By d. emerson whirlwind – god is dead.
No, you somehow didn’t click on a Nietzschean speech. You also don’t really have to worry about the religious or philosophical implications of the statement, unless you want to. It’s there if you choose to analyze the work in that context. On the contrary, the murder of the actor playing the role of god serves as a catalyst for mystery in the existential drama of The mystery game by Grant Morrison, Jon J. Muth and Todd Klein. It’s getting a bit meta.
Using a revival of the ancient mystery game tradition of North England (live performances of re-enactments of biblical stories, especially things like the story of the fall of man, for moral lessons ) as a hook, The mystery game largely revolves around the investigations of a local journalist and a visiting Mancunian detective in the small town of Townely. As we attempt to solve the murder of God, we delve into the corruptions of the town mayor, a dialectic over the devil’s truth, and a priest who seems to have lost his faith. All while making you wonder what is real and who you can trust.
The mystery game is something of an outlier in Grant Morrison’s body of work, fitting more into the oblique impressions of arkham asylum than their simpler explosive crazy ideas, but stylistically taking the form of a murder mystery. It’s a darker, more introspective piece that draws heavily on literary and philosophical themes. He raises questions of guilt, responsibility, madness, ambition and obsession as he searches for an elusive, and perhaps absent, truth.
Jon J. Muth’s artwork here is sublime. His painted work beautifully encapsulates the fuzzy hallucinatory atmosphere of the tale, blending realism with a kind of brown/beige haze that feels like witnessing a dream or nightmare. Particularly impressive is the sequence where the detective questions the actor who plays Lucifer as reality seems to crumble and we are confronted with a demon who seems to have come out of a painting by Goya. There’s a fascinating gap between the play performed and real life, as a naked Adam and Eve are revealed to really be wearing nude-colored jumpsuits drawn with approximations of their nudity. It’s a wonderful visual clue that the lines of reality and fantasy are somewhat murky in the tale.
Todd Klein offers an interesting pair of font styles and word bubbles throughout the story. The first is an oversized mixed-case balloon that he uses for play actor dialogue and the second is the more standard all-caps style for real-world interactions. There is one fascinating point, however, where real-world balloons give way to playstyle, which makes you wonder about this particular development in the plot. As the characters potentially become the next act in the overarching mystery play, with a role fitting the character’s name.
There is a key tenet that runs through the story, however, embracing an existentialist ideal, that reality can be what we make it, but maybe an objective reality can crash yours before it does. does not come true. The mystery game by Morrison, Muth and Klein probably won’t give you answers to the big questions, but it will get you thinking. Especially about the horror of an empty coat on a hook.
Compendium of Classic Comics: The Mysterious Game
The mystery game
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Jon J. Muth
Letterer: Todd Klein
Editor: DC Comics / Vertigo
The fully painted psychological thriller THE MYSTERY PLAY illustrates the devastating power of fear and blame as a small-town community is torn apart from within. When the actor playing Satan is accused of brutally murdering the actor playing God at a Renaissance festival, a rural English village is on the verge of self-destruction. Seeking to save the town from itself, a mysterious detective arrives and begins to piece together the clues to the murder. But even if the enigmatic stranger can solve the unsettling mystery, the revelation of his true identity and past may still lead to the village’s fiery end.
Release date: March 24, 1994 (original hardcover) | October 24, 2017 (collected edition)
Available in: The Sebastian O / The Mystery Play by Grant Morrison collection
D. emerson eddy is a student and a writer of things. He fell in love with the comic during Moore, Bissette and Totleben’s run on Swamp Thing and it’s been a torrid affair ever since. His craziness usually manifests on Twitter @93418.