Take a pseudo-vampire, mix with a homeless teenage girl, and throw at a Ninja Turtles cartoon villain, and what do you get? Not sure yet, let’s talk it out after the break.
Writer: Joe Keatinge
Artist: Richard Elson
Color Artist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artists: Mike Deodato, Jr. & Edgar Delgado
Variant Cover Artist: Marcos Martin
Editor: Sana Amanat
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
THE STORY: After the big deal that was made of Morbius getting shot and dying last issue, he heals almost immediately and seems totally fine. He is taken in by a homeless teenage girl named Becky who lives in an old abandoned movie theater (which I guess makes her not so much homeLESS as home-CHALLENGED). Becky babysits for Henry, the little boy that Morbius stood up for last issue against Noah St. Germain, the unlikely boss of this little town. Henry has been taken by Noah as a pint-sized part of his gang, so Becky takes Morbius to go face him. After Noah displays more strength than he should have, Morbius gives the proverbial “Screw it,” and rips Noah’s throat out.
MY THOUGHTS: This is one of those fairly rare times when I am really not entirely sure how I feel about what I just read. On the one hand, I still have plenty of criticisms for this issue, one or two of which are fairly serious. But on the other hand, I definitely enjoyed reading this one a lot more than I did #1. Let’s dig into the pros and cons, and maybe that will help me figure out which way I really lean here.
First thing’s first: the fake-out on Morbius’ “death” is really, really cheap. From the beginning of last issue (which, it’s important to note, was this series’ first issue), Morbius “dying” by the shotgun blast in the subway station was central. It was how we were introduced to the series. Now, we all know the title character isn’t going to actually die and remain dead after 1 issue, but when you build it up that much and use it as not only your cliffhanger but your intro as well, I expect it to mean SOMETHING. I expect there to be something different about this “death” over all the other times he’s been shot or stabbed or whatnot. I expect it to have some sort of an effect on him physically or mentally. But none of that happened here. On one page we had the text from last issue, “The Death of Michael Morbius,” and on the very next page we have the text, “One of the Deaths, Anyway,” as he just gets up without even any blood left on his chest, saying, “I’ll be fine.” This makes the ‘death’ device from last issue nothing but a cheap, cliched fake-out with no ramifications whatsoever, and frankly that’s a pretty weak way to introduce a series.
Now on the ‘pros’ side of things, I’m finding that so far I’m enjoying Becky as a new character despite myself. With her introduction as “spunky homeless teenage girl who lives in an abandoned movie theater,” I was reminded of a slew of similar type characters, many from the 90s (listen to the Clone Saga Chronicles podcast – homelessness was all the rage in 90s comics), but she really seemed to end up being rather endearing, and maybe just the spark of life the series needed.
Artwise, the team continues to do the expected bang-up job, as Rich Elson really never disappoints. The art also gets a nice boon as Morbius has lost his hoodie by the beginning of the issue and picks up a trenchcoat instead after waking up from his injury. I speak for at least myself when I say the hoodie looked damn stupid and a trenchcoat was always going to suit him better. Some things are tropes for a reason.
I am generally past the point where I would have liked to know what is up with Noah St. Germain. On the surface he’s a really stupid looking dude with a blue mohawk, some nondescript tribal tattoos, and so many piercings Magneto could rip him apart without even trying, and his name is Noah St. Germain, which…yeah. There’s no apparent reason he should be a problem for Morbius and the comic itself even states several times that it seems weird that this guy should be the big boss in a crime town. But Joe Keatinge said on twitter some time ago after the first issue dropped that there was more than meets the eye to Noah, and this issue finds him displaying enough strength to toss around Morbius, which Morbius himself notes makes him “stronger than he should be.” But here’s the problem – after 2 issues we’ve kind of crossed the line where I really care. 2 months have gone by letting this new character be established as someone who looks stupid and has a stupid name. I get that we’re going to find something else out about him eventually, but I feel like it would have helped to give us a reason to think he’s cool before now, considering you’re still trying to attract and retain readers on a new series with a C-list star. I just feel like drawing this out so much is expecting more good will than has been earned.
I find I’m liking Morbius a bit more in this issue, and frankly a lot of that is from his willingness to attack. We get a bit of flashback to his first dust-up with Noah in which Morbius gives a little “I’m not a guy you want to !@#$ with” speech, which is nice, and then at the end he goes on the attack directly to Noah (which doesn’t work, but he tried). The part I really like is when Morbius gives in at the end and tears Noah’s throat right the hell out. The editor’s notes at the end have already told me that this is going to “backfire horribly,” but whatever comes from it, it’s nice to see Morbius with some damn FANGS (literal and figurative).
Overall, though, this issue having more of Becky meant it had less of Morbius (at least as the main voice), which oddly seems to have been a good thing. Is that because we just don’t WANT to get too much of Morbius at a time as the main guy on panel, narrator, and main speaker all at once, or is it because the take on the character still isn’t very strong so less of him makes me less annoyed? I’m not sure I can adequately answer that question, really. It could be a little of both. I will say what we did see of Morbius in this issue came off a LOT better than he did last issue, and that can’t be solely because it was a smaller dose. But whatever the reasons, I was thankful to enjoy the reading of this issue more than I expected despite my continuing problems with the series, and hopefully it can continue to improve in the coming months.
GRADE: 3 trenchcoats out of 5. We’re still not near to a point where I’m going to recommend this series to others, but issue 2 shows definite improvement over issue 1.