Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"... So all I'm saying, Robert, is that we need to get the next phase of your career sorted out. A new image, keeping up with the times. All this rave stuff's had its day. The minute I heard that record where the fellow sings 'Raving, I'm Raving,' I knew it was the finish."
"I don't need an image, Eddie. I'm a household name. And anyway, the last time we talked about this you said punk was coming back."
"Did I? No, it'll not be punk, it'll be a revival of all that gender-bender nonsense. Boy George and Marilyn , remember? You wait and see, once that RuPaul fellow starts getting records in the charts, they'll all be swapping their trousers for tights."
"Why don't you just say it, Eddie: you want to see me in a bra, don't you? You have for years you daft old tart."
Funny how you can have a completely different perception of certain material when you re-read it. I distinctly remember this being my least favourite 'Phase' by some distance upon initial reading nearly twenty years ago. After the all-out superhuman war epic of ZENITH: PHASE THREE, this just felt like a massive anti-climax with a cop-out deus ex machina ending, and even the art seemed inferior in comparison.
In fact, upon reading it once again, I was struck by how fitting a conclusion it brings to the whole Zenith story, as well as being a great arc in its own right. And I appreciated the ending much more this time, more precisely a deos universi, for its cleverness (along with a certain other revelation regarding the true nature of the superhumans), especially when you realise Morrison certainly wasn't trying to suddenly wrap things up neatly because he had no idea how to finish the story. He almost certainly had this in mind right from the very beginning.
On the art front, I do still think Steve Yeowell looks better uncoloured. I loved the stark nature of his black and white art in PHASES TWO and THREE, and most of PHASE ONE. It just seemed more angular, precise. I think some of the beauty of his illustration is lost during the colouring process employed through this volume, but I fully appreciate that others may disagree.
Anyway, following the events of PHASE THREE, the surviving superhuman community has experienced a schism. The vast majority, under the banner of the Horus Programme, led by three of the original members of Cloud 9: Lux, Spook and Voltage, are openly proposing superhumans simply take charge of the planet for their own ends, humans being an out-evolved irrelevance. On the other side, wanting to maintain the status quo and trying to help humanity is their former colleague Peter St. John, a.k.a. Mandala, now the British Prime Minister, who is backed only by Zenith and Archie the robot.
Events escalate and rapidly start to spiral out of control following a failed decapitation strike on the Horus group by mildly psychic-powered human US government agents, then the revelation I alluded to changes everything, and the reason why the main story is interspersed with the memoirs of a de-aging Dr. Michael Peyne, told from a future where the Lloigor rule a devastated earth dimly illuminated by a huge black sun, becomes all too clear...
Then there's that ending... which as I said, is a brilliant conclusion to an early Morrison epic, which is as good as anything he's done since, I believe, but then I did always have a soft spot for this material, it being such a radical departure for a 2000AD strip at the time. Meanwhile, in amongst all the action, you get pearls of genius comedy poking fun at the popular music nonsense of the eighties and nineties like the opening conversation between Zenith and his manager Eddie, above. In terms of blending action and comedy, it's pitch-perfect. Unlike Zenith's singing.