The Invisibles, Volume 1: Say You Want A Revolution
by Grant Morrison, Steve Yeowell, Jill Thompson, and Dennis Cramer
For my first entry into Mother/Gamer/Writer’s Manga/Graphic Novel Challenge, I’m going back to the 90s for some comics I didn’t read at the time. The Invisible has been described as a “complicated and ambitious comics masterpiece” and I’ve heard it mentioned frequently, so I figured it was high time I gave it a read.
The very first issue of The Invisibles, “Dead Beatles,” throws you right into the deep end. There are evil folk wearing opaque, circle-lensed glasses bowing down to horrifying gods, the ghost/god John Lennon, delinquents who have their sexual drive and rebellious instinct sucked out of them, and a secret band of superheroic individuals who are fighting against the evil folk.
It’s a trippy, confusing trip through the essential elements of the story, focused on one of the above-mentioned delinquents, Dane McGowan.
Dane gets recruited by the Invisibles, the group of freedom fighters who are clued into the truth of the world, and the second arc, Down and Out in Heaven and Hell, follows him as he initiated into these truths. He learns about the invisible world beneath ours, the horrible things that live there, and those who fight against the horror.
The whole initiation into the secret truth of the world and fighting against bad guys in sunglasses reminded me a lot of The Matrix. Checking to see which came out first, I found it was The Invisibles by a few years. In this post, Morrison agrees: “Yeah. It is that close. I don’t think they could deny it. After the initial rage, when I really went through it plot point by plot point and image by image… The jumps from buildings, the magic mirror, the boy who’s being inducted called the One, the black drones, the shades, the fetish. The Kung Fu as well. The dojo scene. The whole thing – the insect machines that in fact are from a higher dimension, which supposedly enslaved their own. The entire gnostic theme.”
But where I found the Matrix to be a fun, thought-provoking action-adventure, I found this first volume of The Invisibles to be incredibly draining. I wasn’t the only one, apparently. Per the Wikipedia page for The Invisibles, Morrison became seriously ill while writing the book, something he attributes to working on the title and the manner in which its magical influence affected him.
I can readily believe that the work had such an effect on him. The last arc in this first volume, Arcadia, had me wanting to simply put the book down and not look back. The story deals with the French Revolution, a madman from another dimension, the Marquis de Sade, and horror creatures feasting on human flesh. It’s not a ray of sunshine, that’s for sure. Even Dane grows increasingly sick throughout the tale.
The violence and depravity just didn’t work for me in the same way as it did in, say, the Preacher graphic novels, where there’s at least some humor. It just dragged me down into a really uncomfortable place.
I grabbed volumes 2 and 3 in the same library trip as this one, but I think I need to take a break before I pick up the second volume and see if I can push on through this series.