Should we bring the Morrison discussion over here now? I don't know how...

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This is the first thorough reread for me, so I'm not too strong on the details of the rest of the series (although I've read a lot of verbiage about The Invisibles since my first, not very systematic read of the series.) That said, I think Arcadia might be as difficult as this series gets for a reader expecting a straight-up action story. Although the trip to the Age of Enlightenment and De Sade's novel had thematic relevance, they had very little to do with the forward motion of the story. They were there to signpost some ideas Morrison is dealing with. The fact that sales plummeted during Arcadia meant that Morrison would have been reluctant to move so far beyond the action comic template going forward. The completely parallel narrative of the Romantic poets was pushing the envelope but the market wasn't ready for it. I can't think of anything similar being tried since, but you might, Mark, as Vertigo would be the line that might allow it.

I didn't find this episode to be a side trip. It was to be Dane's real initiation in to the Invisibles, his first operation as an active member. It happened to involve time travel, so all of the historical material can be seen as a side effect of that premise. At least that's how I saw it, but I guess I'm not exactly an "average reader." I can't recall any other comic that has used this sort of parallel narrative, which probably made it even more interesting to me. The closest thing would be something like the first Witchcraft series, where each issue was set in a different time.

The big story arc in the second volume is "She-Man," a three part telling of Lord Fanny's origin story. Born into a family of female sorcerers where the power has passed from mother to daughter for generations, the women decide that Hilde will have to become a girl. He takes to the transformation, and at age eleven is taken to Mexico to become initiated as a sorceress. The spirit Tlazolteotl (represented by a butterfly) adopts her, and tells her that time is not a river, but a circle. All times are now. This teaching is demonstrated by Morrison's narrative, which cuts between various events in Fanny's life, presenting them all as part of the initiation ritual. Part of that story is the present, where Boy and Ragged Robin are looking for Jack in London, and Fanny has chosen a deadly lover: Lewis Brodie, an agent in the service of Sir Miles. Brodie reveals himself, and has gotten the best of Fanny, when King Mob shows up. In the scuffle Fanny cuts Brodie, but not before he shoots King Mob. Miles shows up, so the arc closes with KM and Fanny presumably in his custody. Jill Thompson was back for this arc, and it's at least a partial answer to my earlier question. She pencils and inks the first two parts, while the third is inked by longtime Swamp Thing inker Kim DeMulder. All three of these issues look much better than the "Arcadia" ones. So my problems with the earlier art are likely due to Dennis Cramer's inks, although I don't doubt that deadline pressures also played a part.

The final issue in this volume, "London," shows what Dane (remember him?) has been up to, effectively illustrated by another new artist, Paul Johnson. He reflects on Mad Tom's lessons, and has (or remembers) an alien abduction experience. He comes to faced by Miles and the Hunt, who ask him to join their side. He refuses, and demonstrates previously unseen powers. He causes streetlights and cars to explode. And when Miles uses his mental powers on him, Dane retaliates with mental powers of his own. As the issue closes, Dane has retrieved what Tom left for him from a locker, cut his hair, and is hitching back to Liverpool.
The Invisibles

Issue 11 Royal Monsters.


Another single issue story with beautiful John Ridgeway art illustrating a Lovecraftian tale.

At the time it struck a contemporary note, with references to the then living Princess Diana. I have seen conspiracy theorists on mainstream television cite the bit about Diana being a virgin named after a goddess for a reason. The 90s were a great decade for conspiracies and they'll probably be remembred chiefly for them,with the X-files and all.

Tarquin the chinless wonder is straight out of Monty Python. With Sir Miles and his friends Morrison is happy to paint them in quite clicheed terms, drinking brandy in huge leather armchairs.

We haven't been told much about who the Invisibles are fighting. Dane wasn't given very satisfactory answers to his questions about the 'other side' of the conflict. Rather than being defined by what they stand for, the two oposing sides define themselves by what they are against. The trouble with this is that two sides can often collapse into each other.

Here Jeremy is so deep under cover that he has spent 6 years facilitating his enemies machinations and being culpable in their evil.

He thinks that he has 'an understanding' with the horror from the mirror. His self-loathing and guilt about his family have trapped him in a scenario which cannot end well. His denial of his position lasts right up to his impending death at the end.

