British superhero comics have two kings beneath the hill. Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman produced a legendary run on Miracleman which is exactly as stunning as most people who’ve read it say it is. Unfortunately it’s also mired in such an incredibly complex, and crushingly boring, legal struggle that I first heard was “about to be resolved” ten years ago. So far? Still no sign.
The other great lost British superhero comic is Zenith . It ran in a series of chapters across 2000AD and followed the main character, a superpowered, staggeringly feckless pop star through his life, life in the UK in the 1980s and a gradually escalating story that took in alternate worlds, the truth about what happened to his parents, the birth of the superhuman program back in World War 2, an evil version of Richard Branson and the work of HP Lovecraft.
It’s a staggeringly impressive piece of work, written by Grant Morrison with character designs by Brendan McCarthy and art by Steve Yeowell and, because of legal complications once again, it’s not been in print for years and was never collected in complete form. The phases that were reprinted regularly go for £100 plus on eBay.
Now, Zenith ’s back. Rebellion announced today that it will be releasing a limited edition, never-to-be-repeated collection of the entire series, available only through their online store from the 1 July. That’s the good news. The bad news is it’s going to be £100 for the entire weighty tome. So, while Zenith ’s back, he’s back for people whose disposable income skews a tad higher than most. And, I have to be honest, that really disappoints me. I can see the logic behind Rebellion choosing this route – after all, demand for the book is going to be insane – but it stings a little bit, partially because I have no hope of affording it and partially because this is British comics at its absolute best and it deserves a much wider audience than its going to get.
Nonetheless, this is one of the five greatest pieces of superhero fiction ever printed and if you’ve got the money? Absolutely go for it. Zenith is like Watchmen , X-Men: Days Of Future Past and V For Vendetta – an absolute, stone-cold classic. I just wish it was one more people were going to be able to enjoy.