August 2002

Karin L. Kross


Grant Morrison's "The Filth"

There's something unmistakable about Grant Morrison's brand of weirdness. I remember picking up one of his early New X-Men issues -- on opening it to a random page, the first thing my eyes fell on was a frame in which the Beast was saying, "I feel like a Hindu sex god." Yep, I thought, Grant is up to his old tricks, even here.

After the sustained glam-psychedelia of The Invisibles (for which I've been awaiting a long, slow, rainy weekend so that I can sit down and re-read the entire series from start to finish) Grant Morrison returns to DC/Vertigo with The Filth, a 13-issue series now two issues old. Once again, we're introduced to a conspiracy determined to keep the world running smoothly, whether the world knows it or not. But where The Invisibles was full of beautiful people having great tantric sex, The Filth ... well, it lives up to its name. Issue #1 starts off with the aftermath of an act of bloody violence (the meaning of which becomes slightly more clear much later), and quickly jumps to a day in the life of Greg Feely, a boring functionary with a penchant for nose-picking and whiling away his evenings with hard-core porn.

Naturally, all is not as it seems. On discovering a naked woman in his shower one night, Feely learns that he's actually Edward Slade, agent of the Filth, otherwise known as "the hand that wipes the arse of the world." (One might note that "the filth" is English slang for "the police" -- Morrison seems to have taken this idea and run with it.) Still mostly amnesiac and unsure if he's being told the truth, Feely/Slade is yanked out of his comfortable, if sordid, cover life and hauled off to confront an agent of the Filth gone wrong.

This series will try your patience, although now that there's more than one issue available, your patience may be less tried than that of those of us who picked it up as soon as it hit the stands. It's a little too early to tell how the work is going to hold together when complete, although the first two issues, taken together, are interesting enough to make you want to hold out at least a while longer. It's good to see Morrison's mordant wit at work, at any rate -- I mean, what's not to enjoy about characters like the Communist chimpanzee sniper, prone to saying things like "Lenin loves you, comrade!" And his longstanding obsessions -- conspiracies, secret societies, nanotechnology, and the nastier bits of the human psyche -- are very much at work; whether that is a good thing or not depends entirely on your tastes.

We'll revisit The Filth in approximately a year's time, when the series is complete. In the meantime, should you choose to tackle it now, good luck, and hang in there.

The Filth
Published by DC/Vertigo
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Chris Weston (pencils) and Gary Erskine (inks)
Issue 3 in stores the week of August 7