Flex Mentallo Or SuperQuantumPessimisticHeroallidocious!
DISCLAIMER: This comic book is trippy as fuck. Please handle with care. Should you experience bouts of dizziness and a strong sensation that reality is bordered by comic book frames, please contact your nearest imaginary friend.
Ahhh, Grant Morisson, why can’t I hate you? Is it because of your powerful visage? Your otherworldly stare?
It’s so easy for me to shout abuse at the incomprehensible messes you used to write back in the glory eras where people were starving for good comic books (hell, mediocre even)
When you very nearly exposed your true superhero identity, ICanWriteWhateverTheFuckILikeAndPeopleWillBuyIt Man! (Or ICWWTFLAPWD Man for short)
Hell, I could go on for DAYS just ripping on the maelstrom of whatheshit that is the Filth and I could live off a steady diet of obscenities shouted at people who quote Anarchy For The Masses in a vain attempt to comprehend the true meaning behind the Invisibles. And if I had a penny for every time your doom patrol and Animal Man run made me go ‘whaaat?’ I’d be well on my way to making it into the Fortune 500 list.
What I’m saying is: you’ve written a lot of weird crap, Mr. Morrison.
But for every Seaguy and Sebastian O, you’ve given me We3 and All-Star Superman and your X-Men run and so many more awesome series that I’d lose track. Your ideas just roll of the page and in some of your better series, I sometimes need to shit the book so that I don’t drown in the awesome.
Reading some of your work feels like being forcefully submerged under a sea of French fries. They’re delicious but goddamn are they gonna kill me if I don’t get out soon!
There is weirdness in your blood, Mr. Morrison. And not the regular, cutesy-haha kind of weirdness. More like the Secret Masters Of The Earth kind of weirdness that was probably bestowed to you after your short dream quest across the Astral Plane on a drug trip.
Sometimes, you let it take you over and that’s when you make weird, unreadable shit. Sometimes, you suppress it and you make poetry in comic book form. Othertimes, there is a dangerous equilibrium in your work, this constant balance between awesome and weird, with the scale tipping ever so slightly from side to side.
It is at those times that you write your best stories. Case in point, Flex Mentallo:
You love this series, don’t you? No, it’s okay, I can tell. There’s much more attention to detail and painstaking presentation of the Omniverse you have built up in your career here than in any other comic book series you have ever written and it shows.
There’s you, the depressed, despairing Grant Morisson who is lost in banality, there’s Flex, one of your weirdest (and yet most lovable) characters and there’s pretty much a reference to everything you ever came up with in almost every page.
The whole series is actually a great big fever dream/autobiography/love letter to the superhero culture. Granted, most readers won’t understand half of the things in it if they haven’t watched the titanic feat of masturbation called Talking With Gods
You know, that 90-minute feature where everybody keeps reminding the viewer how awesome you are and fails to make any proper mention to your work?
It can, however be much more easily digested by a less-Morrison savvy reader, albeit with some effort and a lot of Wikipedia research. However, in an attempt to save your prospective readers from the trouble of researching and possibly spoiling the fun of reading this series for themselves, here’s the gist of it in just one glorious panel:
Flex Mentallo is a Kingdom Come-esque series, a series that focuses on the necessity of superheroes in their purer, more innocent forms, as a means to counter the growing air of cynicism, doom-saying and general banality that comprises our everyday lives.
It’s pessimistic as hell, but it’s so damn pessimistic that its grim tones have enough mass to allow the series to collapse into a great big singularity that is almost entirely comprised of hugs.
What I’m telling your readers, Grant, is that they should read this series because you do an excellent job at making us shut the comic book and look outside our window to the skies, almost certain that we saw a vaguely human-shaped object soaring among the clouds.
But I’m not writing this review with the sole intent of writing you another love letter, no sir. I’m writing this review so I can have my chance to give you my opinion on some of the series’…weaker aspects.
