Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Invisibles, Volume 7: The Invisible Kingdom Review (Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely)

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucking hell. Am I glad THAT’S over with! 

It took me over a month to read this final book. I would pick it up, read a page or two, then put it back down, thoroughly dejected. Some days I would open it up, stare at the page for a moment not reading, barely seeing, and put it back down again. Finally this weekend, I forced myself to get through this so I no longer have to stare at it staring back at me on my desk and so I can say that I’ve read the complete Invisibles series. 

Well, I’ve finished it now - but I don’t think it was worth it. 

I’d normally try to write a summary of the book and try to contextualise it before the review but, flicking through it once more, there’s no point - I have no idea what happened in this book other than the series ended. Actually I just came across one panel that perfectly sums up the series: a “character” is taking pictures of a toilet and calling it the Holy Grail. The Invisibles is a critically acclaimed piece of crap! 

Usually by the end of a series, there’s been a storyline building up and you’re looking forward to its resolution but to be honest I’ve never really known what The Invisibles is about. The Invisibles are some abstract terrorist cell fighting conspiracies across the world that happen to be real and in this one they’re supposed to stop the coronation of a monster from another dimension who’s going to be King of England or something. Which they do in about 40 pages of brain-mashing nonsense. So what happens in the remaining 250 pages? 

Weeeeell… there’s about 100 pages of gibberish as the various members of The Invisibles train (doing karate, flying jets, doing drugs) while Sir Miles (the villain) is tied to a chair in a windmill (or a time machine) and goes through some weird mental conditioning. 

These first 100 pages meant nothing to me. What flying a jet had to do with anything went totally over my head, especially as it has nothing to do with the rest of the book. Doing karate and practicing martial arts? They never use either. Mental conditioning Sir Miles? Useless because he’s some kind of next-level Mason who can withstand the conditioning. So why allow The Invisibles to do this in the first place? It wastes his time, it wastes their time (granted they don’t know it’s wasting their time), it wastes the reader’s time, and neither The Invisibles or Sir Miles learn anything useful. So this first 100 pages is just Grant Morrison wasting everyone’s time, showing us, once again, how learned he is by cramming in reference after reference to all aspects of culture. It’s not interesting, it’s hella boring. 

The next 100 pages follows the most tedious “character” in the series, Edith, an old flapper from the 1920s who’s now 99 years old and dying. She was once King Mob’s lover and they spend 100 pages being pretentious together, talking about philosophy and what happens when you die. I honestly just wanted to throw the book away rather than suffer through these issues. 

By the way I’m putting the word character in quotation marks because at no point do any of these people feel remotely real. They all sound exactly the same, they all talk the same pseudo-philosophical/spiritual crap, and they’re all flat as pancakes. They also just drop in and out of the story for no reason. Most of the book takes place in England but characters from America and the rest of the world appear out of nowhere and then disappear just as abruptly. 

So that covers 240 pages of this 290 page book - the remaining 50 pages, I have absolutely no idea. It’s the end of the world or something and I couldn’t understand a single fucking caption or piece of dialogue. And then it ends with Jack talking to the reader to basically wake up. Good thing too as I’d read these last 50 pages completely numb. 

Can you see why it took me over a month to get through this turgid rubbish? By this seventh volume, The Invisibles has ceased to be a comic with any narrative, characters, etc. and has become a bizarre pamphlet where Morrison can spew out his thoughts on this, that and everything. It’s so self-indulgent, it’s unbelievable. 

The only reason I’m giving it more than one star is because of the remarkable roster of artists assembled for this final, bloated hurrah - from Frank Quitely to Sean Phillips, Philip Bond to Chris Weston, Cameron Stewart to Jill Thompson, and about 10 other artists, I loved most of the art in this book and was quite often the one thing keeping me going. I was surprised not to see Phil JImenez contribute though, seeing as he’s drawn the majority of this series. 

I’m actually a really big fan of Morrison’s work which is why I forced myself through the whole series even though, if I’m being honest, I stopped enjoying it after the first volume! I kept hoping - and other fans of the series kept telling me - that it would get better, it would start making sense, and so on, but it just happened, for me anyway. I’m not saying anyone who likes this series is wrong but for whatever reason it just never clicked for me. But I can see why there have been books written about The Invisibles because, if nothing else, Morrison has crammed all kinds of strange ideas and theories into this title, so there’s a lot of rich material to extrapolate and ponder upon. 

The only problem with that approach is that it’s extremely boring to read - replacing things like narrative and characters with half-baked ideas, druggy visions, and an incoherent, experimental style to communicating them that’s almost anti-sober-reader just alienates the audience, as they can’t figure out what the hell is happening. 

When you put no effort into creating characters, the reader won’t care about them; when you put no effort into the story, there’s no narrative tension or drive to interest the reader; Morrison just heaps reference upon reference of esoteric stuff that unless the reader is already interested in them, like his views on the Kabbalah or whatever, you’re not going to be remotely engaged with the book. 

If The Invisibles is anything, it’s an extended display of Morrison stroking his own ego in front of an audience for seven lengthy books. And it goes from being dull to read, to annoying, and finally exhausting. I’ll re-read other Morrison books but I’ll never come back to The Invisibles. 

It’s done - MY sentence is up. 


The Invisibles, Volume 7: The Invisible Kingdom


  1. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. I am kind of sad we couldn't recruit you, so to speak. That said my father in law could not even finish volume one.

    Kudos however on that final comment.


    1. Thanks, man. I did try but I feel like The Invisibles is more of a project or a puzzle than a comic - if you want to sift through and unpack all of the things Morrison threw in there, you'll probably enjoy it more. Me, I'm more simple and wanted to read a good story instead and that's where we split, I think.

      Gonna try and tackle Preacher now!