Comics Time: Kid Eternity

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Kid Eternity

DC/Vertigo, February 2006

Grant Morrison, writer

Duncan Fegredo, artist

144 pages

$14.99

Buy it from Amazon.com

So this must be one of those “minor works” I always hear so much about. Collecting the three-issue 1991 Vertigo “reimagining” of some old DC character, Kid Eternity reads like many a current comic really intended as a movie pitch rather than a reading experience: A hapless everyman is inducted by a glib, ubercompetent, superpowered cool dude into the secret truth behind the world as we know it. The pleasures to be had here are in the idiosyncratic details Morrison weaves into this shopworn plot: casting said everyman as an observational stand-up comic (his name, Jerry Sullivan, evokes a Seinfeld with an Irish-Catholic’s hang-ups instead of a Long Island Jew’s); making said secret truth a weird (if familiar) splatterpunk take on Dante’s Inferno; harnessing artist Duncan Fegredo, who currently mimics Mike Mignola in the pages of Hellboy, to the yoke of the world’s lengthiest Dave McKean impression. But the curveballs failed to keep me as too many of the surrounding pitches were predictable and almost half-hearted. Serial killer? Check! Deranged Christian missionary? Check! Crazy lettering? Check! Tarot cards? Big check! Fegredo’s visuals feel similarly lackluster: For every memorably wild vista (his infernal architecture is particularly ambitious) there’s a murky, difficult-to-follow action sequence (I’m still not quite sure what happened in that initial bloodbath), hard-to-distinguish supporting character (I didn’t notice that there were two separate murderous antagonists for Jerry and the Kid until they started attacking one another), or just generally uninspired choice (a would-be mindblower tour of hell is metonymized by a few static stand-alone panels and one image seemingly picked at random to anchor the spread in the background). Morrison’s at his best when his comics either really read like comics (Arkham Asylum, All Star Superman) or look like comics (We3, I dunno, Seven Soldiers), and this comes across as a creature of its era that thinks it’s too cool for school to do either, which it isn’t.

One Response to Comics Time: Kid Eternity

  1. Bruce Baugh says:

    There’s a line among some of my colleagues in the freelance writing biz that the early 30s are your years for trying things that won’t work but that you need to get out of your system. I see that Morrison was born in 1960, which puts the 1991 Kid Eternity right in there. I am therefore proven right and all my critics suck.

    Um, more seriously, though, it does feel like the sort of thing done by someone who didn’t want to fall into a rut, but who hadn’t yet found the more expansive vision that’s kept him going ever since. In the fascinating little book Postscript to the Name of a Rose, Eco writes of an eternal cycle from “premodernist” to “modernist” to “postmodernist” artistic priorities: from jumble to the increasingly focused pursuit of particular aims isolated from others, that always ends in the blank page, the unplayed note, the slashed canvas. Then it’s time to revisit the past and see what the rest of the medium offers. Kid Eternity was the chance for the folks involved to go ahead and try some stuff and see what happened if they did. It looks like they learned useful lessons, and we can go on to read and enjoy the results, in other works. :)

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