Morning Glories is the sort of book where the creator’s influences are clear. Which makes it a beautifully easy thing to pitch to a vaguely curious potential reader–just combine Runaways’ basic premise with a Lost meets The Prisoner execution and, voilà, awesome comic. Or, if they need a general premise–a diverse cast of youngsters at odds and desperate to escape their weird state of mysterious captivity.
But Morning Glories is more than the sum of its influences. For one thing, its setting makes it stand on its own, beefing up Runaways‘ cute, “What if my parents were really supervillains?” premise into full-fledged existential teenage horror: What if school were actually out to get you instead of just being regular old institutionally evil? What if you were trapped there? And what if your peers were the absolute worst? It does way more than simply exchange “evil parents” for “evil school.”
Morning Glories #4 finds a few of the students hatching a plan to save one of their own. Which if you’ve ever watched The Prisoner you know it will assuredly go tits up, lest there not be a comic book anymore.
It’s through this scheme that I realize just what I like about Morning Glories, that separates it from the aforementioned things Spencer’s obviously influenced by–these kids do not like one another. At all. Despite their diverse teenage statuses, the Runaways were all united against a common threat The Morning Glories are hardly united: one doesn’t want to join in, another is openly excluded and then the ones who are in on the plan can’t even stop from arguing and insulting one another. It’s this conflict within a conflict that contributes to the book’s success for me.
Spencer sidesteps the “mystery over character” pitfall that befell so many immediately forgotten Lost imitators by giving us irresistible characters to follow: the sweet-but-incompetent nerd, the morally bankrupt rich kid, the bonkers emo girl, and so on. My favorite in this issue is the seemingly uncaring Zoe, who I liken to a teenage Emma Frost, whose fronts haven’t yet sealed the obvious cracks.
Like Lost’s weirdo island, Spencer also continues to add intrigue to the school itself, hinting that the students might not be the only ones under control. Which could potentially add some depth to the adults overseeing the kids. Your high school’s administration was moronic and oppressive, but they were otherwise powerless middle management compared to the larger, more oppressively evil calling the shots.
All of this is drawn by Joe Eisma, who’s a bit comparable to a less cartoonish Scott Kolins. His work is wonderfully consistent, with dynamic panel angles, a lot of them surprisingly Dutch. I’m particularly fond of the repeating panels as Casey and Ike discuss the execution of the plan. For the most part, Eisma repeats the same exact iteration of Ike down the page, which seems mechanical and lazy until you realize that he’s been redrawing Casey in every panel, even the ones where he’s maintaining the same position, effectively selling his cold calculation and her humanity. An expert bit of human expression, a skill a lot of comic artists haven’t developed.
The final pages of Morning Glories #4 made me grin with the same excitement that I had reading Runaways under Brian K. Vaughan. Similarities aside, both have a tension missing from the usual mainstream ensemble book. As much as I love, say, Uncanny X-Men, you know that Cyclops and Jubilee are Cyclops and Jubilee and you don’t have to worry about them until the big yearly crossover. In Morning Glories you never know who’ll survive or where their loyalties lie. Because it’s an ongoing serialized comic and not a weekly TV series from the ’60s (though The Prisoner uses the repetitive nature of television to artfully absurdist ends), I’m confident that each story arc won’t end with the cast waking up in their dorms only to start all over again, so I can’t wait to see what happens next.