Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Invisibles Volume 2: Apocalipstick Review (Grant Morrison, Jill Thompson)

I really liked the first Invisibles book. It followed a troubled kid called Dane as he became a part of a resistance cell called the Invisibles who were waging a secret war against the oppressive powers of the world – awesome! It wasn’t a straightforward read but you could follow it as it was basically told from Dane’s perspective who, like the audience, knew nothing about the Invisibles and was experiencing it all for the first time. It had tons of imagination and inspiring stuff which clearly influenced the Wachowskis as a lot of that book made it into the first Matrix movie. The second Invisibles book also has lots of imagination too but it’s a less clear and more fragmented story – not as good as the first volume but still ok. 

The stories include a new character, a vodou witch called Jim Crow, who messes with businessmen who slum via VR headsets in the bodies of gang members (that old chestnut!); a monster from the mirror realm who eats people the Conspiracy offers up; the life story of a soldier King Mob thoughtlessly kills; and the origins of Lord Fanny, the transvestite shaman (she-man, geddit?) of the Invisibles. 

Grant Morrison is generally known as the whacky/druggy/psychedelic writer of bizarre comics which isn’t totally fair as a lot of his work is understandable, it’s just that he’s incredibly ambitious and sometimes loses readers who aren’t willing to meet him halfway. But some of his work features completely random stories and Apocalipstick is one of those books. I don’t know how Jim Crow’s story fitted in to Dane’s leaving the Invisibles – it was visually spectacular to see the insect monsters/N’Orleans icons of vodou magic come to life, but I had no clue what was going on! 

The mirror monster story was a bit better – at least I could follow what was happening! Told from the perspective of a servant in this rich guy’s castle, a monster comes out of the mirror every night and eats a human offering prepared by the servant. The rich guy thinks nothing of it but the servant eventually starts wigging out especially when one of the offerings turns out to be his estranged punk daughter. It’s a bit long-winded as the point is for the Conspiracy to find out the Invisibles’ location – something that could’ve been in a much shorter way - but it’s an entertaining horror comic. 

In keeping with the sharp turns this comic takes, we’re shown the life story of a nameless guard who’s killed by King Mob at the start of the book (kind of like in the first Austin Powers movie). His miserable life plays out in stages, jumping backwards and forwards in a cut-up beat style. I really liked seeing Steve Parkhouse’s art (he’s an artist I remember seeing way back in the 2000AD days but rarely see anymore) but what a downer of an issue! 

The rest of the book – about half! – is the origin story of Lord Fanny, the transvestite shaman of the Invisibles. I understand that Morrison’s fascinated with transvestites and how they symbolically represent two halves of a whole and all this other stuff – but wow, was this a boring story to read! Lord Fanny is born into an Aztec witch cult that despises boys and wants to turn them into girls or something. It was all very Angela Carter-esque but it just dragged on and on and, to be honest, Lord Fanny’s fine as a supporting character but not as the main one. Her story was completely and utterly boring and made it a slog to get through. The whole magic/transgender thing just didn’t interest me at all – it’s interesting in itself but not as narrative. 

Apocalipstick (great title by the way!) is a very dark book. Death and suffering permeate the book completely and made it a very depressing read. Parts of it were compelling and some were entertaining in a kooky imaginative sense, and I loved the artwork throughout, but it didn’t quite gel as a complete volume for me and the biggest part of the book just didn’t grab me at all. It hasn’t put me off the series though, it’s just a bit of a let-down after the brilliant first book.

Invisibles TP #2 Apocalipstick

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