Review by Ian Keogh
Morning Glory Academy is a prestigious prep school with phenomenal stats for ivy league intakes, and that being the case, admission isn’t an easy matter. Yet there’s a proactive solicitation staff touring the globe ensuring the right teenagers have their shot at the ring. Strange, mind, how they all have the same birthday.
While a tradition overseas, when Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma first began serialising Morning Glories in 2010, the sinister and possibly supernatural school wasn’t the background for other series of graphic novels. And it must also be said that those following certainly have nothing near the body count. MGA you see, has little concern for the wellbeing of their pupils. They’re there to serve a larger purpose, one that won’t be any clearer once you’ve finished reading this combination of the paperback volumes one and two. School bullying and the occasional shanking in the corridor are the least of your problems when teachers routinely attempt to test their class by attempting to drown them, or enforce co-operation by showing pupils the corpses of their parents chained to a cell wall.
Artist Joe Eisma is relatively delicate in his portrayal of this violence, and his other skills are clear storytelling and decent character design, essential in a graphic novel where there are no costumes as default identification. On the downside, while there’s a pleasing polish, look too closely at the art and anatomical problems are apparent, and the entire cast are drawn as if posing for any particular panel.
The book opens with a bang, then introduces us to MGA’s new intake, six gifted teenagers, few of whom are particularly likeable, a deliberately cultivated personality clash. When we’ve seen them interact together Spencer takes a step back and provides glimpses into their pasts, both recent and distant, affording a greater understanding of how the cast we see today developed. It’s an insight also applied by an apparent step into the future midway through the book. As the series continues, dipping back into the past to reconfigure what we’ve previously seen is high on the agenda, and it begins here. It incorporates an effective narrative technique employed by Spencer who has one character, Casey, weave through the present day events of her five colleagues as their stories are told. We close with a look at the school guidance counsellor, a woman seemingly considerably more benign than her faculty colleagues.
Morning Glories is high on mysteries, with a dripping tap method of introducing further complications as the pages turn. Some will bask in the decompression, enjoying the leisurely pace at which the past unfolds to connect with the present. Others will find the process tortuously slow, bemoaning the lack of progress. Make your choice.
If this seems a series with appeal, you may just want to go for a monster single dose of the Morning Glories Compendium, which contains the content of the first seven paperbacks, or all three hardbacks.