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Zenith Phase IV Sucks -- And Here's Why

 
  

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miss wonderstarr
01:47 / 14.09.04
The Zenith saga is perhaps my favourite superhero narrative of all time. That's above Watchmen, above Dark Knight. Zenith the character is cowardly, arrogant and generally useless -- "super" without the "hero" -- but the story is unflaggingly glorious.

Witty in its immediate, now naively-1980s cultural references (Network 7, Anne Diamond), developing into a rich and rewarding intertextuality by part III as Morrison creates a whole DCU Crisis out of forgotten British comic books (Dan Dare, Billy the Cat).

Gorgeously drawn by Steve Yeowell, whose style evolves from careful detail to bold, splashy expressionism, with each frame, at his peak, worth studying and cherishing.

Breathless in its episodic drama, explosive splash pages and relentless cliffhangers, yet unfolding into a deep, complex canvas of parallel-world history and grand designs.

THIS -- IS -- ZENITH

...until Phase IV.

Phase IV appeared in 1992, after a long gap (Phase III closed in Spring 1990). Perhaps Morrison was by now more interested in his DC projects and was only wrapping up this British story out of duty; for whatever reason, the spark and the energy has been dampened. There's a sense of rush and dashing-off.

On a simple level, that this Phase was only 14 episodes, after the mammoth 26-part "War In Heaven" of Phase III, was a shock in itself; I remember at the time thinking hang on...it's going to end soon, then? around episode 13, seeing conclusions and finales in the near future and realising with disappointment that this was a modest last offering, a bookend, a postscript... almost an afterthought.

I've given instances of the art from this Phase, compared to the earlier three, on another thread. Yeowell seems to take his cue from Morrison and produce the minumum necessary -- the design is still sound, the composition strong, but the detail has been abandoned and we're left with just bold, sketched lines filled in with flat colour. Contrasted with his earlier black and white, this is crude stuff. He's incapable of producing really bad art, and there's still a clean, neat appeal about this, but it's lost any depth or care. Yeowell's frames used to absolutely stun you: here they do the job, and sometimes just barely.

--------------------

This Phase had to tie off threads that had begun as hints in the first Phase and been picked up teasingly in successive chapters of the saga. In episode 9 of the first story, Siadwel "Red Dragon" Rhys first mentions the "plan", a project involving the other superhumans who had been Task Force UK before rebelling into Cloud 9. David "Lux" Cambridge and Penny "Spook" Moon were involved in the Plan; Peter "Mandala" StJohn and Siadwel objected. "I just couldn't believe they'd do that... we tried to convince the others to stop and think. They just went over our heads anyway and set the plan in motion."

This grand narrative or conspiracy theory could of course have been left hanging if Zenith Phase I had been the beginning and end of it all. The first story arc was a satisfying team-up, a Magnificent Seven tale about the Nazi metahuman Masterman being reanimated through a Dark God, also known as a Lloigor or Many-Angled One, named Iok Sotot. It wrapped up neatly enough with evil defeated; but the nagging backstory surfaced again in Phase II. In a flashback Interlude, we hear that Zenith's parents White Heat and Dr Beat were murdered (by CIA "Shadowmen", we later discover) in 68, while the next year Spook fell into a mirror and Lux disintegrated. The runt of the litter, Chimera, "a storm of shapes", was imprisoned for safekeeping.

Meanwhile in an alternative Sydney designed by Alan Parker, Lux and Spook are looking remarkably healthy -- even if Lux now looks like David Stewart instead of Jim Morrison -- as they warn Ruby "Voltage" Fox about a mysterious, forthcoming Alignment. The plan, clearly, is still an ongoing project, to be set in motion when this apocalypse has passed. "Evolution takes no prisoners," David tells Ruby. "The masters of the earth become simply monsters, condemned to extinction. Think about that and the plan we made in 1968. If we survive the Alignment, 1990's going to be a red letter day in the diary of evolution."


In Phase II Episode 6, Penny Moon appears to Peter StJohn following his (as we realise much later) prescient dream about a black sun concealing monstrous beings who, horrifically, he seems to recognise. Penny, fittingly for someone who fell into a looking-glass, disappears like a Cheshire Cat after another warning.

Peter: It was you I saw at Siadwel's funeral. That must have made you happy. One less of us to oppose the grand plan.

Penny: Very soon now, we're all going to be drawn into the war that never ends. Was it when you fought Iok Sotot with Zenith? Was that when you first heard about the Omnihedron?

In Episode 10, Dr Michael Peyne, the scientist father-figure behind the metahuman generation, gives Zenith a haunting history lesson. Again, the plan, its rationale and its related threats resurface to the present day before being forgotten among more pressing matters of nuclear warheads and a Richard Branson-style megalomaniac.

Peyne: There was a growing fear that we had created our own evolutionary successors. Of course, that's exactly what I wanted, but my hands were tied at the time. I needn't have worried. Cloud 9 had plans of their own. Those plans, which involved your birth, caused a split within the group that never healed.

The final episode of Phase II, which has seen Zenith fighting his dad in the form of a Warhead robot and mating with clones of his mother, opens up the past again as Chimera escapes, taking on the form of Morrissey, Monroe and a host of icons before vanishing again into a glass, pyramidal paperweight.

The epilogue takes us out of this world again, to another parallel where the renegade superhumans are seeing far further than Zenith ever tries to. Penny and David are organising again, initiating Ruby; they're joined now by the remains of another rebel group called Black Flag -- Mantra, Domino and DJ Chill -- who have been fighting the Lloigor on other alternatives. At the very end of Phase II, Jimmy Quick zooms in from yet another parallel world -- and at the start of Phase III, we see the Lloigor-occupied nightmare he's escaped from.

Phase III is the "War In Heaven", but the plan is still motivating the ex-Cloud 9 superhumans. Officially, the story is that an alternate Maximan has rounded up heroes from the many worlds to stop the Lloigor from taking advantage of the Alignment, a particular pattern of those worlds also called the Omnihedron. To stop the Lloigor ascending to power, the assembled superhumans have to destroy key worlds in the configuration and stop the Omnihedron from forming. Unfortunately, Maximan turns out to be one of the Lloigor and the strategic explosion of alternate earths was intented to facilitate the Dark Gods' rise "to Godhead...to Point Zenith" (episode 24) at the time of the alignment.

But in the background, the smaller-scale plan is still taking shape. Episode 6 sees the next stage in Ruby Fox's initiation as Spook and Lux, glowing beings of light, transform her into one of their kind.

David: None of us ever realised just how powerful we were, Ruby. We spent too much time thinking like humans, limiting ourselves to the human perspective. The universe is potter's clay in our hands.

The Epilogue to Phase III should be a happy ending again - the multiverse has been saved by the metahumans acting in concert, with Ruby and David joining Peter StJohn to stop Maximan's ascent. But there's one frame, just before the end, where StJohn muses "What now? What now indeed?" and we're faced with the stern-faced remnants of Black Flag and Cloud 9, glaring out of the page with dark purpose: the Alignment has been survived, and the plan is next.

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The next prologue shows the world gone to hell, in a rare late instance of Yeowell doing a sterling art-job for Zenith: the black sun of StJohn's dream is hanging over a ruined London, and Ruby Fox appears to Michael Peyne as a smooth, pale humanoid -- though we now realise this is just a palatable disguise for her true form, a great tendrilled spider. "I wished for a world uncontaminated by the greed and brutality of man," Peyne reflects in voiceover. "I wished for a world that was the perfect playground of superhuman minds. And, see! It has come to pass."

The story that follows, then, is in part a flashback to the last days of normal life on earth. Phase IV proper, psychedelically garish, opens with a news story about Spook and Lux, now calling their team the Horus Foundation and spouting Hyperclan rhetoric. "We're proposing superhuman solutions to human problems. Our manifesto...offers humanity a chance to drag itself up out of the evolutionary mud. The real new age starts here."

This rings a bell even for Zenith, despite his stubborn superficiality: "It's got something to do with the plan, hasn't it? That's what old Siadwel Rhys was on about before he got killed."

StJohn is musing over the pyramid that contains Chimera, and readers who remember him implanting a psychic trigger in Phase I's Masterman -- a trigger that only became obvious with hindsight, leading to a "ah, that's what it was" and a frantic flicking back through the episodes -- should perhaps be looking out for a similar trick here.

The metahumans who were once Task Force UK and Cloud 9 confer for the last time before going to war, and here the plan from Phase I becomes almost explicit. "It's time to start playing God games," urges David. "Why do you have to be so opposed to the plan?" Penny adds. David Cambridge is unmoved: "Why not just call it the Final Solution? I'm all for ascending to paradise, David, but I'm not entirely convinced that we have the right to kick away the ladder behind us."
Ruby turns the Chimera pyramid to dust.