Jeremy thinks that he is acting freely, but his mind is shackled by guilt and despair, by his own 'mind-forged manacles',
The Invisibles - Volume 2
Issue 12 Best Man Fall

This is a powerful issue. I found it very moving this time around. The first time I read it I had zero sympathy for this lackey of the forces of oppression. "So what?" I thought. People in the pay of the bad guys usually have things well. If they choose to take a job where they carry arms and throw their weight around, well, sometimes their enemies are going to get a shot in.

I don't know why it affected me this time around. Perhaps I'm older and recognise that things aren't so black and white. We see that Bobby is basically a good guy whose life was blighted from an early age.

I identified more with him this time. In some ways his life is similar to mine. I'm from a part of Ireland with strong connections to Scotland so the 'accent' that comes across in the dialogue is ismilar to my own. I call my parents 'Mammy and Daddy' too. I still might say 'What are youse doing?' if I'm talking to a family member. I've used the phrase 'good wee dog' often enough.

I remember Thatcher and the Falklands War and the dole queues of England, albeit only on the BBC. The most pertinent thing about the Falklands War today is that more British soldiers who fought in it have committed suicide since it ended than actually died during it. That's pretty messed up, so there were a lot like Bobby who found themselves in a dead end with limited options.

Bobby's life flashing in front of his eyes is similar to Lord Fanny's jumping through her life in the next story. The fact that it is commonly believed to happen if you are faced with impending death gives a little credence to the idea that all times exist now. This is a key philosophy that underpins the series.

Just as he's about to do with Fanny, Morrison is able to use this juxtaposition of lots of dramatic moments in a person's life to great effect. The moments build up to a crescendo of emotion as Bobby is buffeted with one trauma after another. Bobby's essential decency, thwarted as it is, shines through again and again. Burying his dog, which spurs him to lash out at his brother and leave home, is a powerful scene. Death is never far away in The Invisibles.

The whole issue is framed by the kids game - Best Man Fall. Again, the kids understanding of death is framed in shallow movie terms - this time war movies. King Mob seems to be Bobby's own Death God. The gas mask in the coal shed was his childhood fear and the similarly masked King Mob seems to him to be that fear incarnated. He takes up a heavy cudgel to confront the 'beast in the cellar' but perhaps this is where he goes wrong. Violence dogs his life and poisons it. Violence seems to set boundaries on his life. Thumping his brother and throwing the much-loved bear inthe bin seems like a vindication, but perhaps there are other ways? Poor Bobby is never in a position to explore beyo9nd the boundaries of his highly constricted world.
I was also very moved by "Best Man Fall," as well as impressed by the technical construction of it. I'd list it among my favorite individual Vertigo issues by anybody. It's funny, though: I don't remember how it struck me on first reading. It was as though I had never read it before.
That happens. I think this group of stories in Vol 2 are the first Invisibles comics I read. It was only later that I saw that this was a replay, from the 'bad guy's' perspective, of a scene from an earlier comic.

This issue is a very different take on the usual faceless henchman stereotype. A similar idea, which came out about the same time, was the scene in Austen Powers where the super agent kills some henchman and we cut to the guys's wife telling their little son that daddy won't be coming home anymore...

I think the entire point of the episode was lost on me the first time I read it. I just thought he was a violence-prone, wife-beating army thug who deserved to be capped! The callowness of youth.

The page where he confronts King Mob has puzzled me a bit, but it's starting to make sense. Just as KM is about to shoot him/has shot him, we see still frames of Bobby in his security guard uniform and KM in his full man-killing regalia. I've realised it's as if they are staring into a mirror. Bobby sees this masked terror that seems to be his childhood fears come to life again and KM sees a masked man of violence with a gun. Both have become what they thought they were fighting against. KM is supposed to be fighting to free us from war and violence and Bobby thought he was taking control of his life by facing the Gas-mask fiend in the cellar. Instead it was the first steps to becoming it. Oppositions collapse into each other.

This particular comic is very central to the whole message of The Invisibles, even though it seems peripheral.

BTW, the cellar is probably the family's WW2 bomb shelter we hear of during the issue. That's why the gas-mask is still hanging there. War and violence cast a long shadow over Bobby's life.

