The Invisibles: Entropy in the UK

June 7, 2008

It’s usually not hard to get a Brian Bolland cover, so this one stirs some amount of awkwardness. What is it? I don’t really know, but I suspect that it’s Bolland trying to render, à la Dave McKean, King Mob on a bad day. Or Grant Morrison on a typewriter on a bad day: that works for me too.

This is, after all, the volume covering the bald leader’s (Mob’s, not Morrison’s) sojourn at Sir Miles’s ultra-secret headquarters — from his capture after Operation Screw Up to his eventual escape by fighting every crazy enemy human and alien. That’s one entire volume just to escape and 2 out of 2 blundering missions since the series began. If this is the team that is supposed to save humanity from some interdimensional extraterrestrial conquest, God help us all.

The real bad guys are revealed to be powerful and intelligent (they usually are) aliens known as the Archons of the Outer Church. For many centuries now, these have infiltrated every level of human civilisation and are so entrenched that virtually every establishment figure is an underling. Near the end, one of them, the Moonchild monster, is shown in sex tapes to be violating young women in order to impregnate them. There is probably some British humour here somewhere: one victim is made to dressed up as Princess Diana, and we already know that the Moonchild has been called the future King. At some point, someone also screams: “The Empire has never gone!”

Of the 3 narrative strands, the one involving King Mob’s and Lord Fanny’s imprisonment is the most gripping. Under horrific interrogation, King Mob escapes psychically into the persona of pulp writer Kirk Morrison, who is imagining through his character Gideon Stargrave, who is incidentally one of Grant Morrison’s earliest comic characters, who Michael Moorcock claims to be based on one of his characters, although he looks like James Bond, Jason King, and Austin Powers’s forerunner. (Lost you yet?)

A second strand concerns the attempt by the still unremarkable team-player Boy to get Dane to return, a sad episode that results in Dane injuring his mother and, again, that concerned teacher who turns out to be an illustrious superior, Mr 6. Now, the name “Mr 6” should call to mind the famous protagonist of The Prisoner, that late-1960s British cult TV series, and so explains his closet funkiness. And from the allusions used so far, you can guess how young Morrison spent his time when he wasn’t reading comics and Moorcock’s stories.

The 3rd strand is a red herring. We follow the calvary made up of whoever that’s left, Ragged Robin and Jim Crow, as they drag their feet so much that you wonder whether they need retraining. The two arrive anti-climactically after everyone else has and after King Mob and Lord Fanny have freed themselves, survived near-death scenarios, outwitted the aliens, and uncovered major enemy secrets. It’s like turning up just before the credits roll. And do they even bring coffee for all?

This volume includes 2 more origin stories: that of NYPD-cop-turned-boyish girl called Boy (doh!) and of former funky X-files investigator, Mr 6. Dane’s conversion from uncaring unknowing punk to uncaring all-knowing Buddha reaches its final stage here and remains the title’s weakest link. I don’t think that Morrison has transcended transcendence to know exactly what to do with existential Enlightenment. It will be a real problem when he sets his next grand backdrop in America with a supposed new frontier for the oldest battle being fought. Add to all this the clash between Phil Jimenez’s psychedelic details of King Mob’s mindscape and Steve Yeowell’s recycling of his drawings of alien species for Doom Patrol, and you’re well at home in comic-induced hallucinations.

Gweek gives this volume 8 punches into the air.


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