We rejoin Peyne, growing younger (the Lloigor's gift for his help) and see the spider-creatures walking the ruined London, though Yeowell's art here has become bright and simple: a kid's picture book of horror, without the necessary effect. The US brings out the Shadowmen again, but while they caught Zenith's parents off-guard in 1968, this new breed is prepared; only Domino, who was starting to dispute the plan, goes down, while David finishes off both him and the agents. The scene is a knickerbocker gory of pinks, turquoise and bright yellow, again too dayglo-crude to be properly nightmarish -- but the prose retains some power, with David's commentary taking on a 9/11 resonance.

"The first pictures to come in from Washington were shocking. Most people, myself included, seemed to feel that they were watching a film, that these scenes of devastation were special effects. The human mind was pushed to the limit of its capacity to comprehend rapid change. It was fascinating to watch. And horrifying, of course."

Unfortunately, the accompanying illo -- a canary-yellow backdrop of flames, with scribbled silhouettes in the foreground -- just hurts the eyes rather than searing the mind or turning the stomach.

The plan is now in place -- "as of today, we are assuming guardianship of this planet" -- and StJohn is left stranded, with only Zenith and the candy-pink Robot Archie, neither of whom even half-understand the scale of events or the history behind it, to stop his former friends, lovers and comrades. Archie loses his tin head after a couple of mindless one-liners even Arnold would throw out -- "hey, Spook! here's that chair you order!" and Zenith's role is reduced to making dumb comments about dodgy Ecstasy and Czech cartoons. He was always an arrogant sod, but in Phases I and II he showed quick skills and a kind of cynical courage. Here he's just a slob. By rights he should have been killed off far earlier, given that he never grasps what's going on and has entirely gone to seed as a metahuman; you get the sense that Morrison has grown to absolutely despise him.

When the eponymous hero has no other job in the script but to play the stupid sidekick -- when the sidekick, a pink robot, is more heroic than the title character -- when the only guy left to root for is St John, a middle-aged, white-haired guy who now happens to be the Conservative Prime Minister -- you struggle to remain at all involved in the plot.

The big battle is about psychic combat, which means Yeowell draws ice cream swirls filling roughly-sketched rooms and -- a terrible sign of lost confidence and ability -- starts adding speed lines wobbling around his figures' limbs to show their movement. The manga-style whooshes of air in Phase II have become space-filling scrawls against pale blue backgrounds: not just an utter lack of imagination and effort, but a climactic superhuman combat depicted as lazy scribble and colouring that ignores all logic and aesthetics. Every interior here has canary-yellow walls -- that's every room we see in London, circa Phase IV -- matched with sky-blue carpet. Bad enough, but Yeowell forgets even that horrendous scheme and fills in frames with sickly mauve just for variation. When we revisit the "black sun" dream from Phase II again -- reprinted exactly as it was in the earlier episode -- it's a sorry revelation exactly how good the artwork was back then, and how blatantly, how dramatically it's declined since.

Peyne is abandoned by his "protection", the clones of Zenith's mother (Shockwave and Blaze) as they join their own kind, the Horus Foundation, and hand over Zenith's toddler child to David Cambridge. The telepathic exchanges in a new language, excluding Peyne as a wreck of the old world, are neatly described as wasp-buzzing in his head, and Peyne's memoirs have a genuinely literate, mournful quality: "nothing can describe how it feels when one's heart dies." The background walls here, of course, are canary-yellow, and the superhumans are all dressed in primary colours, which rather empties their revelation of any dark potency. "We even fought the Lloigor without realising just what they were...it was us, you see. It was us all along. We are, we were, we will be, the Lloigor."

The prose, looked at in sober black and white, is actually no less powerful than earlier Phases, and the twist that pulls the floor out from everything we've previously believed, tossing "good" and "bad" in the air, would have the right chill -- if the background wasn't constantly glaring out in that same canary-yellow, if the characters' faces were depicted with several degrees' more subtlety, if the costumes were muted instead of the first choices from a kid's paintbox. Even ignoring the wrong kind of horrors that the art holds, each episode feels so short (5 pages, six frames per page) that there's a slapdash, cartoonish air about the plotting. Each week, a new brief scene, with increasingly bland, expository dialogue.

Zenith: Everything. The whole world's like this. Well, that's that then I suppose... You're talking about the plan you all used to go on about, aren't you? Maybe it's time you told me what the plan was.

The fact is that the plan has already been made perfectly clear without yet another flashback to the 60s, this time in multicoloured psychedelia-plus (pink walls with swirls), but here it's explained once more, echoing what we knew or guessed from previous Phases: Siadwel and David resisting the project to "cleanse the planet...wrench the earth off its axis, destroying ninety percent of terrestrial life in the process."

Again, it's a fascinating idea that the heroes we were rooting for from the start -- we were right behind Ruby in her first appearance as a mere fashion mag editor faced with a Nazi superman, and the Cloud 9 graduates like David and Penny seemed like charismatic idols on the right side of the war during Phase III -- turn out to have been plotting against humankind since the 1960s, before the story of Zenith himself even began. The notion that the superheroes-become-villains didn't even need to do anything so crude as change the world's alignment, because they realised they were Dark Gods all along, is a further intriguing point that's skipped over in one frame: and there are other underlying questions that unsettle much earlier episodes. Does the existence of Chimera, with his multiple angles and faces, hint at what the more personable, attractive heroes were on the inside, right since their birth? Why did Masterman need a ritual to be activated by the Lloigor as a host body, if the British metahumans were Lloigor on a fundamental level from their creation onwards? Perhaps these links and loose threads are left to the reader.

Again we see the images from StJohn's dream, showing how far in advance Morrison planned this finale, and of course he recognises the creatures incubating in the sun because they're his old colleagues, reborn as Dark Gods. A shame each episode now involves so many full-page splashes, making it even more like a picture book and even more skimpy as a weekly installment. The physical fight between Zenith, StJohn and the new villains is much like Yeowell's work on The Invisibles, with broadly-drawn insectoids zooming across each frame and the combat shown in big, widescreen gestures rather than the clear, clinical precision of a Frank Miller. The far smaller-scale fight at the end of Phase I, though, seemed to mean a lot more, because it took place in a real London with screaming citizens, not a blank, deserted expanse that looks like a videogame arena. It's hard to care too much when everyone else is dead, when two thirds of the heroes are monsters, one's too stupid to deserve victory and the other, again, is the Tory PM in army fatigues. The world's ended. All that's left are a few figures in thick marker pen, coloured with the first felt-tips that came to hand (turquoise, canary-yellow). Zenith faces off against the Lloigor alone, with StJohn impaled on Maximan's statue... and as expected, it's a neon scrawl. It's all too ugly, too obvious. We're in the middle of nowhere, in a blank space of smoke and fire. We don't care anymore because there's nobody worth caring about. Zenith apparently defeats the Dark Gods -- far less interesting or charismatic now they look like shop window dummies -- with a blast of (what?) blaze or psychic power, or raw energy. His toddler son, a blank-faced GAP kid, floats before him then expands to become Iok Sotot, the same old toothy maw we saw in Phase I. It's over in two more frames... the whole thing. The title character's downfall is an absurd anticlimax, the most brainless final combat you can imagine. A gigantic mouth that can only eat -- a stupid hero who doesn't know or care what's going on unless it affects him personally, whose powers amount to dumb blasting. This is the death of Zenith at the hands of his son, fathered from clones of his mother. Surely we should feel something; surely it should be a more nuanced moment than a desperate burst of energy, then a big Sarlacc gob, then a skeleton in costume.

The Dark Gods abandon Earth and soar upwards, and we wonder in another interesting moment, with Peyne, how he can continue to narrate this story if there's no world left with him in it... and then the big reveal. Archie's alive. John Smith is dead -- of a heart attack, which would kill the real-life politician not long afterward. Zenith has moved on from singing the Smiths to Suede's "Insatiable One". It goes on. The last frame is unfortunately an ugly art-offering, a sorry way to end it.

Actually... maybe on closer inspection Zenith Phase IV isn't too bad.
 
 
miss wonderstarr
10:31 / 14.09.04

EPILOGUE

As is probably obvious, in re-reading the whole Zenith saga, I gained more respect for the way the “plan” and the plot of Phase IV fits into the story, bringing to boiling point an underlying narrative that was bubbling under since the first episodes.

It also may be obvious that I was writing from about 10pm-1am, and so, flagged by fatigue, didn’t manage to tie up my own criticism.

So here in brief are my main points against Zenith Phase IV.

1. Length of Phase in episodes – after a 26 part epic, 15 installments to deal with a grand project involving all the original characters, back on “our” alternative Earth, seems skimpy.

2 Length of episodes in pages/number of frames per page – perhaps 5 pages is entirely average for a 2000AD strip, but with all the huge splash panels each episode felt brief, over before you knew it. Each new part of the story seemed the length of an advertising break rather than a TV show.

3 Art – compared to all Yeowell’s previous work on Zenith, despite its different and evolving styles, I maintain this Phase seems lazy. The lines are crude, thick, unsubtle. The colouring is garish and grotesque.

