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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 97: Marvel Boy #5

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks (more or less), with each week devoted to a single writer. This week: Grant “What the hell did Bendis do to my character?” Morrison. Today’s page is from Marvel Boy #5, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated December 2000. Enjoy!

Oh, Iron Man - why did you turn evil?

When Grant Morrison went to Marvel, he didn’t do too much besides X-Men, but he did give us Marvel Boy, which is certainly an interesting comic book. It features phenomenal J. G. Jones art, a girl named after a torture device, and a swear word carved into the New York cityscape. Because of course it does!

The first page of issue #5 is a good example of Morrisonianism. S.H.I.E.L.D., the big bad espionage guys of the Marvel Universe, “quantum faxes” three agents identified only by color to Times Square. Morrison is too cool for teleportation, man – he faxes his people around! This page is otherwise chock full of information – a possible “paraterrestrial entity” may be lurking down in the subway, and they’re authorized to spread disinformation about it. One of the agents wonders for us who “Midas” is that he can shut down the New York subway system, and Midas helpfully shows up to tell them who he is – if you haven’t been reading this, you still don’t know, but at least he does show up. In the final panel, he explains what’s going on: Something he defines as “evil” is holding his daughter, and presumably, the agents need to help him retrieve her. And there you have it, in a nutshell.

Jones doesn’t get to show off too much, although his work is still strong. The way the page is laid out pretty much dictates where our eyes go – the first panel leads to the top right panel, which leads straight down the page – but the set-up in each panel works pretty well. Jones shifts the background around the agents in panels 2 and 3 to show how they’re faxed – it’s not a supremely clever trick, but it works well. He moves our eyes in panel 4 from the agents to Midas, and then back down to the agents in panel 5, indicating both the way the dialogue flows and that Midas is higher up on the food chain – he’s literally higher up than the agents. The coloring on this comic book is wonderful – Matt Milla and Avalon Studios give this an extremely hyper, pop-art kind of feel, and that golden thing being carted down the steps, glowing eerily, is placed nicely in the third and fourth panels – we have no idea (yet) what it is, but it glows with power. Computer effects don’t always work in comics, but the “faxing” of the agents and the glowing of the bubble help make this comic more interesting and unusual. I don’t know why Midas is holding his cigarette backwards, but such are the mysteries of life!

Marvel Boy is a pretty cool comic, and through all the weirdness, Morrison never forgets to bring readers up to speed. He might do it more subtly than some other writers, but here’s a good example of him never letting things get too out of hand before he can take us all along with us. It’s just a shame he and Jones never got to do the other two series in this trilogy, eh?

Next: Yeah, I had to feature J. H. Williams III. But which Morrison comic is it? Before you discover that, discover the archives!

9 Comments

I’ve heard it said that some of the trades were misprinted. Can anybody give me a specific page or scene that I can check to see whether a copy is the right printing or not?

sean: Beats me. I don’t own the trade. Sorry!

Marvel Boy strikes me as Grant Morrison’s version of OMAC. I’m not sure I can articulate why. So I won’t.

I need to get this book.

As to the cig being “backwards”: he’s holding it by the tip, and happens to be “wagging” it towards the agents, but it’s by the tip because he’ll stick the filter end into his mouth. He just hasn’t gotten that far yet. Nice little detail by JGJ.

I love, love, love, love, love, love, love Marvel Boy. If I had to justify my love of comics to somebody in six issues or less, it would likely be this.

@Bill Reed: No-Varr, like OMAC, is a scared adolescent transformed into a revolutionary hero with punk-slash-classical motifs by high technology, soldiering through a brave new posthuman world he barely understands with only the advice of a strangely avuncular supercomputer of dubious morality whispering in his ear and providing the occasional spot of help.

He hails from Hala, a world run by a vaguely disquieting “Zen fascism,” which seems a good way to describe the Global Peace Agency of Kirby’s OMAC as well, where the literally faceless agents couldn’t inflict harm themselves but were happy to brainwash and mutate Buddy Blank into a one-man monopoly of violence.

And his opponents, like many of OMAC’s, are somewhere between classic mad scientists and latter-day corporate tycoons, self-styled masters of the world who remake humanity in mind and body to serve their own twisted ends. Like Noh-Varr, struggling against MIdas, the synthetic Bannermen, and the Living Corporation, OMAC battles so many plastic people, from the literal ones in his debut story to Dr. Skuba’s daughter and her boyfriend, both of whom allude to their gorgeous physiques being a “gift” from daddy using some kind of tech (maybe the body-swap gimmick seen in the prior story arc). Kirby’s run on OMAC ends with Skuba’s daughter beginning to warm to OMAC, though she is portrayed as shallow and vapid while Noh-Varr’s (now-forgotten?) Oubliette ends up discovering herself by falling for the nano-enhanced Kree-Man.

So, really, there’re loads of parallels. (Yes, I just reread OMAC this week. Kirby’s text piece in issue 1 is a corker all by itself.)

Nice work, Omar! I love both O.M.A.C. and Marvel Boy, so the fact that I didn’t even consider any of these parallels baffles me after reading your post.

Travis Pelkie

April 7, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Not only a typically super-intelligent Omar post (he am smart!), but bonus points for working in refs to both Dead Kennedys (“zen fascism”) AND Zappa (“plastic people”). Kudos, sir!

I can’t claim credit for “Zen fascism:” it’s from Morrison’s own script from Marvel Boy #2.

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