"Morning Glories" #20 is a largely self-contained character issue, a resting spot before we return to the larger storyline where writer Nick Spencer focuses entirely on Miss Daramount and Miss Hodge, or Georgina and Lara, in this story set almost entirely in the years of their shared childhood.
The issue begins with three, almost four entirely silent pages as Lara runs to find her sister. It seems like a luxury for writer Nick Spencer
to use precious page space this way to build up suspense, but it works beautifully, and Spencer's stellar plotting makes the rest of the issue feel dense and taut with suspense.
The story is told in flashback, starting with Lara's birth and skipping forward in intervals back to the present. Despite the jumping around, I was never lost and almost gave myself whiplash from flipping the pages forward. True to form, "Morning Glories" #20 has a shocking plot twist that will leave you reeling and artist Joe Eisma draws this climactic moment with maximum impact. No other camera angle or panel-to-panel transition could have been as effective.
Eisma also rises to the occasion in his visual handling of the two very different sisters. He could easily have been lazy and fallen back on the hair or the glasses to keep them distinct, but he gives Georgina and Lara different bone structure in their bodies and faces, different eyes. He impressively keeps it consistent across the issue as the characters age realistically. There's a delightful cameo by a very young, very cute Nine, who is therefore even creepier than usual.
Alex Solazzo's shadowy pastel palette supports Eisma's work by creating mood and atmosphere. The nighttime scene in which the two girls are in their beds was especially well colored. The faint purple-y blue light illuminating the room was just the right shade to evoke pale twilight hours and wandering pre-slumber thoughts.
The scope of Spencer's story is incredibly large for a single issue. It's a family saga that spans twenty-five years, two childhoods and the beginning of the Morning Glory Academy. The heart of the story is about family. As in any family story worth its salt, there is love and loyalty, rivalry and secrets. Eisma's subtle art is extremely gratifying here due to the ridiculous psychological complexity. In characters' faces and body language, we can read rage, resignation, wonder, guilt, fanaticism, sorrow and delight.
This issue is no different from previous installments of "Morning Glories" in that Spencer's plotting raises more questions or mysteries even as he gives us some answers. Although some readers may be frustrated that overarching plot resolution will not arrive until the series' end, accepting that you won't have the whole picture during the ride does allow you to better enjoy it. Not knowing how Spencer and Eisma are going to blow your mind next is all a part of the continuing charm of "Morning Glories."