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Sunday Slugfest: Morning Glories #2

Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2010
By: Thom Young

Nick Spencer
Joe Eisma (with Alex Sollazzo, colors)
Image Comics
Casey is tortured and placed in a classroom where she and five other new students at Morning Glories Academy recount the events of their first night on campus. Soon the entire room fills with water, and Casey ultimately surrenders to the demands of her tormentors in a last-ditch effort to save the lives of her peers.

Robert Tacopina:
Ross Haralson:
Chris Kiser:




Robert Tacopina:

Morning Glories has been immensely successful for Image Comics and Nick Spencer. The first issue has sold enough to warrant going back to press a few times, and it received rave reviews from our staff. The drawback from having such an amazing first issue is that it makes the wait for the following issue seem like an eternity.

After a riveting debut with a doozy of a cliffhanger, I expected this issue to be action-packed and to pick up on the revelation at the end of last month’s issue. Thankfully, instead of showing all their cards at once, Spencer, and Joe Eisma opt for a more closely guarded approach that allows the readers a character-driven introspective.

We are allowed a greater look into the lives of these young (for lack of a better term) “students.” Yet, there is still plenty of drama contained within, so don’t worry that you are merely getting an issue of talking heads because that is definitely not the case.

What you can expect is to see these characters tested by the mysterious Miss Daramount and Mr. Gribbs, who have been manipulating these young adults in various manners. All of the new recruits have been placed in detention, and we are told how they managed to achieve that punishment through the use of flashback scenes that are woven into the present day narrative with seamless precision. At this point in the series, it is still difficult to say what the true nature of this Academy is and what they have in store for the kids. However, it doesn’t look like they are keen in developing upstanding young minds.

Spencer once again churns out an extremely engrossing comic book featuring the Morning Glories Academy and its well-constructed inhabitants. The handle he has on these young characters is fantastic, and each adds a certain element that proves crucial to the overall cohesiveness of the title.

Ike and Casey are the two that stand out the most--particularly since it appears that Casey may be the catalyst for just whatever it is that these children are being set up to participate in. Ike is just a loveable, self-centered horndog jerk who somehow makes you want to root for him even more. The dialogue--including how the kids banter back and forth--is intelligent, humorous, and methodically executed in charming fashion.

The artwork by Eisma is equally impressive. His line work is perfect for this story, and it’s evident that he has collaborated with Spencer before, as there is a flawless transition from the story to the art. Granted, there is nothing immediately mind-blowing in the artwork. Nevertheless, it is the subtlety of the work that proves to be the endearing factor. Additionally, Alex Sollazzo adds his bright and vibrant color scheme to the pencils that provide a pop to the page.

Morning Glories is a damn fine display of the art of story telling. It has all the right things going for it--interesting characters, a mysterious premise, and (most importantly) a creative team that is firing on all cylinders. This comic is easily the best new book on the stands and I urge everyone to give this title a chance.




Ross Haralson:

Morning Glories #2 has its work cut out for itself, as not only must the book impress a consumer base that purchased enough copies of the series’ debut to warrant a third printing, but it also must do so using exactly half the number of story pages afforded to its predecessor.

Is the issue ultimately successful?

Readers may breathe a sigh of relief: The issue is very good.

Nick Spencer continues to earn Lost comparisons with every new page, as he scripts dialogue that is pregnant with mystery and that introduces characters who manage to remain compelling amidst the rapid-fire depiction of their flaws and moral ambiguity.

Little truly occurs throughout the course of this installment. A short torture sequence leads directly into a death trap scenario--the latter continuing on until the issue’s end. The emphasis here is clearly placed on character development rather than plot progression. Due to the slow-burn nature of the narrative, Spencer’s choice to showcase his characters this issue is very wise.

It is interesting to note that, to a certain extent, despite Nick Spencer’s clear efforts to lend each of his creations a unique voice, there seems to be only three basic personalities among the six cast members, with each of the three conspicuously embodied by both a male and female character.
  1. There is the heroic leader who likes to take the initiative and who would rather lie or hide the truth in order to avoid troubling others--Jun and Casey.

  2. There is the uppity, sexually charged type who masks his or her difficulties by either emphasizing or focusing on the superficial--Ike and Zoe.