I meant to say earlier that the art for this issue is wonderfully appropriate. Britain had a healthy native comics industry for a long time. The art here is very reminiscent of British war comics and strips like football hero 'Roy of the Rovers'. No-nonsense art that told stories about working class heroes striving to get the job done. The art here is very ironic, as Bobby is betrayed by narratives like this and doesn't see that the simple stories he's been brought up on cannot portray the complexities of war, or of life. He ends up in a very constrained world, where beating his wife is almost the only reaction allowed to him.

Steve Parkhouse is very highly respected in the UK comics world. He was editor at Marvel UK and other comics companies in the 70's and probably has some responsibility for allowing the great British comic creators to develop their individual approaches. He's probably a link in the chain that would eventually lead to Vertigo itself being formed.

In Bobby's touching relationship with Boody, his teddy, I can't help but think of a line elsewhere about other-dimensional beings talking to us through our childhood toys. Bobby wants to connect with something beyond his humdrum life. The moon landing inspires him to face the beast in the cellar and he is happiest when watching the hot-air balloons go by with his girlfriend. Speaking of balloons, he is happy as a child to let go of his balloon as he says it can 'play with the fireworks'. Being able to let go and imaginatively allowing very different things like the balloon and the fireworks to co-exist in the sky is a mindset that he loses as he grows older. In the series' own language, the Archons have successfully 'got to' him by the time he grows up; constricting his world, turning him into an unquestioning breeder and soldier, nothing more than an obedient cog in their societal machine.
The big story arc in the second volume is "She-Man," a three part telling of Lord Fanny's origin story. Born into a family of female sorcerers where the power has passed from mother to daughter for generations, the women decide that Hilde will have to become a girl. He takes to the transformation, and at age eleven is taken to Mexico to become initiated as a sorceress. The spirit Tlazolteotl (represented by a butterfly) adopts her, and tells her that time is not a river, but a circle.

There are interesting parallels with Gaiman's transexual character in, was it the Doll's House? That character wasn't allowed to be granted power by the moon because he wasn't seen as female by the goddess. Grant's Mayan gods are less hung up on such little happenstances of identity as gender. In the context of the Death God's domain where little Hilde faces Mictlantecuhtli, the bit of flesh in her pink knickers doesn't count for much one way or the other.

The spirit Tlazolteotl (represented by a butterfly) adopts her, and tells her that time is not a river, but a circle. All times are now. This teaching is demonstrated by Morrison's narrative, which cuts between various events in Fanny's life, presenting them all as part of the initiation ritual.

I loved this. Morrison doesn't just tell, he shows how our lives might look seen from outside time. I was reminded of the sequence in Animal Man where Buddy takes the peyote and the time in that one evening jumps around. Here the jumps are over a whole lifetime. Drugs are involved at every point that Fanny jumps to too, so there is that little nod to 'realism'. But drugs here are having the effect of one of the Shaman's tools rather than just something to give you kicks.

Part of that story is the present, where Boy and Ragged Robin are looking for Jack in London, and Fanny has chosen a deadly lover: Lewis Brodie, an agent in the service of Sir Miles. Brodie reveals himself, and has gotten the best of Fanny, when King Mob shows up. In the scuffle Fanny cuts Brodie, but not before he shoots King Mob. Miles shows up, so the arc closes with KM and Fanny presumably in his custody.

Incredibly complex plotting. There is also the ambiguous element of Fanny being able to alter fate in some way. We've seen that the death god Baron Zaraguin, who is probably Mictlantecuhtli in another guise, claims that King Mob is due to pay up for certain favours that have been given him. Fanny seems to alter this - "Take him instead!" Maybe King Mob was due to be killed instead of wounded?

Morrison takes the notion that All times are now and extrapolates it to show that it is the innocent little child that is undergoing Fanny's fearsome trials. (He did the same thing with Bobby as we were constantly shown little Bobby 'comforting' his teddy bear as being part of the grown man King Mob killed.) That is very moving. I thought I was going to bawl on the bus like a baby when the child walked out into the sunlight at the end of her ordeal.

"See? The sun is opening like a flower! A new day begins!"

