Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Review: Supergods

Grant Morrison's 'Supergods' is uneven, a little bloated, but still weirdly compelling. A central thesis to the book is lacking, if not non-existent. Morrison's tome is part-history of the development of the American superhero, part memoir (although being one of the superhero genre's greatest writers, the two parts are almost necessarily intertwined), part-philosophical discussion. Contradictions abound - Morrison seems to both revere and mock the movement to make superheroes more realistic within the space of a few paragraphs, as well as his own efforts to bring high art to the long underwear characters. But then why should a unified view be imposed on multiplicity - shouldn't the author, like everyone else, have the freedom to change his mind? And really what does it matter when the best of Morrison's observations are so good, perfectly describing characters and tropes for which you thought everything had been said, such as his noting of the Sub-Mariner's 'fuck you snarl' and how the Silver Surfer was the first emo superhero. Morrison's choice of titles to focus upon mixes the accepted classics with his personal favourites (many of which seem like they might be better enjoyed on an acid trip), but in all cases his enthusiasm for the source materials makes the reader want to seek them out. Like much of Morrison's work, 'Supergods' could have benefitted from a little more discipline in the writing, but its best parts are pretty much as good as anything that has been said about this seventy odd year old genre.

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