Zenith: Building a Foundation of Greatness

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ZZenith
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Stephen Yeowell
Publisher: 2000AD
Purchase: http://shop.2000adonline.com/products/zenith_phase_1

We all start somewhere, even Grant Morrison. When he was but a wee lad living in Glasgow he published his first comic strip, Gideon Stargrave, for a small publication based out of Scotland called Near Myths. While Near Myths would only last 5 issues, that was all Grant Morrison needed to know his destiny. The rest, as they say, is history.

So just how did the boy from Glasgow end up being one of the greatest writer in the history of comics? Like most people in a trade, he honed his craft and worked his arse off. After some work-for-hire publications, Morrison found himself with his very own serial at 2000 AD, the UK big wig responsible for Judge Dredd. In 1987 Morrison, with the help of artist Steve Yeowell, created his first serialized superhero epic entitled Zenith.

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Zenith tells the tale of a Gen-X superhero named Robert McDowell aka Zenith. The son of former superheroes turned hippies, Zenith uses his powers not for good, but to promote himself as a pop star. Brash, arrogant, and extremely self-centred, Zenith is reluctant to use his powers for good. That is until a Nazi superman comes storming into to town. After a truly harrowing fight, Zenith realizes that the superhero gig might be more appealing than it seems. At the very least, it just might help him to sell some records.

After the success of their limited 1000 copy omnibus released in the summer of 2013, which collects the four phases of Morrison’s epic, 2000 AD is ready to bring Zenith back into the public in a big way. This year, 2000 AD is releasing the epic phase by phase, en masse starting with Phase 1 in October and Phase 2 in December.

Thanks to the kindness of 2000 AD, I was able to obtain a digital copy of the omnibus and I must say, it’s quite impressive. Zenith itself is a story that is told with the confidence of a man not so much finding his footing, but springboarding himself into the pantheons of greatness. What starts as a fairly straightforward superhero tale eventually evolves to house the ideas that Morrison will eventually be known, and for some, lamented for. From psychedelic alternative realities to Lovecraftian uber-monsters, Zenith reads like a greatest hits of Morrison’s own work which quite impressive given how young he was when he started the story.

While Phase 1 and 2 are entertaining, it’s Phase 3 where Morrison really let’s his freak flag fly. By incorporating a who’s who of Bronze Age British superheroes, Morrison handled a crossover event as ambitious as anything DC or Marvel had ever produced. It’s a genre bending, reality shattering masterpiece and a must have for any comic fan.

Zenith 013Steven Yeowell is one of the few artists alive who can match Morrison’s eccentric style. His art and his input are an important factor in Zenith’s success. His iconic imagery and character designs are one of the many reasons that Zenith has always been in high demand despite its rarity. Yeowell manages to craft a punk rock fever dream that reaches for the stars and never lets up. Despite the books age, the art, just like its story, is timeless.

Zenith is more than a stepping stone in Morrison’s career; it’s his foundation. Whether you are new to comics or have been around since the Golden Age, Zenith should not be ignored. Not only is it a glimpse into the genius of one of the industries most notorious superstars, it’s also a great read that any comic fan shouldn’t miss. With the pre-orders for Phase 1 and 2 on now, now’s your chance to own a part of history, so don’t miss out!

-Sean

 

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