I hit a slight snag in my Invisibles continued reading when I realized I went from the first volume to the third volume, only barely noticing. It did seem strange that suddenly two characters were kidnapped and threatened by space beetles, but then again the entire thing started out with a sixties/seventies pastiche, that seemed to both come from and go to nowhere. For those of you rolling your eyes, call it a lack of understanding in how Morrison works. That’s fair. But give me credit for my faith in the dude, continuing the story even though it seemed to jump.
That being said, I think that jumping ahead a book and then retracing my steps seems to be in the spirit of my decision to read them in the first place, so I’m going to go ahead and take a look at what I see. For those who are struggling to place the book, it begins and ends with retro pulp teams whose stories brush against the main villain, revealed in this book to be a group of bug like aliens which are going to take over the Earth. Agents of the aliens have kidnapped King Mob and Fanny, and are torturing King Mob who is talking about stories (the retro tales) as a way to cover up what he knows.
Since I’m no connoisseur of fictional torture and don’t have the stomach to become one, let me say that the torture scenes are creative and visceral, and turn my attention to the other parts of the book.
We get Boy’s back story, and how she seemed to be the middle ground between her angelic brother and her devilish brother – until it turns out we had the brothers switched around. Artist Tommy Lee Edwards has a style that syncs up well with the bleak winter in New York that he’s depicting, and that’s the most visually arresting part of the book, even though other talented artists are given very flashy things to do.
But that’s a standard review of a comic book. What about The Invisibles story? Well, the story is still going, really, and that’s all you can say for it. Although this volume can be summed up as a story – the rest of the Invisibles pull together to rescue the kidnapped Fanny and Mob, it doesn’t unfold in a way that actually lends itself to story telling, as opposed to telling about a bunch of things that happened in sequence. The macro story, the one that’s being told over many volumes, feels good and relaxed. Although it’s more pulled-together than the first volume, it still gives me the impression that story is what happens in between Grant Morrison saying what he wants to say.
Which is fine, since the things he wants to say are about adding shading and moderation to characters. Moderation is not typically prized in comics, especially in a comic like this, but it’s a rare and wonderful thing, all the same. Jack Frost (or Dane) begins to pull his character together instead of slaloming between endangered waif and bad seed. King Mob is less of the unflappable, invincible icon he was in the first volume (I was about to say that being tortured will do that to you, but when does Batman look one bit more vulnerable when being tortured? Never. DC wouldn’t allow it.). Boy, or Lucille, was one of the more even-keel characters from the start, so the backstory just adds a little depth to what otherwise might be a moderator.
The one place that the story falls is the same place that most stories fall – magic is magic. When a hero has magic ability, it’s there whenever the situation is grave enough that it needs to be there. That’s not necessarily bad. You could say that about any facet of a story. The cavalry will arrive when the author needs them to and if the author needs them to. They’ll disarm the bomb if that’s how the story goes. It’s just that magic needs a focal point, a switch that’s well established and yet not obvious to flip when the going gets tough. When you use magic, you need to secure to an emotional solution instead of a practical one. It didn’t feel like Dane, even with the famous vision of Jesus that he experiences in this volume, was up to doing battle with something that big, and then healing his dying friend.
Then again, if I wanted that emotional build-up to make sense, I should perhaps have read volume 2. We’ll see if it all adds up when I do!