4 Lack of affect in the setting. We have seen at least two superhuman conflicts in London, during previous Phases: Masterman in Phase I and Mr Why in Phase III. On one level, then, to construct the final conflict as yet another showdown around Westminster is always going to seem unimaginative and lacking in novelty. However, both these earlier fight scenes carry weight and drama, in part because we get a strong sense of the real London they’re using as an arena. We know exactly where these metahumans are standing in relation to concrete landmarks and map references: when Zenith and his crew flee down the Underground in Phase III, it’s a nice touch that they’re running, accurately, from Westminster to St James’ Park down the District Line. In Phase IV, London has been reduced to smoke and flame before the fight even takes place. The city-setting is flat yellow and orange backdrop. There are no people to be injured, nobody to protect, no city to save. The final conflict takes place with nothing whatsoever at stake: it’s all over already.

5 Lack of affect in characterization. In Zenith Phase I, we are drawn quickly into the exterior and interior life of Ruby Fox, experiencing her way of seeing the world and becoming used to her everyday routines as a magazine editor, before uncanny horror enters her apartment in the form of Masterman. We have a normal, thirtysomething woman with apparently no powers, facing a Nazi ubermensch possessed by a Dark God. It’s a memorable scene. In Phase IV, Ruby looks like every other metahuman apart from Zenith and StJohn – a blank-faced, smooth-bodied shop dummy. This true form has been seen before in Phases II (Penny visiting St John) and III (Lux and Spook initiating Ruby) but previously there was a sense of character remaining in the faces, and visual interest in the bodies made of sparkle and glow. In Phase IV the villains are bland, identical clone-moulds (except from DJ Chill, who ludicrously adopts the “perfect” godlike form of a chubby shop dummy). Yet more could be done here. We’ve known Ruby Fox for years. She left her job and rediscovered her superhuman friends – she experienced other worlds, became divinely youthful, became closer to her true self and left her human shell behind. But there’s nothing in Phase IV about how Ruby Fox feels, what she now is…what it’s like to have been a woman who gradually became a Dark God. We get no idea how it feels for the “heroic” metahumans to grasp their destiny, to turn their back on humanity and become world-destroying villains.

As suggested in my initial post, we are left with nobody to root for or care about. Zenith comes out fighting as a kick-ass young buck in Phase I, even if he does it for the publicity. In Phase II, he surprises the villains with his ability to adapt, to react, to learn. He’s selfish but he’s fierce when someone tricks him – he’s driven by wanting to know about his parents, and if necessary he’s going to destroy any obstacles in his way. He’s arrogant because he’s the most powerful being on Earth, but he’s not stupid or careless. In Phase III, he takes more of a cowardly back seat during the war, but here we have other people to care about – and again, Morrison can make a reader care a great deal, very quickly. Tiger Tom and Tammy’s death, sacrificing themselves to save a world, cousins finally daring to kiss, grabs your heart more than anything in Phase IV. There are armies of brave, naïve souls in this war and I’d argue that we do feel for their losses. In Phase IV, Zenith has become such a brainless lout that he has no hope of winning – he’s just too stupid compared to the others – and so dumbly insensitive to anything going on around him that we barely even want him to win. When he seems to destroy the Lloigor, it’s not through skill or bravery but blind blasting to save himself – not for any more worthy aim, and not through any strategy.

6. Lack of affect in combat scenes. And there are a lot of combat scenes, this being the final conflict – yet the physical fights are just a lot of arm-swiping and ducking (ridiculous, when this is superhumans fighting insectoid Dark Gods, for it to look like a playground scuffle). It’s an imaginative stroke to have one of the main battles conducted entirely psychically, but the way it’s shown is ho-hum at best: swirling colours, whizzy lines. At least in Phase I’s superhero battle, you knew who was kicking who, and where… there was a sense of brutal cause and affect. Someone gets punched in the stomach, they go flying backwards from the momentum. Similarly, there could have been some level of precision or purpose to the battle of minds in Phase IV: consider the episodes devoted to King Mob’s struggle against narcotic imprisonment in the Invisibles. We should see Lux or StJohn’s internal landscape; we should know how exactly they’re striking the other, and what it’s hurting. We should have some vocabulary to describe what kind of psychic attack this is, what part of the mind it’s hitting. Instead we just have people squinting and other people reeling dizzily. As noted above, the ultimate battle in the last episode is a pitiful reduction and rush-job. The toddler Zenith never knew he’d fathered – through clones of his mother – talking to him lucidly then rearing up to destroy him. But it’s just a special-effects mouth. Zenith’s fighting talents have been boiled down to idiot-blasting – this is after Phase I spent leisurely episodes exploring and developing the metahumans’ various abilities and how they work, stressing that Zenith was more puissant than all the others. Think of the pseudo-science in Morrison’s JLA – the Flash Facts, the intelligent use of powers, the imaginative strategies. JLA isn’t about closing your eyes and sending out a heat ray: it’s about knowing how you can bend physics, and doing it cleverly, appropriately… and it’s much more interesting to read.

Overall: I feel the concept is fascinating and disturbing – heroes not just becoming villains, but always having been villains, without them realizing it – but the execution is almost entirely lax. Peyne’s regression and memoir-voiceover is intelligently done, but the rest of the plot is rushed through as though both Morrison and Yeowell were half-bored with the whole thing and wanted to finish the job.

NEXT: A COUPLE OF CONCEPTUAL QUESTIONS
 
 
miss wonderstarr
11:00 / 14.09.04

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Conceptual questions:
In Phase IV, David Cambridge reveals that the metahumans have always been Lloigor.

"It was us, you see. It was us all along. We are, we were, we will be, the Lloigor."

Whether he means this absolutely literally is open to debate, as he seems to be arguing from a perspective outside conventional time and space, as a Dark God himself – so what “all along” means to him is perhaps a concept beyond my mere human grasp.

BUT:

If the metahumans were always Lloigor all along, then why is there any issue about metahuman hosts being “possessed” and “occupied” by Lloigor? That concept drives the whole narratives of both Phase I and III – the good guys are fighting to stop it, the villains are motivated by the desire for strong bodies to inhabit.

In Phase I, Masterman is clearly taken over and reanimated by a Lloigor, Iok Sotot, Eater of Souls. His aim is then to “prepare the way for the others”, by finding other metahumans for possible breeding of a new race (Ruby) or for occupation (Zenith). Masterman wants to eat Zenith’s soul and use his body as the host for “our leader”.

“Then he and I will take control of the planet and breed a new race of superhumans…a race of terrible gods who will prepare your world for the morning of the black sun.”

This is nicely prophetic, four years before Phase IV’s black sunrise, but it doesn’t make logical sense. If the metahumans are already Lloigor, there’s no need to occupy them. If Ruby is a Lloigor, the issue of eating her soul and/or using her for breeding is irrelevant. There’s no need to breed a new race – they already exist on this earth. Surely Iok Sotot would recognize his own kind, rather than mistaking Ruby for a metahuman who can only be useful as an empty body? How can a Lloigor eat someone’s soul and inhabit them, if the soul of that person is already a Dark God?

Similarly, Phase III has many scenes of characters being overcome by Dark Gods and turning evil, or in Hotspur’s case, burning the Lloigor out. How can you burn something out if it’s what you are? You can mistake your own kind for the enemy, as Lux and Spook do with the Lloigor, fighting them in an ironic lack of full comprehension -- We even fought the Lloigor without realising just what they were...” – but you can’t exorcise your true nature from your body.

In the Phase II Interlude 2, we see Peyne creating the second batch of metahumans after Maximan – the group that would become Task Force UK, Cloud 9 and ultimately the Horus Foundation. They’re created by injecting the Maximan serum into embryos.

Ruby Fox is born. Then Ridgeway (Dr Beat?) then Peter St John, David Cambridge. The next birth is a nightmare with “a dozen mouths” – presumably closer to a Lloigor’s pure state, and revealing its true self – followed by Siadwel, McDowell (Jenny McDowell, White Heat?) and Chimera, who as noted also appears in a pseudo-Lloigor form (“a storm of shapes”).

The abnormal births surely tell us what all the metahumans of this batch were, beneath the attractive surface – they were all Dark Gods from the start, in disguise. That must include Peter StJohn.

It must also include the alt-universe metahumans DJ Chill and Domino, who are part of the Horus Foundation in Phase IV and by extension all of Black Flag (Mantra, Smiley Sun) who must have been born from the same process (perhaps with some parallel-history variant) of the Maximan serum-injections.

Whether every superhuman across all the worlds is also Lloigor is open to debate, as they may have been created in entirely different ways – so Hotspur could conceivably be a different type, created through other means, and so excusing the apparent contradiction that he burned out his true Lloigor self from his body, something that would leave him a blank.

White Heat and Dr Beat give birth to Zenith as part of the “plan”, presumably to start the next, more powerful generation of metahumans and set in motion the project to wipe the slate clean of normal humans, beginning the Earth again. (That Zenith’s parents, rather than the Harry Potter-style beloved idols we’re led to see them as, are arch-instigators of the plot to destroy humanity is another fine twist that should surely be played up more… Zenith should realize this and its implications.)

So, Zenith, as the next generation superman, the genetic product of two metahumans with their combined powers, must also be a Lloigor.

