Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Zenith: Phase Four

Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell Zenith: Phase Four (1992)
Hallelujah and all that. I realise Grant Morrison disowns this one as mere work for hire most likely on the grounds of it being the one everybody liked, but he's wrong as usual, and it makes my little heart go pitty-pat to have it back in print. In 1992 I was still buying 2000AD as a grown man with a full-time job, and every Saturday morning I would sort the mail, bag it up, and then go out on delivery, but before the first brown envelope went in anyone's letterbox I'd pick up Tharg's latest from the newsagent in Dunfield Road, Catford, then rush across the street to my first block of flats and sit in the stairwell for ten minutes with a fag catching up on Zenith, because I just couldn't wait any longer. No-one was expecting a giro on Saturday, so ten minutes wasn't going to make a lot of difference.

This final instalment of the Zenith saga worked better spread out over weeks and months, it transpires, because read in one go it reveals itself as not actually having a story, really just a punchline - which on close inspection may as well be it was all a dream - forestalled by a sequence of vaguely cool images: the ancient scientist unravelling as his ageing process is reversed - sending him back to childhood, superpowered Michael Heseltine as prime minister, the black sun, Lovecraftian entities, and an acid house robot. It has about as much substance as an advert for car insurance, but it still fucking works because somehow cool is the whole point; at least I think it is. It works in the same way a piece of music works, because Morrison was Zenith, pretty much, or Zenith with a load of self-deprecating piss taken so as to defuse the potential absurdity of a man who would have given his left one to hang out with Kylie Minogue if there was just a way to do it whilst still appearing cool. It works in the same way a piece of music works, because just listen to the Sisters of Mercy at their most epic - and who knows what the fuck any of those songs are about either?

This probably reads like negative criticism, but it isn't meant to be. For all its flaws - even that Steve Yeowell's artwork was probably better in black and white - Zenith remains a masterpiece. This collection also includes a couple of er... later efforts from various 2000AD specials, neither of which really do anything much, but you don't have to read them if you don't want to.

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