Monday, January 31, 2011
Issue Sixteen: London
(I usually don't like to re-post too much of the book in one block, but the abduction sequence in this issue is important enough to include as a whole)
Dane McGowan is once again living on the streets of London. He sees members of the cell looking for him, but continues to hide, and is wracked by guilt over the enemy soldier he shot.
He once again sees the words Barbelith spraypainted on a wall, and suddenly recovers much of his memories of his time with Tom O'Bedlam. Most significantly, he remembers what happened the first time he saw the word painted on the wall of the subway tunnel.
Dane is abducted by aliens, who tell him he is the chosen one, and implant a "magic stone" that will allow him to produce the magical superfluid known as magic mirror into his forehead. When Dane realizes that they are not really aliens, they remove their disguise to show their true form, telling him "the soul is not in the body, the body is inside the soul," and that they are a higher form of humanity.
Dane is woken from his reverie by the appearance of Sir Miles and the Hunt. Miles tells the boy that he has been tricked and manipulated by the Invisibles, and offers him a place of power and safety with the enemy. Dane refuses, and the Hunt attacks him. Dane channels his psychic abilities in a massive act of self-defense, destroying all of his attackers except Sir Miles. Miles attempts to psychically dominate the boy, but Dane manages to overpower him. He holds a gun to Miles's head and is about to shoot, before being stopped by a police officer.
Dane, acting off of a recovered memory from Tom, goes to a locker that has been left for him. Unlocking it with a key Tom gave him, he finds a Tesco's bag. With the supplies inside, Dane cuts his hair, changes his appearance, and begins hitchhiking north, back to Liverpool.
The Invisible man
And suddenly we're back where we started: Dane McGowan, losing himself on the streets of London. Except this time, it's not a controlled experiment. The Invisibles are all still around him, but they don't know he's there. And this time, the Hunt is real.
But most importantly, Dane McGowan is no longer the person he was. He has killed (and felt deep remorse... I can't help thinking that the juxtaposition of Dane's grief at the dead soldier and those pigeons taught him not to kick is intentional.) And he's been through enough, now, that when he sees Barbelith sprayed on the walls of the city, he can recover some of the things that happened to him the first time he saw it.
Be as strong as you can. It always hurts.
It's important to read this issue after She-man, because Fanny's story sets up a lot of parallels here. Dane briefly realizes that he is BOTH standing outside, and down in the tunnel. The paint forming the word Barbelith will always be wet, fresh. Magicians exist outside time, and this is the story of how Dane became a magician.
In the light of Fanny's experience with the Aztec gods, it becomes easier to see the aliens who abduct Dane in a similar light - metaphors for the Other, the more advanced. UFOs and conspiracy theories are the modern myth, and the consciousness communicating with Dane uses that imagery to obfuscate the frightening truth. And just like Fanny before him, Dane sees through the illusion. That's part of the test.
There's a little bit of confusion, for me, when this particular entity uses pronouns. It declares "you" "The chosen one," who has been "/(elected)/" to save the world. I think this might be the point where we break from the Hero's Journey mold we've been operating in for Dane. Because, while Dane is powerful, and he will be important, I don't believe that he's the actual, literal Messiah. It goes against everything the comic seems to be about, the idea that everyone can become Invisible, to have a character who comes in and saves the world by dint of how perfect and special he is.
It seems more likely that this is what anyone who gets to this point is told - and it's true. Once you get to this level of understanding, leading people to "/(global peace and harmony)/" (those /( are what the aliens use when they're... not lying, exactly, but using simplified language to express something we can't understand). It is part and parcel of learning magic, the way the universe works.
Try to remember.
Or, hell, maybe he was /(elected)/. The right man in the right place, chosen by a group that can see everyone in every time. Maybe Dane McGowan was the right man for the job.
Because that's Barbelith's last big revelation (for now, anyway). That all of these aliens, these mysterious circles in the sky... They're just big, cosmic versions of the Invisibles badge. The magic mirror exists outside of and reflects time, and when you look into it, what you're seeing is yourself. Your whole self. The "aliens" and the "gods" are just what we look like from the outside, reaching into the universe to help the parts of us stuck there. No gods. No monsters. Just humanity, reflected.
In the end, I've only one true teaching for you, Dane, one simple word: Disobedience
If there is something special about Dane, it's not the psychic powers. It's that complete unwillingness to join anything. That immature "Fuck you" to the idea that any group or side has his best interests at heart. He's the permanent outsider, rebelling against everything, and, when he finally taps into that rage, the results are spectacular.
I find it interesting, that when Jack Frost unleashes on the members of the Hunt, he almost seems to be attacking the page, as well. Maybe it's just a stylized way of showing carbon monoxide, but it LOOKS like Jack has thrown paint thinner onto the pages, erasing his opponents from the universe. When he has his psychic duel with Sir Miles, the same thing occurs, seeming to blot his opponent out of the page itself.
And why not? Magic is the manipulation of the rules of reality, and reality is the book.
The most interesting example, though, is when Dane goes to the locker Tom left for him. This might be a huge coincidence, but Dane opens locker 23 (a reference, I assume, to the many conspiracy theories related to that number), and directly next to him is the page number of the issue - 23. Maybe I'm crazy, but it seems like Dane is reaching into the page itself for the items Tom left for him. A secret cache, passed from one reality manipulator to another.
And what's in the bag? Scissors, a new shirt. Ways to change your appearance. Ways to become Invisible.