So why, in Phases II, III and IV, is there an issue of choice involved? Why the idea that St John and Ruby are invited to “join” the plan, become one of the group, if they’re all inherently Lloigor? There shouldn’t be any conscious decision, any more than we all decide to be human. They’re Dark Gods. The birth scenes, with two Lloigor aberrations, surely tells us that. There’s no question about whether you can opt out of your own identity.

Perhaps the issue is whether St John, as a Lloigor, retains his human form and human ideals (a desire to save the earth and its occupants) rather than letting his true self rise to the surface and be realized.

Zenith’s son, though, poses a final problem. He “is” Iok Sotot. But the child would have been born as third-generation, immensely powerful Lloigor. Surely he’s not been “possessed” by Iok Sotot? Surely he’s a Dark God in his own right? How can Zenith’s genes, combined with those of his mother, produce the Dark God who was roaming homeless in Phase I and needed host bodies? Are there that few Dark Gods that this one had to “take over” the infant’s body, or his embryo form, to be born again on Earth? I thought we’d got over the idea that the Lloigor inhabit metahuman hosts, though?


-- FIN -- for now
 
 
ONLY NICE THINGS
12:42 / 14.09.04
If the metahumans were always Lloigor all along, then why is there any issue about metahuman hosts being “possessed” and “occupied” by Lloigor? That concept drives the whole narratives of both Phase I and III – the good guys are fighting to stop it, the villains are motivated by the desire for strong bodies to inhabit.

This is a problem, but not as big a problem as I think you imagine. The Black Flag/Cloud 9 metahumans do not become Lloigor until they incubate in the sun and "hatch" - so, what used to be Ruby Fox, say, is no longer Ruby Fox outside of Peyne's desire to comprehend and her/its indulgence of it. That's on the linear time model. Because the Lloigor are five-dimensional entities, their existence extends across time - so they exist, from our linear perspective, before they have been created. They, the dark gods, can exist at the same time (from our perspective) as the metahumans they grow from. It's possible that any metahumans could turn into dark gods given the right circumstances, but its also possible that it is some peculiarity in the Cloud 9/Black Flag creation process. Either way, Zenith/Peter St.John are not Lloigor because they don't become dark gods - the breeding programme followed by Peyne/White Heat/Iok Sotot is about creating superhuman bodies, not dark gods - at the time Zenith was conceived, his parents were planning to take over the world, not evolve into dark gods. His son *becomes* Iok Sotot after incubation in the sun.

In Phase I, Masterman is clearly taken over and reanimated by a Lloigor, Iok Sotot, Eater of Souls. His aim is then to “prepare the way for the others”, by finding other metahumans for possible breeding of a new race (Ruby) or for occupation (Zenith). Masterman wants to eat Zenith’s soul and use his body as the host for “our leader”.

“Then he and I will take control of the planet and breed a new race of superhumans…a race of terrible gods who will prepare your world for the morning of the black sun.”


OK, bear in mind all of the above. Then bear in mind that Iok Sotot is an inordinately stupid dark god - possibly a gag based on his parentage. Then bear in mind that the dark gods *don't exist in our reality*. That's why they don't just pop back from the Earth in 1990 and kill everyone, or dispose of the superhumans with the ease with which they dispose of Zenith and PSJ - they are in a) a 4th-dimensional space and b) Chimaera. That is, in turn, why they need bodies to possess, rather than just turning up.

I think you're overinvesting in the idea that Chimaera and the other child are Lloigor - they may foreshadow the Lloigor by being protean, but they are clearly something other than the Lloigor.

Iok Sotot's plan (to unfold it rather, and this is a bit fanwank) is to create superhumans, who will be possessed by the Lloigor from their other dimension (which turns out to be Chimaera) and bring about the apocalyptic conditions required to create the Black Sun, into which the possessed metahuman bodies can be placed to incubate and become the Lloigor. At this point this agenda appears to conflict with the motives of Ruby and Zenith (survive, not have their souls eaten). Later, the alignment of the Omnihedron is a more large-scale attempt to release the Lloigor into this reality *as physical entities*, which again at that point appears to conflict with the agendas of the superbeings in general (save their Earths/the Universe) and Lux/Spook/Ruby (take over their Earth themselves, as metahumans) it's only after that that these superbeings realise that actually they are the rivals for world domination they had been seeking to forestall. So "we always were the Lloigor" means "we did not realise it, but the beings known as Lloigor that we were fighting are actually us".

So, a superhuman possessed by a Lloigor, a superhuman which is the larval stage of a Lloigor (which may mean all superhumans, but I suspect is not) and an actual Lloigor are very different things. Hotspur was the first, may have been the second and most certainly was not the third. That leaves the question of where Mr Lion and Mr Unicorn (and Hotspur) *went*, - at a guess, that portal is the way the Lloigor can return themselves, once placed in bodies, to their own dimension (that is, Chimaera, now turned into the scary, senseless space).

Now, *that* leaves the question of how come Iok Sotot gets to manifest in some fashion other than inside Masterman's body in Phase 1. That *does* seem to be a plot hole, given that you don't have this problem with the Lloigor-possessed bodies that are killed in Phase 3. Could it be a property unique to Iok Sotot - we seem to be inside his body rather than inside Chimaera - possibly it *does* succeed in manifesting in our dimension, but finds itself limited by the absence of the conditions in which the Lloigor usually have corporeal existence (that is, the black sun, or being inside Chimaera, or both), which is why PStJ finds it so easy to destroy...

Incidentally, might it be one reason why everything is so whackily-drawn? Everything after the scene in PStJ's office is taking place in a simulacrum of the universe... just a vague thought.

(Sorry for any omissions -this is being done from memory)
 
 
miss wonderstarr
13:07 / 14.09.04
A fantastic reply -- I think the old "they're in 5-dimensional space, so the story doesn't have to be consistent in our linear 4-dimensional terms" is a bit of a get-out when applied here, as it is to The Invisibles.

I shall have to think more about your main points and quibble with a couple of them when I have more time -- I have already given 24 hours to Zenith posts I think.

One issue I don't understand in your account -- you keep referring to the Lloigor dimension as Chimera (I think they spell it that way, not as Chimaera.)

My understanding is that St John trapped the Lloigor/Horus Foundation in the Chimera pyramid only at the point when Ruby destroyed it. You seem to be implying that the Lloigor 5th dimension is Chimera all along. I think he created a pocket universe through tricking Ruby.

Comparing the images of Chimera, and the descriptions of this and the other aborted metahuman baby, to the images and descriptions of the Lloigor, does suggest to me that they're of the same kind from birth onwards, but your theory about the three stages of possession and incubation is also a good one.
 
 
miss wonderstarr
13:36 / 14.09.04
By Iok Sotot's parentage, do you mean as the result of Zenith's incestuous breeding with his mother's clone, or some Dark God dynasty? Because Iok Sotot isn't really Zenith's son... Zenith's son, according to your theory which I accept, only becomes Iok Sotot after incubation. He is presumably the metahuman host.

it's only after that that these superbeings realise that actually they are the rivals for world domination they had been seeking to forestall. So "we always were the Lloigor" means "we did not realise it, but the beings known as Lloigor that we were fighting are actually us".

Um... these superbeings realise that actually they [the Lloigor?] are the rivals for world domination that they [the superhumans?] had been seeking to forestall.

The Lloigor aren't the superhumans' rivals, surely? They seem to be their enemies but actually, in your scheme of things, they are a pantheon of Dark Gods to whom the superhumans give themselves up, in Phase IV.

So the beings the superhumans were fighting were not the same as them at the time -- again, if I accept your theory that superhuman and Lloigor are not the same thing from birth -- they're only the same as them "now", in Phase IV, when David announces it.

Even at that "now", the superhumans are presumably larval Lloigor (the beings of light) rather than fully-fledged Lloigor. So, unless we bend the rules of what "now", "always have been" and so on usually signify, when David tells St John that they are Lloigor, that's not strictly true. Yet.
 
 
ONLY NICE THINGS
14:06 / 14.09.04
A fantastic reply -- I think the old "they're in 5-dimensional space, so the story doesn't have to be consistent in our linear 4-dimensional terms" is a bit of a get-out when applied here, as it is to The Invisibles.

Thanks, although I don't think I'm exactly saying that... The disjunction between linear time and the Lloigor is not an attempt to resolve inconsistency - it's the only way that the series makes sense. In fact, the idea is far more integral here, whereas in the Invisibles it is a bit tacked-on.

My understanding is that St John trapped the Lloigor/Horus Foundation in the Chimera pyramid only at the point when Ruby destroyed it. You seem to be implying that the Lloigor 5th dimension is Chimera all along. I think he created a pocket universe through tricking Ruby.

It's just a thought ... but in linear time, the Lloigor don't exist until pretty much the end of Book 4, when they come out of the sun. Therefore, the fact that they have cropped up as the bad guys in two of the previous three phases means that they are operating in a different relationship to time.

