Writer: Joe Keatinge
Artist: Richard Elson
Color Artist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Marco Checchetto
Assistant Editor: Devin Lewis
Editor: Sana Amanat
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
One year later, Becky has an art show in New York of people’s faces from Brownsville, apparently. The idea that Morbius is dead is reinforced.
As we cut back and forth between the art show and the past, Morbius rises up out of the water in the past to terrorize North Brother Island, base of The Rose. The Rose is expecting Morbius’ father any minute, but as Morbius lays waste to his men, his father informs one of the Rose’s henchmen that he was never planning to come at all. Once Morbius reaches The Rose, I swear to you they spend pages talking about how pointless and run-of-the-mill this series has been before Morbius feasts on The Rose’s throat. Then Morbius talks to his father on what appears to be a screen with no picture so Morbius doesn’t seem to know it’s his father. He tells Morbius that he played his role perfectly – what they needed in Brownsville was a hero and martyr to instill hope, and now it can be raised up and gentrified. But if Morbius lets any of them know he’s alive, it was all for naught.
Later, when Becky leaves her art show, she meets Morbius to go have a drink. He is wearing a hoodie.
MY THOUGHTS: This issue was a surprisingly depressing end to what has mostly been an extremely lackluster Morbius series. And I don’t mean to say it managed to make me sad that the series is over. On the contrary, I think I’m more pleased than ever that this is my final review of this particular run. But the issue itself spends an inordinate amount of time talking about how pointless all of this has been – everything Morbius did, everything The Rose did, basically everything we read. So on one hand, the whole tone of everything is just a huge downer. And on the other hand, it is pretty depressing for the comic itself to be preaching about how pointless these nine issues you paid for have been (even when it is absolutely, 100% right).
Considering my expectations for this book have been incredibly low for some time, it is nearly impossible for it to actually disappoint me, but it did manage to do that in one way – the identity of The Rose. I’m not saying I was expecting to have my mind blown by the reveal, but the one thing that still really held any interest at all for me in this story, however little, was the identity of The Rose. So what was it? How could such an important detail have been left out of my story summary? Well, he didn’t have one. Once the pontificating about the pointlessness of everything reached a fever pitch, Morbius realized that this Rose was a nobody. The mask never comes off, a name is never revealed, we never even find out what The Rose was before becoming a masked villain (he starts to say, but Morbius doesn’t bother to let him). And in their conversation, Morbius’ father reveals that he was indeed a nobody – one of MANY Roses in this unnamed organization’s employ. So the once interesting villain legacy of The Rose has now been co-opted by a corporation and assigned to countless nobodies all over the world, rendering it entirely inert. This is MUCH worse than Roderick Kingsley selling villain franchises, because at least he only sells the identities to one person at a time. The Rose identity is now completely devalued. You can’t even say The Rose has been downgraded to a D-List villain, because there IS no Rose. “He” is not on a list because there is no “he.” I can’t think of a more thorough way to destroy the future potential of a villain legacy. And for what? As they say themselves, his role in this was pointless anyway.
The role of Morbius’ mother was made not only irrelevant but rather strange in this issue as well. You may remember the threat made by The Rose to Morbius several issues ago now was that they had his mother captive. But in this issue Morbius reveals that his mother died years ago in his arms. Morbius knew immediately when the threat was made not only that she was already dead, but that The Rose’s employer knew so and that The Rose was “only ever the messenger.” I would love it if someone would explain the logic of this plan to me. The group that employs The Rose concocts evidence of Morbius’ mother’s kidnapping that they know Morbius will not believe. They give it to The Rose, who is their agent to handle Morbius, so he can tell Morbius this, letting Morbius know that they actually have nothing on him and that he shouldn’t really take The Rose seriously. I guess when Morbius and The Rose talk about everything being pointless, they REALLY mean it.
Clearly this series was cancelled before Mr. Keatinge was able to tell the story he wanted to tell, because obviously Morbius and his father never have a face to face, and Morbius doesn’t even know he’s talking to him. But I suppose we have to ask ourselves – is that even really Morbius’ father? I take it we’re meant to believe it is based solely on the fact that in one panel he is looking at an old picture of a woman and a boy who could be young Michael and his mother. But frankly, though the issue never calls it into question, it also gives us no other indication that it is him. If the evidence of Morbius’ mother was concocted without The Rose’s knowledge, what reason do we have to take nothing but The Rose’s word on his employer’s identity? In all honestly I do believe it is the writer’s intention that this is his father. But we can thank him for leaving enough holes in the story that any future writer can debunk that in under a page. The door on Morbius’ parents, as far as I’m concerned, is closed again for the time being.
Now I haven’t said much about Michael Morbius himself, and there’s a reason for that: he doesn’t have much to do in his own final issue. Becky is more the star here than the book’s title character, and unlike way back in issue 2, that’s really, REALLY not a good thing. For starters, Becky really hasn’t been a very interesting character for awhile. In the beginning she was a breath of fresh air simply because she was someone new to distract from the poor take on the main character. But as time went on and she stuck around, it soon became clear there just wasn’t much to her. In this issue she finds herself an artist with just the beginnings of some modest success in a different city, and maybe a shot at happiness. That’s great for her and all, but this is the final issue of a Morbius: The Living Vampire series and Becky has not endeared herself enough to take the starring role in it. The supposed main character himself spend the first part of the book thought-dead, then goes on the attack briefly before devolving into nihilistic speechifying for most of his page time.
And here in the end, how do we leave our main character for future writers to pick up on, if they be so kind? Well, frankly we don’t get much on that. We know he’s trying to keep the citizens of Brownsville thinking he’s dead so they continue to be inspired by his death, but we also know he doesn’t mind walking down a populated New York street right outside an art exhibit that was attended by several citizens of Brownsville with no disguise on. We know he’s kept in contact with Becky. We know he’s gone back to a hoodie, because everyone thought THAT was a good look for him. And we know he says he’s finally “living.” But since we only see him this brief once after the “One Year Later” jump, that’s really all we know. And while it can absolutely be argued that leaving his status a bit fluid allows more room for future writers to establish whatever status quo they want for him, personally I would like for a final issue to try to say something about its title character and give a shot to positioning him in a way that leaves him an interesting and valid part of the larger universe so fans want to see him again and writers want to use him more. It may seem radical, but I want a comic to tell me something about its title character. If I’m reading Morbius, I want to read about Morbius!
Rich Elson’s art in this issue was competent, certainly, but I feel that where I initially praised his creativity in page layout and panel design that he’s fallen rather unfortunately into a formula with this series. The layouts are still non-traditional, but pretty much in the same way every issue. It’s gotten to the point where the panels are simply more trapezoids than rectangles and that’s all there is to it. And the images are still technically good, but like the layout there’s no longer anything particularly riveting. I have to wonder if Mr. Elson found himself uninspired by what he was drawing after awhile, because it appears to my eye that he stopped swinging for the fences at some point. But I must clarify that average Rich Elson artwork is still quite good and better than many other artists on their best day.
The one thing that can and should be openly and highly praised here is the cover. Marco Checchetto turns in a cover image that is beautiful, iconic, and evocative. Images of death surround Morbius and he himself is looking gaunt and spent as blood pours out of his mouth onto a white rose. Whatever my feelings about the content, this issue will at least look excellent in my collection when represented by that cover.
GRADE: D This series has turned in worse issues, but as a finale this is not only lacking but does a lot to invalidate everything that came before it. It doesn’t work as a single issue and it does a much, much worse job of being a final issue.