Sunday, January 23, 2011

Issue Nine: 23: Things Fall Apart

The Invisibles
Volume 1
Issue 9
"23: Things Fall Apart"

In a flashback, King Mob and former cell member John-a-Dreams investigate a church in Philadelphia, searching for an artifact known as the Hand of Glory, In the church basement, they find a grotesque plant monster that John theorizes was an attempt by beings from another universe to cross over. The pair open a door, and are horrified by what they see.

In the windmill, Dane, freaking out about his finger, continues to demand that he's leaving the group. King Mob, worrying over the breaches in security that hindered the previous mission, suggests to the cell that John-a-Dreams is not dead, as they thought, but has joined the enemy. Ragged Robin receives a psychic warning that a group of enemy soldiers is surrounding the windmill.

In the chaos, Dane slips away, taking King Mob's gun with him. He also steals his car - a mistake, as King reveals, because his car is booby-trapped to explode in five minutes.

Improvising rapidly, the group manages to escape, killing several soldiers in the process. Meanwhile, Dane rams a barricade, and his tires are shot out. He bails from the car shortly before it explodes, killing his pursuers but leaving him relatively unharmed. Another soldier confronts him, but Dane pulls out King Mob's gun and shoots him.

The rest of the cell finds the wreckage of the car, and determines that Dane has escaped. King Mob declares that it's time to call "Mister Six."

Madness got us this far
This will be a short one, as this issue is mostly action, without a ton of introspective cosmic stuff. (Considering how heavy the next issue is with the big, weird concepts, it's kind of a relief for me).

Our title tonight is a reference to the I Ching, a Chinese divination technique that's a sort of Oriental version of doing the tarot. As the title indicates, the 23rd hexagram is Po, "things coming to an end" (although the actual pictured hexagram, both on the cover and the title page, is 27, which relates to feeding and nourishment. Hey, maybe getting split up like this is exactly what we needed).

23 is the overtly relevant one tonight, though, considering our newly-formed fellowship is about to have a breaking. Dane McGowan, minus one fingertip, has had enough. Using magic and being invisible and going to parallel universes is all fine when you're just faffing around with a crazy old man. When fingers start getting cut off, it's time to re-evaluate the choices you've made.

Note is made of Dane's incredible luck - the car is shot before it can explode, he's not hurt in the crash, the explosion takes out the people out to get him. King Mob, super-spy assasin, barely gets out of this situation alive, while our favorite little punk breezes through. Is he just lucky? Is he using the magic powers Tom planted in his head? Or is it just that, as a main character, he's protected by a higher power? Dane's clearly special, but he's only special because Grant Morrison decided he is. He was chosen by a normal, human man with control over this reality (and yeah, the Invisibles isn't real, but we keep getting told that "real" doesn't matter) to be the Messiah. So of course he's not going to get blown up 9 issues in.

That one obviously couldn't take the pressure
This is also the first issue where we meet Dane's predecessor, John-a-Dreams (the name is another Shakespeare reference, this time from Hamlet, for a man who gets lost in his daydreams). It's interesting to see King Mob, here, in a clearly deferential role. John's the guy who understands what's going on here - KM just wants something concrete he can shoot.

This opening section throws a lot at the reader, and I don't know that all of it is understandable at this stage of the game. The whole thing has shades of Lovecraft all over it, from the bizarre plant monster in the church to the name-dropping of "Tsathoggua." The Hand of Glory is mentioned for a second time (Freddie and his young lady friend were discussing it when Tom and Dane encountered them in the park back in issue 3), in conjunction with somewhere called Universe B.

Later on, King Mob will describe the things that he and John see here (and which we won't for a long, long time) as a "prototype" community - first steps from an encroaching universe into our (or at least the Invisibles') own. So the question is... are we at war? Is it us vs. them? Does John-a-Dreams's description of the dead plant monster as "magnificent," show him as a traitor in the making? Or is it just that he's more tapped into the truth: There is no war. (Follow-up question: If you refuse to see sides in a conflict, can you be a traitor?)

Although, on the subject of traitors, Robin spends this whole issue hiding her eyes, at first under the brim of her hat, and later with her shades. And when King Mob derisively asks Fanny if she thinks one of the cell is a traitor, she's the one standing far back, freaking out. Of course, it's her psychic warning systems kicking in, warning of the approaching soldiers. But it's still something to think about.

Life just gets cheaper and cheaper
And how about those soldiers? Those faceless goons who want payback because King Mob's "Smile" grenade ripped a friend to shreds. These stormtroopers who rush forward into danger to save a comrade from deadly gas. Who joke to relieve the tension, who get nervous when they have to deal with something like Orlando. How about them?

They work for people and things that want to crush freedom forever, yeah. But to kill the first ones, King Mob has to put on Orlando's jacket. The Invisibles, with their witches and their martial arts experts and their super-spies, they're out of these guys' league, as distant from them as Orlando was from the team (KM looks a bit like John-a-Dreams in the jacket, too, and since we're meant to see something sinister in John for now, that just drives home the point.)

(Although, King Mob wouldn't be able to pull either of the tricks he does here, if his enemy weren't so focused on existing without identity. He can impersonate Orlando because Orlando was always shifting, and he can fake being a Myrmidon because they completely hide their faces. In a way, they're as fluid as De Sade wanted to be last issue, but with the intention of destroying freedom, instead of opening it up).

It makes me gag
Boy calls KM out on his ghoulish humor, and I have to agree. She calls it gallows humor, though, and I'm not sure about that. You use gallows humor when you want to distract yourself from something unpleasant. But look at Mob's face when he says he can always get another car. He's reveling in this shit.

I know I'm driving this point into the ground, issue after issue, but being able to kill that easily is pretty fucked.

Speaking of which, Dane kills his first human being here. We'll have to see what that does to him, whether he turns it into a video game like KM does, or learns a different lesson.

But that won't be for a few days, because the next three issues are all one-shots, jumping around and about the Invisibles universe. It's going to be a long, strange trip. See you tomorrow!

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