Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Invisible Republic, Volume 1 Review (Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko)

In the 29th century, Earth is a distant memory. The human race has left (been forced to leave?) the planet and terraformed moons and created space stations to live on. In the dying days of a regime, Croger Babb, a reporter, stumbles across the journal of a woman called Maia Reveron written 42 years previously. She’s the forgotten cousin of the rebel leader Arthur McBride whose entries reveal a dark side to the adulated man. 

Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s comic is great looking with a strong premise but it’s very underwritten. The setup is rushed through, vague and sloppy – “the Malory regime” has ended, though it’s unclear who that is or what that means. There are posters of an older Arthur McBride (who, conveniently, hasn’t changed his look in over four decades) – but what does that mean? Was he the Malory regime or is he the new regime? Why does the future suck so hard – why’s there no food but an abundance of spaceships? How did seemingly every regime become militant - what happened to democracy? 

Croger, also conveniently, stumbles across Maia’s journal in an alleyway – but what kind of journal is made up of loose-leaf A4 papers? Who writes journals that way? And anyway aren’t journals bound books? How did a pile of top secret A4 papers written decades ago wind up in an alleyway for anyone to find? 

In the journal we discover that McBride murdered a couple of soldiers 42 years ago but I don’t think anybody knew he did. So why is this such incendiary information for the reporter – will people react poorly to discover their beloved leader done killed a couple of enemy soldiers? Surely they’d be pleased? Or, if he’s the recently deposed tyrant, why would two deaths decades ago be important now?

The story jumps from the present with Croger, who’s being hunted for no reason for the journal, to the past where Maia and Arthur are trying to escape detection for the murders Arthur committed. Neither are that interesting – Croger’s less so largely because it’s unclear what the stakes are, and Maia/Arthur’s because there’s little context. Who are the oppressors they’re rebelling against? What are all these wars about? Then Maia becomes a beekeeper, which is always thrilling to read(!). 

But even though we follow these characters for the entire book, I never felt like I got to know them or even cared about what they were doing even if I knew what the point of it all was. Bechko/Hardman aren’t good enough writers to create an emotional connection between their story and the reader. What’s worse is that this is an interesting premise and McBride is a compelling and mysterious character. I do want to learn more about him and this future human society and how things came to pass, but this team don’t deliver on the promise of the material. 

Hardman is a very talented illustrator though and the art throughout is excellent. I can see why Christopher Nolan used him as his storyboard artist on Inception and Interstellar as more than a few sequences in the comic had a cinematic feel to them and the spaceship designs looked amazing. Hardman’s work is always impressive whether in his dog book, Kinski, or in his Wonder Woman issue from Sensation Comics, the guy can draw everything so well! 

But the sci-fi flavour, both in look and in the story, is background detail only. Invisible Republic is a political thriller that just happens to be set in the future with spaceships whizzing about. Except the politics is unfathomable, the thriller is generic and confused, and the characters are one-dimensional creations. Maybe this is just the scene-setting first chapter and the next book(s?) will flesh out this world, but I’ve yet to be wowed by Hardman’s writing in the same way as his art. Invisible Republic is an unimpressive, but visually superb, read with the potential to become something good.

Invisible Republic, Volume 1

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