Morrison's First Phase

ZENITH PHASE I #1, Fleetway/Quality, reprinted from 2000 AD #535-540, 1987
Grant Morrison's first hit was Zenith, a strip that ran in the UK anthology comic 2000 AD. Over the years, Fleetway/Quality reprinted those comics for North American readers a couple times. Split into "phases", this is Phase I #1... That's the very start of Zenith! So, what's it about?

Zenith himself is a third-generation superhuman, and like any Gen-Xer worth his salt, he wants to be rock star, not a hero. He's the kind of guy who has to be told not to drink and fly.
But since it's a Grant Morrison superhero comic, there has to be some kind of funky power thing, and in Zenith's case, it's that it's tied into his bio-rhythm. See, Zenith doesn't have powers all month. He's one of the few superheroes I know who actually has a cycle. (Female superheroes don't have periods, that's what makes them super. It's not a "cycle" if you're stuck at PMS all the time... I'm looking your way, Power Girl!)

If you want to play historian, there are a lot of Morrison-isms here, stuff that will turn up in his future work. A collaboration with Steve Yeowell, for example. (I don't think he's such a hot superhero artist, but everyone looks pretty decent here. British supers just don't try to contort their bodies like Americans do.) Lovecraftian gods possessing humans (just like in The Invisibles), but they really need super-bodies, or else...
Yeah, that can't be pleasant.

And speaking of the Invisibles, hippie superheroes on LSD are also on view here.
"Mandala" was with the Beatles when they started tripping out and becoming a band more for my stoner friends than my mom. Today, he's an MP. I'm sure he never inhaled. Licked a frog or two, on the other hand...

I was never able to read all of Zenith (the last Phase likely won't be reprinted because of copyright issues), but Tim Callahan's book on Morrison fills in the blanks. There's a Crisis pastiche in Phase III that I wouldn't mind seeing, for one thing.


Mick said...

Being from the UK and (at that time, at least) a major 2000AD fan, I read Zenith every week when it came out, it's amongst the best strips to come out of the 'Galaxy's Greatest Comic' and I think it's up there with Alan Moore's Marvel/Miracleman as an adult modern take on the superhero genre.
Saying that, though, I don't think you're missing that much by not reading 'Phase IV', it's the weakest in the series, in my opinion, and a bit of a let-down after the awesome 'Phase III', which as you say, was kinda like a 'Crisis' for old British comic characters. (Including the fantastic 'Robot Archie' from the old 'Lion' comic) especially as we had to wait a few years for Phase IV to arrive.


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