That weekend reprint does seem to have gotten my Morituri brain going at least a little bit. No idea if this will turn into a fuller series of posts, but we’ll do this one and see if more happen to present themselves. This time up it’s faith, in the person of Jelene Anderson.
Developing the ability to understand the way just about anything works if she touches it and / or focuses her attention on it, Jelene takes the name Adept. It would have been easy to take Jelene–a woman of explicitly stated spiritual faith–and follow a narrative in which the de-mystification of the world simultaneously destroys that faith. With death raining down on all sides,1 and the standing trope in science fiction that magic and spirituality are science we don’t understand, it would hardly be out of place for the soul of the group to lose her own faith as knowing how everything works still doesn’t give her all the answers.
This is a dark story in general, after all. The Morituri are walking dead. No matter what they do, it’s over. If The Horde doesn’t kill them, their own bodies will. They are walking no-win situations. Disillusionment is kind of built into the very core of the story, starting from the first issue, as the harsh reality of these young peoples’ fates smacks them in the face.
One of the things I think Gillis does a great job at with this series, though, is juxtaposition. In a tale of imminent death, literally from without (The Horde) and within (The Morituri Effect), there are nevertheless all these moments of hope. It seemed completely counter-intuitive, and yet I think for the most part Gillis pulls them off. In fact, once I look back at it, it seems as if he couldn’t have told the story without them.
Jelene is another wonderful blending of concepts which seem–at least in a lot of science fiction contexts–contradictory, but which come together in an unexpected way. There is certainly a level of disillusionment with the governmental bureaucrats overseeing the program, as she is at one point locked away with various technologies in an effort to maximize her metahuman insights before she dies. Despite this, as Jelene’s powers grow, so does her faith in a higher power.
As with Harold’s death previously, Jelene’s is another one which feeds into her goals and arc. Like a lot of Morituri, Jelene’s powers surge as she begins to near her end. She sees not just the workings of those objects near her, but begins to see the workings of the universe itself. And making those connections, witnessing some kind of unified quantification of the universe, she sees the creator she’s been seeking.
I think I’m making this sound more preachy than I think it reads. I didn’t get the sense that Gillis was trying to force some kind of belief system on the reader. Rather, he was taking the character to her natural conclusion. Which, yes, is her death. But, like I said before, the methods he uses manage to turn final, grim moments into this unexpected flare of hope which serves to pull the reader along, and kind of reinvests you in the narrative for the darkness yet to come.
1. In at least one case, this is quite literal: The Horde have adopted a tactic of taking prisoners just outside the edge of the atmosphere, and then throwing them out of their ships, where their bodies, burning upon re-entry, create a macabre shower of shooting stars.[back]