Grant Morrison. Vertigo, $9.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-1-4012-0337-5
Comics readers who only know Morrison's work on flagship superhero series like X-Men and JLA will be astonished by this imaginative, subversive 1993 miniseries. Evoking steampunk science fiction, this saga is set in a Victorian England that has 21st-century technology. Morrison and Yeowell cleverly recreate Victorian styles of dialogue and illustration and link Victorian aestheticism to gay culture, contemporary virtual reality, the nature of fiction and even religion. Sebastian O., a gay poet, speaks in witty, Oscar Wildean aphorisms, but he goes much further in rebelling against Victorian morality, shooting dead a policeman and having the corpse fed to cats. Yet Morrison induces reader sympathy for Sebastian by making him the victim of a criminal conspiracy led by Lord Theo Lavender, a gay aesthete who became obsessed with godlike ambitions to use computers to create a perfect, artificial world. And with his impeccable fashion sense, combat prowess and ironically witty rejoinders, Sebastian comes off as a dandy precursor of James Bond. Yeowell's stylish art evokes Victorian decadence without sacrificing clarity.
Reviewed on: 08/01/2004