Concept & Story: Daniel Brodie
Art & Letters: Robert Jennex
WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHOY!
Morgan's a regular college guy looking for a good time. Except he has a problem, his insides are literally at war against each other. Bran the Brain thinks he is wasting too much time on sex and needs to find that there's more to life, while Pepe the Penis demands more of the same. Both are on the warpath and willing to do whatever it takes to make Morgan happy the way they think is best, and Morgan's going to suffer for it. It's Inside Out, but for grown ups, in this comedy that explores the war between intellect and lust, and who knows which will win in the end.
I remember in high school watching a lot of sex comedies: American Pie, The Hangover, films about male hedonism and friendship, with sprinkles of pop culture references and alcohol. OK, make that a sea of alcohol.
During my college years, male friends and I used to go out to the clubs drinking, and more importantly, chasing after women. It wasn't necessarily about sex (although that was always welcome), but gaining experience. I never had a girlfriend in high school due to being both awkward and self-conscious. I hoped that these outings would break me out of my shell and build up my confidence. That didn't happen. No sirree. As a natural introvert, forcing myself to go up to a random woman felt like stepping into a gator pit. It wrecked my nerves and I hated it.
I don't know if those sex comedies had anything to do with this part of my life, but I look back at them with disdain. They filled my head with false expectations and romanticized the overrated party-hard lifestyle. However, it's never good to focus too much on "mature pursuits", i.e. studying, work, etc. You need to get out there and socialize. What I've found the trick is to have a balance between work and fun. This is the message of Morgan's Organs, learning that you need to know when to think with your brain or your dick.
When I started reading Morgan's Organs #1, I was apprehensive. A quick flip through of the book and I found recognizable characteristics of those accursed comedies: dude bros smoking pot and drinking, nightclubs, sexual exploits, and so on. However, there turned out to be a lot more going on.
The cover of issue #1 sets the conflict of this issue. Morgan's small, frightened stature compared to the giant, angry Pepe and Bran makes him appear helpless to their civil war inside of him. There is a certain horror aspect to this image, the idea of a person under attack from his own vital organs, unable to control them and a slave to their whims. The horror aspect also benefits from how Pepe and Bran are framed like a kaiju battle movie, but instead of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, it's Brain vs. Dick. However, this is not a frightening image given the cartoonish art. The contrast between style and content is more likely to cause the reader to chuckle than scream. This doesn't diminish the cover's value, though. After all, it's sometimes funny to have serious imagery or subject matter made light of by a certain diminishing aspect. Also, while not a screaming kind of horror, it is an existential horror for Morgan. Bran and Pepe's war causes him physical, mental, and emotional disarray. In this case, the cover does a good job of conveying the sacred double-punch of content and theme.
Robert Jennex does all the art in Morgan's Organs: pencils, inks, colors, and letters. His efforts show in the execution, and he couldn't be any more dedicated unless he also mixed his own blood into the ink (Don't do that, actually. Unless you're Kiss and you already did, so right on). The artwork is on the cartoonish side with bright colors, animated movement, and exaggerated anatomy and expression. This is a weird comparison, but it reminds me of Codename: Kids Next Door where head, feet, and hands appear wider than the main body which tends to be pencil thin. It's an interesting style and creates unique characters, except for Morgan. Sadly, Morgan's less impressive than the stock characters that appear just to look goofy. It might help to contrast Morgan's plainness with other's silliness to signify his statues as the protagonists, but he also becomes forgettable as a result.
Fortunately, Morgan's blandness is made up for by the creativity of his organs. Each organ, the heart, stomach, brain, penis, etc., is given a unique look and befitting personality. Stereotypically, Bran the Brain has glasses, an Einstein-esque moustache and a logical, rule-oriented approach to life. Pepe the penis dresses like a frat boy with a sport jersey and backwards cap and has a hedonistic man-child personality. Bran and Pepe may not be the most original among the cast of organs, but they're a good indication of how Jennex designed the organs to represent their bodily functions in unique ways. The human world might be a bore, but the inside world is fantastical. It probably helps that there is a strong contrast between the two, allowing the reader a back-and-forth between what is familiar and what is extraordinary. It shows how the latter affects the former with the twist that it's something as commonplace as human anatomy. The satisfaction of this reading experience is similar to that of Osmosis Jones and Inside Out, a "what if?" scenario where we ponder what could be. Wouldn't it be cool if our insides walked and talked like people? If your answer is no, well good luck to you. Me, I think it's cool.
