Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
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
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–
–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.
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.
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