Published on July 5th, 2013 | by Rich McAuliffe1
Comic Review – Zenith : The Collected Edition
Zenith Collected Edition. Cover by Pye Parr
Firstly let me take a minute to doff the old cap (it sounds nicer than “kiss some arse” ) to Rebellion and 2000AD.
Been doing this site (Ed – ECBT2000AD, not the Sidekickcast) a while now and they’ve never been anything other than helpful even if we’ve been honest, sometimes brutally so, in our opinions. We get sent review pdfs, advance cover images and press releases and not once has this come with a “but you have to be total cheerleaders” condition. This really came into focus when I asked for and got a digital review copy of Zenith, even though they know I’m not a fan of Grant Morrison or Steve Yeowell. Not many companies would do this and as I always come back to, not many companies would be so supportive of publications like Zarjaz. So yeah, “respect” as the kids say, or said. Rad? Wicked? Cowabunga? Fuck knows. Right, so that’s that out of the way…
Onto Zenith. This is a review of the entire collection and is from a total Zenith virgin standpoint. Didn’t read it when it came out, obviously not been able to since due to…. various reasons. As such there’s no nostalgia factor or rose tinted glasses in this review. Also I’m not going to factor it’s current price into my opinion because that doesn’t matter. If you want it, you’ll be happy to pay for it. I have at least one tiny metal batmobile I paid way over the odds for because I NEEDED IT. If your shelf needed Zenith, good for you. Hope you grabbed one.
So…. I went into this one with LOW expectations. As I mentioned, Grant Morrison is a weird one with me. Twenty percent of the time I love his stuff, for example his JLA and X-Men runs. Other times I cant fucking stand it… Batman RIP, Final Crisis. One of those writers where often the story gets lost in the delivery… you can’t hear the song for the singer if that makes sense. Any time I feel a writer is trying to be clever and impress before trying to entertain I turn off and this happens with most of his stuff. And with Steve Yeowell, well I’ve only really read his Red Seas and while some like his minimalist style I really dont.
All that said, I really liked this. Well… 75% of it.
Its in four books or phases. A basic spoiler free overview of the story is that Zenith is the son of two superheroes and at the outset the only super powered being on the planet. His parents disappeared, the superheroes before him are all either dead, missing or de-powered and he’s using his abilities purely to bolster his career as a pop star. Then as you’d expect shit hits the fan forcing him to man up, but as you might not expect he never really stops being a selfish dick. That’s not derogatory to the book by the way, it’s actually what makes it so cool. The easy option would have been to make him likeable and they don’t.
Anyway, book one was REALLY good. Yeah it did feel a little dated and it’s underlying politics weren’t too subtle but I totally enjoyed it. I was especially impressed with Steve Yeowell’s art. Couldn’t believe it was from the same guy who did that 3rillers with the robo dog battle suits. Totally works for the story and there’s some beautiful images and really well done storytelling. The actual story itself was tight and…. fuck it. YES, Zenith fans I get it. This was very cool.
I’m gonna post a page from the first volume, purely because if I was reading this review I’d want proof about the art. Excuse the watermark. This is to stop me hawking digital copies on ebay
Book two? Well the story really ramps up here and is still good stuff. Morrison does go a bit more “Morrison” and at times some of the cartwheels in the dialogue feel more to impress than to enhance the story but even with my hyper-critial Morrison head on it was still really enjoyable and kept me hooked. The art is still good but feels like someone took the art style from the first book and upped the contrast a bit as its a bit bleached out and not quite as impressive, to me anyway, as volume one.
Book four? Well it all wraps up being told from an interesting storytelling perspective and is suitably epic seeing as by that point you’ve read 400 pages of this story. I’ll admit I did see the ending before it was revealed but that’s just because I’m an annoying smart arse. That said it was a very cool payoff and from a reader point of view was totally satisfying. The art also totally worked for the story seeing as it was very wordy, full of exposition and talking heads, and was in full colour with “Hart” getting a full credit alongside Yeowell. One quick check later, its Gina Hart on colours. Great job too.
So yeah that’s…. what? ….. book three? Ok, I’ll try and be quick
Book three was, for me anyway, horrible. Yeowell is using the black and white style he uses now in Red Seas and it’s the volume with the big epic battles. And like the end of Red Seas it’s totally spoiled by the fact what are probably described as mind blowing “CinemaScope with a cast of thousands” scenes are drawn so minimalistically as to lose all effect. At least twice I’d read a page and a character would say something like “Oh my god, he just cut off Billy’s head!” and I’d have to go back to the previous page and go “Thats Billy? That’s his head getting cut off? Really?”. Having to constantly try and work out what I was looking at pulled me out of the story and stopped it being even slightly immersive. It was just bad comics which is a shame as the story was really cooking at this point. A colourist or a seperate inker who would have taken it on him/herself to embellish what appear to be thumbnails would have saved it. Purists will want this collection “as was”, I woulda liked book three to have been given an overhaul.
In conclusion then… it’s good stuff. I’m not gonna tell you to buy the £100 edition as it’s already been on sale for a day or two and they’ve sold out. I would say though that when the inevitable £20 softcover version comes out in a year or so it’s definitely worth picking up. This book had a double uphill struggle with me due to it’s creators and the weight of its reputation, based I imagine largely on its “rarer than rocking horse shit” status, but I read it in two sittings and at the end thought it was a cool book and was glad I’d taken the time to check it out.
Basically this recommendation on a Morrison/Yeowell book from me is the comic equivalent of Liam Gallagher releasing a song and me telling you to buy it. If that happens you know he must have done something fucking incredible. Can’t say more than that really.