In 2004, Vertigo published three creator-owned three-part Grant Morrison mini-series, his first since 2002’s The Filth. He put his weirdest foot forward by starting with Seaguy. Seaguy is a would-be hero living in a Utopian world that no longer needs heroes (there’s even a traditional splash page showing all of the superheroes in their final epic battle against Anti-Dad). It’s a fantastical place populated with talking animals, food products made with some new substance called Xoo, and a culture dominated by Mickey Eye. Cameron Stewart really pulls out all the stops visualizing all of the strangeness. There’s clearly something wrong in paradise: the visitors to Mickey Eye Park look terrified; the moon is raining down odd debris with hieroglyphs; and Xoo appears to be sentient (plus it’s asking for help). Seaguy and his sidekick Chubby Da Chuna head out to sea with Xoo, pursued by the forces of Mickey Eye. They eventually discover the truth about Xoo, in a Soylent Green-like twist. Their escape from the manufacturing complex takes them first to Atlantis, then to the dark side of the Moon. There Seaguy discovers the source of the hieroglyphics, and finds Mickey Eye as well: it’s everywhere. Back on Earth, Mickey Eye’s agents engineer a reboot. Seaguy ends at the beginning, this time with a bird named Lucky El Loro as his new best pal.
Morrison’s second 2004 Vertigo miniseries was WE3, illustrated by Frank Quitely. Everything they’ve done together has been remarkable, and this is no exception. It’s the story of three ordinary pet animals (a dog, a cat, and a rabbit) who are cybernetically enhanced and turned into killing machines in a secret government project. Part of the enhancement involves giving them rudimentary speech abilities, so the narrative features talking animals that actually say things consistent with their animal nature. The first issue takes the bold step of having no dialog for the first half of the story. We see the animals in action on an assassination mission, get their back story, then watch them escape. No decompression here! The rest of the story is so compelling that it’s easy to forget that it’s basically one long chase scene, as the animals attempt to get “home” while being forced to do battle with the government forces that have been sent to recapture them. Quitely uses an effective graphic technique in the fight scenes, presenting a series of small frames representing the animals’ cybernetic view finders. It mutes the frequently graphically violent action, presenting it without being visually overwhelming. In the end Morrison manages to conclude with a relatively “happy” ending: the project is exposed to public scrutiny, and two of the pets find a loving home. This is still arguably Morrison’s most accessible original story, and as good a read the second time as it was when originally published. During the original run there was a delay between Issue 2 (cover date Dec 04) and Issue 3 (cover date Mar 05). Vertigo took advantage of the timing to offer a trade paperback collection of Seaguy the same month, and Vimanarama started the following month. I believe the three miniseries had been planned to come out in a nine month span, one after the other.
The final part of the miniseries trilogy was Vimanarama, illustrated by the inimitable Philip Bond. It starts out as a domestic comedy about a British Asian family. But then a group of Indian demons are released. They begin to overrun England, and it looks like the end of the world until a group of angelic Indian demigods appear to oppose them. Young Ali and his arranged bride-to-be Sophia are intimately involved in all of this, so it never completely loses the domestic tone. But Vimanarama is just as crazy as Seaguy, in its own way. It ends with the triumph of the angels (the Ultrahadeen) over the demons (Ull-Shattan). In the process, the world is gifted with a bunch of mad science (that’s actually the description in the book) like “fridges that run on prayer, telepathic telephones, and the sky filled with vitamins.” Ali has not only come back from the dead: he’s also become a demigod like Ben Rama. In the last scene he flies off to the Moon to rescue two teenagers who have crashed in a vimana. Someone asked what the title means, which I confess to not thinking about when I first read it. There’s a Lord Rama in the story, and he’s the central character in the great Hindu epic the Ramayana. That and the Mahabharata were central influences on the story, which Morrison acknowledged at the time. The word “vimana” is used in the epics for a flying chariot. So maybe that’s what it’s from? I know it’s not a reference to the name of the family store, because that’s shown several times. There is a reference to “wake the black Vimanas” and the resulting destruction at the end of Issue 2. So apparently that is what the title means, even though its mostly implied. I can’t say whether the “rama” part refers to the god or if it’s just a play on “sale-o-rama” and words of that ilk.