Don’t Mess with His Cat

The Filth: written by Grant Morrison; illustrated by Chris Weston and Gary Erskine (2002-2003): It’s helpful to know that ‘the Filth’ is British slang for ‘the police.’ Morrison and Weston present a world in which a secret police force called The Hand works to preserve Status: Q, the normative state of affairs in which most humans remains blissfully unaware of the extraordinarily strange world they really inhabit. Or so it seems, anyway.

Greg Feely is a normal, porn-loving fellow with a boring job and an ailing, beloved cat named Tony. Then he finds out that ‘Greg Feely’ is a parapersona, a hiding place for Hand operative Ned Slade. The Hand cleans up the messes that threaten the body politic, monsters and tyrants and murderers whose crimes resemble diseases and bodily frailties.

Giant, flying spermatozoa attack Los Angeles. A giant cruise-ship becomes a floating madhouse populated by hive-mind anti-persons. Normal citizens are found hideously and improbably aged to death.

The Hand’s headquarters exist in a strange place over which looms what appears to be the hand of a dead God, clutching a pen. Time moves with hyperrapidity there, with unprotected life living and dying in minutes. In the Hand’s HQ, agents come and go at the behest of over-constables Man Green/Man Yellow, given orders by strange, cybernetic beings. And one of the Hand’s best agents, Spartacus Hughes, has gone rogue. The world shudders on the brink of destruction and revelation.

As with Morrison’s earlier, longer The Invisibles, The Filth rewards multiple readings. The art by Chris Weston and Gary Erskine is clean and straightforward — the grotesque and the sublime completely in focus (well, except for some pixelated male penises, as DC Vertigo apparently won’t show them if they’re erect). It’s a darned peculiar book, yet it all makes sense in the end. Highly recommended.

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