“Morning Glories” #22 is another well-executed installment by writer Nick Spencer and artist Joe Eisma, but as forewarned in interviews and teasers, it’s even more of a head-scratcher than usual.
The mysteries here are overlaid on top of a regular reader’s previous knowledge, though, and as themes begin to repeat, certain patterns emerge — although Spencer’s end game is by no means anywhere near clear. “Morning Glories” #22 begins with a flashback to the Truants’ early days at the Academy. Like the Original Six Glories in “Morning Glories” #2, The Truants must face an ordeal while locked into a room, with one of their number unconscious and later taken to the infirmary, but instead of rising waters, they face a trial by fire. In the battle of wills between the Original Six and Daramount in “Morning Glories” #2, Casey saves the day but gives into Hodge, shouting out Bell’s Theorem. In this face-off, Irina, in a similar leadership position, is the one who forces Daramount’s hand.
After this lead-in and study in contrasts, the story picks up directly after the previous issue, with all the kids still in the woods. The Truants, minus Fortunato but plus Hunter, are trying to reach “The Tower.” The reader finally gets to see this Tower in a deliberately awe-inspiring double page-spread by Eisma and colorist Alex Sollazzo. Spencer’s religious themes are becoming so thick that one may need to reread the Bible to keep up. Along with the themes of faith and sacrifice, flooding and fire, names like Abraham and Issac/Ike, in “Morning Glories” #22, there is a long direct quotation from The Book of Daniel and also the nature of the Tower itself.
The dialogue and character interactions in “Morning Glories” #22 are delightful. Hunter’s reactions to various members of the Truants are hilarious, and I cannot wait for more of the Original Six to interact with the Truants. Ian saying to Guillaume, “Here, let me. I speak his language,” and taking over a conversation with Hunter was a moment of endearing Geek meets Geek characterization, with the cynical world-weary Ian educating the earnest Hunter. Also, the movies that Ian mentions to Hunter lay out three very different takes on time travel. Spencer definitely has a detailed game plan, and only he knows, at this point, how the “Morning Glories” time travel mechanisms will fit in with previously established models.
Spencer’s dialogue is as sharp as ever, and the comic moments are pitch-perfect. It’s great how each member of the cast of Morning Glories has distinctive speech patterns and rhythms. Hunter and Jun-who-is-really-Hisao, or “Junisao”, as Hunter coins, have their usual odd couple buddy dynamic. When Irina yells up at them “Both of you — Quiet!” Junisao has said a total of two words in response to nearly a hundred of Hunter’s. Speaking of Irina, she seems to be the one taking her turn in the Truant spotlight after Guillaume. Near the end of “Morning Glories” #22, Spencer drops in one of his game-changing plot twists in a flashback starring Irina.
Eisma’s facial expressions and the body language of his characters carry the emotional weight of all these interactions, visually defining characters’ personalities even more distinctively than Spencer’s dialogue. In the melee of bizarre events later in the issue, the visual clarity Eisma contributes is critical. During the climbing of the steps scene, the Eisma’s handling of scale and camera angles, aided by Sollazzo’s shadowy palette, create an appropriate atmosphere of excitement, mystery and foreboding. Eisma’s pacing is also perfectly in tune with Spencer’s script, no small feat in for a script that changes direction and location multiple times. At the issue’s characteristically mind-blowing last-page, the reader may feel as disoriented and adrenaline-fueled as Hunter, but in a good way.