The first issue of Grant Morrison’s Nameless was a spiral of crazy moments, ones that the audience wasn’t really clued in on. In that review, I noted, “Morrison’s ideas are grandiose, but the color scheme and Burnham’s visualizations are enough to keep the reader going regardless of the questionable gray areas between dreams and reality.” So far, that’s been the case, especially since issues 3 and 4 settled into a space horror plot that smacks of Lovecraft and Alien. Issue #4 again takes a journey into the madness of the nameless protagonist’s mind, opting for surrealism over coherency. But this time, the chaotic indulgence is grounded, and the reader is more engaged with the rest of the story.
Morrison begins with Nameless and the rest of his group thrown onto the asteroid, tumbling down a chasm in space to the doorway of a gigantic dwelling. Chris Burnham’s artwork is fantastic yet again, one of the reasons I’m completely invested in the series; he’s capturing the vastness of space, the terror of that void, very well, especially in the Lovecraftian moments that populate this issue. The panels are dark but also colorful as Nameless and Sofia explore the confines of Xibalba – grotesque pink blobs, the beautiful burgundy of gore – and everything has a shimmery dream-like quality to it.
And, in a way, Morrison is showing us a dream. Their journey through Xibalba is full of shifts back to past, whether it is Sofia with a counselor or Nameless envisioning a cage of rats injected with chemicals as experiment. The surrealism of these shifts is never explained; it’s more Morrison giving the audience a view of madness, what it’s like to be in Xibalba’s lair.
Then, suddenly, Nameless #4 breaks away from Xibalba altogether. Nameless wakes up in a hospital, Sophia safe next to him. There are visions of something called Razor House, Nameless covered in blood with a hammer by him. Asteroids explode on Earth in apocalyptic mayhem. And the issue ends, clarity obscured altogether.
What does this mean for the series? Morrison refrains from giving the reader answers – the panels simply happen, rushing headlong into the fray. It’s not clear if Nameless is hallucinating, if the events are real, if Xibalba has in fact collided with Earth. But it’s a great issue all the same, even despite all of the questions. Actually, Nameless is good because of them; there’s something about the series that grabs the reader because everything about it is enigmatic and difficult to grasp. The series has slipped in and out of clarity, and one might be hesitant to accept that except Morrison has shown he can quickly bring things back from the precipice to reality.
Still, issue #5 will need to provide some answers to the questions elicited in this issue. Whatever is happening is less important than the way Morrison and Burnham depict it – Nameless #4, even more than the previous issues, is a wonderful comic to look at, and its horrifying in the way that Lovecraft’s unexplainable beings are. Hopefully, Morrison can include more of that, while at least explaining some of the surreal plot, next time.