“We have 33 days before an extinction level impact somewhere in the northern Pacific Ocean.”
We need to stop naming asteroids after ancient entities of death and destruction. Apophis. Apollyon. Even something relatively pleasant like Bennu. It’s like we’re deliberately tempting fate to cause these giants rocks to come crashing down on our heads. Like the looming existential dread of Xibalba, an asteroid named after the Mayan underworld, that serves as the catalyst in the occult-driven sci-fi thriller of Nameless by Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Nathan Fairbairn, and Simon Bowland.
Ostensibly, this is about an occult expert, a man with no name, who is hired to help solve the problem of an asteroid hurtling towards Earth by decoding ancient glyphs and the language of angels. In short, it’s creepy space horror in the vein of something like Event Horizon, but as filtered through the depth of Morrison’s knowledge of mythology and the occult. Of course, it’s much, much more than that, but telling what happens when things inevitably go wrong, as they always do in space horror, would spoil the fun.
The darker things hanging around in Grant Morrison’s shadow come circling back around for this series, including a rather clever way to reconcile disparate mythological ideas that stem from occult sources, the Mahabharata, pseudo-astrology, and more Qliphothic fun. (Just as an aside, I think there’s the potential here of a fascinating interpretation of the story through Kabbalah as appropriated by hermetic magick—essentially Jewish mysticism through the lens of crusty, rich old guys in costumes like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn—as paralleled through a rich, old guy hiring the protagonist. And of the lost fifth planet essentially being a “broken shell”, making the entire story an exploration of the opposite of the Sephirah of Geburah, the Qliphah of Golachab.)
Although not explicitly Lovecraftian, in terms of dealing with the mythos, Nameless still plays in the deep end of things that should not be as our Nameless character plumbs the depths of strange objects in space for things we shouldn’t know. Along with some great frog panels and angler fish people for flavour from Chris Burnham.
And, man, does Burnham excel at the weirdness, horror, and gore throughout this tale. I’d probably describe Burnham’s art style as a blend of Frank Quitely and Katsuhiro Otomo. It results in some incredibly detailed landscapes, uniquely shaped and expressive characters, with gangly horrifying monsters, all rendered with some impressive hatching. And compelling layouts. Like many horror stories, and Morrison-penned comics, there are things that may not be as they seem and Burnham’s great at hiding little details in plain sight that will help figure things out and enrich reading it again.
The art is also beautifully enhanced by Nathan Fairbairn’s colors, shifting tone and palette between cold blues and greys for the space sequences, more naturalistic colors for Earth, and extremely stylized reds, blues, and green for nightmare situations. All topped off with Simon Bowland’s letters, giving some interesting styles for radio chatter and extra-dimensional beings, and the mixed-case font for narration boxes that at this point feels like a tell for quasi-hard boiled detective first person narration.
Like all of the books I’ve looked at this month, Nameless from Morrison, Burnham, Fairbairn, and Bowland works on two levels. It is a thoroughly exciting, cosmic horror story filled with mad ideas, but it’s also more than that, if you want to go deeper. And see what terror lies in the symbols of man.
Classic Comic Compendium: Nameless
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Colourist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
NAMELESS tells the story of a down-at-heel occult hustler known only as “Nameless” who is recruited by a consortium of billionaire futurists as part of a desperate mission to save the world. A massive asteroid named Xibalba-the “Place of Fear” in Mayan mythology-is on collision course with the planet Earth. If that wasn’t trouble enough, the asteroid has an enormous magical symbol carved into its side and is revealed to be a fragment of our solar system’s lost fifth planet, Marduk, destroyed sixty-five million years ago at the end of an epic cosmic war between the inhabitants of Marduk and immensely powerful, life-hating, extra-dimensional “gods.” One of those beings is still alive, imprisoned on Xibalba, dreaming of its ultimate revenge on all that exists. When Nameless and his teammates inadvertently unleash this malignant soul-destroying intelligence, the stage is set for a nightmarish, nihilistic journey to the outer reaches of human terror.
Release Date: February 8, 2017
Read last week’s entry in the Classic Comic Compendium!