"Morning Glories" #45 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma finally closes the loops on several plot threads for Jade, one of the original Glories. It's a tightly written, intense chapter that answers some major questions and marks a return to earlier form for this time-bending supernatural mystery series.
Spencer's recent arc focuses more on individual characters, so -- while the last issue focused on Vanessa -- she doesn't appear at all in this issue. Instead, the plot circles back to the cliffhanger from issue #41, and Jun and Guillaume's argument in issue #42. There's also some movement for Guillaume's Towerball conspiracy, but the bulk of "Morning Glories" #45 is a meaty conversation between Guillaume and Jade, interspersed with flashbacks to Jade's past.
The first page is an attention-grabber and, finally, long-time readers see the aftermath of the fateful car accident that shaped Jade's childhood more than any other event. All the teasers pay off as the past is revealed through action. As a technique, flashbacks can sometimes feel less immediate and less urgent than present-day action but, the way that Spencer and Eisma tell it, Jade's past is more exciting than her present. This is notable, since she's currently being held captive for future ritual execution.
These scenes from Jade's past have tremendous emotional impact and dramatic tension. Part of it is Spencer's dialogue and control of pacing, but even more is due to Eisma's storytelling skills. As usual, Eisma does much with body language. Jade is upset when Guillaume arrives, but her demeanor and her shoulders relax as Guillaume explains and asks the right questions in a calm way, encouraging Jade to confide. Jade's nose looks odd and too small in several panels, like she's had a bad nose job that made her nostrils collapse, so it's distracting, but that's a minor complaint overall.
Spencer's dialogue has strong, believable rhythms, but it's playing with connective tissues to the Eisma's visual muscle. In the scenes with Jade's mother Mary-Beth, you can see the younger Jade's confusion and distress build up, and Eisma's facial expressions also make her love and devotion of her mother obvious. These scenes fly by at a high emotional pitch. The transitions between past and present are smooth and clear. Eisma's page and panel compositions are understated but, upon rereading, it's clear that he adjusts panel size and shape to guide the shape of the story. The accident scene has an especially strong progression. Paul Little's colors are similarly understated, but they add mood and texture.
Spencer's plotting has several puzzle pieces neatly fall into place: Jade's secret power, why she was depressed and suicidal upon her arrival Morning Glories Academy and why Jun is convinced that she's the ideal sacrificial lamb. Despite all the clues that Spencer has dropped about Jade, the end result still has shock value.
Clarkson's involvement, the religious theme of resurrection and the curious and unshakable reaction of Jade's devout mother, which leads to another tragedy on the last page, all add more depth, but the core of the story is the insight into Jade's character. The issue as a whole feels as accessible, cohesive and tightly written as the first three story arcs of "Morning Glories," before the series became more abstruse and confusing in Season Two.
"Morning Glories" only has one jumping-on point, and that's the first issue. I could not recommend "Morning Glories" #45 to a new reader but, for fans who have been following the story all along, it rewards that loyalty with satisfying answers.