COMIC BOOK REVIEW: ZENITH: PHASE 2 / AUTHOR: GRANT MORRISON / ARTIST: STEVE YEOWELL / PUBLISHER: 2000AD GRAPHIC NOVELS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Grant Morrison (Batman - Arkham Asylum) and Steve Yeowell (Red Seas, Judge Anderson) produced the Zenith stories for 2000 AD in the late 1980s and early ‘90s and they are now being released as complete books. Zenith Phase 2 was released in 12 parts in 1988 and were last collected together in 1989. The book is 112 pages of black and white illustrated strips with some colour cover work added to round out the book.
The central character, Zenith, is a pop music superstar and superhero caught up in events of multi-dimensional importance. Grant Morrison came up with the idea of the series as a reaction to titles such as Watchmen; Zenith is neither a tribute, nor a response, but is informed by some of the same concepts – i.e. how does a world react to a small group of elite superhumans?
Phase 1 introduced a world, Nazi superheroes and alien gods (more than a little like the Cthulhu). It also gave us Zenith himself, a vain narcissist with the ideals of an X-factor contestant and enormous, untapped powers. In Phase 2 the story is simpler – a media mogul wants to improve the world through the use of nuclear weapons and his own superbeing breeding programme. The story allows Zenith to lead much of the action, and characters from the first phase are on their own tangent building a bigger story that we assume will appear in later phases. This has the advantage of giving Zenith’s character chance to show some maturity as he also finds out (some of) the truth about his parents and their fate.
The resolution is pleasing; at one point it appears that post-hippy, superhero, and Tory MP St John might pull a deus ex machina ending but instead Zenith does resolve matters his way. The story leaves a satisfying number of threads unanswered while being complete in and of itself.
While not as ground-breaking as Phase 1, it is enjoyable and also essential if you are determined to enjoy the whole suite of phases. The artwork is never intrusive and is at its best when showing faces as the focal points of individual frames. Here and there, extra details are scattered to support the storytelling but never as a substitute.
Definitely worthy of attention.
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