The Mystery Play was one of my first experiences with Grant Morrison’s writing, back in the day when I never even heard of Morrison, even though I had Arkham Asylum already (like a lot of comic book fans who grew up on comics, it took me a while to realize that someone actually wrote them too).
The story revolves around the murder of God; however, in this case, it’s the murder of an actor playing God in a mystery play in an English town. Inspector Frank Carpenter arrives to solve the case where all signs point to the murderer being the actor playing Satan. But, as usual in these kinds of things, nothing is what it seems.
This isn’t one of Morrison’s better known efforts, and a lot of the criticism I see about the book isn’t particularly flattering. The book is heavy on the symbolism, and Morrison isn’t keen on making it subtle (Inspector Carpenter), especially when it’s painted by Jon J. Muth.
The page I selected gives you a fairly good idea about what to expect from the story, with the dialogue filled with plenty of double entendres and the symbolism being flaunted at the forefront:
That all said, The Mystery Play has always had a special place in my heart. The story, especially as a graphic novel, works like a leftover Ingmar Bergman movie crossed with a David Lynch movie. While the story’s “big picture” may not hold up well, there are some individual scenes that are powerful and memorable, with some small ideas that do wonders in getting under your skin.
The Mystery Play feels like a rewrite or two away from being something truly amazing. But what Morrison and Muth created here is still worth checking out, because under the weight of its own ideas, the book has a lot to say with plenty of creepy scenes to keep things moving along.