100 Days, 100 Comics #96: ‘Morning Glories’ #’s 1-3

Of the big three pamphlet comics publishers who launched their own comiXology apps in 2010, Image Comics came the closest to achieving the storefront and selection that I would like to see as a reader and iPad owner. $1.99 is pretty much the ceiling for what I’m willing to pay for a 24-page digital edition of a comic right now, but if the production values, concept and story are genuinely inspired, as is the case with Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma’s “Morning Glories,” they’ll get my money every issue. I like the Image app because of the overall variety of genres and general value (i.e., relationship between a higher degree of surprising, engaging story quality and the standard lower price points), and the first three issues of “Morning Glories” seem to embody that sense of satisfaction for me.

Spencer’s story here is something that readers with a fondness for wacky and/or horror high school-genre manga will enjoy, as should comics followers nostalgic for early “Generation-X” and “Gen13” stories, but it follows a distinctly more Joss Whedon-esque path along the lines of “Dollhouse” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in humanizing its characters and trimming away superpowers elements. Within the first three issues, it’ll have you contemplating institutional education, torture, and parenting, and most of that is just sight-seeing alongside the core stories of the kids trying to figure out what’s happened to them, and who’s responsible. I wouldn’t mind seeing one or two of the characters brought more to the forefront and fleshed out even more, but at the same time, the momentum in here really comes from the secrecy, the defamiliarization that’s constantly going on, and the spheres of the unknown that the students have been stuffed into.

In a year where “Walking Dead” broke through as a mainstream cultural name, I’m all too happy to see Image putting out new books like this, which don’t cater explicitly to hero book readers, but also cater to more general audiences. It’s a book that I hope to see even more great new things from in 2011.

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