Review by Ian Keogh
Just as well the staff at Morning Glory Academy can’t obtain this graphic novel. With it’s bulk and sharp corners they’d surely use it to inflict serious pain on their charges.
The Academy is a prep school that solicits its pupils from around the world. They’re all gifted, excelling academically, and subjected to a brutal regime in which corpses and horrific injury are commonplace. The series opens with a scene of later relevance, before the introduction of six newcomers, all of whom are shocked at what they’ve let themselves in for, and after an initial rebellion we take a look into their pasts.
Morning Glories is a troublesome series. There’s a bigger picture, but Nick Spencer isn’t very keen on filling us in, preferring instead to provide connected soap opera snippets of an ever increasing cast. The thousand plus pages of this book incorporate the first seven paperback books (or Deluxe Collections 1-3). While there have been a few hints, any reader working their way through will be barely more informed about the greater purpose of Morning Glory Academy than when they finished the fifth chapter of the opening volume, and that’s a frustration. A further frustration is Spencer’s habit of ending a chapter with a shock, then waiting anything up to eighty pages before returning to the scene. It transmits as sensationalism.
Of course, it’s often the case that the journey is the purpose, and the non-linear structure of the series sets the opening sequence in the present, while equal time is devoted to the past thereafter. Spencer defines his cast well, both pupils and staff, and has a positive attitude to inclusion. After a very effective opening few chapters there are diminishing returns to the repeated use of violence toward children to shock, and the best sequence included here is around the midway point when the tension stems from an uncertainty about possible revisions to entire premise of the series.
If there’s a narrative frustration, it equally applies to the art. Joe Eisma is a confident storyteller whose efforts in designing a distinct and distinguishable cast without costumes to fall back on are excellent. This incorporates a requirement to illustrate many cast members at various stages of their lives. He’s less successful in conveying movement, with the cast extremely posed, and as the book progresses the backgrounds increasingly become standard digital constructions without any sense of them being anywhere people live or work. Toward the end in some places it seems as if the cast are inhabiting the Wolfenstein environment.
For all the frustration about the lack of revelations, there’s never any sense that Spencer is winging his plot. There’s a consistency to the drip, drip, drip of disclosure, and by the end of the book biblical references have assumed an increasing importance.
If you become caught up in the daily travails of the cast and find them appealing, you’re likely to enjoy the book far more than anyone who’s constantly wondering about the anomalous elements. For them Matthew Meylikhov produces the regularly updated MGA Study Hall parsing each chapter for information.