Its only so powerful because Morrison paced everything leading up to it so well, with all the intercutting.

I think Lord Fanny is a wonderful character - great name too. A committed hedonist, but very warm-hearted and open to life. (And how!) Dane's bigoted treatment of her in volume one didn't phase her at all. She kept on being friendly with him.

Of course, I'm a lifetime superhero fan, and am completely obsessed with them - though you'd never guess! I was very amused to realise the first time I read the sequence where Fanny puts on her face for the night ahead, that transexuals like her are the closest we get to superheroes in real life. They put on a mask and a costume and a completely different identity to do things they - and the rest of us - wouldn't normally do. Her beautiful armour, she calls it.

As unlikely as it seems, this volume is full of humorous moments. Not least is Fanny's famous last words -

"I told you I was a witch......darling..."

That's spirit!

Jill Thompson was back for this arc, and it's at least a partial answer to my earlier question. She pencils and inks the first two parts, while the third is inked by longtime Swamp Thing inker Kim DeMulder. All three of these issues look much better than the "Arcadia" ones. So my problems with the earlier art are likely due to Dennis Cramer's inks, although I don't doubt that deadline pressures also played a part.

Speaking of Thompson's art, Grant seems to have a lot of fun really pushing her style. Parts of these three issues are like 'Ripley's Believe it or not', Miller's Sin City, Los Bros Hernandez and others. My favourite sequence and hilarious in how far it is from Thompson's usual style is the Rob Liefield page where KM is boasting to Edith about how he rescued Dane from Harmony House, all steroids and testosterone. Now there is a page devoid of meaning. Nice that it is Edith, the most cultured and sophisticated of the cast, sitting in a room full of fine art, that pours scorn on it.

The final issue in this volume, "London," shows what Dane (remember him?) has been up to, effectively illustrated by another new artist, Paul Johnson. He reflects on Mad Tom's lessons, and has (or remembers) an alien abduction experience. He comes to faced by Miles and the Hunt, who ask him to join their side. He refuses, and demonstrates previously unseen powers. He causes streetlights and cars to explode. And when Miles uses his mental powers on him, Dane retaliates with mental powers of his own. As the issue closes, Dane has retrieved what Tom left for him from a locker, cut his hair, and is hitching back to Liverpool.

The highlight for me of this issue was the name Dane gives to Sir Miles when he is pretending to be someone else. The name he gives happens to be my own surname. I try to be objective in my overviews, but sometimes this series speaks to me on a very personal level!

Its interesting that Dane picks a good Irish name too, like McGowan was in the first place. (And Sullivan is, come to that!) This series has a few nice nods to Irish culture. Morrison has already pointed out that the name of this very chapter - London - may be derived from Luan-Dun (which is 'Fort of the Moon' in gaelic.) Given that this was the mid-nineties I'd say it was the brothers from Oasis that Dane was thinking of. They were everywhere for a few years. Not sure if they made it big in the US.

Speaking of the title of the chapter, it is probably a reference to this William Blake poem:

London

I wander through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet,
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every man,
In every infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear:

How the chimney-sweeper's cry
Every blackening church appals,
And the hapless soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down palace-walls.

But most, through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.


A lot of it has relevance to the story so far, if you want to go there. Morrison has shown us that the infant's cry of fear and the soldier's sigh might be the same thing, if all time is now. The most significant line is probably the reference to 'mind-forg'd manacles', which are ever-present in the group of stories that make up Volume 2, although in Fanny we see someone gloriously free of any such mental shackles. We've already seen 'Urizen self-imprisoned' in chains in the Thames during Dane's initiation, which was a Blake creation too.

I had to go around a few shops in my lunchbreak to find the third volume, but I got it. Looking over it quickly, I don't know whether to be glad or not that fthere are almost as many artists involved as there are chapters! If they are as apt and skilled as the artists in this volume we'll be doing well.

I'm also excited as I don't recall as much about the stories in Vol 3. I probably read some of them on mornings in the nineties when I was hungover and not very receptive. Some of them I don't think I've ever read before.
There are interesting parallels with Gaiman's transsexual character in, was it the Doll's House? That character wasn't allowed to be granted power by the moon because he wasn't seen as female by the goddess. Grant's Mayan gods are less hung up on such little happenstances of identity as gender. In the context of the Death God's domain where little Hilde faces Mictlantecuhtli, the bit of flesh in her pink knickers doesn't count for much one way or the other.

