I’ve half been putting off reviewing Seaguy: Slaves Of Mickey Eye 2 because I know that when the Mindless Ones get round to their annocommentations there will be very little left to say, and then I can look very clever by just pointing out one or two things that they’ve not said. However, they’re holding out on us, so now I might have to write an actual review!
(And having written that sentence, straight away Sean posts a review which says half of the things I was going to say. I disagree with him about Multiversity though – it sounds like Morrison has a good idea of who he wants to work with on that, and he might get them… And while I’m linking Sean, here‘s his rant about comic shops which I meant to link to at the time…)
In this review I’m mostly going to talk about the writing, because that’s the part I’m most qualified to talk about, but I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I think this is ‘the Grant Morrison show’. Cameron Stewart’s work in this series is exemplary, and it couldn’t have been done with any other artist – he is at least as important to the story’s success as the writer is. He does some of the best facial expressions in comics, without exaggerating them a la Kevin Maguire – his expressions are naturalistic, even though most of his art is towards the cartoony end of mainstream USian comics. Just look at Seaguy’s face on the cover – his head cocked, his brow furrowed… it’s clear that this is *serious* to him, and he’s getting quite annoyed – but in the way a non-aggressive little boy would get annoyed. Though the art style couldn’t be more different, I could imagine that expression on the face of a Peanuts character.
Stewart’s style manages to make the ‘normal’ look absurd while making the ‘surreal’ look workaday, allowing us to accept the story’s dream-logic for long enough that the story can sell itself to us. And it’s just gorgeous to look at. My one criticism (and it’s a small one) is that his ink line is thicker than I would like, and has the effect at times, to my eyes, of turning the panel/page into a set of distinct almost abstract figures, rather than an integrated composition. But that is only a very minor criticism, and only affects a couple of images negatively.
Now, of course, many of the things I said in the review of the last issue still hold, but here’s some thoughts on the second issue…
Firstly, if Grant Morrison hadn’t been so over-complimentary about Geoff Johns for so long, I would have taken the Prismatic Age stuff at the beginning (and he is definitely riffing on the Prismatic Age stuff here, with Threeguy splitting into three different-coloured Seaguy lookalikes, though obviously this has precursors both in Triplicate Girl from the Legion Of Superheroes and Superman Red/Superman Blue) as being a rather savage attack on Johns. Three ‘legacy heroes’ inspired by the main hero, all indistinguishable apart from the colour of their uniforms (like the different coloured Lanterns?) who do naughty swearing and kill and maim people (the injury-to-the-eye motif!)? That sounds like… well, everything Johns writes during the large amount of the time that he’s on autopilot. I would *swear* this material was a dig at Johns, were Morrison not such an obvious admirer of his…
Of course, the big story that’s going on in this whole miniseries, and this issue in particular, is the dark night of the soul – Seaguy going down under the sea and then rising again and ending the issue with a diving leap. The whole thing’s about identity – he’s submerged under water and reborn/’baptised’ as El Macho, the bulldresser (and of course dressing bulls up in women’s clothes is another way of playing with identity – in Seaguy, as in most superhero comics, one’s clothing is intimately bound up with one’s role (though I do wonder if the bulldressing is also inspired by PETA’s Running Of The Nudes). The only way he can defeat the bull, and also his rival Cortez, is by stripping himself totally nude, and handing his ‘crown’ to the bull.
The removal of clothes/symbols of power, descent, and rebirth are all, as anyone as obsessed with mythology as Morrison is knows, intimately tied – in fact, this issue contains symbolism that goes back to the very oldest known stories. Ishtar, in Babylonian myth, went down to the underworld and had to remove a symbol of power/piece of clothing at each of seven doors, before dying at the end and having to sacrifice her husband in order to escape (much as Seaguy ‘sacrifices’ his girlfriend (whose name means Sea Of Death, if my cod-Spanish is right) here) .
And in the epic of Gilgamesh – the oldest known piece of what we’d now call fiction – Ishtar sends the Bull Of Heaven to kill Gilgamesh, but he and Enkidu kill the bull instead. Of course, Gilgamesh was as close to the first superhero as you can get, and his search for immortality parallels a lot of the stuff in a lot of Morrison’s writing. For those unfamiliar with the story of Gilgamesh, there’s what looks like an interesting comic adaptation of a lecture about the saga online here.
The birth and rebirth themes show up throughout the comic of course – for example the ‘eight months pregnant’ Carmen/Maria pulling Mickey Eye out of her dress (which reminded me of this classic Bron/Fortune sketch). However, everything in here is multi-layered, and this can easily fit in with the series-as-metaphor-for-adolescence, with this story being the equivalent of the time in many people’s lives when they try to pretend to be cool to impress people they don’t really like, before giving up and just being themselves.
That said, one minor quibble – I saw an arrow (and before anyone thinks that what I’m about to say is a terrible attack on the comic, please read this, and also remember that I’ve defended comics by Dave Sim before now…)
If you combine the figure of Seaguy’s girlfriend (the only female character to do anything other than pose prettily), who lies to Seaguy about everything, tries to keep him stupid, and pretends to be pregnant in order to trap him in the fake life he’s living, with the bulldressing sections, where the bull is humiliated by being dressed in women’s clothes, there is a hint of misogyny to this. As both Morrison and Stewart are too self-conscious and self-critical to do that without realising it, I’m willing to assume for now that there’s a point to that, and that it’s something I’m missing. But it may just be a bad note in an otherwise near-perfect comic.
Funny thing is I was trying to cram in before the Mindless Ones come in and hog up all the good ideas – originally I was going to try for something much longer and decided I didn’t want them to beat me to the line. I think you’re dead right on the misogyny but I don’t think it’s meant to be an adult misogyny. I kind of left it out of mine except the title, but I think the whole fear of being an adult angle is also fear of sex. The relationship that Seaguy wants with with Shebeard is kind of a child’s concept of platonic love, and a woman having babies and stealing your soul is definitely a childish fear of marriage.
You two have nailed it, both here and in Sean’s equally spot-on review over at his place. It helps to remember that this isn’t just an adolescence, it’s a boy’s adolescence, and that comes with much confusion and ambivalence about women even in the most enlightened of males. (He said modestly, having been a faithful reader of Ms. magazine when he was ten years old.) So this is very much a boy’s uninformed terror. That said, it’s impossible to be sure how deliberate this is on Morrison’s part and whether or not the third volume will show a major change.
The baby (like the scenario in general) is concocted to get Seaguy to take on the El Macho role, so it is necessarily misogynistic. The whole thing falls to pieces because it isn’t masculinist enough: Maria gets El Macho to do the shopping. If she had truly given herself to her role and done the shopping herself, or truly become pregnant, he may never have escaped.
(This issue not only starts and ends with the sea, but with a traditionally-constructed feminine activity. Threeguy sews the bulldressing traje de luces, and Seaguy converts the hospital one-piece into his regular costume.)
It seems to me that the misogyny is located not in Seaguy himself or Morrison and Stewart, but in Mickey Eye’s society. Seaguy may want a child’s concept of platonic love, but so does She-Beard. She seems every bit as trapped and necessary to Mickey Eye’s plan as he does. I suspect they are doomed to live happily-ever-after next issue.