Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
September 23, 2015
Image Comics $2.99
The penultimate issue of Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s horror comic Nameless remains just as trippy and frightening as the rest of the series up until now. To catch you up in case you haven’t read any of the series yet, a giant asteroid is headed towards Earth, except it isn’t any ordinary asteroid. This asteroid contains either a door to Xibalba, the Mayan hell, or something from Xibalba is imprisoned within the asteroid. The nameless protagonist gets sent up into space with a team of scientists to try and stop the asteroid because he’s able to do that. Along the way, whatever is in the asteroid reaches out to them, and they have trippy, horrific encounters, with members of the crew dying along the way. Issue #4 ended with the protagonist back on Earth, with the asteroid slamming into what appears to be New York City, with people in the city performing unspeakable acts of violence on one another.
Issue 5 is a little difficult to make heads or tales of. The scenes in the story jump back and forth. As the issue opens, the protagonist is in a doctor’s office, and the establishing panel outside of the building shows a calm, peaceful world, so it looks as though this issue takes place before the series began. Or, the protagonist has returned to Earth after completing his mission, but with how the previous issue ended, this is rather unlikely. Then the story jumps back to a séance in which the protagonist was involved, and everyone who went with him to the asteroid is there. The implication here is that he never went into space, and everything happened on Earth. But then, there are shots of the protagonist on the asteroid, being guided down a deep hole by other members of the team, only they are possessed by whatever the evil spirit is that’s encased within the asteroid. So like I said, it’s a bit confusing.
Of course, this is all on purpose, at least I hope it is. It’s basically whatever is in the asteroid manipulating the mind of the nameless protagonist. As someone puts it at the end of the issue, “It’s having sex with [his] thoughts.” See apparently, the protagonist knows how the keep whatever is in the asteroid, which in this issue is hinted to be God, inside the asteroid. At the same time, he is also capable of letting it out, which it is trying to get him to do. It’s really quite clever on Morrison’s part and shows just how talented he really is. As I read it, or as anyone reads it, I essentially go through whatever the protagonist is going through, and I end up never really knowing what is what. Essentially, Morrison has written a story the recreates for the reader, to some extent, the disorienting nature of what the protagonist is experiencing. Artistically, it’s very well done, as this is a rather difficult thing to do. However, as a piece of entertainment, since I don’t know what is going on, it leaves me a bit wanting as I don’t know what I just read. But like I said, that’s the point of what Morrison is doing. And also, there’s one issue left to the series, so I’m sure everything will get tied up in the end. Plus, like some of Morrison’s earlier series, The Invisibles, Flex Mentallo, and The Filth, Nameless probably requires two or more readings to really get it.
That said, the issue is another strong outing for artist Chris Burnham. I’ll admit, the first time I saw Chris Burnham’s work on Batman Incorporated, I thought of him as a Frank Quitely imitator. Since then, I’ve realized just how strong and original of an artist he is. One thing I like about what he does with this issue is how he renders shadow in some parts. For instance, during some of the scenes with the séance, the item around which the group has gathered, which is a key to Xibalba, glows and emits strong light. Rather than have black, humanoid shapes behind the people, Burnham uses speed lines to denote the light and shadow. It gives the impression that the item is not just emitting light, but some kind of energy as well. The second thing that I really enjoyed in this issue, in terms of artwork, appears on page 15. The protagonist is shown to be experiencing a hailstorm of memories all at once. Burnham gives each piece of each memory its own little panel, somewhere between 30 and 40 of them, all overlapping one another. Then on top of those, Burnham has superimposed a picture of the protagonist’s face, mouth open, eyes wide open, no color in them. It really captures the psychological anguish experienced by the character at this point. And other thing that Burnham does well, and it’s probably my favorite thing about the issue, is a piece of Escher-esque artistry. It takes actually seeing it to get it, but on page nine, an alien race is shown attempting to open a doorway to a “shadow universe,” which we know as Xibalba. The item around which the aliens have gathered is two squares joined together by one or two posts, I think. Like I said, it takes seeing it to understand just what it looks like. It’s one of those things I’d like to know whose idea it was, Morrison’s or Burnham’s.
And Nathan Fairbairn’s colors should not be overlooked either. While most of the issue has fairly standard, yet solid coloring, there are a few parts which really jump off the page. For instance, on page nine, the panel with the aforementioned key, Fairbairn uses colors I’ve only ever seen on black light posters to express just how alien of a civilization it is that is shown in this panel. And on page 14, some kind of demon is shown to be taking possession of the nameless protagonist. The pinks and neon blues on this page are just really beautiful and really drive home the idea of how freaky an experience this is. It’s one of those pages at which I just found myself staring.
Overall, it’s another solid issue from Morrison and company. Despite my confusion with it, I find myself wanting to see what happens in the final issue, rather than waiting for it to come out so that I can get it over with. I definitely hope to see more from this team!