Stuck in perpetual limbo for over a decade-point-five from legal disputes and plagued by shipping delays, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Flex Mentallo is finally available to the masses in a handsome new hardcover. Highly autobiographical, this really comes through for those who saw 2010’s Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods, the four issue miniseries is an extension of Morrison’s prior work with DC’s Doom Patrol. However, how has the long gestation period treated this comic? Has the wait been repaid or does it belong to an earlier time? Was DC’s excavation of the mid-90s worth it?
Flex Mentallo may have gotten better over the long wait mainly because of Morrison’s explosion of popularity and notoriety. The writer of 1996 was in a different position re: his fame and celebrity verses the writer of 2012. Today Morrison, and Quitely too, are household names for comic readers. The same couldn’t be said over fifteen years ago. Ground breaking and innovative, yes, but not the veritable industries the two are now.
So, what does that mean exactly? Flex Mentallo is maybe the most illustrative examples of Morrison’s views on superheroes, the power of myth, and the transformative power stories possess. A large chunk of his comic output circles around the themes contained within Flex Mentallo so if you’re familiar with most of his other work, I’m thinking of JLA, Batman, Final Crisis, and All-Star Superman, you’ll feel strangely at home and possibly treading familiar ground.
Still, don’t let that push you out. There is still a patented Morrisonian plot at work here, associative and corkscrewy to boot, with impeccable art from Quietly who can take the reader from a gritty poorhouse bathroom to near-Earth orbit and into the seams of reality without missing a beat.
Consider Flex Mentallo as Morrison’s Big Bang. What you’ll seen in here, you’ve likely seen from him before, especially during the comic’s lengthy reprint hiatus. But, Flex Mentallo represents the clearest and most compact vision of what it is Morrison is constantly circling around in his other comic efforts. If the comic has aged well it is because readers have become inculcated, infected some might say, with Morrison’s ideas. Flex Mentallo is that secret germ that has multiplied and spread out to a much wider world. It begins here.
If you struggle with the writer’s more obtuse or thematically complex work, start with Flex Mentallo as your primer. For already established fans snatch up this keystone work as soon as possible.