By Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell
with Mark Millar, Carmona, Jim McCarthy and Simon Coleby
So, after an interminable length of time, one of the most critically acclaimed stories from 2000ad has finally been reprinted (well, other than in the aborted Titan volumes, and the “Best of 2000ad” from many years ago)
I haven’t read the whole saga for many, many MANY years. Some of it I haven’t read since it was first published.
How does it all hold up?
Well – quite well actually.
I remember when Zenith started in the prog’, a superhero story wasn’t seen as being a good fit. Morrison wasn’t the name he is now. Both he and Yeowell had done some work for Marvel UK and had done the odd Future Shock – Morrison had contributed “Ulysses Sweet” : recently (well, okay a few years ago now) resurrected with great success in the ‘Prog by Guy Adams and Paul Marshall. I remember Zenith being published and being a tad non plussed initially, and the reactions between me and my mates. I came to like it, Joel loved it, Rich’… hated it.
For those who don’t know, and there maybe a few, Zenith is the offspring of superhumans created a part of an experiment to create a British superhero task force in the 1960s using Nazi technology. They became Cloud 9, most of them are dead, but two of them got jiggy and produced Zenith. Zenith is arrogant, pig headed, vacuous, selfish and ….a successful pop star.
The Cult of the Black Sun, who counted Hitler amongst their members (at least in this reality) worshippers of the Many Angled Ones, the Lloigor, resurrect the Nazi superhuman operative Masterman for possession by Iok Sotot to prepare the world for the coming of his fellow dark gods. Iok Sotot / Masterman cracks on, starting with targeting the surviving members of CLoud 9 and moving onto Zenith.
So begins Zenith’s journey into battling Lovecraftian multi dimensional gods, encountering acid casualty robot heroes, and traveling through alternate realities. Along the way we meet an allegory of a very famous British entrepreneur, some very interesting variations on a number of British political figures, and Morrison’s take on DC’s “Crisis On Infinite Earths”, which involves the resurrection and butchering of variations on some much loved British comic characters (it’s fun to spot them actually). All the while Zenith succeeds in being developing into more a complete arse, before finally discovering what really happened to Cloud 9 and facing the Many Angled Ones in a final battle.
This really is the complete package, it also includes the one offs in the specials, Millar’s Zenith based text story and the Zenith.com strip from Prog’ 2001.
One the most interesting things of the whole run is the development of Steve Yeowell’s art, from the smooth and fluid lines (Alan Davisy) of Phase 1 through the transition to jagged images in Phase 2 and the bloodbath that is Phase 3, perfectly reflecting the horror and confusion of the multidimensional superhero war. Steve used far more ink then too. Sadly, Phase 4 is coloured, no reflection on the colourist Gina Hart,but I would have preferred the whole run to be black and white.
As much as I like “Zenith”, I wonder whether it has it’s reputation as a result of what Morrison has done since (this is amongst his most straightforward work) and the controversy that has surrounded its publication. If there are criticisms of the script it that throughout the run Zenith’s ally Peter St John seems to have an answer to everything which makes it all a bit easy. Morrison had said that by Phase 4 he was a bit bored. The end is logical and a natural denouement, but there is a feeling of anti climax. It’s a bit too neat and tidy. But I’m being picky, other than that, classic stuff, and a worthy package, rounded out nicely with Morrison and Brendan McCarthy’s initial character designs. Lovingly presented in a very snazzy slipcase – all bought during the recent sale from the 2000adonline website, but as I may have mentioned before, I am Rebellion’s bitch.