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Comic Review:
The Filth # 11
By Roshan Abraham

08.20.03


Vertigo (DC Comics) Ė Grant Morrison (w); Chris Weston and Gary Erskine (a)

A Very English Nervous Breakdown


'A Very English Nervous Breakdown' features another magazine rack hip cover, this one produced by Segura Inc. The center of a Pop Art Union Jack, fractured and untidy paint thick slashes bracket the title graphics. Itís an insanely tense and crackly cover that still insinuates symmetry. It might have been made in ten minutes for all I know, but itís an accurate representation of whatís going on in the nightmarish last few salvos of The Filth, Morrisonís dark and atmospheric new Vertigo series.

After a few self-contained and two-part stories with a strong thematic link in identity politics and psychological fascism, 'Nervous Breakdown' is all about Greg Feely/Ned Slade at his breaking point. Nedís parapersona, Greg,has strangely felt like more familiar to him than agent Ned Slade. But Gregís life is now near valueless, his identity publicly humiliated and defamed. Arrested by the police on charges of child pornography, the neighbors now send him shifty looks and gossip behind his back. But what seems to frighteningly bring Nedís schizophrenia and his inability to identify with his ďrealĒ life is the death of his cat, who is mis-fed and refused proper medical attention. Morrison laid the subtle groundwork for the intense love for a fragile animal early on- in a previous issue, Ned crawls through an otherdimensional wasteland of paranormal and toxically enhanced filth and decadence, complete with Chris Weston supplied hideous insect thingies. (Those were lovely to l
ook at, by the way-a visual high point of the series) all to feed his cat. And you were all like, damn, whyís a brother love his cat so much. And I was like, I dunno man, I dunno.


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Given that the series is based more on what we donít know than what we do know- structured on a series of gradually unfolding revelations and gonzo epiphanies, this is probably one of the more important issues of the series. The Filth lays a track of subtly displaced weirdness from issue one; the casual presentation of day glo monstrous garbage trucks that no one on the street seems to flinch at, the nightmarish industrialized weirdness that on every panel seems to be lingering just at the edges. Itís paranoiac science fiction that wants you to feel the vertiginous and panicked complexity supporting our mundane lives. Itís got both the narrative tactics and ambience of 60ís British sci fi programs like The Prisoner and Dr. Who, and the first ten issues, slow paced, meandering, endlessly tense and otherwordly, seemed to be painting the scenery for the surreal carnival that Bob Dylanís Mr.Jones character wanders through in ďThe Ballad of a Thin Man.Ē I can hear a cackling Morrison singing, You know that something is happening to you, but you donít know what it is, do you, Mr.Slade? But whereas Dylan never gives Mr. Jones an answer, Morrison shoves it in the face of Ned and the reader on the last page.

Much of the action in this issue centers around Slade and the communist monkey assassin Dimitri-9, whose rough alliance falls just as Slade becomes sick of taking orders and taking his manufactured identity for granted. Some of Morrisonís previous attempts here to render the heartbreakingly sad into the strangely funny have missed their mark or come out uneven. Morrisonís shot at provoking comedy through terrifying excess have at times made me wince or roll my eyes rather than cackle. But Dimitriís last stand, accompanied by a fevered vision of U.S. Space Monkeys from the 60ís, manages to be among the singularly desperate, melancholy, and definitively funny moments this book has produced in its one year on the stands.


Related Links:
Review of The Filth #8

 

 
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