Miscellaneous Reviews:

The Invisibles

(Written by Grant Morrison, art by various people Published monthly by Vertigo/DC Trade paperbacks available [see below] )

If you haven't read The Invisibles before, where have you been? Now in its fifth and final year, Grant Morrison's Invisibles have been through all sorts of sticky situations -- to hell and back. From meeting De Sade in the French Revolution; to being tortured by a high-ranking government official in London; to finding an HIV cure in New Mexico; to fighting yakuza gangsters in San Francisco; to taking acid in that New Orleans cemetery; to meeting De Sade again at the end of the twentieth century -- this has been one hell of a ride.

The Invisibles takes its ideas from everywhere; Mayan mythology, HP Lovecraft, chaos magick, Terence McKenna, tarot cards, The Prisoner, nanotechnology, Philip K. Dick, voodoo, R. A. Wilson, time travel, 70s Brit-cops Jason King and The Sweeney -- even PlayStation's Parappa the Rapper. It's an intelligent comic, provoking lively discourse on the internet newsgroups and bulletin boards devoted to it. It's one of those comics that you can read simply for the big guns and sexy characters, or you could get deeper and read into all the ideas. The idea of "the invisibles" dates back a few centuries and is connected to the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians, the Illuminati, the Freemasons, and the Pyramid Conspiracy, but Morrison has subverted this idea. In his comic, the invisibles are not so much a secret society controlling the entire world, as a group of like-minded people opposed to the idea of one organisation controlling the world. Essentially, it breaks down into the age-old battle of the rebels against the empire, but Morrison is always ambiguous about whether the heroes really are the good guys. Because of this ambivalence, the reader is never sure how events will turn out. It always comes as a surprise when someone is seen to switch sides, and Morrison plans to keep readers guessing until the final issue in February next year.

Now in its fifth year, the comic has been through a number of art teams. The majority of artwork is good, with the team of Phil Jiminez, and John Stokes (the creators of Kula Shaker's K album sleeve) popularly considered the best. There are some disappointments, however, with a particular artistic low point being the usually good Jill Thompson, whose pencils are done no justice by Dennis Cramer's scrappy amateurish inks early on in the story. However, don't let this detract from the writing, and fear not because Thompson gets to make up for it later when she inks her own pencils in the She-Man arc.

The Invisibles has never really been a particular priority for DC, despite having a "re-launch" at the end of the first two years. This resulted in the comic being published as three volumes; the first dating from 1994-96 with 25 issues; the second from 1996-98 with 22 issues, and the final one in 1999, with 12 issues, counting backwards to #1 which arrives at the start of the new millennium. Getting hold of back issues can be difficult or easy, depending on how the title moves in and out of favour. There are three trade paperbacks available:

Invisibles: Say You Want a Revolution (collects issues 1-8 from Volume I)

Invisibles: Bloody Hell In America (collects issues 1-4 from Volume II)

Invisibles: Counting To None (collects issues 5-12 from Volume II, plus one story from a Vertigo One-Shot)

There is no collection of the remainder of issues from Volume I, that is to say issues 9-25. At this current moment in time, it seems DC has no intention of bringing them out in a trade paperback, although I've heard talk of them bringing out a collection of some of the issues from Volume II, starting where Counting To None left off. Not having the remainder of Volume I plays hell with continuity, which is crazy for a narrative that relies on knowing about incidents in the past to better understand those in the future. Maybe they'll bring one out some day, but I don't live in too much hope. In the meantime, for the remaining uncollected issues, your best bet is to trawl around the comics shops and conventions, or the internet. If you like reading things that make you think, you'll be happy with this comic. If you just like big explosions and The X-Files, you'll be happy with this comic. Read it now - before it's too late.

Website: http://www.barbelith.com/bomb The best Invisibles resource on the 'net. Features articles, links, issue-by-issue guide and lots more.

[Load time rating: **** but may be slow because of the graphics]

Anna Jellinek

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