Monday, 19 May 2014

The Invisibles, Volume 5: Counting to None Review (Grant Morrison, Phil Jimenez)

I’m starting to feel that The Invisibles has become the literary equivalent of Grant Morrison staring at his reflection and touching himself. 

I realised with the last volume that I don’t care about the characters or their story - both of which are paper thin, which is why I don’t care - and this volume hasn’t changed my opinion otherwise. So besides a bull-headed determination to finish the series, what’s keeping me going? The fact that it’s Grant Morrison writing this - man can do anything with his stories so he might be able to turn this around and/or surprise me with some amazing stuff. 

… “might” being the operative word because the fifth volume took me about three weeks to get through, on and off, and wow, does nothing much happen! 

This is the time travel volume and generally time travel stories are confusing as hell - and Counting to None is no exception. We find out Ragged Robin is from the future, there’s a time machine designed by a Japanese monk into origami, King Mob sends his spirit/soul/whatever back to the 1920s where he meets Edith, the old lady in the wheelchair from earlier books, who’s in the bloom of her youth, all to get something called the Hand of Glory that’ll do something. 

Meanwhile, Boy gets brainwashed/de-conditioned by another Invisibles cell to remove the mind control implants or something Scientology-esque. The summary sounds a bit vague but I really don’t want to go back through the book to clarify, I’d rather just move on and finish! 

At this point in the series, it really feels like we’re reading Morrison’s fantasies - he really wants to be the King Mob character. You can tell he loves him the most and makes him out to be the “coolest”, most hep cat of the group and everyone in the book knows it. The rest of The Invisibles know how shit hot cool they are, the other characters in the book know it - at one point, a room service guy says “are you guys in a rock band?” in awe. It’s so godawful to read! The Invisibles are the least cool, most annoying group of poseurs you’d be happy to see beaten with a crowbar! 

I know Morrison can write like no-one else on certain books, but his most successful titles like All-Star Superman and his Batman run, were tightly plotted and focused; The Invisibles is Morrison throwing references out like a chicken farmer doling out birdseed. 

I get that Morrison is a smart dude and he knows a lot about a lot, but the references rarely have anything to do with the story. Here’s a reference to this idea, and here’s another to this, and this, and, etc. - it’s a really shallow approach and that’s why reading this book in particular is so draining, because you want it to have a depth that you know Morrison is capable of but he doesn’t seem interested in aiming for here. He’s happy letting you know he’s studied the Gnosticism, the Tarot, Jungian philosophy and so on, rather than tell a story. 

And if after all of that - hell, after five freakin’ volumes! - the reader is still wondering what the hell the overarching plot of The Invisibles is, then you’ve totally lost control and are just tugging it in the reader’s face. 

I’m going to trudge my way through the remaining two books but I’ve officially lost interest in this series - Morrison’s a great writer but The Invisibles is a long way from being one of his best works.

The Invisibles Volume 5: Counting to None

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