Like the best puzzles, Flex Mentallo can be viewed at many angles. Let’s start on the surface and dive deep.
Flex Mentallo is the bizarre debut of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, the creative team who will go on to create the sensational, yet haunting, We3, All Star Superman, Earth 2 and many other fine titles. It features a leopard bikini-briefs wearing muscleman, who is essentially Charles Atlas, made mystic as he attempts to find his super-hero buddies in order to stop the end of the world.
Layered on top of this adventure is the suicide hotline confessions of a rock star and comic book writer processing his need for comics, rooted in his unhappy childhood, and increasingly questioning the place for such happy-go-lucky faire in today’s reality.
This comic book creator IS the creator of Flex, our erstwhile protagonist, and in his pill-induced death-throes he begs for the superheroes of his youth to save him from his present.
Yes, and no. You’d need a PHD to fully grasp everything going on here.
See, the graphic novel Flex Mentallo is also Grant Morrison’s post-Watchmen dissertation on the state of the comic book industry, as well as a treatise on the origins of ideas and the nature of multiple realities.
Within the context of Flex Mentallo, the graphic novel is a self-contained reality trying to bleed into our universe in order to save itself from destruction. The fictional characters within plead that they are alive, that they want to live, and they intend to bring about a regenesis for themselves by introducing their world into your head as fiction to awaken when you, the reader, become shaman enough to give them physical life in your own reality.
WHEW! Let’s swim back up to the surface for a breath of fresh air, shall we?
Flex Mentallo is crazy, trippy and, thanks to the spectacular pencils of Quitely, one of the best looking comics around. Consider it the spiritual sequel to Watchmen, if by spiritual you mean “shamanic, ritualistic magic.”
Alan Moore will later attempt some similar themes in his masterwork Promethia, but it won’t be as weird or as gorgeous.
Those who like a challenge and those who believe comic books can transcend art will love this book like cereal loves milk. Folks who like their super heroes on the one-dimensional side should do like all kids do: stay in the shallow end until you learn to swim.
More musings from Unkiedev, Earth’s own sidekick, can be read at unkiedev.blogspot.com