The Invisibles: Say You Want a Revolution

May 31, 2008

The question will be asked sooner or later: is The Invisibles really that good? Is it what a number of hard-core comic fans have claimed it to be, “the greatest comic series of all time”, or is that just a lot of inane nerdy hype?

In all honesty, I don’t know. The problem is that there are a lot of Grant Morrisons out there with almost all the same “watch-me-meta-that-narrative” trademark. This can fool anyone into thinking that there is some reliable pattern to work with.

If you have enjoyed Animal Man, Morrison’s JLA, 7 Soldiers of Victory, or all his recent mainstream stuff (52, All-Star Superman, etc.), you may not be as fond of The Invisibles as someone who swears by his Doom Patrol or The Filth.  And there is something of Sebastian O or Kid Eternity on an epic scale here but nothing of Seaguy‘s or Vimanarama‘s ironic cuteness. If you come from a completely different universe like his New X-Men, you can practically forget all that you think you can expect from this series’s kind of adventure.

The best way to begin The Invisibles is not to believe that you know what is going to happen next. You may have heard of Morrison’s notorious claim that the Wachowski brothers stole this book’s idea for their first Matrix movie. Frankly, if that sticks, you may as well see in The Invisibles Terry Gilliam’s earlier Brazil or Philip K. Dick’s VALIS and keep going until you end up at the biblical gospels. Besides, the series can fly in so many directions at any point that he is better off saying that every adventure story after his plagiarises him. I even suspect that Morrison came up with that all-important word “Barbelith” long before he knew what to do with it.

Such quirky randomness aside, the one guiding light in The Invisibles is the anarchic-demonic-hypnotic Invisibles themselves. Morrison’s skill with imagining extraordinary characters peaks with this motley crew of seeming social rejects, misfits, freaks, and radicals through whose eyes we all look pretty ineffectual as sentient life-forms.

The first volume begins with the initiation of Dane McGowan, a young Liverpool thug saved from an alien-run juvenile correction centre into which he is admitted after he burned down his school and assaulted a concerned teacher. After his rite of passage in London through its hidden realities, Dane takes his place as Jack Frost in the formidable King Mob’s SWAT team which battles the secret powers behind the universe. The first mission is no less than to travel back in time to recruit the Marquis de Sade and relocate him to a more psychically strategic site in space-time. If only it is going to be that simple.

Gweek gives this volume 8 good whacks of the piñata.

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