· Flex Mentallo is an astonishing feat of Grant-sturbation:
Yes! You are an amazingly creative person! We all agree to that! Why do you have to rub it in our faces?
You have placed yourself as the main protagonist/narrator/plot point both as yourself in your grim real life, as well as in the superhero universe as both Flex Mentallo and Wally Sage.
Why was this necessary? I understand that you wanted to present the evolution of comics and the need for the medium to lighten the hell up and return to its roots
I know you also want to use this story to represent what comics mean to all of us comic book geeks: as a means to escape the constant dreariness and grey tones of everyday reality, but couldn’t you have done this without you?
You are not exactly incompetent at developing characters and you’re not unable to present your own viewpoints through your work to us, so why the hell are you dominating this series? Why do I keep seeing you in almost every other page?
In my mind, this is the series’ weakest point. I found that your presence in it hurt the story and I had to go for a second read-through from a clinical, objective standpoint so I could properly review it.
· This comic book is reserved only for the comic-book history buffs:
About a year ago, I stumbled upon this little gem, which I proceeded to read from cover to cover several times:
This book is essentially a condensed (yet comprehensible) summary of the history of the superhero medium, from its very basic roots way back in pagan mythology all the way up to current times.
It is also a book that you need to have read in order to understand most of the themes in Flex Mentallo. Because what Flex Mentallo is, is a manifesto on comic books, from their humble beginnings (and their impact on Grant Morrison) all the way to present day (and Grant Morrison’s impact on them).
This panel is, essentially, an easter egg hunt.
I understand that this was a necessary ingredient in bringing your message across, but here’s the problem: if a reader has not delved into the greater history of superhero comic books, the entire point is lost to him.
If, on the other hand, the reader does have knowledge of the subject, the series degenerates into a 100-page long easter-egg hunt. Whether this was intentional or not, it was a risk that in my mind, takes the series down a notch for no solid reason.
· The Legion of Legions (specifically its absense):
I had to stop reading for a while, only so I could speculate on the nature of these heroes on my own time.
This here frame is, in my opinion, one of the best moments in the series. This frame, in and of itself, could have been the entire focus of Flex Mentallo’s narrative in my opinion.
There’s only one fatal flaw concerning it: it shows up in the last issue. Only in the last issue, do we get a glimpse of the superheroes that are to be our saviours, the icons we get to look up to and secretly want to become.
The question that immediately popped into my mind was why is that? Why did I have to wait 3 whole issues before I got the chance to see the object of Flex Mentallo’s quest? Why did I get something that seems less like a pay-off than the starting point of another series entirely?
Who are these people? What are their powers, what feats have they performed? What are their names, their origins? Could they beat Batman in a fight?
Why am I interested in them more than Grant Morrison-narrator and Flex Mentallo-Grant Morrison all of a sudden? Oh wait, I know why:
Because they aren’t you and they never quite show up until near the end!
These are characters that, in my opinion, deserved better. They deserve a series, they deserve references and they deserve to be made into action figures and t-shirts. And yes, I am aware that they are essentially reimaginings of existing heroes, but come on: there’s no way in hell you haven’t put your own insane little twist in there and given them a unique flair of their own.
And if you let them fade away after this brief little cameo, then they have been wasted for no particularly good reason.
· The Ending:
In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll try to summarize my opinion of the ending in one spoiler-free sentence:
What the hell, Grant? Seriously, what the hell?
So this is what I think about Flex Mentallo. Granted, I did focus on its weaker points and perhaps let my bitterness take the better of me, but I would still suggest it to any comic book fan who would be interested in reading it.
It is, after all, art used with both skill and a clearly defined purpose. And in my mind, this makes it all right, despite its flaws.
My Letter-Review to Mr. Quitely, who also deserves a special kind of reference, since his art is what made Flex Mentallo (and a crapload of other comic book series) possible:
Dear Mr. Quitely,
Your artwork rocks.
Keep up the good work.
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