13 March 2016

Revisiting Zenith, and loving it

I am rereading Zenith by mistake.

The book that I really wanted for Christmas was the first volume of the collected Dan Dare stories from 2000AD but nobody picked up on my unsubtle hints, not even the shop, so not only did nobody buy it for me I was unable to buy it for myself.

I still needed a present and so I chose Zenith Phase One, the first of four volumes collecting the Zenith stories that appeared in 2000AD between 1987 and 1992, which I read at the time.

They were written by Grant Morrison who was virtually unknown at the time and this was his first ongoing series. Since then he has become a comics superstar and an MBE. It is Grant Morrison's name that has brought the series back into print in this collection of high quality hardback books.

The artist, Steve Yeowell, is also notable but mostly for this and other work that he has done at 2000AD, including the long running saga The Red Seas that ran from 2002 and 2013.

Zenith is one of a small few British superheroes in Thatcher's Britain, Thatcher makes some appearances and one of the other superheroes is in her Cabinet. He's also a pop star and something of a spoiled brat. Unfortunately there are significant threats to Britain and the World and Zenith's help is needed.

Zenith did not make that much of an impression on me the first time around, which is why I had not rushed out to buy the collected editions earlier, but rereading Zenith now has been a joy. So much so that Phases Two, Three and Four were immediately put on my birthday list, together with Dan Dare.

One of the things I like about Morrison's writing is the amount of detail that goes into his prose. To give just one small example to make the point, when Chimera becomes the solar system (don't ask) she mentions "the tortured rock of Venus, the metal dry sands of Mars". That is poetry. Incidentally, it also reminded me of some other poetry, "the vermillion deserts of Mars, the jewelled forests of Venus" by Hawkwind legend Bob Calvert.

The stories are fast paced with lots of action and lots of large (and irregular) panels. At one level it is a simple, but satisfying, read and then there is the poetry in it that slows me down as I savour the word craft that delights on another level.

The book itself is a work of art with top quality paper and crisp printing. I understand that I lot of work went into creating the new pages from the original artwork which was created in the days before comics were produced digitally and the effort was worth it.

I have just finished Zenith Phase Two and will wait a little while before continuing to the other two volumes so as to prolong the pleasure.

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