Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Philip Bond & D’Israeli
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics
Release Date: March 1, 2016
As distinctive comics creators go, Grant Morrison and Philip Bond are each particularly iconic. Morrison is known for his head-twisting concepts, ability to recharge familiar ideas and penchant for blending big-screen action with heady surrealism. Bond, meanwhile, is a master of kinetic artwork: he can convey frenetic motion just as easily as he can dazzle readers with comic set pieces. The two have collaborated on a pair of vastly different projects, Kill Your Boyfriend and Vimanarama, and this new omnibus edition brings them together in one volume. (Bond has also illustrated single issues of a couple of Morrison-penned series.) It’s an odd double feature, pairing the bleakest of comedies with one of Morrison’s most psychedelic stories of superhumans endeavoring to save the world.
The setup for 1995’s Kill Your Boyfriend is a familiar one: a bored young woman meets an amoral, charismatic young man and chaos ensues. The narrator of the book escapes a boring suburban life for a more frantic existence with her murderous paramour, eventually linking up with a group of conceptual artists on their way to a (literally) explosive conclusion. In its bold storytelling and bleak humor, Kill Your Boyfriend makes for a brisk read—Morrison has written about the influence of playwright Joe Orton on the book, and the blend of nihilism and comedy makes for a compelling story.
That said, the “young lovers on the run, leaving a trail of mayhem in their wake” plot has come and gone. And in the context of Morrison’s larger work, it’s more of an outlier; much of the mayhem is handled in a tongue-and-cheek fashion. It’s occasionally hard to rectify this Morrison with the Morrison who dedicated an entire issue of his series The Invisibles to humanizing a henchman who is shot and killed early in the book. Whether he’s dealing in cosmos-spanning superheroes or otherworldly secret societies, Morrison’s humanism is what keeps his blessedly high concepts rooted. Kill Your Boyfriend reveals a different side of Morrison’s work, but it’s also where one of his strengths has been reined in.
Kill Your Boyfriend Interior Art by Philip Bond
A lack of humanism isn’t the problem with 2005’s Vimanarama, in which a young English man named Ali, awaiting the arrival of the woman he’s set to wed in an arranged marriage, makes a discovery that could cause the end of the Earth: a group of ancient would-be world conquerors. Ali is a low-key everyman protagonist, and over the course of the book he cedes space to future wife Sofia and the leader of the Ultra-Hadeen, a group of long-lived superhumans. Epiphanies abound, and nearly all of the characters must come to terms with their own insecurities in order to do battle with the entities threatening mayhem.
There are enough ideas in these three issues to make for a series at least twice as long, which doesn’t always work in Vimanarama’s favor. At times, the onrush of ideas in a Morrison-penned series can be headily compelling. (Consider Seaguy, his collaboration with Cameron Stewart—another artist who, like Bond, can tackle both physical comedy and ornately designed characters with equal precision.) Here, that balance feels a little off: while Ali and Sofia have a good rapport, the other members of Ali’s family feel less fleshed-out—which becomes an issue when the climax involves several of them making a psychic connection to save each other’s lives.
Vimanarama Interior Art by Philip Bond
Perhaps the highlight of pairing these two works is the range that they display. Bond does a fine job conveying the comedy and romance in Kill Your Boyfriend, as well as handling the more Jack Kirby-esque elements in Vimanarama with aplomb. Neither entirely reaches the heights of some of the work that Morrison and Bond have done elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of worthwhile moments to be found in both outings.