Grant Morrison, Chris Weston, Gary Erskine - The Filth (DC Vertigo)

An eccentric British gumbo, a fever-dream of lyrical intensity and visual distortion

Feature by Bram Gieben | 13 Oct 2006
This collected edition of Morrison's groundbreaking 13-issue series is perhaps the most turbulent introduction to the writer's work you could hope to find. It is as though all of the psychic detritus of 'The Invisibles' has been boiled together into an eccentric British gumbo, a fever-dream of lyrical intensity and visual distortion, exploring para-personas, shame and degradation, paranoia, mind-control and identity crises.

Protagonist Greg Feely is an enigma - the 'is-he-isn't he' narrative see-sawing portrays him either as an isolated loner, or a disturbed paedophile, humanised by his concern for his sick cat, Tony. This is only the half of it - Feely is drawn into a nightmarish sub-realm of reality where he becomes Ned Slade, the leader of a shadowy group known only as the Hand, the garbagemen of human thought and consciousness, assigned to eliminate threats to the Status Quorum.

Sounds a bit laboured and complex? It can be - many comics fans found it unpalatable and even incomprehensible in parts, but Morrison's non-linear approach to the story really puts you in the mind of the unstable Feely character, and Weston's stunning visual panoramas and spreads complement this derangement perfectly. The Gilbert & George tribute of Man Green / Man Yellow, the Nazi dolphins with skeletal robotic arms, Nixon sailing a poison sea encased in a bubbling green cryogenic tank, and neon-hued dustbin lorries with massive reptilian teeth are just some of the nightmarish, sub-Freudian inhabitants that spring to life under Weston's pencil lines, and the vivid colours of Gary Erskine.

Nanotechnology, memetics, and social engineering all play a part in the labyrinthine, looped plot, the artwork serving to elucidate rather than complexify the swooping economies of scale that Morrison employs. On first reading 'The Filth' is baffling, but persist, give it a second and third chance, and it is simply breathtaking, with a beautifully positive and uplifting ending that justifies the twisted depths it plumbs. Oh, and one of the characters is a dope-smoking, former KGB assassin, former astronaut chimpanzee. Just like the LSD trip they warned you about in school, 'The Filth' will change you, but you won't know how. Could there be a better recommendation? [Bram Gieben]

Out now.

Further Reading: The Invisibles, Doom Patrol, Animal Man, Kid Eternity