And Hilde's grandmother says that the gods can be fooled, which is why she cuts Hilde to simulate menstruation. Interesting gods to be so fallible!

Incredibly complex plotting. There is also the ambiguous element of Fanny being able to alter fate in some way. We've seen that the death god Baron Zaraguin, who is probably Mictlantecuhtli in another guise, claims that King Mob is due to pay up for certain favours that have been given him. Fanny seems to alter this - "Take him instead!" Maybe King Mob was due to be killed instead of wounded?

This is a powerful subtext, which I left out of my quick summary. It has lots of potential for the story going forward, and I honestly don't remember if Fanny uses her fate-altering "power" later in the series.

I'm also excited as I don't recall as much about the stories in Vol 3. I probably read some of them on mornings in the nineties when I was hungover and not very receptive. Some of them I don't think I've ever read before.

I'm looking forward to Vol. 3 as well. Like you, I find I've forgotten huge stretches of the story. But I think it's due to reading the volumes months apart because I was getting them on interlibrary loan. I'll have all next week at the beach for this volume, so I'll be able to take a leisurely pace if I like.
One other observation. I've heard it said that The Invisibles is like Sandman in that the series doesn't really take off until the second collection. Although I think that Morrison had a much clearer plan at the outset than Gaiman did, I still think it's true. These stories are where the balance between action and magical elements is struck, and a consistently good match between story and artist as well. The first volume got my interest, but this one really knocked my socks off.
The first three issues in The Invisibles Vol. 3: Entropy in the U.K. form the title arc. King Mob and Lord Fanny are prisoners of Sir Miles in a London hideout. Miles is trying to break down King Mob’s mind to learn his secrets. But KM claims to be author Kirk Morrison, whose books feature a secret agent named Gideon Stargrave. As Miles tortures him, we see fictional episodes interspersed with episodes from KM’s Invisibles training. Meanwhile Fanny is similarly uncooperative, and turns out to be not nearly as helpless as she appears. Boy and Ragged Robin become increasingly concerned about their teammate’s absence, and Jim Crow (whose band happens to be performing in London) joins them to locate KM and Fanny and help with their rescue. The first issue closes with Miles asking the old Mickey Mouse Club opening question: “Now. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.” Miles gets the information that Dane has returned to Liverpool from KM’s mind, so he thinks he has broken him. Then Fanny distracts Miles with a curse using a doll made from his handkerchief, and KM launches a psychic counterattack, forcing Miles to release him. Fanny and the desperately weakened KM begin to make their escape from the facility, as Miss Dwyer (Miles’s overseer, with a direct link to the Archons) assumes an armor of antimaterial. The arc ends there, with the other Invisibles still on their way to join the fray.

The heart of these issues is the psychic battle between King Mob and Sir Miles. But we also get a lot of background history about KM’s Invisibles initiation, and more about the Archons and their relationship with their human agents. The new art team of penciller Phil Jimenez and inker John Stokes turn in the best visuals in the series so far. It’s simply gorgeous stuff: realistic when it needs to be, surreal when that is called for, and always meticulously rendered.
“How I Became Invisible” tells Boy’s “origin story.” In many ways it is the most deeply paranoid issue so far, as it tells of the black ops Boy encounters as a New York City police officer. Her partner investigates, and uncovers 23 detention camps set up to hold “suspect aliens” and “subversives”—then he suddenly disappears. She rushes to a departing black train, which is about to take her brother, a police detective who is trying to resign from his part in the cover-up. Her other brother, a drug dealer who suspects the truth, is shot down at the station. So her motivation for joining the Invisibles is simple: revenge. Nice illustration job by Tommy Lee Edwards.

