Monday, February 02, 2009

The Invisibles #1

by Ping33

These posts started as a project on the Comic Geek Speak forum. A bunch of people said they were going to read an issue of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles each week and discuss it. By issue 4 I found myself alone. As I write this: I am up through issue 10 and am really enjoying the project even while I feel like I'm missing the discussion I was so looking forward to. I suggested lifting my posts from the forum and posting them here to Geoff and he was kind enough to like the idea (with his love and scholarship of Morrison, I thought this might be something he was interested in. Due the informal nature of some of the earlier posts (especially up through issue 5 when I realized I was kind of alone.) I'm going to edit them a bit, combining multiple posts and bridging some ideas and formalizing the format a bit. From issue 11, I will be writing my new entries with the blog in mind. Not sure if I'll keep posting on the forum or not... I think it kind of depends on feedback from Geoff and anyone else who wants to read it in either place.
Now onto the good stuff:

Invisibles #1: Dead Beatles.

I have this whole series in the original issues. I was 16 when #1 came out, and I got it because I was reading more than half the Vertigo line and I still remember the silhouette of King Mob's mask from the promo material, which was mysterious and intriguing. In issue 1 we're introduced to Dane and King Mob. Dane is a troubled Liverpool teenager, King Mob is a globe trotting super-spy, looking for a new recurute. King Mob spends most of the issue talking to old friends. In the middle of the issue both characters have mystical expirences involving The Beatles, Dane sees John Lennon talking to Stuart Sutcliffe through a wrinkle in time, King Mob contacts Lennon's god head though a drug trip. Dane lights his school on fire, gets thrown in a reform school which steals souls and makes slaves of troubled teenagers and is broken out by King mob.

Upon looking at it now: The circular nature of the whole series evident in this one issue was the first thing which struck me. Actually, maybe the second, after the Natural Born Killers advert on the back cover which makes me think about just how much this book was a product of its times. Along with the title, we get an actual Dead Beetle at the beginning and at the end,
(Dead Beatle:) Stuart Sutcliffe's mention of his girlfriend Astrid followed in the story by the appearance of a Vauxhall Astra with a license plate which (if you ignore the J) is a visual palindrome: 215 pvq. We get Dane saying "It's sort of like I've seen it before, but I haven't" to the King Mob graffiti. Then there's the stuff we don't know yet: Mr. Six, Edith, (Mario reminds me that: 'The guards who get shot at Harmony House come back on their own story later on.') On top of all of this comes with a level of irony which I'm not sure is intentional in that you have an overall story about chaos which is so neatly ordered. King Mob may blow up Harmony House, but is there a greater harmony than the series as a whole, when taken from 10,000 feet? And So we Return and Begin Again... and so we do indeed.

One of the joys of having the single issues, is having the letter column: Invisible Ink. In this issue there are obviously no letters; instead what you get is a one-page note from Morrison. He begins:

"Destroy this Comic! That's my advice. When you've finished reading The Invisibles #1, tear it up, burn it, feed it to your lizards, lock it in the trunk of a stolen car and push it off a bridge. You'll feel good, believe me. It's only a comic after all. Do you really need more of these things cluttering up your life? Do you really need to be chained to a mountainous dead weight of paper? There'll be another one next month anyway, and chances are your memories of this comic will be much better than the real thing."

Well, I just switched to trades, mostly because they are far more manageable than the mountain of clutter which, in my case really is a mountain of clutter with nothing resembling order, care or organization... for the most part. I used to be better, at this collecting thing, I used to bag and board and alphabetize I'm glad I was still doing it throughout the Invisibles... because issue #1 was much better than I remembered. Far more magical than any story in the series was the fact that when I looked for my issues I found the complete run sitting all in order exactly in the first spot I looked. Truly, this was synchronicity, BARBELiTH at work!


Anonymous said...

The first half dozen issues of Invisibles left me /very/ flat at the time... so much so that I dropped out for a year, only returning around the end of Volume I. Then I had to spend months hunting down the low-print-run issues that I'd missed. (This was in the dark backward days of the early 1990s, when you might have to wait YEARS for the trade.)

Oh, and also? The Invisibles trades have missing pages -- not a lot, but they snipped out various foreshadowy bits, presumably to make the page count come out even. So, you're /definitely/ better off with the floppies.

You know about the Barbelith website, right? I haven't been there in years, but they used to have a pretty lively forum.

Doug M.

Fnord Serious said...

Invisibles was a lot of fun but I never felt like I got the huge thrill out of it that some readers got. I still have the issues packed away in a long box and want to reread them one of these days.

Good idea to bring this project over here, Ping. I think issue by issue analyses like this work much better on a blog than as forum discussion threads. A blog allows people to catch up with it at their own pace rather than keep up with the lead of the reviewer.

Patrick said...

I did issue by issue blogging of the entire series back in 2007, you can check out the first issue right here. All those posts are actually coming out in revised book form sometime in Q3 2009, so if you want to read a lot more about the series, pick that up when it drops.

Anyway, I believe there's only one page missing from the trades, the last page of issue 2.4, which is indeed foreshadowing. And, technically there's missing pages from the final trade, since a few of them were redrawn by Cameron Stewart to match what Grant had in mind. Those are all available online here.

As for the series itself, I'd agree that the first few issue take a little bit to click. There's fantastic moments in this issue, but the next three are easily the book's worst arc, and Arcadia is a very difficult story to get into. I did enjoy it the first time through, but it's a lot more enjoyable after you've been through the entire series already.

But, I'm eager to hear your thoughts on the series issue by issue. It's been discussed a lot, but I still feel like a lot of the comics world hasn't caught up to it, or is just too intimidated or something to get into it. It may be tough at times, but it's precisely that difficulty that makes it such a massive experience for people who get into it. The series really did change my life like no other work of fiction before or since.

Dork said...

I've recently tried to read The Invisibles. I made it through #12 and then wasn't compelled to continue for a while. So I tried again and made it through #15 and haven't tried to continue for over a month now.

I can't say I'm impressed, even though I followed my reading with blogs explaining more about it.

Dork said...

Patrick, your Thoughts on Stuff blog was the stuff I was reading alongside The Invisibles (and got me to try it in the first place).

Ping33 said...

I loved Arcadia...

I also use the disinfo guide and the Barbelith website more as I move along.

Need to get my entry for #2 up.
I don't have a ton to say about #3/4 may combine them... my thoughts on #5 are quite long though.

Patrick said...

Thanks Dork, I will say that my blogs will more geared to the reread. I feel like the initial read just needs to be an experience of the overall thing, with the assumption that you won't understand all the concepts.

The purpose of the first read is to take the journey that the characters do, to experience the series within the limits of linear time and space. The second read makes you more like John a Dreams, aware of the entire continuum, and able to piece things together and understand more. I've read the series five times through, and I still pick up on new stuff.