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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #255

I guess you can consider today’s Reason to be an addendum to the Grant Morrison Chronicles. For more on those, check the archive. I’ve read this one in the meantime, and it’s great. I must share it with you.

This one’s for you, Apodacapulco. Profound and affecting.


255. The Mystery Play

Mystery Play 1.jpg

Grant Morrison and Jon J. Muth’s graphic novel The Mystery Play is, befitting the name, mysterious. It’s easily one of Morrison’s most complex and confusing works, because no one seems to agree on just what the hell it’s about. Regardless of that, it still blew my mind.

The plot is thus: a small English town (named Towneley, in fact, a reference to mystery play manuscripts) puts on an ancient mystery play– a dramatic presentation of Biblical events. The actor playing God, however, is killed, and the actor playing Satan is taken into custody. A detective comes to town to solve the murder, but he’s more– or perhaps less– than he seems. A brave young female reporter also wants to get to the bottom of it all.

Since it’s a Grant Morrison comic, there’s more to it, of course. The book is weird, like you’d expect. It’s both blunt and subtle at times, and infinitely confounding. It’s not your standard mystery– I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say the case goes awry– and the entire story itself is its own mystery play, in a way. But what are we meant to take from it? It seems to be about identity, truth, religion, and, I believe, coats. How do the pieces fit together?

Heck, there’s a page in the thing that literally spells it out for the reader, telling them how to figure it out–

Mystery Play 2.JPG

–and yet, I can’t seem to find anyone on the internet who has a clear argument for understanding the material. Grant Morrison refuses to explain it, as well. We readers are on our own.

Now, the art is something I’m sure about. Jon Muth’s work is gorgeous, fully-painted art that ranges from realistic to abstract, much like the narrative. He even throws in some multimedia effects, too, when things get really out there. This comic is beautiful, and Muth’s the reason why.

The story, however… the story. It’s an engaging mystery, a multi-layered allegory, and a few other things. The Jesus parallels are obvious, but there’s clearly more to it. My God, I love how the reader has to be a detective to figure out the answers to the comic. That, my friends, is masterful. The Mystery Play may have shot up far on my list of favorite G-Mozz works.

Mystery Play 4.JPGMystery Play 3.JPG

What happens if God’s dead? What’s life like when seen from the big picture? What’s up with those coats? Everybody’s got a theory. Check out this PopImage review for another perspective. Me, I don’t really care if I never figure it out. I love it because I don’t get it. Who here has read it? What’s your understanding of it? I’m interested to know.

Is this baby still in print? If so, pick up a copy for yourself and then come back here and tell me what really happens.


I think I left my hardcover of this lying around at my parents’ house along with my multiple Arkham Asylum HC’s. As for availability, I’ve definitely seen TPBs of this at my LCS as recently as last week, so I assume it isn’t too hard to find.

I haven’t read it in a couple years, but from what I remember most of what I took away from the story on my last reading was less about the theological dimensions of the story and more about the general corruption of the town, ranging from the perverse sexual proclivities of the elected officials at the local bordello to the rampant anti-Pakistani racist sentiment prevailing throughout the town, all of which culminates in this horrific and cathartic act of vigilante justice against the man who is paradoxically the worst sinner in town and the only one seeking to redeem himself for his deeds. Although it ultimately “saves” the town from its decline, this act haunts the reporter for the rest of her life, as shown by the coat following her at the end.

Although intriguing in its premise, I never really considered this one of my favorite Morrison stories, but my memory is a bit hazy on a lot of the specifics, and I definitely want to reread it next time I visit my parents after reading this article.

This one, besides another, was one of my favorite o.g.n. by Morrison. I never did figure out who killed God.

The other o.g.n. that I enjoyed greatly was Arkham Asylum.

Both are equally well written by Morrison and beautifully drawn by Jon J. Muth and Dave McKean.

Why doesn’t Morrison write like this anymore? It’s like he’s gone commercial rather than unorthodox.

Oh geez. Was this good? I don’t remember anything about it but that I kind of hated it.

But now it sounds awesome.

Bill was right about Kill Your Boyfriend which I dug out and reread after it was a REASON. Maybe he’s right here?


September 12, 2007 at 9:04 pm

I have asked several times here in the blog comments, and on CBR threads fr someone to take a crack at explaining it to me.

No even acknowledges that I made the posts, hell the book is barely mentioned when Morrison is discussed.
I’d started to think the book only exsisted in my perception of reality, and that everyone else was blanking it out.

I haven’t read this one yet, but it looks beautiful.

Thanks for catering to me, Bill.

This one was fine while I was reading but the ending did nothing for me.

Great set-up, lousy conclusion.

I won’t spoil it, but I hate the type of character change/ revelation that happens to the detective. It took me right out of the book, and turned me away from even caring what Morrison was trying to say.

Your post makes me want to take another look, however, just to see if I can get _any_ meaning from the book.

No argument that Muth’s art is gorgeous.

I haven’t read it in forever, so I forget a lot of the story details, but I remember being really impressed with it. I’ll have to give it another read sometime soon.

The one thing I remember, all these years later, is that I felt cheated out of the cover price.

9.Comics Should Be Good! » 365 Reasons to Love Comics Archive said …
Can someone explain these posts to me?

Erm… the “Can someone explain these posts to me” part wasn’t supposed to be part of the quote.

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