“Liverpool” (again illustrated by Paul Johnson) resumes Dane’s story. He has returned to Liverpool, and starts looking up old friends. He continues to remember Tom’s teaching, and the revelations about Barbelith and his role seen in visions, with the injunction “try to remember.” Archon agents catch up with him at a friend’s apartment, then his mother’s place. There Dane remembers one of Tom’s lessons, and plucks a magic word from the TV: it incapacitates the agents, his mother, and Mr. Six (who turns out to have known Dane all along, as his history teacher). Boy appears to finish the job, and Dane agrees to return to London with her.
The first three issues in The Invisibles Vol. 3: Entropy in the U.K. form the title arc. King Mob and Lord Fanny are prisoners of Sir Miles in a London hideout. Miles is trying to break down King Mob’s mind to learn his secrets. But KM claims to be author Kirk Morrison, whose books feature a secret agent named Gideon Stargrave.

It looks like he is Kirk Morrison. There’s nothing to contradict the story of the indie kid who dabbles in Rock ‘n’ Roll and writes horror novels to fund a world-trekking search for knowledge. Substitute comics for novels and it looks very like Grant’s career up to that point. According to his letters page piece in the first comic I linked to above, he did travel the world ‘seeking wisdom’ after Doom Patrol ended. It’s no secret that KM is a kind of alter-ego of Grant, so sharing the same surname is just taking it a bit further.

It doesn’t mean anything in the broader scheme of things, but it’s interesting that King Mob doesn’t seem to be Scottish. Kirk is a Scottish word for ‘Church’ though. So it’s a nod in that direction. And another religious link.

Jeremy, the deep undercover butler in the Ridgeway episode, was shown reading one of Kirk Morrison’s books, so they do exist in this world.

Gideon Stargrave is a take on Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius character. Cornelius moved from dimension to dimension and would be alive the chapter after we saw him killed, just like Stargrave. But more than any plot, Jerry Cornelius stories were about a certain style, with short snappy paragraphs and very provocative, deliberately jarring sentences. The prose equivalent of blowing up London in the company of a sexy 15 year-old with a death wish. I’ve only read a few pages of Jerry Cornelius as they were a bit hard to take. They are not at all like a conventional fantasy story, something Morrison captures in these sequences. It seems he captured them too well, as Moorcock apparently sued him for stealing his schtick.

As Miles tortures him, we see fictional episodes interspersed with episodes from KM’s Invisibles training.

And like Kirk the horror writer, there may be some truth in Stargrave’s adventures. Remember we saw KM's dimension hopping abilities during the start of Arcadia. He took a short-cut through a bizarre and seemingly-impossible-in-1995 alternate world, where US troops occupy foreign countries, spray dangerous chemicals around and rape and murder local girls.

Meanwhile Fanny is similarly uncooperative, and turns out to be not nearly as helpless as she appears.

Fanny is just great! Miles' missing handkerchief was very well sign-posted for a Morrison comic. Quite subtle by other standards though.

Boy and Ragged Robin become increasingly concerned about their teammate’s absence, and Jim Crow (whose band happens to be performing in London) joins them to locate KM and Fanny and help with their rescue. The first issue closes with Miles asking the old Mickey Mouse Club opening question: “Now. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.”

Morrison is more than likely quoting a line from a children’s radio programme that ran from the 1920’s(!) to the 1980’s called ‘Listen with Mother’. Each episode’s story began with that line.

Miles gets the information that Dane has returned to Liverpool from KM’s mind, so he thinks he has broken him. Then Fanny distracts Miles with a curse using a doll made from his handkerchief, and KM launches a psychic counterattack, forcing Miles to release him. Fanny and the desperately weakened KM begin to make their escape from the facility, as Miss Dwyer (Miles’s overseer, with a direct link to the Archons) assumes an armor of antimaterial. The arc ends there, with the other Invisibles still on their way to join the fray.

I love the structuring here. Both the She-man and Entropy in the UK trilogies are obviously self-contained in theme, but part of a large super-concentrated action-thriller sequence. We saw Dane once in the She-man trilogy as he ran across a street and we knew that Sir Miles was having a very bad day before his encounter with Dane was shown to us. The events are very minutely worked out. Morrison knows where all his characters are at any one time. He would take this to a ridiculous extremes in the Seven Soldiers maxi-series. (Well worth your time, if you ever get a chance to read it Mark. 30-odd issues as densely plotted as this sequence of Invisibles.)

