School of Hard Knocks: Morning Glories Volume 1

Six intelligent students are chosen to attend the prestigious Morning Glory Academy and it’s a dream come true for them. Unfortunately, the dream quickly ends when the students are cut off from all outside contact, one of the girl’s is almost stabbed to death and another student finds out that her parents have been murdered. It’s just another day at the prep school where mysteries and secrets are common, and no one is who they appear to be.

The creator and writer of Morning Glories, Nick Spencer, is an up and coming comic book writer who has attracted a lot of attention. In the last couple of years he has written quite a few mini-series that were published by Image comics, including Shuddertown, Forgetless, and Existence 2.0. Each new series has been very different from the previous and he’s quickly become someone to watch. In fact both Marvel and DC have sat up and taken notice. Spencer was recently announced as the new writer on Secret Avengers (taking over from Ed Brubaker) and he is the writer of the new series Iron Man 2.0 from Marvel. He also writes THUNDER Agents and previously worked on Action Comics for DC.

Published by Shadowline, an imprint of Image Comics, Morning Glories is Spencer’s first ongoing original series. I would describe it as a cross between LOST and The Prisoner. Spencer has cited a number of influences including LOST, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Scream, and The Faculty. I was very relieved to hear him say in an interview that he has a plan for the series and already knows how it’s going to end. He knows what the final issue will look like and is working towards it. So the end of the series will not be something he made up at the last minute and will be rewarding and make sense. He is very conscious of how many fans were disappointed by the ending of LOST and he doesn’t want to repeat that with Morning Glories.

It’s difficult to write about the series without talking about some of the mysteries, but I can speculate about what they mean without any major spoilers. The six disparate teenagers were all carefully selected to attend the academy, and like The Prisoner they wake up at the school without remembering how they actually got there. To me, that suggests the school is located somewhere else entirely, and even if they manage to escape, they won’t know in which direction to run.

It’s not clear why these six students were chosen and what they have in common, but I know the school is not just a death trap. There is a larger mystery behind what connects them and what is special about each student, which will no doubt be explored over time. The new students are also being tested, but I have no idea what for. The teachers are there to run them through a gauntlet of some kind, but I’m not sure if merely surviving indicates success. It’s hard to know how to win at a game if you don’t know the rules, and to begin with the students are just stumbling from one incident to another.

There are a number of other mysteries running in parallel, such as when the school was established, as at one point there is a flashback to 1490 which connects to events in the present. I’ve also noticed certain items in the background and common phrases, which could be a coincidence, but I doubt it. Ghostly figures, weird science, cults, possibly time travel and subliminal messages are just some of what you will find in the pages of Morning Glories.

I’m very intrigued by this series and will definitely keep reading, but not just because I enjoy a good mystery. I’m also interested in the main characters, all of whom come off as distinct individuals with particular strengths and weaknesses. Some of these are obvious and others will probably be revealed over time. By the end of the first trade paperback I was very impressed by the ingenuity of a couple of the characters and thought all of them showed potential.

Morning Glories is also a comic about growing up and finding your place in the world. High school is a stressful at the best of times with raging hormones, exams and trying to work out what you want to do with your life. The struggle against figures in authority is common in schools but normally the teachers aren’t trying to kill you. So the students at Morning Glory Academy have more issues to worry about than most which makes for an interesting read.

This is a great new series from Image Comics that is crammed full of mysteries. If you enjoy creepy, weird and suspenseful stories and are a fan of The Prisoner, then I would recommend picking up a copy of Morning Glories.

Stephen Aryan is a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction and fantasy. He co-hosts the Comic Book Outsiders podcast and writes fantasy and comic book reviews at Walker of Worlds.


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