Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Issue Eleven: Royal Monsters

The Invisibles
Volume 1
Issue 11

"Royal Monsters"


This issue details the true story of the famous Monster of Glamis Castle. It is revealed to be a Lovecraftian monster born 200 years ago during an attempt to incarnate an ultradimensional entity (presumably one of the archons of the Outer Church) into human form.

Jeremy Sutton is the monster's feeder. Every day, he opens a portal inside a mirror in a hidden room of the castle, allowing the monster to come through from the world it is kept in to feed on human flesh. Sutton is also secretly an agent of the Invisibles, tasked with killing the creature. However, for the last six years he has been unwilling to carry out the kill.

Sir Miles, previously seen leading The Hunt, arrives at the castle, both to hunt humans in the countryside, and to utilize the monster in a new scheme to end the war. He seeks to place the monster, technically the rightful Earl of Strathmore, on the English throne. (It is also implied that Miles and his associates had Princess Diana killed when she refused to birth a new, superior, "moon-child" for them, which is why they must resort to using the monster).

Sutton discovers that his long-estranged daughter is one of the prisoners set to be hunted by Sir Miles and his associates. He attempts to rescue her.

However, his diary, in which he reveals his true allegiances, has been in enemy hands for several months. His daughter is working for Sir Miles, who threatens to kill her if Sutton does not betray the Invisibles completely.

Sutton agrees, but before he can say any more, Miles orders the girl shot. He tells Sutton that they already know everything he could tell them. Sutton is then bound and served to the monster as its next meal.

No world for gnats
And for tonight's installment of rapidly jumping around the Invisibles universe, we have this delightful dose of Gothic horror, with just a little bit of upstairs/downstairs comedy worked into the mix.

This story is a blessing for me, because I can start referring to the mustached gentleman we saw taking part in The Hunt all those issues ago by his proper name, Sir Miles, and stop being needlessly oblique.

Sir Miles is the ugly face of aristocracy. If the whole idea of monarchy (or government) is that a trade is happening - people give up power to singular individuals in exchange for protection, then Sir Miles is everything wrong with the concept. He's the realization that, once you have the power, people will be so attached to the IDEA of being safe, that as long as you can foster it, their actual security is unimportant. Even if you're the one putting them in peril.

Noblesse oblige is bullshit. Sir Miles is your better. He owes you nothing. And yet, if we're going to be honest, he's a bit charming. He's funny, if gruff. His eye rolls at his buffoonish assistant are amusing. I imagine him as John Cleese at his John Cleese-iest, total, unshakeable arrogance un-leavened by compassion.

A starring role in your own personal tragedy
And as his almost polar opposite we have our other central character this issue, Jeremy Sutton. He's compassionate to a fault, that man. So compassionate that he can look into the pitiless eyes of his monstrous charge and see a person. Or tell himself he sees a person, so that he doesn't have to take a stand and kill it. Sutton is compassion as weakness, unstruggling as a monster devours him.

It's telling that he doesn't view himself as an Invisible, that he's never made that leap, even though he's allowed himself to be placed in a horrifying situation in their name. I think the thing that damns Sutton is that he never CHOSE to be an Invisible. There's a difference between realizing that "sides" are just an illusion and opting out of the conflict, and burying your head in the sand because you're scared.

"I'm the Thing on the far side of its mirror. We're both the same." That sounds like such an Invisibles thing to say. And it's right, on the cosmic scale. But this is a hard truth of the Invisibles: being right on the cosmic scale can get you killed. And that's no bad thing, maybe, as Tom O'Bedlam would remind you. But nevertheless, it is that impulse, it is his compassion, his love, that kills Jeremy Sutton. Sir Miles tells Sutton that hate and hurt are his tools, but the story makes the case that love and compassion, when they lack conviction, kill just as easily.

One of those books where you don't really know who's going to win
In a way, Sutton also stands opposite of King Mob. I just realized that KM's ghost haunts each of these stand-alone issues - the scorpion spirit Zaguirin told Jim Crow to pass a warning to KM last issue, Sutton's friend Des is reading a Kirk Morrison novel this issue, and he's all over tomorrow's book... I wonder, was Morrison (Grant, not Kirk) just trying to keep his central character in each issue, even subconsciously? Or are we meant to be seeing his reflections?

We've got Jim Crow, an American King Mob. Brash and more vulgar, but still that mixture of the spiritual and the murderously cruel. They even draw power from the same source (although that's probably more of a clue that ALL power is coming from a same place, once we peel off the disguises of Voodoo or chaos magic or what have you).

We've got Sutton, the anti-King Mob - compassionate where KM is hardened, indecisive where Mob is bold. I may mock him for his violence and his stupid, juvenile one-liners, but if Gideon was as weak, as reluctant toward violence as Jeremy is, the cell would already be dead.

Our future monarch
And at the center of this thing, as in any horror story, we have a monster. It's hard to know whether to label the Moon-child as evil, per se. It is alien, and it cannot be reasoned with (although the prey in this issue try, to no effect). It is an attempt to embody something higher, forcefully, into a human form.

That actually strikes me as a very Sir Miles thing to do, because above all, Sir Miles is human. He uses supernatural tools, and he serves supernatural masters, but he doesn't like the archons at all. And so I can see why he would turn to the Child, to the idea of taking something vast and alien and incomprehensible, and trying to shove it into a human body... Instead of shedding the body and merging with the higher worlds.

But at the end of the day, the monster is a metaphor: Rulership devouring the common man, still convinced, as the teeth tear into his flesh, that the monster on top of him LIKES him.

Tomorrow: One of the best issues of this Volume, maybe the whole book. No fooling, it's a good one.

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