Fish and Cherries Productions

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Ronin Reads – The Invisibles (The Deluxe Edition, Book 1)

Title: The Invisibles (The Deluxe Edition, Book 1)
Author: Grant Morrison
Artist: Steve Yeowell, Jill Thompson, Dennis Cramer, Chris Weston, John Ridgeway, Steve Parkhouse, Duncan, Fegredo
Type: Comic Book
Genre: Anarchist, Science Fiction

Dane McGowan is a British delinquent who’s just been sent to a remedial center to try and make him an upstanding citizen. When he finds out that the institution is literally removing the emotions of the inmates to produce pure conformity, he becomes embroiled in a hidden war of magic and ideologies. On the one side are the Invisibles (as in the Invisible College), who fight for freedom in all its myriad forms, including some that others may not agree with. On the other side is the Outer Church, who use their mindless Myrmidians as soldiers to enforce their idea of conformity. Taking the name Jack Frost, Dane joins a squad of Invisibles led by one King Mob in a demented journey through time and space as he faces off against insect people, bloodthirsty god impersonators, and his own doubts.

If that description sounds a little slapdash or sparse, it’s because I honestly don’t know what to make of the plot at times. The writing is very obtuse and the jumps between scenes are so jilted that it’s hard to know whether I turned over an extra page or not. I’m even willing to admit that some of the summary is either conjecture or things I looked up online. That’s really the biggest problem with the book, that it can be really hard to follow and when you add things like time travel and tangential stories that don’t entirely connect to the main plot, then things just start to make your head hurt.

Looking back on this story, I find that it’s very reminiscent of The Matrix (though this story predates it by about five years). Both feature a protagonist with a lawless background being forced to “wake up” from the world he knew. He then discovers a secret war being fought with superhuman abilities between a group of anti-authority rebel cells and a controlling force that can insert themselves into the everyday population. What it also seems to draw inspiration from is the graphic novel Sandman, one of the most critically acclaimed comic books of all time. This comes through in the nonlinear narrative and tangential side stories focusing on minor characters and other Invisibles. However, where those two had a lot of wonder, artistic experimentation, and nuance going for them, these just get very confusing and sometimes unpleasant. One that comes to mind is a story told out of order about a soldier who turns into an abusive husband, but in the end it turns out that he was one of the mooks that King Mob killed in the beginning of the story. I’m honestly not sure what the point was of all that.

I can’t really say that the characters themselves are very compelling either. All of them act understandably, to be sure. It’s hard to blame Dane for wanting to cut and run from the group after getting partially mutilated on a mission gone wrong, but he doesn’t have to be such an asshole about it. King Mob and his crew seem intriguing, but I don’t learn quite as much about them in the book as I’d like and this book is the first twelve issues of the comic’s run. That’s an entire year that readers would have had where they learned next to nothing about their main characters. Even the side characters are confusing; I still don’t get the nature of the Invisibles’ enemy or what their motivation is. In fact, I’m pretty sure one side character turned evil, but it was really hard to tell.

In conclusion, this is a very confusing body of work. The writer Grant Morrison dips into the surreal and outlandish frequently in his pieces, but I think he went too far for this one. Maybe I’m just not seeing what he was trying to get at, but I felt that this first volume was a lot of lead up with not a lot of explanation. Should you get it? Should I continue with the series? I have absolutely no idea. It’ll definitely scratch your itch for something trippy, surreal, and on the fringe, but I think you’ll be out in the cold if you can’t get past the experimentation.

Posted under Ronin Reads

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