I wasn't sure what to expect from "Morning Glories" #1. I've enjoyed Nick Spencer's previous comics ("Existence 2.0/3.0," "Forgetless," and "Shuddertown"), but "Morning Glories" had a certain 'been there, done that' feel to it. As a big fan of "The Intimates," I wondered if I really needed to see another prep school comic peppered with various character types and insidious mysteries about the true nature of the school. Like an idiot, I forgot that just because it's treading similar territory doesn't mean "Morning Glories" wouldn't be its own comic entirely and exist on its own terms beyond some superficial similarities. "Morning Glories" #1 is an engaging and fun read that introduces the eponymous Morning Glory Academy and its newest students by letting the reader in on some of the mysteries, an act that only raises more questions, most of which the students haven't come close to asking yet.
The issue kicks off with a bang by showing an escape attempt from the school. No explanation for what's so wrong is given, but something clearly is if a group of students plot an escape by blowing up part of the school. Instead of teasing the point, Spencer gets it right out there: Morning Glory Academy isn't what it seems. Though it appears to be a premier prep school that caters to only the best and the brightest, the reality is far different. How the image and reality both manage to exist is, perhaps, the most interesting question, since the school is successful in graduating top students that go on to Ivy League schools. That tension hangs over the issue as we're introduced to six new students who have no idea what they're getting themselves into (though we don't entirely either).
Three boys and three girls, the new students all suggest a specific type of character, but Spencer works against that by giving each their own unique touches. Ike is a brilliant sociopath that comes from a rich and affluent family, always looking for a new way to screw with people for his own amusement. Before leaving town, Zoe has a tender goodbye with her boyfriend... and then with her other four boyfriends. Hunter's leaving home comes complete with an "Almost Famous" allusion involving Grant Morrison comics. The characters are all different, but do share one thing in common: the same birthday. This is among the first things that tip them off that something is strange at Morning Glory as the story jumps into that element of the story instead of teasing it out for several issues before a stunning revelation. No, that happens here.
Spencer's bold writing is backed up by Joe Eisma's art. Eisma isn't as polished as Spencer, but he handles himself well in this issue. His characters all look different at a first glance, a must in an ensemble book like this. His line work is angular and expressive. At times, it looks flat and lifeless, but that adds to the charm of the book and plays against some of the more emotional elements of Spencer's writing.
His biggest flaw, though, come early in the book when he draws the action-packed escape plan. The characters look stilted and stiff as they move, lacking the proper energy to carry the scene. His choreography is good and clearly laid out, but the way the escape plays out is lifeless.
The double-sized debut issue of "Morning Glories" works in a large part because it bucks the usual trends for books like this. Nick Spencer embraces the odd mysteries and unseen darkness of the school, throwing it in our and the characters' faces, a tactic that only raises more questions. His writing is fearless here and makes me wonder what's in store as the series continues.