Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics
I love the fact that, over the years, we’ve ended up with a subgenre of stories about teenagers involving evil schools and academies. There’s something about that natural mistrust that teenagers have towards adults that make it such an rich mine to tap, and Morning Glories by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma is the latest comic to visit that well. So while the story itself isn’t something huge and crazy and new, it’s the choices that Spencer and Eisma are making that ultimately caught my attention.
It’s easy for stories like Morning Glories to feel dated almost instantly. If you jump back to the mid-’90s and Gen 13, it’s hard to imagine those original issues being published at any other time. The slang, the fashions, even the names are all right out of the ’90s and it’s hard to pretend otherwise. After all, if you’re writing a story about teenagers, you need everything to be up to date and current, right?. I was a little surprised as a result to see Spencer almost going in the opposite direction with Morning Glories. There are glimpses of technology, for instance, but it’s little more than that. No one’s cell phones work, and they aren’t given computers at the academy. They’re all cut off from the rest of the world, and once you add in traditional school uniforms you also sidestep the question of clothing styles. It feels, whether intentional or not, like Spencer is trying to avoid whenever possible this being a series tied into 2010.
Some other parts of Morning Glories are a little less surprising, though. The main characters are almost all easily boiled down to a single character point so far; after three issues, it’s hard to say we really know much more about any of them than we did since their initial introduction sketches. The latest issue seemed to try and mitigate that a bit, with almost all of the focus on just Casey and Jade. Casey is clearly the closest the group of students have to a leader, so it makes sense that she’s getting more attention than the rest. But it doesn’t change the fact that three of the six don’t even get dialogue this issue; I suspect that it would be difficult for readers, a week later, to name all six characters. For Morning Glories to stand out, its characters need to do so and quickly.
By way of balance, though, Spencer is starting to build up a larger history for the academy, and right now that’s the most interesting aspect of the series. Between the extensive pre-arrival sequence starring members of the previous class, and the latest issue’s flashback to 1490, we’re starting to see a much larger picture. Spencer is teasing this out at just the right rate; we’ve got enough information to keep us wanting to know more, but not so much is revealed that the lure has gone flat. Some parts have seemed a little more over the top than others (the sprinkler test in the second issue stands out) but on the whole it’s that larger question of "what’s going on?" that is going to keep readers around right now, rather than an attachment to the protagonists.
Eisma’s art in Morning Glories is good, a slightly angular style that makes the kids look like, well, kids. They’ve got peeved expressions, they look freaked out, and none of them are supermodels. It’s the little moments that stand out the most for me, like Ike’s sly look at Casey when he tells her to go up against authority figures. I also thought the scene with Jade trying to escape in the third issue showed a strong grasp of action; from the simple motion lines as Jade whirls away from the door, to her flight down the hallway and stairs, it felt like we were watching her actually move across the page. Add in an increasingly panicked expression on her face, and it comes together perfectly.
Morning Glories is so far an entertaining story, but until the characters flesh out some more it can’t quite make the jump from good to great. Still, good is a nice starting point. Given time, this book could easily start knocking readers’s socks off. Until then, though, I’m content to stick around to see what happens next. There’s enough mystery and conspiracy being offered up along with the good art to make it worth your while.