The heart of these issues is the psychic battle between King Mob and Sir Miles. But we also get a lot of background history about KM’s Invisibles initiation, and more about the Archons and their relationship with their human agents. The new art team of penciller Phil Jimenez and inker John Stokes turn in the best visuals in the series so far. It’s simply gorgeous stuff: realistic when it needs to be, surreal when that is called for, and always meticulously rendered.

I think Jimenez might have been forever classed as a junior George Perez if not for his work here. It’s where he really breaks out. Morrison challenges his artists and Jimenez rose to it.

There’s a lot of gripping action and suspense as our heroes are pushed to the end of their tether. Still, we get time for some asides on the philosophy of the Invisibles.

It’s pretty hard to put an optimistic gloss on the suicidal destruction of our planet and our feverish sapping of its limited resources, but Grant, a ridiculously positive writer, finds one.

Apparently, we are like the caterpillar, eating up our whole environment on our way to total transformation. “As above, so below.”

The caterpillar/butterfly imagery was central to She-man too. As jarring as the chages of artists and eras might be, we are still in a very unified artistic world.

How our transformation will be played out in terms of our cast starts to become more clear with this volume.

King Mob/Gideon Stargrave seems to work towards apocolypse in every reality he arrives in, for one thing...
“How I Became Invisible” tells Boy’s “origin story.” In many ways it is the most deeply paranoid issue so far, as it tells of the black ops Boy encounters as a New York City police officer. Her partner investigates, and uncovers 23 detention camps set up to hold “suspect aliens” and “subversives”—then he suddenly disappears. She rushes to a departing black train, which is about to take her brother, a police detective who is trying to resign from his part in the cover-up. Her other brother, a drug dealer who suspects the truth, is shot down at the station. So her motivation for joining the Invisibles is simple: revenge.

I didn't notice that there were 23 deathcamps. That number appears a lot. The trains leave at 23.00 too.

“I guess I never really knew him”, Boy says about her wayward brother at one point. Heh, heh, heh.

Nice illustration job by Tommy Lee Edwards

The art here is just perfectly fitting for the story. Nice to see another tradition of American comicbook storytelling than the usual superhero approach.

Still, no doubt the changes in artists were very challenging at the time for the general readership.

“Liverpool” (again illustrated by Paul Johnson) resumes Dane’s story. He has returned to Liverpool, and starts looking up old friends. He continues to remember Tom’s teaching, and the revelations about Barbelith and his role seen in visions, with the injunction “try to remember.” Archon agents catch up with him at a friend’s apartment, then his mother’s place. There Dane remembers one of Tom’s lessons, and plucks a magic word from the TV: it incapacitates the agents, his mother, and Mr. Six (who turns out to have known Dane all along, as his history teacher). Boy appears to finish the job, and Dane agrees to return to London with her.

The structure of this issue is very like a two-act play, with very similar events in both parts, as Dane enters the apartment of a loved one, who eventually goes to the door to betray him to his captors. Very like Beckett or Pinter.

Cool that Dane didn’t even realise that he’d given up smoking. I’m not a fan of the 'noxious weed' in any case, so maybe I’m biased, but Morrison seems to be making a point here that it is one way people are dulled and tied to the Archons. Both Dane’s friend and Mother’s smoking is foregrounded in the art. There’s nothing very ‘free’ about paying a tribute day in and day out to big corporations, just to become more diseased and unwell. If smoking didn’t exist, the Archons would have had to invent it.

Dane is still anguished over killing the nameless soldier at the start of Vol 2. The Invisibles makes a point of examining society's attitude to killing. It is portrayed in the popular media, in endless tv shows and summer blockbusters, as something glamorous and macho, but Morrison cuts through all that and we understand the mother’s revulsion at the thought that her son is a killer. In the Invisiverse Hollywood is doing the Archon’s work, desensitising us to death with comforting fictions. As the characters are learning again and again, you can’t understand life unless you understand death.

With Dane's recovering memories, we are starting to see where the series might be going. On a literal reading there seems to be some kind of satellite – called Barbelith - on the dark side of the moon which Dane has somehow put there to guide him through the upcoming events. It is the ‘string in the labyrinth. The way out.’ He keeps being told to ‘wake up’, ‘try to remember’.

Ancient eastern spiritual teachings in science fiction comicbook trappings.

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