Pick of the Geek – Kill Your Boyfriend/ Vinanarama by Grant Morrison
Grant Morrison is currently enjoying something like full-spectrum dominance over comics culture; the fanboys love his Big Two work, the cognoscenti still cherish The Invisibles and The Filth, and even those who wouldn’t be seen dirtying their hands with a mere funnybook enjoyed Supergods, his 2011 analysis of what the superhero phenomenon says about our culture. What a fine time, then, to repackage two of the short, spiky, deeply strange and literate works that helped earn him this position. After an audience-dividing spell on 2000AD and boundary-pushing work for now-defunct magazines like Revolver and Crisis, Kill Your Boyfriend finesses the political anger and wilful bad taste of his early work into a more satisfying, witty, energetic character comedy about an unhappy schoolgirl whose life is turned around by a gun-toting rebel who leads her on a voyage of reckless discovery. With inspirations ranging from the myth of Dionysus to the 1970s children’s series Here Come the Double Deckers!, it’s a prime example of Morrison having fun with the flotsam and jetsam of his knowledge.
Coming after Dunblane, Columbine and 9/11, it feels even more breathtakingly transgressive than it did at the time. Speaking of 9/11, it was Morrison’s research into Islam following that event that gave birth to Vimanarama. Reading everything he could about South-Eastern Asian religions, he found himself unable to visualise the scriptures of Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism without thinking of comics pioneer Jack Kirby’s ‘cosmic’ work. Its title a reference to the vimana, or flying palaces, of Hindu epics, it charts the story of Ali, a young man from Bradford who is shaken out of his despair over an upcoming arranged marriage when a race of gods from before the dawn of time erupt from beneath his dad’s corner shop. Vimanarama is less confident in its tone than Kill Your Boyfriend; whereas the earlier work was determinedly, delightfully malevolent, the depiction of Ali’s unhappiness as literally suicidal strikes an odd, sour note in what’s otherwise a colourful, fun adventure which wants nothing more than to play out a bonkers SF disaster movie narrative in a specifically British Asian context. Both stories are prime examples of what Morrison can do on a smaller canvas, though, and are well worth seeking out, particularly by fans of his Marvel and DC work looking for something a bit more adventurous.