Morning Glories (Comic Review)

(This is a review of issues 1-12 of the Image comic Morning Glories. These can also be found in the first two collected volumes of the series.)

Morning Glories issue #1 cover

Morning Glories

Students usually feel like they are fighting against their school, but what if that school really were trying to kill them? That is the central hook of Morning Glories, a comic about six students newly recruited to a prestigious, but sinister, private academy.

It’s a silly idea even on its face, because any school with the body count shown here would end quickly. It might make for a fun miniseries, but Morning Glories is intended to be a long-running series. Amazingly, author Nick Spencer seems poised to make it work by not only examining the “what if?” question, but also considering why a school would want to kill its students. Twelve issues in, we don’t have a lot of answers, but there are quite a few hints about a centuries-old movement (possibly religious, possibly looking for an answer to a legitimate threat) testing children to find ones with some sort of special power. With enough suspension of disbelief to assume that their secret society could cover up the deaths and maintain their school’s prestigious reputation, this actually makes a twisted sort of sense.

Artist Joe Eisma does a passable job portraying the often dialogue-heavy story, with distinct characters and expressive faces and postures (even if he does favor a few generic body types).His linework features the occasional jarring angle and could definitely use a strong inker to give it depth, but it’s better than many DC and Marvel artists. Best of all, he is one of the few Image artists who can keep anything close to a monthly schedule .

But the art is really just a delivery mechanism for the story that dominates this comic. It’s defined by the many mysteries and constant twists, with each new issue providing a good chunk of plot and new information. Though the story is not unfolding in any hurry, it certainly can’t be accused of decompression or padding. Reading it as a serialized work, it delivers something new every month.

The plot points offer a lot of variety, from tweaking everyday aspects of school life (teachers, cheerleading squads, and guidance counselors) to completely unexpected surprises (ghosts, underground prisoners, and a strange device that intrigues cutting-edge physicists). Spencer almost seems scared to go a single issue without defying expectations, and the tone of each issue varies widely, too, from horror to graphic violence to understated suspense.

The characters started as a typical Breakfast Club-style collection of cliches. Though they haven’t gotten much deeper (this comic’s strength is in unexpected twists, not character development), they have defied expectations. In these first twelve issues, every one has either turned out to have a shocking history or faced things within the school that played off their basic archetype in surprising ways. There are also varying allegiances among the school staff and at least one organization seeking to destroy them from the outside.

It’s a lot to take in, and if anything, the concern is that Morning Glories will turn out to be one of those stories that piles the mysteries on but doesn’t know how to resolve them. That was my initial impression of this, but fortunately I re-read the series so far in preparation for this review. Taking in every issue at once, a lot of the pieces fit together better than I had expected, and the total number of open mysteries was not as large as it had seemed. (Most importantly, and a little embarrassingly, I hadn’t noticed before that one person had played a role in at least three characters’ life stories. What I’d thought to be three unrelated pieces of information all tied together neatly.) It’s strange, because this had seemed to be the perfect series to read for the monthly surprises, but now I can see a strong argument for following it in larger collected chunks. Either way, though, the mysteries seem well fleshed out, and the few explanations to date have been satisfying, so it seems that Spencer does know what he’s doing. He says that he has this planned out until an ending around issue 100, and the build-up so far seems fair given that schedule.

It’s always hard to know whether to trust a title whose main draw is mysteries and plot twists. Many high-profile works that took that approach fizzled out disappointingly (look at X-Files or Lost), but a low-stakes creator-owned comic like this arguably has a better chance of holding true to a vision. Whatever the final result is, Morning Glories has at least turned out to be a worthwhile read so far. The memorable hooks and new questions keep this interesting month after month.

Grade: B


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    • joglesby
    • June 30th, 2012

    It’s not QUITE as good as ‘Bad Kids Go To Hell’, but still pretty good. I’d rather see another Bad Kids short series than MG. That’s the one thing I don’t like about MG, they have YET to tie up one story thread!! You gotta do that – It’s writing 101! Ask Michael J. Straczynski !! lol!

    • Given that it’s still early in the series (only 12 issues when I wrote this review), I’m willing to cut it some slack even if nothing’s wrapped up yet. I know what you mean, though: We’ve all been burned many times by stories that seemed promising and then lost their way when it was finally time to answer questions. Morning Glories is definitely the sort of series that will only be as good as its answers in the end.

  1. April 9th, 2013

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