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Grant Morrison’s Heavy Metal

When Grant Morrison took over as editor-in-chief of Heavy Metal, beginning with issue #280, I subscribed on the spot.

(Cover by Gail Potocki, one of three variant covers for Morrison’s debut issue.)

I’m a wee bit of a Morrison fan:

. . . and I used to be a regular reader of Heavy Metal back when I was a kid, so putting the two together sounded fantastic to me.

Right off the bat

Here’s an excerpt from Morrison’s introductory piece:

Welcome, one and all, to our jelly-packed Rites of Spring issue – where mighty prehistoric behemoths batter zombie Martian tripods to the bloody pub-sawdust with tree-like, reptile erections while Stravinsky is played at mind-shattering jet-engine volume through the bladder of a screaming helpless pig and STILL those filthy rich squidillionaires in their ermine, crowns, and fancy couture just sit there texting, oblivious to the suffering of performers, audience, and critics alike!

Expectations: high.

Also, this:

In most cases I’m unfamiliar with the work of the artists assembled between these covers, but I liked the cut of their collective jib and thought they came closest to exemplifying the Heavy Metal spirit as I understand it.

Apart from multi-issue runs of particular stories, and HM regulars like, say, Richard Corben, in the past when I’ve opened up an issue of HM that was generally my experience as well: no idea who these folks are, but their work is awesome and surprising and will likely stick with me. I’ve always loved that about HM.

Is it good?

Yep, it’s good.

It’s a weird mix, as it should be.

Beachhead, written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Benjamin Marra, and colored by Marra and Tom Forget, opens the issue strong, with over-the-top, jingoistic aliens “conquering” a far-future Earth which appears to be populated only by bacteria.

I also loved Anna Larine Kornum’s A Mind Bomb, which is genuinely creepy and wouldn’t feel at all out of place in an Unknown Armies campaign. Check out this dude, who has bloody plastic bags over his hands and the stubs of what look like angel wings on his back:

The Key, by Massimiliano Frezzatto, is lovely. This little guy lives inside a woman-shaped ship of some sort; to say more would spoil it.

There’s plenty more good stuff in there, too, and much of it is eminently gameable, from turtle-people who grow time-manipulating drugs in sacs on their backs (and are hunted for them) to a rather unusual explanation for why airplanes sometimes go missing.

I didn’t love every story, but that’s true of most media that use this kind of format. On the whole, this issue struck exactly the notes I was looking for, with trippy artwork, unusual self-contained tales, and a stew of stuff for my brain to chew on. If this is a sign of things to come under Morrison’s editorship, I say bring it the fuck on.

I haven’t tucked into issue #281 yet, but it’s waiting patiently for me.

7 replies on “Grant Morrison’s Heavy Metal”

It’s about a foot out of frame, on one of my to-read shelves.

I’ll accept partial shame for not having actually read it yet. ;-)

So based on your recommendation I snagged the two issues. I’m not a huuuuuge anthology fan, but I had been meaning to check these out when it was announced last year and then kind of forgot. Haven’t finished the first one, because this is the kind of thing you have to take time out and plan to read, unlike the average issue of Superman I half read while watching tv or something. There’s a pretty healthy dose of “pretty, but I just…don’t…get…it!” in there so far! Certainly worth it though.

Those are both good points. I read a lot of stuff casually, but HM does sort of demand more focus. And the pretty-but-odd stuff can definitely leave me scratching my head sometimes, but just as often it produces WHOA moments.

That’s part of HM’s charm, for me.

Have to admit that I usually don’t “get” Heavy Metal stories – they sometimes start in medea res and terminate abruptly in mid-tale. When I come across such a beast I assume this is an episodic adventure I am only seeing the middle bit of.

Also, it is clear that the translations from the French(?) originals in some cases are a bit broken (idiom; the curse of the non-native translator).

I’ve often thought that translation should be a two-pass process involving two different staff members, the final one a native of the language targeted. A recent (non HM) example I came across had someone falling facedown in a patch of “salad”, with the clear indication that this was a disaster.

It would have had more impact to the reader if the idiom had been properly stripped away and “nettles” substituted for “salad”. What gets lost in the more subtle near-miss translations, I wonder?

That’s some Graphic Novel collection shelf you have there.

At least in issue 280, the mix of ongoing and standalone stories is good. I didn’t enjoy and of the midstream ongoing ones, but a) I might in the future (particularly as one just ended) and b) that still leaves the majority of the magazine for me to enjoy.

However, the artwork in HM is always outstanding. It was the reason I ponied up for “Syberia”, sight and review unseen.

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