Jan 19, 2017
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 694: Annihilator #2, October 2014
I think that, perhaps, one of the things that kept me from being fully enthusiastic about Annihilator as it was coming out is that it is a very thinly-veiled retread of many of the issues that Morrison dealt with 20 years prior in Flex Mentallo. Max Nomax fires his story as a "data bullet" into Ray Spass' mind, and the story must be told, the fiction made real, in order that a universe-destroying threat be neutralized. It's not identical, but it's pretty close. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Morrison's career in comics has been a long consideration of the boundaries between the "real" and the fictional, a consideration I take up myself in daily life. We construct ourselves as narratives in the world, even as we are constructed as narratives by others. It's often the inability of a person to fulfill the roles we're cast in that pushes some into states of depression. That said, I think that Flex, which I'll get to reading eventually, is a much purer distillation of this concept, and it might well be because it's dressed up in gaudy superhero finery, rather than the leather and insect costume of Max Nomax. If we're going to meld or fuse with our fictions, it'd be nice to do it with the ones that are a little flashier, perhaps a little more optimistic, than our reality.
Moving away from the story itself, let me just note that Frazer Irving's art is, in a word, incredible. It is rare that you'll see such nuanced facial expressions in a comic book. Ray's feelings about his inoperable tumour, about his bizarre new buddy-cop life with Max Nomax, about his interactions with corporate Hollywood, are written plainly on his face. All the way back to Scott McCloud, we've talked about the erasure of detail in the faces in comics, a process that allows us to connect on a more fundamental level with the characters. This works well most of the time, but occasionally you will end up reading a story that you cannot, or do not, place yourself inside, and then you need defined people, people who look different from you, to tell you the story. What's kind of fascinating about this particular use of the detailed face is that it's in a story that's about meshing with our stories. So if we can't place ourselves into the remarkably individualized characters in Annihilator, what is that saying about the experience of placing ourselves into our fictions?