By Grant Morrison and Duncan Fegredo (DC Comics; 1991/2006)
This three part comic miniseries is almost certainly one of the darkest, most psychotic works ever scripted by the demented Grant Morrison (of ARKHAM ASYLUM, THE INVISIBLES and many other bizarre works), and believe you me, that’s no small claim!
Kid Eternity is a character who first appeared in HIT COMICS back in 1942, and has made sporadic appearances since being sold to DC in the 1950s, including a self-titled Vertigo series in the 1990s. The present incarnation appeared in 1991, and is said to return Kid Eternity to his forties-era roots. I’m guessing, however, that the Kid’s original adventures weren’t nearly as twisted as what Grant Morrison and artist Duncan Fegredo have created!
Filled with genuinely disturbing and horrific imagery–since first reading this KID ETERNITY back in ‘91 I’ve never been able to shake the sight of disembodied mouths erupting from an elevator, or that of a woman’s hanging corpse pierced head to foot with silverware–this is a standout example of the type of adult-oriented comics that appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and ideal material for DC’s Vertigo imprint (which didn’t yet exist in 1991 but did eventually republish KID ETERNITY as a stand-alone graphic novel).
Related in fractured, time-tripping fashion through strikingly hazy, nightmarish imagery, KID ETERNITY begins with a car accident that lands Jerry, a stand-up comedian, in a coma. In what might be a flashback or near-death hallucination, Jerry finds himself at a party where Kid Eternity, a dark shade wearing multi-dimensional freak, somehow uses Jerry’s thoughts as a conduit to the mortal plain. Unfortunately this also brings forth the Shichiririn, astral presences that occupy inanimate objects–in this case a Picasso painting that springs to unpleasant life. The party quickly becomes all-out bloodbath and Jerry winds up in a tentative alliance with Kid Eternity.
The latter wastes no time inducting the hapless Jerry into his quest to enter Hell and rescue a comrade he left behind (the Kid having just escaped from the underworld himself). There’s also a coin-flipping, Bible-quoting serial killer who seems to have some bearing on the Kid’s quest, and a woman who when first seen is suffering nasty hallucinations involving dead rats and flesh-eating maggots.
Particularly impacting is Morrison and Fegredo’s depiction of Hell, a stifling industrial environ of perpetual pain and hopelessness. In this place “lovers, who have promised never to part, are fused together in a tangle of shrieking flesh,” in which state “they can only scream and cry out as other damned creatures burrow and build in their flesh.”
Eventually all becomes clear as we learn that the adventures of Jerry, the killer and the woman are all part of a vast cosmic plan whose pawns include an unwitting Kid Eternity himself. There’s even a happy ending of sorts, but don’t kid yourself: this is seriously gross and demented stuff, of interest primarily to those who are irrevocably brain-damaged. Is it any wonder I love it?