By: Grant Morrison (story), Brad Walker & Rags Morales (pencils), Andrew Hennessy & Mark Probst (inks), Brad Anderson (colors)

The Story: Hey, even extradimensional beings can have a Shakespearean romance.

The Review: Sadly, one of my favorite moments from Morrison’s run on New X-Men was “Magneto” giving Jean a massive stroke on a planetary scale.  It was the most ingenious way to kill a being of her power I’ve seen.  That scene clued me into the scale at which Morrison develops his ideas.  He’s the only one who can embrace the sheer lunacy of the Silver Age and give it enough sense and logic to work for our highly technical generation.

In this issue, Morrison takes his ideas train into overdrive, almost flippantly tossing delightful bits of imagination at us.  Tesseract mines which release a new predatory environment when triggered may seem wonderfully bizarre at first, but they have nothing on the fifth-dimensional material which follows.

As a literary geek, I’ve always appreciated Morrison’s love of exploring the nature of stories, mixing and matching them to see what new concoctions he can pull off.  Mrs. N’s story of her past is a fairy tale wrapped in sci-fi clothing: “Once upon an always, further than forever and closer than the back of your head…lived the sad King-Thing Brpxz of Zrfff, the Fivefold Country.”  That line sets the whimsical tone for the rest of her story, and as always, Morrison manages to make us believe in it, enough to really feel the impact of its unusual conclusion.

Although the various reimaginings of DC characters post-relaunch have alternated among forgettable, tolerable, and pointless (fifteen issues later, T-shirt Superman still hasn’t quite sold itself), Mxyzptlk’s new origin story is pitch perfect, the kind of innovation the relaunch called for.  Morrison’s conception of him as a mixture between Wizard of Oz and court jester simply works, blending very well with his traditionally good-natured antagonism with Superman.  Besides, the notion that our entire universe is simply one of the many tricks rolled-up in Mxyzptlk’s derby hat, pulled out solely for the amusement of others, is just plain fun.

What also makes this issue work is that Morrison mostly manages to tell a coherent story through the jumble of distractingly engaging concepts he throws in.  I admit, Vyndktvx’s elaborate plan to defeat Superman seems a bit roundabout and unnecessary for an extradimensional being, but let’s just assume he’s operating on a whole ‘nother plane of logic here.  At any rate, it’ll be interesting to see how the Man of Steel thinks his way out of this particularly fiendish deathtrap.

By now, Morales’ art has become a merely tolerable aspect of the series.  It’s been clear for a while that his humble style of art just can’t capture the scale of Morrison’s ideas.  Not that Walker does a much better job, but at least his work has a clean, fashionable look that’s several times more convincing than the plain, oftentimes messy figures Morales comes up with.  It seems like Anderson treats Walker’s art a little better as well, giving it shine and polish and pure vivacity most lacking in Morales’ sequences.

Sholly Fisch has gotten very practiced at churning out these light, sentimental back-ups, but this one may be the frothiest, most enjoyable one of all, especially when illustrated with such jolly by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, and Jordie Bellaire.  Mostly it sheds a bit more light on the relationship between Myxzptlk and Princess Gsptlnz and their lives after everything went to neon-colored hell in the fifth dimension.  Touching and at one point revelatory, it makes an appropriate companion to the main feature.

Conclusion: The issue suffers from somewhat weak art, but otherwise shows Morrison in fine shape, delivering the kind of story only he can devise.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – What does blue Kryptonite do again?  Wikipedia states that it only affects Bizarros and has only shown effects on normal Kryptonians on Smallville.

– The Legion of Super-Heroes and Krypto we know, but who are “Comet and the Wanderers”?  Is this in reference to Adam