Last night writer Nick Spencer shared that the first volume of his Image Comics series Morning Glories is free for a limited time. It’s the perfect opportunity to jump aboard one of the BEST creator owned series on the stands today.
One of the most common shorthands in entertainment we see is the elevator pitch- a brief synopsis that you can give in an elevator. Often these are shortened to comparing the work to another- “Die Hard on a train” or “Die Hard on Air Force One” for example. The most common elevator pitch for serialized science fiction since the mid-2000’s is “it’s like LOST, but...” Well, the elevator pitch for Morning Glories is “LOST in a boarding school” but the series is so much more than that.
Nick Spencer has been writing for the Big Two comics publishers for years, most recently writing Ant-Man Scott Lang’s first solo ongoing, Sinister Foes of Spider-Man and just announced as the new writer of Captain America. While most times, I’m introduced to a writer through their mainstream work, then discover their creator owned stories, with Spencer, it was the reverse. I read Sinister Foes and Ant-Man based on the strength of Morning Glories.
The first issue opens with what appears to be an escape attempt from Morning Glory Academy involving three students (one as a diversion and two runners). Spencer is the king of the long game, so while it seems these three are throwaway characters, they’ll be important later. Much later.
After the two runners split up we follow Brendon. Spencer immediately shows part of his hand- Brendon discovers a mysterious hovering, spinning cylinder and is attacked by a strange ghost-like boy.
Two of the teachers (Miss Daramount and Mister Gribbs) watch the attack, bemused. They know the ghost won’t kill Brendon, but they continue to watch as it maims the boy.
While they watch, they mention the headmaster, a grand plan, and enrollment day. At this point Gribbs makes a statement that is chilling juxtaposed with the image of Brendon’s continued torture-
“I foresee great things for this year’s new arrivals.”
We immediately go on to meet those new arrivals.
- Casey, the extremely intelligent de facto lead. (She’s the blonde in the middle of the header image.) At this point we just know she’s driven, motivated, and a physics major.
- Ike, the trust fund baby. (Second from the left in the sunglasses.) Also very intelligent, he’s cold, cruel, and may have murdered his father. His mother says that various past teachers called him the next Unibomber, the next Hitler and even possibly the Anti-Christ.
- Zoe, the popular girl with every boy in town wrapped around her little finger. (Second from the right above.) She’s clearly a master manipulator.
- Hunter, the geek in pain. (Far left above.) There’s clearly a strained relationship between himself and his father, which we learn more about as the series progresses.
- Jade, the depressed Goth. (Far right above.) We simply see her scribbling away in a journal, of which her father says “the second one scared the shit out of me...”
- And lastly we meet Jun, but there’s nothing done to establish his life before the academy, unlike the others.
Each of the kids get into a town car with the same chauffeur, and each pass out after a few minutes. They wake up at the academy.
Miss Daramount walks Casey through the campus as weird things happen just outside her periphery- specifically Brendon’s body being carried away and the ghost walking the halls for a few moments.
Case joins the other five new students in orientation, in which they are introduced to each other and to the school, while more weirdness flashes on a Powerpoint presentation. The spinning cylinder. An action figure of an old man. A goat being slaughtered. There is something seriously wrong behind the scenes at Morning Glory Academy, and we don’t know what it is.
The kids retire to their rooms, learn that it’s everyone’s sixteenth birthday (except Zoe who was adopted and thus chose her own birthday because her parents were unsure what her actual date of birth was). And then they have another horrifying revelation- Jade calls home and learns that her father and brother claim to have no idea who she is. Casey confronts Pamela, their roommate and guide to the school about this.
Pamela cheerily leads her down a staircase. She explains that family claiming to not know them is a strategy used to keep them focused on their studies. Casey states that it’s horrifying, disgusting and her parents would never consent to that. Pamela declares that she’s right, at which point we’re treated to the most horrifying final page in my memory.
Casey’s parents, strung up and murdered in the school’s basement.
And that’s just the first issue.
The rest of volume one goes on to show Casey cope with that horror, face the tests that Miss Daramount and Mister Gribbs throw at her, and rescue one of her friends from a terrifying threat.
It’s extremely well written by Spencer, and brilliantly drawn by Joe Eisma. Although the rest of the first volume is relatively light on the science fiction elements, they’re not shied away from. The cylinder and the ghost both make return appearances.
From there though, the series embraces the sci-fi, with trippy visions from the future, resurrections, hints at the true nature of the school, and time travel. The second major arc, featuring Woodrun, a capture the flag type game the entire school plays, really blows the lid off the sci-fi, and dives deep into the series mythology.
The series just hit issue #47, and its fifth anniversary. It’s one of my favorite series, one that I stockpile issues before reading because I hate coming to the end of what I have purchased.
This is a fantastic series that I can’t recommend enough. Go pick up volume one for free through the Image Comics link at the top of the article or on Comixology today!