A. and space gets hammered home as Nomax ends up on Spass’s couch asking what the writer and the rogue can do for one another. This is shades of Grant Morrison showing up in the last issue of his Animal Man run to basically apologize to the character for the hell he put him through. Artist and creation existing simultaneously in the same plane is the type of four-color magic that Morrison has been interested in since he first started writing comics.
Back in The Invisibles' days, Morrison went through a lot of medical problems even as he was torturing one of his own stand-ins in the book, King Mob. That bit of coincidence or magic or whatever you want to call it echoes here in Annihilator #1 almost 20 years later in the story of Ray Spass and Max Nomax. Again in Morrison’s writing, we see the spiritual and healing relationship between reality and fiction as Morrison sets up the creation to save the creator. Fiction is the grand healer in Morrison’s writing. We’re saved, healed and redeemed through our stories. Annihilator #1 sets us up along a familiar and worn path but as with most of Morrison’s comics, there’s enough fascinating meta-narrative trickery and in Frazer Irving, he’s got an artist who can add his own visual mystery to the story.