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A Thousand Cuts: Morrison and Quitely Delicately Devastate with Pax Americana

Blink.

Blink Blink.

I think I just read the best comic of the year.

And I encourage you to parse that statement in every manner possible…

Pax Americana, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

I bought this book on my lunch hour today, and I’ve read it twice. Once forward, and once backward, as it kind of encourages you to do.

Quitely Both Directions

“Encourages.”

Challenges, maybe.

Quitely Bridge CircleHrm.

Actually…

Y’know, reading this book is a bit like experiencing a four-dimensional holographic download straight into your brain.

Quitely Algorithm 8Albeit in two dimensions.

Quitely 2DSo… Yeah. Maybe it encourages you to read it sideways, too.

And I definitely did a bit of that, on the second run-through. You know the sort of thing: “So he said ‘box,’ and earlier… later… on this page over here… we get an actual quantum dog, so…”

Yeah, I know I’m not making any sense.

Just roll with it.

Pax Americana is the newest chapter in Grant Morrison’s Multiversity, the big Corporate Spandex Crossover Event™ that DARES you to think Final Crisis was too “out there.” It’s a sort of quantum Rashomon, in which we see the same crisis playing out in different ways in a different alternate reality each issue. This time out, we get an Earth populated by the Charlton Comics characters, who were the inspiration for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen. So of course, Morrison has decided to tell his Charlton story in the style of the Moby Dick of super hero novels.

“Ballsy” might be the word.

The final result, though, really is stunning. It’s a book about Past and Future. Good and Evil. Order and Chaos. Fantasy and Reality. Faith and Skepticism. Duality and Pluralism. Formalism and the Avant-Garde. Moore and Morrison.

Now, I am not remotely prepared tonight to offer a full analysis of what Morrison and Quitely have accomplished here. There’s just too much to talk about, and it’s all swirling around in my head too wildly to lay my thoughts out in a coherent manner. But in general, I see a book that functions as both an homage and a challenge to Watchmen, honoring its themes and formalist approach while making a very different argument about storytelling and the nature of heroism. It grapples… no… engages with the spandex classic, using it as a starting point from which to do its own thing.

It’s a story of small moments. Single lines of dialogue that ripple out and echo back on themselves. Tiny panels that work as much because of what they don’t show as what they do. Page layouts that lack Watchmen‘s “fearful symmetry” but that call back to other pages in a more complex manner. And a murder mystery solved not with a big revelation but with dozens of small ones that fill in like jigsaw pieces as you read.

It lacks the depth of Watchmen, as any single issue story would have to. But the compactness of it gives it a punch, an impact, all its own. It is, as I said, stunning. I’m more than a little in awe of it right now, so this grade might be a bit premature. But at this moment, still basking in the afterglow, I’m gonna have to give it…

Grade: A+

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About Mark Brett (395 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at http://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at https://dorkforty.wordpress.com/.

7 Comments on A Thousand Cuts: Morrison and Quitely Delicately Devastate with Pax Americana

  1. I waited for this single comic for YEARS…and it totally lived up to my expectations. Hell, it surpassed them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Frank Quitely is a fucking god here. His drawings are always good, but if anyone still needed proof that he’s a master of the form, this is it. Actually, this puts him up there with Kirby in the Comicbook Artist Pantheon, as far i’m concerned.
    As for the script, Action Comics let me down a bit, but this shows that Morrison is still capable of truly great stories. I can’t wait too see Wonder Woman Earth One, that’s the book by him I’ve been looking forward to the most. I despised every Earth One book so far, but if Morrison’s interviews are anything to go by, the WW one will be great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! High praise for Quitely there! Not sure I’d put him quite in the same class as Kirby just yet. Though he does show a similar gift for inventing new storytelling techniques, so… Hmm. Something to chew on.

      Like

  3. Captain Atom pulling apart the dog apart was as scalding a critique of Moore’s (and Miller’s, and the whole “Grim n’ Gritty” approach in general) as I’ve ever seen, and he did it in only a few panels. I read Supergods, so I knew his opinion of The Watchmen was, um, harsh, but I didn’t realize just how harsh until this issue. As for the rest, well, it’s Morrison. I’ll go back and will figure some of it out, and just accept that I don’t get the rest and enjoy the ride.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t actually considered the “taking the dog apart” thing as a critique of Watchmen, but you’re almost certainly right. Especially since he immediately brings it back to life, “but it’s not the same.”

      It’s a critique Moore would probably agree with, in fact. If he didn’t hate Morrison so much. Of course, it could also stand as a critique of Morrison’s own late-80s work. But I’d rather not delve into the ridiculousness of the Moore/Morrison feud right now…

      Like

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