So, PStJ trapped the Horus Foundation in Chimera just before Ruby Fox destroyed the paperweight. In fact, as we see at the end, she destroys the representation within Chimera of the paperweight that in our world is Chimera, which contains a universe in which there is an Earth on which there is an office in which there is a paperweight that Ruby Fox destroys (the universe clearly exists inside Chimera all the time - at the end of Phase 2 it expands and expands, until eventually Zenith picks up the paperweight, in which you can see the Milky Way - PStJ doesn't *create* the pocket universe; the pocket universe is Chimera). If you see what I mean. From then on, the Horus foundation are inside Chimera, as are (possibly) Zenith and PStJ (unless those are their Chimeric doubles - how much time has passed between the moment Ruby Fox destroys the paperweight and PStJ stands in his office holding Chimera and quoting Blake? I suspect not much - is there a clock in the background, by any chance?) and again possibly Peyne, his girls, Zenith's kid and so on.

So, from our point of view the Lloigor come into existence around about issue 10 of Zenith: Phase 4. My assumption would be that the battles that we see in Phase 1 and Phase 3 are attempts by the Lloigor, possibly without understanding it, as we do not know how they perceive time, to create a set of circumstances in which their birth takes place in a different set of circumstances - specifically, where they are not stuck in a paperweight. Therefore their "other dimension" *is* Chimera, and their physical bodies, insofar as the concept makes sense in talking abiout Lloigor - that is the things they used to kill Zenith and PStJ in Phase 4 - are stuck there, which is why, whereas all the other characters can hop around the multiverse using Einstein-Rosen bridges, they have to possess bodies already *in* the multiverse - they are stuck outside it, or more precisely inside a paperweight on Peter St. John's desk.

My next question would be - does Peter St. John destroy the Lloigor inside Chimera after his Blake quotation? IIRC, he narrows his eyes in his usual "I am using my powers" way... in which case the actions of the Lloigor in Phases 1 and 3 actually take place during the period between them discovering that they are inside Chimera and their almost immediate destruction. Which is actually quite a cool concept.

As for the importance of being Zenith, and why he is so shit in Phase 4: I disagree. Zenith is *always* a bit shit, in those terms. His flirtations with heroism are just that - flirtations. PStJ defeats Iok Sotot, PStJ solves the riddle in Phase 2, PStJ fights Maximan in Phase 3, and it turns out that the heroic sacrifice that frustrates the Lloigor is by Vertex, not Zenith at all.

What he clearly has is potential. At various times he manifests not just flight, toughness and strength but also pyrokinesis and telepathy - the implication being, I suspect, that he has the potential to manifest any of the powers of Cloud 9. In terms of what Zenith can *do*, it's pretty clear why you'd want him to be the host for your leader as you bring about the Black Sun - he's very powerful indeed. *However*, he (or his Chimera equivalent) is still thinking in the wrong terms in Phase 4 - he is trying to hit people and set fire to them - the fact that, after his flame/energy blast blows the Lloigor apart, they turn up again perfectly hale and hearty in the next issue rather shows this. Just as he did in Phases 1 and 2, PStJ shows that the only way you can beat gods is to be smarter than them, and indeed to beat them before they know you are fighting them, as he does with both Masterman and the Horus Foundation...
 
 
ONLY NICE THINGS
14:33 / 14.09.04
The Lloigor aren't the superhumans' rivals, surely? They seem to be their enemies but actually, in your scheme of things, they are a pantheon of Dark Gods to whom the superhumans give themselves up, in Phase IV.

Nah... they aren't a pantheon of dark gods - they are what you get if you incubate a superhuman (possibly only one created or bred from the Masterman serum) in certain conditions. They just *look* like dark gods. That's one of many Cthulhu riffs in Zenith - ancient (or in this case, timeless) creatures that look like deities but aren't.

The Lloigor are the Horus Foundation's rivals, as their plans for the Earth appear to interfere with what the HF call the Plan - which is presumably why the HF are fighting the Lloigor in Phase 3 - they want the Earth for themselves. As it happens, accomplishing the Plan happens to dovetail with the required conditions to bring the Lloigor into being - notably superhumans who have stopped regarding themselves as human and have reshaped the world.

So the beings the superhumans were fighting were not the same as them at the time -- again, if I accept your theory that superhuman and Lloigor are not the same thing from birth -- they're only the same as them "now", in Phase IV, when David announces it.

The Lloigor exist at all points - so, although they come into being in Phase 4 issue 10 or thereabouts, they also exist throughout the run of Zenith. So, in, say, phase 3 issue 10, you have David Cambridge running around, but you also have the Lloigor that David Cambridge will become, who may be in possession of, say, Maximan. Remember, Masterman's first body was inhabited by a Lloigor which is one of the Horus Foundation, but is acting *before any of them have been born*.

Even at that "now", the superhumans are presumably larval Lloigor (the beings of light) rather than fully-fledged Lloigor. So, unless we bend the rules of what "now", "always have been" and so on usually signify, when David tells St John that they are Lloigor, that's not strictly true. Yet.

See above, really. I wouldn't get hung up on what precisely defines a "larval Lloigor". The Lloigor are not shining beings, any more than they are giant spiders or wisps of colour traversing space - they are "many-angled" - these are all just representations.

(as an aside, I suspect that there's foreshadowing here - the C9/BF metahuman's bodies are represented as increasngly mutable (as Proteus, in a rather different way). Lux's "disintegration", Spook's intangibility, Ruby Fox's de-ageing - these are all precursors to this. Which may suggest that becoming Lloigor is an evolutionary process also...
 
 
ONLY NICE THINGS
14:48 / 14.09.04
Because Iok Sotot isn't really Zenith's son... Zenith's son, according to your theory which I accept, only becomes Iok Sotot after incubation. He is presumably the metahuman host.

Sorry, missed that, although I think it's more broadly answered above. I don't think "host" is appropriate - a chrysalis is not the "host" for a butterfly, say, it's just a stage in its development. So, the Iok Sotot we encounter in Phase 1 is Zenith's son, but also exists back along the timeline, is worshipped by Nazis, gets put in Masterman's body, tries to create the conditions we see at the end of Phase 4... I think that makes more sense in terms of David Cambridge's statement than the idea that the Lloigor are separate entities that occupy the bodies of the metahumans - if they were, for starters, then they would still be around in the non-Chimera universe, and the Lloigor in the Chimera universe would be Chimera doubles...

So, Iok Sotot/Zenith Jr. is, like his father, very strong (don't the people summoning him say that he is stronger than the last one, presumbaly the inhabitant of the first Masterman body?), but not very bright.
 
 
_Boboss
14:57 / 14.09.04
do we ever hear anything about maximan's origin? (is that the right name? the dad's army guy.) i think one of the cloud 9 lot , or peyne in the interlude, says that the process that creates the kids is an improvement on the one he used earlier.

i don't really know what i'm getting at, but why's the allies' ubermensch so crap? does masterman understand they have a shared heritage? do they in fact share that heritage? where did peyne get the knock-off nazi serum from?

go on boiz, yr doing great.
 
 
Regrettable Juvenilia
15:07 / 14.09.04
This is going to be tricky, because a lot of people don't have these comics to refer back to - and some of us, like myself, are in the tenuous position of having read them but not owning them.

Nevertheless, I have to strongly disagree with (for starters) the idea that Zenith's failure to become a more heroic or sympathetic figure is a failing of Phase IV. In some ways, it's the whole point of the series. The idea of the initially selfish, unappealing protagonist who ultimately redeems themself through an act of heroic bravery is such a staple of comics (and other mediums) that we constantly expect Zenith to do this... And he never really does. He never really stops doing more harm than good. Haus has covered this slightly, pointing out that it's St John (or Vertex) who always saves the world, but it's worth noting the ways in which Zenith allows himself to be repeatedly played: he's more than happy to help breed a new race of superhumans for anyone's purposes as long as he gets a threesome out of it; he doesn't really give a shit about the fact that St John has taken over the country by dubious means at the end of Phase IV. It feels hollow when he appears to die; it feels hollow when it turns out things are sort-of okay and he's going to go back to being a shallow pop star. Zenith never learns. That's who he is. The comic named after him isn't meant to give you a warm glow inside when it's all over...
 
 
miss wonderstarr
17:28 / 14.09.04
This is going to be tricky, because a lot of people don't have these comics to refer back to - and some of us, like myself, are in the tenuous position of having read them but not owning them.

And then there are people like me, who own every issue and thought they understood it, but are having their minds stretched in 5-dimensional space by Haus... I admit I thought I was on top of this story, so applause to you Haus for whipping it out from under me, without even having the issues in front of you.
 
 
miss wonderstarr
19:43 / 14.09.04


No, there is no clock in the StJohn with pyramid and Blake scene. Also, StJohn is with Zenith when the pyramid is destroyed by Ruby, but alone when we realise the Lloigor are inside it, so clearly some time has passed.

The scene where Ruby destroys the paperweight includes a frame that is clearly meant to indicate dimensional-transition -- a rip in the universe, twinkling with flashes of light. When StJohn, in close-up, orders her to "put it down", I think we can assume he's psychic-ordering her to crush it, and somehow telling Chimera to trap them inside it.

