Morbius the Living Vampire No. 8
Aesthetically, this comic was a joy to read. Though it was released in 1993, the art is free of the excessive details, shoddy draftsmanship and exaggerated anatomy for which comics of the early 90s are infamous. The art of Morbius has more in common with the ink puddles and flowing brushwork of 1970s comics. The script is a pared-down treatment of Marvel’s seventies style, mixing hardboiled banter, stream-of-consciousness narration and a dash of faux-Shakespeare.The pacing was steady, if a bit quick. I felt smoothly and efficiently guided to each of the scenes a standard Marvel comic should contain. Unfortunately, the actual story left a bad taste in my mouth.
The cover promises a cutely preachy story about Morbius having a bad trip to discover that drugs are bad. The story inside is a bit more nuanced than I expected, but not quite as nuanced as I would prefer. It’s implied that not all recreational drugs are equally dangerous, and a drug addict character is sympathetically portrayed: “You either have junk — or you’re trying to get some. No grey areas. No moral decisions.”
But there’s a shortage of sympathy for nonwhite victims of the drug economy. That addict is whose habit is portrayed as a respectable, even noble retreat from the uncertainty of modern life is white, while a group of black drug dealers are presented as backstabbing, gun-toting brutes who deserve to get beaten up by Morbius.
Superhero comics have long struggled to fit crime, which has social and economic causes, into the mold of a symbolic struggle between good and evil. But this genre need to make a criminal the bad guy for the hero to beat up felt particularly artificial after this comic admitted that criminals are motivated by forces other than pure evil. Especially since the exonerated criminal was white while the irredeemable ones were black.