I love a good long form story. There is something about a series just grabbing you by the lapels and dragging you along for a ride; a dense, expertly plotted, and sometimes frustrating ride.
Enter Morning Glories.
Nick Spencer once described his Image Comics teen drama as, “Runaways meets Lost” and that is the best possible description anyone could attribute to Morning Glories. Since its debut in August, 2010, I have been a RABID fan of the series, but I have recognized that it’s not the BEST possible series for just a casual reader to jump on and enjoy without being completely and hopelessly lost.
Enter Morning Glories 101!
Every new issue of Morning Glories, I, your humble narrator, will foster you though the Previously On so far of Morning Glories and provide a review and story analysis of the new issue in question. Sound good, gang? Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then let’s begin.
HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD.
Morning Glories revolves around six gifted, yet damaged students of the mysterious and sometimes deadly Morning Glories Academy. Casey, Hunter, Ike, Jun, Jade, and Zoe were all born on the same day and each have been affected by some sort of major tragedy or incident in their lives, some are even gifted (or cursed) with odd abilities, in the form of premonitions in Jade’s case and the inability to tell time in Hunter’s case. They were all specifically chosen by Headmistress Georgina Daramount to attend the school “For a better tomorrow.”
Upon their arrival to the school, they find that the MGA is not all it appears to be and seems to relish the mental and psychical torture of their students, even though they keep spouting lines about an overall purpose and goal to the school itself.
After several failed escape attempts, horrifying display of power by Daramount’s lap dog, Mr. Gribbs, and the drugging and attempted murder of Jade by the school nurse Nine (easily the creepiest character in the books), the Morning Glory Six are introduced to Miss Hodge, the guidance counselor and sister of the Headmistress.
It seems that Miss Hodge is a softer and more lenient ear for The Six, she seems aware of the sinister workings of Morning Glories Academy and is determined to give the kids what they need to fight against it. She even goes so far as to show Ike, Zoe, and Casey as mysterious cave that looks oddly like the one described in Plato’s Allegory of The Cave that allows Casey to time travel back to see her parents after she was just born. Oh yeah, there is time travel as well.
Starting with #13, the current arc, titled P.E. finds our teenage heroes split into groups and participating in a annual MGA tradition called Woodrun; basically just capture the flag. As the students flood into the forest under the watchful eyes of Daramount, Hodge, and Gribbs, a mysterious darkness overwhelms the woods, but not the surrounding areas, and the all the students, not just The MGA Six are lost without a trace. They seem to think the mysterious Abraham, mentioned throughout the series, is behind this and Daramount steels herself to explain to her “father” (who has also been mentioned several times, yet never seen) what has transpired.
Over the course of six issues, each issue focusing on a single character, we see Spencer fleshing out his heroes while facing them with a truly deadly plot; someone is stalking through the woods killing students. It’s revealed in the Hunter-centric #19 that it’s Zoe who has finally learned to “stop running” and now “realizes what she has to do.” But before she could give Hunter the old stabby-stab, she is shot and killed by a mysterious woman who had spouted platitudes about Emerson to Hunter from a TV while he sat with his ailing mother.
I am giving you guys the short version, basically, but just enough that you go out and buy Morning Glories vol. 1-3, which are available now and completely worth it.
In keeping with his episodic nature, Nick Spencer this month gives us an issue strictly about the sisters Georgina and Lara, and he delivers yet another compelling and emotionally rich issue. Every issue of Morning Glories has been a fascinating character study written around a dynamite plot. Spencer never loses sight of the end goal that he presumably has for the end of the series, nor can he help himself from planting seeds of disinformation and hints to future issues, but he doesn’t let himself get bogged down in his own plot. He constantly takes the time to flesh out and explore his characters.
The opening of the issue finds Lara running to the aid of her sister after she emerges from a greenhouse with grievously injures in the form of several deep cuts around her body. She weakly explains that “he didn’t understand.”, as Lara cradles her in her arms. In true Nick Spencer fashion, this is when the flashbacks, and much of the meat of the issue, begin.
We see Lara’s birth (and Nurse Nine’s first kill), and then Lara and Georgina growing up on the MGA grounds under the tutelage of future Morning Glory Six residence director, Miss Dagney. As they play one day, they are assaulted by a man named Ted who threatens Georgina. Lara says that “He’s and good man, but not one of them, though.”. Dagney gives the order and the man is shot and killed.
This is the latest example of Lara showing some sort of extra-sensory perception. Spencer has played this close to the chest so far, but throughout this issue we see him letting Lara show her “powers” and it makes her even more interesting as a character. Lara mentions that Ted “came from under the ground” and that there are people screaming up to them that “they don’t want to die.”. If you don’t finish an issue of Morning Glories without at least 6 more questions, you aren’t paying attention.
We flash forward 7 years to see that Lara and Georgina have started to vie for the Headmistress position of MGA, and still the sisterly animosity and completion looms over the women, as Lara is still exhibiting other worldly perception and Georgina is not.
This relationship has only really been explored FULLY in this particular issue and Spencer packs as much as possible into it. With this series, he has really shown his talent for, not only dialogue, but BELIEVABLE dialogue between his characters. The Morning Glories universe feels real, it feels populated with real people, who interact in a fluid and effortless way. This issue is simple and direct, and not REALLY all that strong in the propulsion of the overall plot, BUT it’s still essential to the series as a whole because of the character relationship and backstory given.
There has YET to be a throwaway issue of Morning Glories and THAT is where its strength lies. It demands that you follow rabidly or be left behind in its wake.
This issue’s biggest shock comes in the form of a clandestine nighttime excursion for Lara. In the middle of the night, after a tense exchange with her sister about their biological mothers, Lara is spirited away in the night by Vanessa, a woman claiming to have knowledge of her mother. After trekking to the Time Travel Cave that Hodge showed Casey, Ike, and Jade in an earlier issue, Vanessa appeals to Lara’s suspicions that the Morning Glories Academy isn’t all it appears to be, that there is an undercurrent of pure evil running through the school and through Lara’s “Father”. Lara also gets the feeling that she knows this person, as if she sent Vanessa to herself from the future (COMIC BOOKS!). Vanessa starts to explain the cave and how it works using Plato as an example and as she dangles the prospect of Lara seeing her mother and using the past to shape her future, Lara calmly and coldly smashes her head in with a rock.
I wish to pause for a second to gush about Joe Eisma’s art. The man can make the most boring and static shot look dynamic and vibrant. This is a comic that deals in either absolute silence or wordy talk fests, and Eisma handles each one with a slick style that makes it a treat to pick up every month. Plus, kudos for Image Comics for giving you a TON of book (each issue has been around 16-18 pages with NO ads) for pocket change. Image really does comics as a medium right.
So this issue ends with Lara dragging the body of Vanessa to the guards saying that she “has proven her love”, and the first students filing into the now Daramount controlled Morning Glories Academy. We are left with a cool and confident Lara that declares that Georgina is doomed to fail and that she will “teach them better than she can”, while in the present Lara attends to her injured sister and promises to make everything at MGA better again.
As I said before, I attend to make this a monthly column with issue recaps and reviews for each future Morning Glories issue. Have questions or comments on Morning Glories or just wanna talk about your favorite issue? Got theories or noticed something that I missed? Post them below and join the conversation.
What Did You See When Your Eyes Were Opened?