Posted by: Jeff Lester on April 6, 2009
Is it fair to review a book about which I have very little to say? To you or to me?
Probably not. And yet, it seems necessary to write a little review of Grant Morrison’s Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #1, if only because I and a million other people on the Internet were more than willing to record our impressions of G-Mo’s Final Crisis each and every time an issue came out. Although I have nothing to support this theory, I’ve always assumed one of the conditions to Morrison’s agreeing to do Final Crisis was that Vertigo publish the follow-up to his sublime but not particularly fiscally successful Seaguy.
And so, in my mind, while not fair to you or or to me, perhaps writing up my thoughts on this issue at this early juncture is more than fair to Grant Morrison, so that my second-guessing, half-baked theories, and if my flimsy, lazy thinking ends up being shown off in all its deluded, wearing-my-underwear-on-the-outside-of-my pants glory…then maybe so much the fairer.
You are welcome to join me in my fool’s errand after the jump.
Let me begin by cataloging my sins. I purchased this issue and read it almost immediately, occasionally smiling while doing so. I then put it aside. Then, after a few days, when I realized things had remained relatively quiet on the Internets, I decided it might be good to see if I could start some sort of conversation on the matter. To do so, I did NOT go to my bookcase and dig out my Seaguy trade (it’s all the way on the other side of the room!), I did NOT scrupulously re-read Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #1 (I spent about two minutes re-reading it), and I did NOT think through what I was going to say before I started typing.
As long as I am cataloging my acts of hubris, I should confess my nagging doubt that I have deeply misunderstood the first Seaguy limited series, if only because it seems to me one of the clearest and most straightforward pieces Morrison has ever written. Every time I read or talk to someone saying they enjoyed Seaguy but were pretty sure they weren’t getting a lot of it, I realize my conviction regarding Seaguy‘s thematic transparency is more than likely that of the narcissist, the undeveloped child, around whom the world seems to revolve, and with whom the world communicates its system of odd, gnostic signs with perfect soothing clarity.
For me, the first Seaguy mini was a lovely, devastating meditation on the nature of corporate-owned characters and their lot in life: They traipse about in theme parks, immortal, carefree. As Morrison frequently does (and can often do so well), Seaguy is a look at how that life must feel for the character–the unsettled, subtle anguish of someone for whom everything is pleasant but nothing is good. The theme park in which they are an attraction seems to them a boisterous, capricious town eager to distract from what lies behind its manufactured facade. The characters never die, but their sidekicks do–but in order for everything to stay the same, the memories must be ripped from them, like a waxing of the forebrain, and although the mind aches from the loss, it doesn’t know why.
And even better, this sort of haunted, ahistorical pleasantness was just a perfect god-damned snapshot of America–not post-9/11, but post-post-9/11, where my wife and I go out to dinner and shop along some lovely prefabricated spot like Santana Row, while non-chain stores sicken and die like poisoned children; where we sit at home and speculate about Lost, while the TV barely shows the war, now in its fifth year of grinding up the poor; and where I lie awake sometimes at night knowing that my distance from the true and terrible conflicts in this world (which I can sense thrashing about, coiling and uncoiling like a serpent fighting for its life, which I sometimes imagine being the cause of the flickering I can see on the night horizon from my window) is a luxury, a luxury for which I’ll gladly suffer under the yoke of dull but steady employment, even while I idly wonder what it must be like to touch the scales of that furious beast. All of this I can feel in my life and see in the bright candy colors of the first Seaguy mini, in the pitch-perfect art of Cameron Stewart, looking like a one-page comic ad for the action figure you never bought, and, like I said, the whole thing doesn’t seem baffling at all. It’s as to-the-point as a ransom note.
And so I was never too riled up about seeing the sequel to Seaguy, although I rooted for the possibility and was gladdened by its announcement. For me, the perfect sequel of Seaguy would be exactly–and I mean exactly–the same three issues of Seaguy, just with Lucky El Loro in place of Chubby Da Choona. Failing that, it’s probably for the best to have only the original miniseries and the the promised sequel never to arrive, so that a reader had no choice but to return to the original story again and again until they’d suddenly realize that the first volume of Seaguy was the sequel, and that they, the readers, were the true slaves of Mickey Eye.
But just as a child spends some time investigating outside their window and realizes with some degree of relief and no small amount of disappointment that the faerie messenger scratching and knocking furtively at the bedroom window was merely a newly displaced dangling branch, I come to tell you the the first issue of Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye is not a mere repeat of Seaguy‘s first issue, but a comic book all its own, a continuation of the fugue, but also an entirely new measure of it.
In Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #1, Seaguy is more unsettled, more aware that something isn’t quite right in his world, and quicker to realize when he’s being lied to. Where it last time took Seaguy the course of several issues to wander in over his head and lose his sidekick, here it takes less than twenty pages, leaving enough time for a quick asylum incident that recalls the end of Peter Pan and a rescue by the three chaps seen on the cover, whom I’ve nicknamed (for now) TeaGuy, ThreeGuy, and PeeGuy (although the colors and logos on the closing page and the cover don’t match, so maybe Peeguy is really green and Teaguy is really yellow, I don’t know).
Considering the rescue comes hot on the heels of evil Lotharius’ order for “radical solutions,” I think it seems likely the trio of Seaguy analogues may end up being tools to keep Seaguy from discovering the truth. It’ll be interesting to see if Teaguy, Threeguy and Peeguy end up being Morrison’s spoof on the growing tendency to give superheroes lineage make-overs, putting them as but one in a line of Fisty Riders or Green Flashes. It seems important that Seaguy consider himself inessential, when the behavior of everyone around him suggests that he is in fact crucial to the world around him. And, of course, doltish clod of a comic reviewer that I am, I only know begin to realize how Seaguy’s scuba mask resembles nothing so much as an eye itself. It seems a very Morrisonian pun if ‘Seaguy’ is in fact ‘Seeguy’ and I wonder if he’s going to end up having some unexpectedly close ties to Mickey Eye than might have already been established. (That last clause is a a somewhat slipshod way of confessing I don’t quite remember what was revealed at the end of the last Seaguy by the time he ended up on the moon–butterflies? Mummies? Maybe I really should’ve dug through my shelves and re-read that trade?)
Oh, and the art on this, by the way, was superb. Stewart knows right where to put an unsettlingly realistic touch in the midst of things at their most unreal (there’s a close-up shot of slightly misaligned bottom teeth that’s just spot-on) and I love how none of the panels here are fully bordered–they manage to feel both claustrophobic and disquietingly open-ended, as if the characters inside are trapped, but something could still enter in suddenly and change everything.
And the colors by Dave Stewart? Also great–I really liked that greyish miasmatic feel he gives the first few pages.
So that’s one rube’s opinion: Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #1 is Very Good stuff, worthy of your time and attention and even that high-end Internet chatter that we only seem to break out for the big-money events. Ignore it at your peril.