  3. Finally, there is the naďve, emotionally imbalanced type who struggles to respond appropriately to situations, even in the face of danger--Hunter and Jade.
Given the first issue’s focus on the fact that the cast shares a common birth date, I imagine that this commonality of traits--usually a product of lazy writing, if so quickly and easily identified--is actually a clue regarding the Academy’s ultimate purpose for these six specific individuals.

Overall, the writing is very strong, as characters’ dialogue generally “sounds” convincing and invites the reader to avoid taking any of them too seriously. Even the seemingly evil characters share snappy exchanges that appreciably serve to humanize them.

One item notably absent from this issue, however, is the apparition that Miss Dagney releases in the first issue. While I was almost relieved that this creature played no role here--given its stark contrast to the otherwise comparatively grounded abnormalities pervading the series--it now seems rather disappointing in retrospect that such an overtly supernatural element was introduced so early in the story if it was not “needed” in the second installment.

This complaint is relatively minor. However, given Lost’s influences here, I would hope that Spencer took note of the years-long struggle the writers of that television series seemed to endure while defining the nature of the “monster” that was introduced in the pilot.

Just as strong as Spencer’s writing is Joe Eisma’s artwork. Though the style of his art differs considerably from the striking work of the cover artist, Rodin Esquejo, Eisma’s efforts in no way suffer from comparison. He utilizes strong, clean lines that provide plenty of detail.

Morning Glories requires a certain amount of cartoonishness that Eisma seems happy to deliver, and his obvious refusal of the industry’s movement toward forced realism deserves great praise. It also bears mention that his panels (and, at times, his pencils) are reminiscent of Gabriel Rodriguez’s style without ever feeling derivative. While Rodriguez is indisputably the stronger artist, Eisma is definitely a talent worth watching.

Finally, the colors are uniformly excellent throughout the issue--displaying an extremely professional consistency. Alex Sollazzo certainly earns his keep, adding a great deal of life to the characters and environments. He is especially talented when presenting the effects of lighting changes throughout the story, and he also seems notably adept at conveying skin tone as well--which is a frequent source of difficulty for many colorists.

The content of the issue certainly justifies the price, and I have no doubt that Morning Glories will continue dazzling readers for many months to come.




Chris Kiser:

What does a famous theorem from the world of quantum mechanics have to do with a sinister conspiracy within the walls of a prestigious boarding school? Beats me, but I’m not letting that put a damper on all the fun I’m having reading this wonderful new smash-hit series.

It can’t be denied that the tale Nick Spencer is weaving within the pages of Morning Glories is still largely shrouded in mystery. There’s an awful lot of odd stuff that occurs in this issue--cultic rituals, homicidal roommates, and classroom deathtraps, to name a few--that comes with precious little context for understanding.

All the weirdness is executed quite well, and much of it does leave you itching for answers. That being the case, it would certainly be tempting for Spencer to sit back and let these enigmas and oddities to do all the heavy lifting for him.

But this is one writer who isn’t content to take the easy road. In the midst of countless head-scratching moments, there’s a genuine story being told, complete with characters, conflicts, and real stakes.

For example, there’s nary a clue as to why the teachers of Morning Glory Academic would lock our protagonists in a sealed detention room and begin flooding it with water, but neither is there a doubt as to how we’re supposed to feel about the situation. All of the characters involved have fully formed personalities and engage in realistic interaction amongst themselves, drawing us right into the heart of their peril.

As the action progresses, it’s rendered very fluidly by Spencer’s artist partner, Joe Eisma. Largely gone are the stiff posing and motionless panels that plagued Eisma’s efforts in the first issue, and the second is all the better for it.

It’s enough to suggest that Eisma might have what it takes to keep pace with the quality writing on this series, though he’s still a few steps behind Spencer when it comes to storytelling prowess. His characters continue to be depicted a little too generically, a trait that slightly gets in the way of what I believe was intended to be a shocking cliffhanger.

In contrast, is it too early to tag Rodin Esquejo with an Eisner nomination for his stunning work on this series’ covers? He’s churning out some remarkably dynamic images, doing his darndest to convince comic shop browsers that this book is worth picking up.

If he succeeds, he’ll have done those new readers a great favor. Morning Glories is one of those rare series whose story is supplemented by bizarre mysteries rather than propped up by them as a crutch. In the same mold as the television series Lost, this book carries with it all the intangible qualities to separate it from less substantive pretenders.



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