Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell’s Zenith is one of those legendary “lost” comics, like Miracleman or Master of Kung Fu, that have been trapped in some sort of legal limbo for many years. And while we’re all still hoping that we’ll be able to read Alan Moore’s legendary masterpiece again sometime fairly soon (maybe Angela will help us!), the great lost Grant Morrison comic has finally returned to print — albeit in a special limited edition 480-page book retailing for £100 on Rebellion/2000 AD’s website.
There’s a certain group of Mozzer fans who will immediately order this book, no matter what some critic says about it. After all, if you’ve been seriously contemplated the three-digit prices that some of the older reprints have been selling for on eBay, you’re the natural audience for The Complete Zenith. And if you’re among that group, and can spare about $150 for this book, then you’ll be happy with your purchase. It’s about 480 pages (give or take based on the bonus features and the content that appears between the chapters) of “Zenith” storylines that you’ve always wanted to have in your collection, and nothing is better than being able to scratch that very unique sort of itch.
But if you’re on the fence about this book, perhaps debating whether to buy the Gil Kane’s Spider-Man Artist’s Edition from IDW or The Complete Zenith, well, that’s a tougher choice.
“Zenith” is early Morrison, created at roughly the same time as his writing on Animal Man and Doom Patrol, and this book has many echoes of those series. The content in Zenith is sometimes thrilling, sometimes exasperating, sometimes filled with too much glee about the author’s cleverness and sometimes with exactly the right touch of complexity and thoughtfulness. It’s unquestionably of its time with its talk of Top of the Pops and particular musical references and a storyline that can be interpreted as a satire of Crisis on Infinite Earths. It’s also timeless in its focus on family, youth, and some especially intriguing science fiction themes.
Most of all, Zenith shares with Doom Patrol and Animal Man the sense of a creator who has mostly fresh and original ideas but often has trouble articulating those ideas perfectly. You can still see the strings and the influences, observe everything starting to come together in ways that will soon shake up the comics world. Morrison’s writing on this series is fresh and insightful and full of piss and vinegar and a tremendous sense of energy. You can watch the writer grow his skills, from early scenes that feel too derivative of the beginning of Miracleman, to later moments that seem jam-packed with the sorts of complex and fascinating concepts for which Morrison is famous.
I hate to slight Steve Yeowell in this review, but just as with Chas Truog and Richard Case, Yeowell plays rhythm guitar to Morrison’s vocals and lead guitar. Yeowell’s work is lovely and captivating, a great contrast and realization of Morrison’s writing. It’s not innovative but it is the kind of solidly professional cartooning that a storyline like this needs to have.
I also haven’t told you anything about the plot because if you’re going to spend $150 on a deluxe reprint collection, the least I can give you is the chance to discover this plot yourself. But I found aspects of Morrison’s story wonderfully exciting, and I have a very different perspective on the very young lead character of Zenith now than I would have had when first discovering this book. And I think most readers will really enjoy the skillful ways that Morrison plays with a plot thread that is as old as Merlin.
After devouring Zenith: the Complete Collection in a day, I’m honestly on the fence as to whether I’ll buy it. It’s definitely a four-star assemblage of comics, classic material by a justly beloved creator. But — no offense to Morrison or his legion of fans — I’ll probably save my money for the Spirit Artist’s Edition. I discovered I wasn’t as anxious to scratch this itch as I thought I was.