(Grant Morrison / Chris Burnham / Nathan Fairbairn; Image Comics)
“Some kind of milestone for humankind, heh?” “The first murder on the moon.” If that doesn’t intrigue you, you can probably stop reading this review right now because Nameless #2 is the perfect combination of sci-fi and horror. What I particularly like about Grant Morrison’s writing is the subtle bits of charm he gives his characters. Most notably, when Nameless is taking his “I-SPEX” on and off like a child playing with 3D glasses and when he starts humming creepy horror music in a minor ‘key’.
The gruff humor of Nameless’ character is the perfect offset for the somewhat grandiose nature of this comic’s storyline. I love when modern mysteries are tied in with ancient legends and Nameless #2 does that to an almost decadent extent. It’s just on the edge of being too much, but I think Morrison finds the ideal balance of charisma and intensity.
The one major issue I had with Nameless #2 was how confused I got by the “Ixaxaar”. The Ixaxaar is an asterisk shaped stone thingermajig that is apparently part of the giant killer asteroid headed towards Earth. At the end of the comic, the space crew prepares to reunite the Ixaxaar with the asteroid, Xibalba, after they successfully save the planet by knocking Xibalba off course.
When Nameless first mentions the Ixaxaar he says, “You can look it up,” so I did and gosh darn it, Grant Morrison, there are some things you can’t un-see. After sorting through pages of terrifying paintings of bleeding women, angsty emo band album reviews, and multitudes of long tapering candles, I discovered that the Ixaxaar may or may not be a key to the gates of hell. If this is the case, I have to wonder: why would Nameless go along with this plan?? He obviously knows what the Ixaxaar is so how could he possibly think using it would be a good idea?
Anyhow, I’m sincerely hoping the rest of the series helps to clear up this confusion because overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Nameless #2. The ending was super intriguing and I like the dramatically clever writing style. Keep an eye on Nameless, I think it will be a series worth keeping up with.
Whatever you think of Morrison, one can’t deny that he knows something about the occult. In Nameless #2, symbols and the language of angels come to forefront of the work, and the seed that he, artist Christ Burnham, and colorist Nathan Fairbairn planted in the first installment begins to blossom into a complex intergalactic apocalyptic story that leaves us begging for more.
One of the most jarring elements of the first issue was the constant Inception-esque jumping between dream worlds, which prevented us from getting a sense of the world of Nameless until more than halfway through the issue. This time, things move in a much more straightforward manner. The titular hero, who works without a name as a means of protection against those who wish to do him harm, has been recruited by a Consortium of billionaires to save the world from an extraterrestrial threat. Nameless finds himself on Serenity Base, built on the dark side of the moon, getting prepped to divert an asteroid on a direct collision path with earth. Things, of course, go wrong.
Morrison has always had a predilection for exploring symbols and numerology, but he’s never done so as much as he has in Nameless. The central symbol of the series— two diamonds dashed through their center— has no corollary that I know of to any historical rune. This is the symbol of the alien invaders, and you can bet that Morrison will explore its meaning in the issues to come. At one point, Nameless muses that 5 is a “fucked-up number. 5 is 1 and 4 is a Door.” 1 represents purity and new beginnings, while 4 represents a solid, unmoving state of stability. Together, they make 5, an unstable number that represents chaos and motion, which represents humanity’s careening course for total enslavement and annihilation at the hands of this alien threat. The space crew on Serenity (which I can’t help but connect with Firefly) cover their spacesuits with protective runes like the Hamsa, the eye within the hand that wards away the evil eye. Morrison, a practician of Chaos Magic, where one makes dreams real by writing down the wish and turning it into a symbol, clearly believes in the power of signs. Morrison argues that runes come to humanity instinctually, activating something primal within us; thus beginning the process of making the abstract real.
Burnham’s art, as always deserves praise. His slightly frazzled linework is a perfect match for the chaotic feel of Nameless‘ world, and he demonstrates an ability to bring Morrison’s ideas to life with vigor, and even elevates some of them to horrifically new heights. At one point, Nameless examines a stone key that was once a part of Marduk, the lost fifth planet of the solar system. Nameless explains that Marduk was lost to a “primal conflict” between angels and demons, good and evil, left and right; a war between polar opposite dualities that tore the world asunder and may have even launched the asteroid that murdered the dinosaurs. Morrison’s narration in this scene is poetically insane, but Burnham kicks things up a notch by following Morrison’s words with a full page spread of the war on Marduk. We see a mass of tendrils with dozens of pustules growing along it (or perhaps they’re eyes) locked in combat with a massive cybernetic crustacean; two titans fight as the world below them bursts into flame. We don’t know who’s good and who’s bad. All we know is that we’re doomed.
The one complaint I have against Nameless is that the characters have, by and large, fallen flat. Nameless himself is a no-bullshit action hero who clearly has chips on his shoulder, but we don’t know what they are. As such, it’s hard to empathize with him. His crew is even more nameless than he is. Still, Nameless #2 is an excellent installment in this limited series, building up the diegetic world and setting our heroes on a crash course with the apocalypse. Morrison is clearly excited to have the opportunity to play with symbols in such a direct manner, and Burnham and Fairbairn are worthy collaborators.