It’s hard to imagine that a book as bone chilling and unsettling as Annihilator, the new title from Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving, could be described as refreshing, but the fact that a comic that is derived of pure horror can also feel so original in this age of constant zombies and vampires is indeed a breath of fresh air.
Horror and comics have a long relationship, and many of today’s best selling and most critically acclaimed titles are from the horror genre. But how many horror comics today feel unique and original? Not many, but Annihilator is a complex premise that combines with Morrison’s usual deft hand and Irving’s stunning visuals to create a project like nothing else on the stands.
Annihilator is a hard sci-fi story, a horror tale in the vein of Lovecraft, and a journey through the creative process, as Morrison presents his protagonist, Ray Spass, a successful screenwriter desperately trying to break his latest script. Morrison presents the idea that the creative process is as complex and painful as the birth of a universe. Like King Mob in The Invisibles, Morrison creates a new reality through Spass — who is creating his own reality in the context of his script. Morrison presents layers of story and blurs the line between fantasy and reality as he builds a world through the lens of Spass’s imagination.
Meanwhile, in another part of the galaxy tethered to Spass, his world is coming to life in the form of an intergalactic struggle centering on Max Nomax, a space adventurer who is trying to stop reality from imploding. Nomax appears through a sinkhole in Spass’s yard and, when creation meets his creator, we are off on a mind-bending trip.
Spass is a drug-addled creator, a brilliant mind trapped in a Hollywood cycle of consumption and depravity. He does not seem to be creating Nomax as much as he is channeling him across time and space. Sort of an extension of the old DC Silver Age idea that the Earth 2 Golden Age stories of yesteryear were dimensional transmissions tapped into by DC creators.
Annihilator is the idea of story as truth, a quantum look at how the creative process can be a form of magic, or in Morrison’s hands, a form of new science that creates realities on paper that are extensions of the universe’s potentiality. It’s all very mind blowing, but it’s presented in a way that is easy to get a hold of.
On top of this, and most importantly, this is one hell of a potent horror comic with Morrison and Irving peeling back layers of reality to find the dark underbelly of the universe. This is a Lovecraftian tale of an artist who looked beyond himself and saw the abyss staring back. Lovecraft always wrote about writers and artists who saw something that man was never meant to witness and had to bear the brunt of knowing the unknowable. In that sense, Spass is a pure Lovecraftian hero, but Annihilator ups the ante by having the classically structured horror tale morph into a dark sci-fi story once Nomax and Spass connect.
Frazer Irving presents Morrison’s complex tale with potent vision. The artist’s scenes of Spass’s out of control orgies and drug consumption are a dirty slice of reality, but his sci-fi pieces are wholly original and fascinating. Irving is playing in two worlds and he nails both of them.
Zombies and vampires might rule the day on the comic racks, but Annihilator steps outside the expected to deliver a tale that perhaps can only be presented in the comic medium. A tribute to the pulp sensibilities of the masters of horror combined with a hard look at the consequences of the creative process. This is one deep and chilling comic book and Legendary should be proud.