Review by Frank Plowright
Is Nameless a name? It’s one of several questions to ponder in the deliberately disorienting opening chapter about a mystic dabbler tasked with saving the world.
The dissolute magician damaging himself as much as others is a walking, talking cliché, but Grant Morrison’s swaggering, preposterously macho dialogue and constant stream of occult-sounding babble crosses a bridge. It’s Morrison toying with form, in some respects hacking out a mystical SF thriller to conform to expectation. When half a dozen specialists are introduced in a dangerous situation, the expectation is surely that few, if any, will still be around for a desperate final chapter, and we know despite his many failings Nameless is being set up to save the day. It’s therefore all in the trimmings, and Morrison supplies those by the bucket, on the scale from conceptual to downright coarse. However, there’s a very clever and viable reason for the mundane underpinnings, and Morrison’s skill is in making the SF/horror mash-up work for so long before the big reveal. A failing, perhaps, is that this induces a feeling that Nameless can be skim-read, taking in the pretty pictures and all will still be clear. It won’t.
The enjoyment rises still further under Chris Burnham’s magical artwork. In fact there’s the case to be made that without Burnham’s visual ingenuity and plain reader-friendly appeal Nameless could at first be dismissed as so much nonsense, yet he draws atrocity and delight alike with glorious panache.
Morrison’s well read and loves a bit of symbolism so an afterword explains the numerous references clashing together in Nameless, although a single story page dropping John Dee’s name with Mayan and Polynesian mythology about does the same job. Toward the end there’s a neat twist involving the unreliable narrator that recontextualises everything and a lot falls into place. Nameless is imaginative and despite the early indications it’s like an M. Night Shyamalan visual feast, although considerably more violent, and isn’t that worth your time?