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Vimanarama #1

Written by Grant Morrison
Drawn by Philip Bond
Published by DC Comics; $2.95 USD

Time and again Grant Morrison has proven his worth as a comics writer, but, within the last year, his DC exclusive contract has seen him produce some of his greatest work to date, as well as one of the best stories ever put to print, We3. Vimanarama is set to continue that reign.

While it doesn’t have the instant attraction that We3 had (there mostly due to Morrison’s collaborator, Frank Quitely), Vimanarama does have a tremendous amount of charm, and again it’s partially because of the artwork. This time it’s by another of Morrison’s favourites, Philip Bond.

The story marries a myriad of ideas together; humour, family, science-fiction, religion, love, and teen-angst. Morrison seems to have a complete understanding of the characters’ religion and upbringing, and while the book mainly focuses on Ali, Morrison does not withhold when the rest of his family is about. Each character feels fully fleshed-out, even though we are never given any real background information about them.

Morrison also jumps a gap that most writers would have easily fallen into, Ali’s soon-to-be arranged marriage. Rather than have Ali focus on the fact that he is forced to marry someone not of his choosing, he’s accepted it and instead worries about what the girl will look like, existential doubt he calls it.

The book reads like an amalgamation of cinematic ideas; in fact, if it were a movie it would be something like a 1950s science fiction film by way of Alfred Hitchcock working in India’s Bollywood. Like Hitchcock’s Psycho, Morrison manages to begin his story with a pretty straightforward plot, telling what is essentially the story of a young man’s angst about growing up, learning responsibility and respecting his family's wishes, and by issue's end it has become something almost unrecognizably different, but at no point in the story are you actively aware that it has made this change.

Bond, like all of Morrison’s best collaborators, has the ability to tell Morrison’s story without ever needing the dialogue, much like a silent film. The expressions and actions of the characters are so clear that no exposition is needed at all. And, to Morrison’s credit, he understands this. Morrison is fully willing to let Bond’s gorgeous art tell the tale and Bond is amply up to the challenge.

The few splash pages are phenomenal, the best of those perhaps being the most simplistic, as we see Ali riding to rescue his brother who has fallen through a hole in his shop’s floor. Behind him several young girls dance in synchronized motion in the rain, while behind them a pair of police officers laugh, a man carrying groceries is attacked by two canines, and another man and woman look on smiling from separate apartment windows. It feels like a well choreographed musical number. The characters throughout the issue are very fluid; Bond seems to be able to give them life, so much so that it never feels like anyone is standing still, a very difficult task given the fact that it is a comic book.

Much like Morrison’s script, you’re never really certain when Bond’s art goes from musical drama to sci-fi, the change is so flawless. When Ali and Sofia, his bride to be, discover an underground city while looking for his infant nephew, the tone of the book becomes much darker, doubly so when that nephew manages to unleash some sort of evil being. But, at no time is it a noticeable one, at least, not within the first few readings. And, Bond’s depiction of the “good guys”, released subsequently by Sofia and Ali, looks like a combination of eastern religious icons and Jack Kirby mythology.

Vimanarama is off to an excellent beginning; Morrison and Bond pack more into this first issue than most current books get into six. It’s funny and poignant while maintaining an air of mystery and intrigue. Combine that with the sci-fi elements, and Vimanarama looks to be one of the year’s best books as well as a perfect marriage of idea and design. Grade: 5/5

-- Logan Polk



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