However, if it's a duplicate of our universe, Ruby et al are already inside it on an infinitely-smaller scale, and presumably everything that happens in our universe is copied within Chimera... which seems to empty of meaning the idea that Ruby and the Horus Foundation are "moved" into the pyramid. They're already in there, along with Zenith and StJohn. More accurately, perhaps, StJohn has communicated with Chimera in order to shift the Horus Foundation out of our universe and into its miniature universe alone. (Although, again, they were already there, so I'm still not clear on how that would work... unless "duplicate universe" doesn't imply an exact copy of everything currently going on in London.)

At the point where the frame rips and twinkles as described above, then, our perspective shifts to inside Chimera, and everything we see from then until the big reveal of StJohn holding the Lloigor in his paperweight is only going on in the mini-universe.

However: I'm trying to wrap my mind around it, but I don't quite see how if the Lloigor are trapped in the pocket universe, they can (in our terms) step back in time to intrude in human history and metahuman evolution, trying to shape the circumstances that would enable their birth outside the pocket universe. They're trapped in a paperweight.

I'm not entirely convinced, then, that it isn't possible to see the chronology in a fairly linear way. We don't have to suppose that the Lloigor only came into existence in Phase IV when the Horus metahumans incubated in the sun; we can see that as the first time they all succeeded in evolving into a form of their true, many-angled identities that could be sustained in four dimensions.

That's what the Lloigor want all along -- strong metahuman bodies, the more powerful the better, to serve as vehicles for them to occupy our space -- which according to all evidence, they can't do otherwise -- and create the Black Sun that will serve as their "egg" for birth into our space. That's not birth as in "existing for the first time in the story", but as in "achieving sustained existence in our universe for the first time."

(Except for Iok Sotot's appearance at the start and end of Phase I. Perhaps this is an exception we should disregard.)

Until the Horus Foundation see "occupation" by the Lloigor not as a demonic possession but as the next step in their own evolution to god status, the Lloigor only seem to take partial control of metahuman bodies (Mr Lion and Ace Hart in Phase III aren't at the same advanced stage of Lloigor "possession"/development as Lux and Spook are in Phase IV) and never reach the point where they could enter our own space in their own form and rampage across the universe in search of its limits.

(Again, if they're always trapped in a pocket universe, I see no way the Lloigor could inhabit Masterman, Maximan, Lion, Hotspur, Electroman, Ace and others. They're not in the same universe as those guys. They're in a paperweight.)

If all the Lloigor machinations in Phases I and III are instances of the Lloigor dipping "back" (an irrelevant term for them), then I don't see how they fail. They've discovered they're trapped in a paperweight. They (if we suspend disbelief on this one) somehow tap into the 1940s in the real universe, not the Chimera-verse, and inhabit Masterman, then the second Masterman, then (through occupied metahuman pawns) try to use the Omnihedron as a means of entering our universe in their own many-angled forms, then commune with the Horus Foundation and convince them to create the Black Sun in order to evolve themselves into the Lloigor within our universe... then how do they fall for the same trick again that got them into the paperweight the first time round? They know they're being held prisoner by Peter St John. Couldn't they, on their second attempt, avoid destroying the paperweight and triggering their containment again into the Chimeraverse?

-------------------

Haus, I know this may be difficult in terms of your "5-D" perspective on Zenith, but could you draw up a chronology of what you're saying happens?
 
 
miss wonderstarr
20:06 / 14.09.04
Another point before I throw my Zenith collection out in disgust.

Say I allow that the Lloigor "dimension" is really Chimera, and that all the Lloigor manifestations in Phases I to III are attempts by the Lloigor-in-Chimera to influence events so that they get metahumans to create the Black Sun but don't end up in a paperweight... which is quite a leap given that they're trapped in there as tiny entities, and it's not much of a prison if they can still inhabit metahuman bodies in the non-Chimera, in addition to appearing in the real universe as fearsome collections of teeth and eyes.

If I allow that all the Lloigor appearances and influences in Phases I to III are desperate measures taken by the trapped Lloigor we see in Phase IV, somehow reaching outside the Chimera-dimension into the far larger alternate universes inhabited by Zenith, Mantra, Hotspur and the others...

Then the fact remains that the Lloigor don't seem, logically, to be changing anything.

They got into the paperweight through a sequence of events that led from Lux, Spook, DJ Chill and Voltage realising their evolved forms, creating the Sun-egg and incubating into full-fledged Lloigor.

For this sequence of events to arise, the Cloud 9 superhumans would have had to make their plan and start crossing the alternate earths, because that's how they met DJ Chill of Black Flag.

OK, so say the Lloigor are really pissed in the pyramid, and decide they're going to try to engineer a sequence of events that see them all created outside the pyramid this time.

What is it they do differently this time? They allow St John to be born, when they know he's the one who trapped them in the pyramid. They fail to destroy him when they're in possession of Masterman and Maximan successively.

They allow Zenith to be born of the Cloud 9 metahumans, although they know he's a spanner in the works. To be fair, perhaps they needed to let this go ahead in order to ensure the birth of Zenith Jr, who becomes one of them.

They try to get Masterman to beat Zenith so Iok Sotot can use his body -- that fails.

They try to use Maximan and the other "possessed" metahumans to configure the Omnihedron, though how a collection of normal-sized worlds in alignment would help them escape a miniature-universe is again open to question. Anyway, they mess that plan up too.

So they get Cloud 9's remaining members, now formed into the Horus Foundation and conveniently ready to carry out their "plan" of becoming gods, to create the Black Sun egg. But they did that before -- or they wouldn't have been born in the first place.

Then they/the Horus Foundation -- I'm unclear about the extent to which the metahumans "are" Lloigor, or Lloigor lavae, Lloigor hosts or whatever, at this precise point -- go to Peter StJohn's house, where they see the actual pyramid they're trapped in. Ruby destroys it, and once again the Lloigor think they're roaming free as rulers of the universe. But what's this! Oh fuck we're in the paperweight again!

So what exactly did the Lloigor "do differently" when they realised they were in the paperweight the first time around, and tried to create an altered history (from human perspectives, not theirs of course) whereby they wouldn't end up in the paperweight?
 
 
Ganesh
20:14 / 14.09.04
Presumably the Lloigor keep failing to 'win' because they're inside a paperweight inside a paperweight inside a paperweight, in an endless succession of mirror-Chimeraverses - and thus condemned to relive a timeloop of escaping from their prison dimension, taking over the Universe and fully actualising themselves, only to find they're still inside the paperweight.

Which, if we're assuming knowledge/memory survives a loop (and I'm sure 'loop' is the wrong word, given the Lloigor's non-linear relationship with time), must be rather frustrating. The fact that they were apparently surprised at the end of PhaseIV suggests that, at some point, they've 'forgotten' previous escape attempts.

Urgh. My hippocampi hurt.

Zenith was and is my favourite of the works of George Morrison, and I can't express how deeply, deeply happy this thread is making me. Many thanks, Kovacs and Haus.
 
 
miss wonderstarr
20:20 / 14.09.04
When StJohn, in close-up, orders her to "put it down", I think we can assume he's psychic-ordering her to crush it, and somehow telling Chimera to trap them inside it.


No I'm not quite right there... his close-up face indicates the command to trap Ruby et al inside Chimera (although they're "already there"), and when Ruby destroys the paperweight in the following frame, she is of course only destroying a Chimera-paperweight inside Chimera. Which must mean the destruction of all the mini-universes within Chimera, actually... it means she's ended the Russian-doll sequence, and that inside St John's paperweight is only one universe rather than one inside another.

Anyway, it does make some sense then if Ruby and her Foundation then go about the process of evolution thinking they're outside, when in fact they're inside *again*... though you'd think the Lloigor would realise pretty quickly, if they're already in Chimera, that Ruby et al have been transferred into the mini-universe with them.

I wonder if any of the mental wrestling I'm going through is due to possible inconsistencies or gaps in Morrison's plot, rather than my own shortcomings.
 
 
Ganesh
20:23 / 14.09.04
Hmm. I've just said pretty much what Kovacs said. Oh well.

On a frivolous note, am I correct in remembering the Chimeraverse paperweight as taking the form of a sort of stretched pyramid with a square base? If so, the five angles of the Lloigor's prison universe represents an ironic (and, I'm sure, unintended) conflation of the phrases 'five-dimensional' and 'many-angled'.
 
 
miss wonderstarr
20:26 / 14.09.04
I'm glad this is making you happy and hurting, Ganesh -- it's making me feel pretty stupid actually, but at the same time I take a perverse pleasure in this wrangle with the plot.

Presumably the Lloigor keep failing to 'win' because they're inside a paperweight inside a paperweight inside a paperweight, in an endless succession of mirror-Chimeraverses - and thus condemned to relive a timeloop of escaping from their prison dimension, taking over the Universe and fully actualising themselves, only to find they're still inside the paperweight.


Yes, that would work except that Ruby destroyed the paperweight, as I noted in the post just above, and so there aren't any universes inside the second-level Chimera.

