For years I thought comics were a kids game. Sure, they were written by grown men. They were drawn by grown men, too. But all for the sake of a child’s imagination. Funny then that now at middle age I’m just now finding a passion for the world of comic books. I’m searching high and low for that interesting story to dig into. The perfect mix of word and picture. Story and color. If you’d a told me ten years ago that I’d be obsessed with these colorful rags at 42 years old, well I probably would’ve said “Cool. Can’t wait. Cause right now at 32 years old with three kids under the age of 6 I barely have time to breathe.” After a couple experimental toe dippings into the comic book waters back in 2006 with Garth Ennis’ Preacher and Alan Moore’s Watchmen, I knew that comics were indeed created for more than just kids.
I was hitting up some “best of” lists back in December when I came across a story about a comic called Nameless. Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Chris Burnham, Nameless was given the honor of “scariest comic series of 2015”. Maybe even “most disturbing”. Whichever adverb was used it got my attention, and when the article stated there would be a deluxe edition graphic novel being released in March I knew I had to get my hands on Nameless.
So first off, Nameless is quite unlike any comic story I’ve read. Grant Morrison is a name I’ve seen many times over the years featured on numerous comics. I’d never read anything of his up to this point, so I didn’t know what to expect. After finishing Nameless the first time I had to look into this guy, because let me tell you, this is one messed up book. Morrison is an occultist. Now what that means I’m not really sure. I guess that means he’s into Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, and he owns an antique ouija board. He doesn’t go to church on Sunday mornings more than likely, and I’m sure at one point was a fan of Aleister Crowley, too.
Nameless begins with an astronomer murdering his family by making them drink bleach, then hanging himself with barbed wire. Before dying he leaves a indecipherable message in blood on the wall above his family’s dead bodies. We then go to our protagonist(if there is one), an occultist called Nameless. Seems he’s being chased by a woman in a veil and men with lizard heads with knives and spears. He’s going through a series of places trying to get a key from the veiled lady. Nameless confronts the veiled woman and commits the key to memory as it hangs around her neck. All of this seems to be taking place in his mind as he’s saved from a watery demise as the lizard guys throw him overboard a boat in icy waters by a group of pseudo scientists. In the boat Nameless draws an exact replica of the key so an actual key can be made from it.
And this is just the first few pages.
Seems Nameless is hired by a group of rich futurists to head up into space with some astronauts to try and stop an asteroid from hitting the earth and destroying all life. They know that the asteroid isn’t just an asteroid. It’s some kind of evil and ancient entity that is coming to earth to destroy it. In the interim, the panic from the pending doom is causing people to go insane on earth and do inhuman acts of violence. The asteroid is called Xibalba, which the Mayan translation means “place of fear”. Can Nameless stop the madness and save the world? I’ll give you a hint: it doesn’t look good.
I think a lot of people are probably going to really hate this book. It is disturbing and disgusting. It’s story is hallucinogenic at best; self serious and heaped in mumbo jumbo at worst. There is a very thin narrative here that allows Morrison to say there is one, leaving him plenty of space to fill this story with preposterous theories and exhaustive theorems about what this entity is and what it truly wants. Half the time you don’t know if what you’re reading and seeing is real within the story or whether it’s a dream within a dream. If all of that sounds like a heaping pile of mess then my friend, stay as far away from this book as you can.
So having said all of that, after reading this book a third time(and there will be a fourth this week) I have to say that I love this book. Not for its great narrative, or its witty dialogue. I love this book for the big, beautiful mess it is. It’s a vivid nightmare. After reading it you get the feeling that you woke from the most disturbing dream you ever had, and you revel in sharing it with others. Grant Morrison’s Nameless is a heaping mess of gobbledy gook and half-cooked black magic but on a level of just a sheer visceral experience it’s one hell of a trip. This is basically a doom and gloom fairy tale where there is no happy ending. Burnham makes this book a visually stunning experience, with some of the most beautiful(and disturbing) images I’ve seen in the comic book forum. From page to page it goes from bloody viscera and broken facial expressions to kaleidoscopic colors showing demented, spiritual auras.
When I say I’ve never seen or read a book like this, there’s no exaggeration in that statement.
So as I said, a good portion of my readers would probably find this book repulsive and repugnant. I can’t fault anyone in thinking these things, but as artistic statements go this is a hell of one. If you are of the adventurous fare, I implore you to open your minds a bit and give this one a chance. Nameless sits in that artistic spot that films like Gaspar Noe’s Enter The Void, David Lynch’s Wild At Heart, and Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers; and patchwork records like Of Montreal’s Skeletal Lamping and Paralytic Stalks, The Walker Brothers’ Nite Flights, and Sleep’s Dopesmoker. Unapologetic art. Take it for what’s worth, or just leave it for a more adventurous soul.