As I have mentioned before, Morgan's Organs is a sex comedy focusing on a dispute between Bran and Pepe wanting to decide how Morgan should live his life. Pepe, being a penis, thinks life dwindles down to sex and death, so you ought to get on living while Bran thinks Morgan should focus on more important things like school. In order to do this, Bran enforces a harsh abstinence upon Morgan, which, instead of having the desired results, causes Morgan mental anguish culminating in unsettling dreams.
Brrr. No gusta.
Anyway, this would, at first, make Bran seem like an evil dictator and Pepe a well-meaning, if tactless, rebel. However, it is hinted that Bran's dogmatism was brought on by a bad break up. Also, despite Pepe's concern, he is no better in causing Morgan personal anguish. As both he and Bran fight over Morgan, Morgan ultimately suffers with extreme bodily reactions that cause humiliation. It's not exactly Game of Thrones, but Daniel Brodie does a good job of making sure that neither side of the argument is 100% right or wrong.
When discussing why he came up with Morgan's Organs, Brodie told Comics Alliance he was inspired by "stories related to sex, alcohol, drugs, adolescence, relationships, gender, etc." and that "sex is a part of identity." In the introduction of this review, I mentioned how I was concerned Morgan's Organs was going to be one of those sex comedies I loathe. The reason for this is sometimes views of women and sexuality can be icky in them. While the comic does better with its content, there is still at least one problematic part of the story.
Morgan is out with friends and is too nervous to talk to the woman he desire's the most, so he goes after a less desirable older woman. A character even explains the logic of this decision. I won't lie, this scene made me uncomfortable. A woman, for nothing else but her age, had to be denigrated for a joke. It comes off as cruel. Although, I'll admit it might be a bit hypocritical since I found the whole vagina face dream joke funny, but I put more stock into how flesh and blood people, even fictional ones, are treated than subconscious images one can't control.
However, there might be a point to this. Brodie describes Morgan as immature and how the comic is about him growing up. This makes a lot of sense and explains Morgan's mishaps given analysis. In his old life, Morgan was an immature dude bro interested in only getting laid, but a break up deeply hurt him so Bran decided to take radical steps, to go from the extreme of Pepe to the extreme of complete abstinence and focus on intellectual pursuits. Unfortunately, neither extreme is working and he is still making bad mistakes which have negative consequences for him and others. Brodie shows the process of Morgan going through this with the compromise being go with the flow. Try having a good, healthy balance between both lust and intellectualism, learn from mistakes, and get better along the way.
In this case, the problematic scene with the older woman could show Morgan being immature but learning hard lessons, especially since she is the one to reject him in the end. When Brodie mentioned "sex is part of identity", he might be pondering what about sex is identity? Is that a problem for Morgan? Is it that his identity is solely based on sexuality? A negative kind of sexuality? These might not be the questions he is exploring, but it would be cool to see them played out in subsequent issues. Pepe and Bran coming to a compromise is good and all, but I want Morgan to further his sexual maturity, not just learning to balance between fun and work but also understanding how he treats others and maybe if his idea of sexuality has flaws that need correction. If that's not the case, then at least there is this issue's satisfying conclusion. Besides, at the end it suggests the exploration of a female character, Sydney, and her sexuality. Hopefully, it will be something meaningful.
Morgan's Organs suffers a little from the common tropes of its genre, but the delightfully cartoonish art and exploration of maturity help it defy expectations. It's a satisfying read for those that love thoughtful comedy and it will be interesting to see where the story will go in subsequent issues.