There's our universe, with a Chimera paperweight, and then inside that there's another universe, without any Chimera paperweight -- so beyond that, there can't be lower levels.

True, though, perhaps they fail to understand logical causality in our terms, and can't grasp chronological sequence or linear time, which is why they keep failing to realise that one thing leads to another and overlooking certain details that will inevitably lead to their imprisonment again. (As far as we know, they've only tried twice, right?) Maybe their fifth-dimensional status makes our concept of "time" impossible for them to get their Lloigor heads around, which would explain why they mess up the chain of events even after having been trapped once before. Maybe humans would be equally rubbish at trying to escape from a two-dimensional universe, simply because we wouldn't understand the rules and physics as well as the long-term inhabitants.
 
 
Ganesh
20:36 / 14.09.04
Yes, that would work except that Ruby destroyed the paperweight, as I noted in the post just above, and so there aren't any universes inside the second-level Chimera.

There's our universe, with a Chimera paperweight, and then inside that there's another universe, without any Chimera paperweight -- so beyond that, there can't be lower levels.


Unless, when StJohn transports Ruby & Co. into Chimera, he automatically brings the succession of mirror-Chimeraverses into being (because his double in the Chimeraverse has transported those doubles into a double-Chimeraverse, in which a third StJohn has transported a third layer of Rubys into a third Chimeraverse, and so on ad infinitum).

In this scenario, when Ruby goes on to destroy the paperweight, we don't know which Ruby she is, in which Chimeraverse. We assume she's the 'second layer down' but if StJohn's momentary intervention truly created a nested infinity of Chimeraverses, she could well be the 'third Ruby down' or the fourth, or Ruby-to-the-power-of-blah - forever destroying one of an infinite number of paperweights.

Must. Go. Lie. Down...
 
 
paul rauschen
21:38 / 14.09.04
right, if someone else has pointed this out forgive me but in zenith phase I in the scene where iok sotot is summoned into the body of the 2nd masterman twin we see him being cunjored from the paperweight, go back and check it. it is without a doubt the chimera they are summoning him from. for me the only question that leaves (other than 'how many rubies?') is how the paperweight got back from 1992. maybe i'm misremebering but the lloigor reffered to as being ancient?
 
 
Ganesh
21:57 / 14.09.04
Oooh, have to go back and check out Phase I!
 
 
Alex's Grandma
22:20 / 14.09.04
If Lux etc only " become " the Lloigor in part IV, where almost everything takes place inside Chimera/StJ's pocket universe, wouldn't it be possible to argue that their ascension to the state of becoming their own worst enemies is StJ's satirical trope on ( what he sees as ) their overweaning ambitions as regards the future ? Bearing in mind that StJ's a Conservative, and that he's already thwarted " the plan " from the off, having already trapped all conceivable opposition, from the Sixties, in one of his office toys, ( nice touch, that, ) couldn't part IV ( and I could easily be wrong here, doing this from memory, there are probably holes in this argument you could drive an SUV through, ) be to at least to an extent a discussion of the fate of ideology in the Twentieth century ( where Lenin fucks up, where Jim Morrison OD's in a bath tub, etc, ) as hammered home by a super-human Tory strategist ? Insofar as a particular form of right wing rhetoric would have it that if people were given the ultimate freedom they'd only abuse it, and, er, turn themselves into dark gods who've incubated in the sun - You can imagine StJ chuckling quietly to himself as he sees his old team-mates going mad with power, when after all, actually, he's the one in control.

If nothing else, that would explain why Zenith the man gets to still be around - as a somewhat no-brainer, materialist figure, he's exactly the kind of character that StJ, the Sixties sell-out, Conservative PM would tend to encourage.

Well, or not. Either way, this is an excellent thread.
 
 
miss wonderstarr
23:06 / 14.09.04
1. yes, it's the same pyramid -- nice catch! OK, so against all odds that does seem to support the theory that the Lloigor are in the Chimera-pyramid-verse all the time. I will have to check Phase II to see where exactly the pyramid comes from in Zenith's apartment, because afterwards he gives it to StJohn. So there is some kind of loop going on, if the Lloigor were already in the pyramid, and they're trying to get out of the pyramid, but actually they stay in the pyramid.

2. I wondered why StJohn tells Zenith before his confrontation with Horus in Phase IV (I paraphrase) "it could be dangerous...that's why I wanted you to be here." Maybe this idea that Zenith is the brainless, consumerist, superficial, quintessentially 80s youth-lout and thug/patsy of the Thatcherite superhuman PM does point to the explanation.
 
 
miss wonderstarr
23:28 / 14.09.04
Chimera becomes the pyramid-paperweight in Phase II episode 16, so how it's around at the start of Phase I, holding the Lloigor inside it, truly is a mystery. Chimera wasn't even active prior to Phase II, as it was locked away by Peyne.

NB. Zenith asks explicitly "you're not one of those Dark Gods then", and gets the reply "I am thought"; I'll accept that while similar to the Lloigor, Chimera is not actually one of their kind.

Perhaps it is a more advanced state of the metahuman evolution, though, given that Lux, Penny and eventually Ruby manage to throw off the confines of their bodies and reshape themselves as radiant, youthful beings. Chimera has already broken free from the shell of a single form, from birth.

As such -- as the metahumans' evolution brings them towards the state when they will be reborn as Lloigor -- Chimera could be said to have more in common with Lloigor than with its fellow 1950s metahumans at this stage, ie. it's more liberated from humanity and closer to realising the potential that lies ahead of them.
 
 
paul rauschen
00:03 / 15.09.04
argh
typed shitloads and then it's gone
arse candle, i fucking hate computers
so forgive me if this seems a little terse at any point
anyway...lloigor

phase I, ep 13
st john "...20'000 years ago in carcosa it was called iok sotot, eater of souls..."
obviously they've been aorund for a while

phase I, ep 4
fox "the thing is they need physical bodies..."
they need physical bodies to exist outside the tetrahedron. ok, wee iok's around for a bit after his zenith ko's his masterman form, but it's a very brief amount of time so i conclude that they need physical bodies if they want to hang around for amore than few seconds.

phase II, ep 16
the chimera 'becomes everything' (so i guess we conclude that the universe is a tetrahedron). at this point there's two tetrahedrons; the one that ol' iok was counjured from and this fresh one...naturally we assume they're the same and that the new one goes round in a loop and becomes the one seen in phase I, unless we go for somethign stupid and far fetched like another set of lloigor were put in a dead similar tetrahedron ages ago.

in pahse III none of the possesed superhumans seem to have any of thier old personalities lingering about, there's no suggestion that there's some gestalt personality that's only part lloigor.

in phase IV when the llogor return from incubating in the sun (which i believe is the point that the lloigor as we know them are born, whoever talked abotu chrysalsis state was on the right track) they all seem to still have the same personalities. so i don't think it's the case that they decided to go and merge with the lloigor as someone else suggested. worth pointing out thaty're already stuck iside the tetrahedron at this point.

so in summary wot i think is that the tetrahedron get stuck in a time loop and goes way back and then forward again, all the while with the lloigor inside it
 
 
DavidXBrunt
00:56 / 15.09.04
Think too hard, look too hard and everything falls apart. Zenith IV is a piece of entertainment that concludes enough of the ongoing threads to provide narrative satisfaction. Shame the change to colour was ordered from on high, but that was a deliberately banjaxing move to stimie the chances of a collected edition. Apparantly. According to someone who should know.
 
 
Ganesh
01:03 / 15.09.04
Following the loops is part of the appeal, though...
 
 
miss wonderstarr
01:17 / 15.09.04
(NB. I am posting while not at peak -- gone midnight after a great deal of coffee -- so excuse lapses in style, spelling &c)

Not true that the Lloigor, or Lloigor-larvae, don't retain anything of their previous personalities. Mr Lion and Mr Unicorn clearly "remember" their previous relationship as metahuman colleagues, and speak in a distinctively formal style unique to them. The Lloigor-Lux seems to carry on speaking just as David Cambridge did; he and the rest of the ex-Horus Lloigor remember Peter StJohn and Zenith, their powers and potential as enemies. Indeed, when StJohn has his prescient dream of the Black Sun, the greatest horror seems to be that the creatures returning from the sky know his name. (Unless -- I haven't checked it just now -- the voice calling "Peter" is just Penny, in the waking world.)

(NB is the dream implanted by Penny as a warning, trigger or guide? She grins when he wakes up, perhaps knowing what he was just experiencing. Anyway this sequence, with its repeat in Phase IV, does hint at time-loop devices and perhaps points us towards that idea of flashbacks, flashforwards and temporal echoes running through, even structuring the saga as a whole)

True that Zenith Jr announces himself as Iok Sotot, and clearly sees his relationship with Zenith in that way rather than in terms of father and son.

I'd need more explanation of how exactly the Chimera-pyramid that appeared for the first time at the end of Phase II makes it back to the start of Phase I in time for Iok Sotot to be conjured by Fraulein Haas.

