Friday, 28 March 2014

The Invisibles, Volume 3: Entropy in the UK Review (Grant Morrison et al.)

King Mob and Lord Fanny have been kidnapped by Sir Miles and The Conspiracy and are being tortured for information on The Invisibles - will Ragged Robin, Boy and Jim Crow save them in time? Meanwhile, Jack Frost is still coming to terms with his role as saviour of humanity as the next incarnation of the Buddha, and a new member of The Invisibles is introduced who is looking for the Moonchild. 

I really love Grant Morrison’s writing, I do, but his Invisibles series just isn’t clicking with me in the way his Batman, We3, All-Star Superman and Seaguy comics, to name just a few, do. So Entropy in the UK is the third book in the series and nearly the halfway point in the series as a whole (there are seven volumes), but I’m still having a hard time trying to give a damn about any of the characters. King Mob is tied up in a sterile lab and is being psychically interrogated by Sir Miles – and I don’t care. Am I supposed to be rooting for King Mob? I suppose so, because he and the rest of the Invisibles are fighting the baddies right? But that’s the only reason to care and, to be honest, it’s a really flimsy one. You’re basically telling the reader to like the hero because he’s the hero, rather than giving the reader reasons why they should like the hero – to use the oft-repeated writing maxim, show don’t tell, and there’s a lot of telling in The Invisibles. 

To be fair to Morrison he does continue to slowly build up other characters. In the last book it was Lord Fanny, in this book it’s Boy whose backstory is revealed (and is much less convoluted than Fanny’s was), but Boy is really a minor player in the book who doesn’t get nearly as many pages as King Mob when we as readers should be learning more about him in order for us to actually care about what’s happening to his character. 

Entropy is another decent sized volume, coming in at 230 pages, but the story is very thin on the ground. King Mob is tortured, Fanny makes a voodoo doll, Dane confronts his destiny, the rest of the Invisibles putter about, and then a rescue is launched. The torture sequence in particular is very drawn out and if there’s one thing I’ll take away from reading The Invisibles it’s how much the Wachowskis ripped off the series for their first Matrix movie. Sir Miles torturing King Mob is EXACTLY like the scene when Agent Smith is torturing Morpheus, trying to find out the location of Neo and co. Combine this and other scenes from the first book the Wachowskis used and I’m surprised Morrison didn’t get a credit in the movie! 

Then again, not everything Morrison’s doing is exactly original. I’m not the biggest Philip K. Dick fan but I have read some of his stuff and The Invisibles feels more and more influenced by his work than ever in Entropy. The numerous spiritualism scenes and discourses on Eastern beliefs and the way King Mob claims to really be a writer called Morrison are very much aspects of Dick’s writing. The author even has a cameo here! And the design for the Archon of the Outer Church is very Xenomorph-y. 

However even if the story is stretched for much of the book, there are still flashes of sheer brilliance peppered unexpectedly throughout like King Mob’s psychic defences against Sir Miles which are pretty impressive (his alter-ego Gideon Stargrave is a kind of campy James Bond but not as silly as Austin Powers) and artist Phil Jimenez does an incredible job with the artwork for his issues. The way Sir Miles interrogates King Mob by holding up a note stuck to a mirror saying “facial disease” and King Mob seeing himself with a facial disease was quite brilliant, and the way The Conspiracy keeps people in check from a young age using a code-word, which is the alphabet, was inspired. 

Morrison’s ambition and enormous vision can’t be faulted. I love the mad, chaotic moments that his imagination throws out onto the page like the sentient satellite Barbelith and the way Dane is forced to absorb the collective suffering of humanity to understand why he has to stop running and face his destiny. It’s just the way Morrison writes it that keeps me from connecting to the material in a meaningful way. The characters remain barely realised and the story remains an abstract idea. Maybe I’d feel more positively toward the series if I were as into chaos magic as Morrison but seeing the Invisibles and their enemies engaged in psychic combat made me laugh more than anything. I kept thinking of that scene from South Park where the “psychics” are having a battle and it’s just a bunch of weird people in costumes making "pew pew" noises and waving their arms at one another with nothing at all happening (sorry if you’re into chaos magic – this is just what it looks like from the outside). 

I’m going to keep going with the series because I am interested to see where Morrison is taking all of this but from what I can tell about The Invisibles so far is that it’s a series more interested in portraying semi-philosophical ideas and esoteric magic concepts rather than memorable characters or a meaningful story, which simply doesn’t make for a riveting reading experience unless you’re already interested in this kind of material

Invisibles TP #3 Entropy In The Uk

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