"Lloigor don't see time as we do", can't work here, because we're talking about a physical object in our own real-space that only came into existence some time after we see it in the summoning scene.

One further possible twist that, you never know, could work with this:

check out Zenith Jr's eyes before he opens up into Iok Sotot.

now check out Peter StJohn's eyes in the final panel of Phase IV.

Just as the "happy" or phyrric victory ending of Phase III can be seen with hindsight as extremely forboding (StJohn wondering "what now": cut to Cloud 9 and Black Flag glaring out of the frame, en masse), is it possible that StJohn is himself now choosing to realise his full evolutionary potential -- that he's destroyed his rivals and is only now unleashing his Lloigor self -- that his was the grandest plan of all, to achieve godhood alone? The last speech of the entire strip is about his "radical new direction for Great Britain"... isn't it at least left open that he could be about to shape the world and become, whatever, "a nice kind of Hitler", a dictator in his own shape, a dark god in his own right with Zenith, the tame next-gen superhuman, in the palm of his hand and without the irritation of Cambridge and Moon to stand in his way?

wouldn't it be kind of fitting for Morrison to leave the final panel of the final Phase ambiguous in this respect at least, rather than expecting us to be comforted and safely-satisfied by the idea of a Tory PM achieving his dreams of ultimate power?

If StJohn does ascend to a kind of godhood after the end of Phase IV, which I find fairly likely actually, then zzzzenith.com is stylised and ridiculous partly because we're in StJohn's caricatured construction of Britain 2000, a satire of his own invention. (Not that it really needs to be rationalised as it's clearly a gag strip at heart.)

Still not sure about how the pyramid got into Phase I, though.
 
 
Dan Fish - @Fish1k
11:03 / 15.09.04
Just a vague thought (don't have the issues to hand right now), but my copy of Phase1 (2000ad monthly) has some screwy dates for the opening flashback (I think the year is 'next' year, compared with the date at the open of the main story). Could this explain the Chimera pyramid paradox in some way, or was it just a mistake?
 
 
ONLY NICE THINGS
11:58 / 15.09.04
Gah! Lost post.

The pyramid in Phase 1 is interesting, isn't it? It presumably means:

1) At some point in the (linear) future, something, possibly PStJ, sends the pyramid back 20,000 years (or 60 years) into the past. So, Cambridge means "we were the Lloigor (in the past, in the sense that we were fighting entities that, from their perspective, we have already become)".

2) This keeps happening - the Lloigor rise, and are trapped in a pyramid, and attempt to get out of it. This is recursive, and it means we'd have to work out what is superhuman and what is Lloigor, and also why Zenith's son is self-identified as the same Iok Sotot that Zenith fights in Masterman and Mr Why, but it's possible.

3) The pyramid in phase 1 is not Chimera itself, but a means to channel the Lloigor who are stuck further up the timeline in Chimera, and has been used as such for millennia.

4) (Back to the 5D squid) Some property of Chimera, either in itself or because of the Lloigor, makes it exist independently of time, or across time, so it exists simultaneously in WW2, Phase 1 and Phase 4, and 20,000 years ago...

On your second point - I think Flyboy touches on this. I don't think anyone's meant to see PStJ as a good guy. Zenith is shallow and selfish, but PStJ is actively sinister - he's what happens if you don't shoot John Lennon: he turns into Michael Heseltine. PStJ, if we remember, has in all probability killed John Smith, and subsequently (if we assume Zzzzenith2000 to be canonical) starts running the country (and possibly the world) without the mandate of the people. He is not, IMHO, a dark god of any kind- in some ways he's worse; the Lloigor are at least pretty direct and inhuman. PStJ's plans for the world do (or at least may) not involve the death of most of humanity, or the destruction brought about by the Lloigor, but they are no less plans for the world: he is just brighter and more subtle. Possibly he has simply decided that he does not *need* to be a dark god to do it.

So, a "nice kind of Hitler", sure, but I think the point about PStJ is that he doesn't need to be a Lloigor to do it - he's smarter than that. Then again, I don't have the last page of Phase 4 nearby - what do his eyes do? Is it not just the blank Mandala effect?
 
 
miss wonderstarr
13:58 / 15.09.04
His eyes go blank, but I'm not sure we have seen that at any point previously from Mandala/St John.

However, just a couple of episodes before we have an extremely similar image of Zenith Jr grinning with his eyes blank, just before he releases himself into the Iok Sotot form.

I take your point Haus that StJohn's plans for domination could be more subtle and individual than simply "ok, the Horus gang's out of the way, NOW I'll become a Lloigor", but at least I feel this final frame is meant as a forboding hint that things aren't all good, and that this is just the start of a different tyranny.

I quite like the idea of the pyramid in Phase I being a different pyramid, a symbolic artefact that the Lloigor instructed (directly... through dreams... through unconscious suggestion, who knows) the Cult of the Black Sun to create.

As the Lloigor, according to the 5D-Haus-Theory, are in the Chimera-pyramid all along, it would be fitting that they get the Cult to conjure them up out of a simulacrum of that pyramid -- a ritual object.
 
 
miss wonderstarr
14:01 / 15.09.04
Interesting by the way that the only points anyone else has really tackled from my original post are "were the metahumans always Lloigor" and "is Zenith disappointingly stupid in Phase IV."

I was beginning to feel that my thread title was totally inappropriate now, not least because I find Phase IV more interesting (but still poorly executed) after this discussion -- but does this mean my criticisms of Phase IV's plotting, combat both psychic and physical, art, brevity and general "flatness" are accepted?
 
 
Regrettable Juvenilia
14:23 / 15.09.04
His eyes go blank, but I'm not sure we have seen that at any point previously from Mandala/St John.

Happens every time he uses the Mandala effect. And it's often spooky: the first time we meet St John he claims to have lost his powers, establishes himself as a Tory git, then a few panels later is zoning out on his own in his office over a newspaper, blank-eyed, psychedelic effects agogo.

I feel this final frame is meant as a forboding hint that things aren't all good, and that this is just the start of a different tyranny.

Exactly, but it's really important to realise how much of the bad feeling is meant to come just from the Tories getting in again (as they did), and what Morrison thinks of this in political terms. This is made even more obvious in 'zzzenith.com' when Tony Blair is revealed to be St John's mind-controlled puppet (the point could hardly be hammered home more forcefully). I always thought Zenith's remark that Blair's mannerisms resembled St John to be Morrison's most accurate comment on/claim on behalf of his own ability to foreshadow real world events (and he's certainly made some inaccurate ones - "suddenly there were loads of bald men and trannies in pop culture after The Invisibles!", indeed).
 
 
ONLY NICE THINGS
15:55 / 15.09.04
*I* thought that was what happened - which was why I thought he might have been "squashing" the Lloigor.

On the more general question... hmm, tricky. I think possibly my feelings about Phase 4 are coloured by my relief that it was finally out, but it does, I'd suggest, show in some ways a bit of a law of diminishing returns. Simply put, it's too much like a) Miracleman and b) Phase 1, which I think is thematically deliberate but does mean that the big reveals are a bit "non-revealy" - once again, Peter St John has done something a few issues in in his office that will make the ultimate defeat of the baddies very easy later. Once again, Zenith appears to have won, and then turns outto have underestimated his opponent. And so on...

Despite that, I think Morrison's scripting is still strong (which is lucky, since a lot of his stocks in trade are being developed here). I'm not a big fan of the colouring of Yeowell's art, here, and some of his lines are flattened by it to the extent that limbs, IIRC, appear to be flat parallelograms rather than jointed cylinders... I rather liked the depiction of the post-Lloigor world, though - the vague quality and unfilled spaces made me feel like this was a place where things did not make sense, and where there was no point paying too much attention to anything, as it was subject to change at any moment...

However. Most of all, I'm just not sure that Zenith 4 neded to exist. It was in some ways jarringly different to Phases 1-3 in presentation and to an extent in tone as well - I agree entirely that the fighting in 3 in particular seemed cramped and desperate compared to the (admittedly futile) fisticuffs in 4. 4 has too many slightly disappointing pay-offs - like the morning of the Black Sun, which works brilliantly in Phase 2, but is, oddly, just too abstract when it really happens.

The other thing, of course, is the way that the meat of the action is taking place in a fake universe, with either fake or sock-puppet heroes - after the big reveal, which is in itself perfectly groovy, there's a sort of "OK, so it was all a dream" feeling... Morrison being too clever, maybe. And despite some nice creepiness - the people with hands for heads (Rock of Ages, anyone?) the horrible world the Lloigor create was better when we didn't see it.

So, I would have preferred a longer, black and white and better Phase 4, certainly. But I'll have to dig out my old copies to get more clarity on this...
 
 
Haus of Mystery
16:23 / 15.09.04
I love Peyne's 'rebirth'. That episode is simply fucking amazing, and at the time I was suckered by the apparently bleak ending. I honestly thought Morrison would kill Zenith in the spirit of the age, and was thankfully rewarded by the shit-eating grin of yr man victorious at the end.

Also loved St John impaled on William Whitlock's fist. OUCH.
 
  

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