Monday, January 24, 2011
Issue Ten: Season of Ghouls
"Season of Ghouls"
Invisibles member Jim Crow is called upon (in his aspect as the vessel of the Voodoo death god Baron Guedhe) to investigate mysterious deaths among the poor black population of Chicago. Meanwhile, an older black detective named Peebles investigates the case of a young woman raped and murdered by her brother - several hours AFTER he died of an overdose of crack.
Peebles, following a lead given to him by an old voodoo lady (the same one who summoned Crow), investigates a pharmaceutical firm called Unitol. The manager of Unitol, Mr. Dollimore, refuses to talk to Peebles, insulting him with racist terms. Dollimore then shows a new recuit into his inner circle their secret: they have, with the help of voodoo loa, created a version of crack that is immediately fatal, and allows Dollimore and cronies to control the zombified bodies of its users.
Meanwhile, Crow/Guedhe travels through higher/stranger realities. At one point, he summons a liquid/glass substance (called magic mirror) from inside his body, and uses it to transport himself to a region where strange UFOs battle in the skies. He draws energy from what he describes as a "good" UFO, and then meets with a scorpion-loa named Zagurin, who has given Dollimore the power to make zombies in exchange for the souls of the dead crack users.
Guedhe/Crow convinces Zagurin to give him back the souls, in exchange for Dollimore. Meanwhile, Dollimore and his associates, in new bodies, attack the voodoo woman, seeking to shut her up. Crow/Guedhe appears and blasts the men, who are ejected from the bodies. He then appears to them in the flesh.
Detective Peebles, summoned on Guedhe's orders by the voodoo woman, arrives at Unitol, to find Dollimore being ripped apart by his associates, now zombified and dressed as minstrels by Crow. Dollimore begs to be killed to end the pain, but Peebles refuses, walking away from the scene.
This is going to be a rough one, folks.
This is the first of three one-shots that leave our main crew aside for a bit to show a wider view of the world our story takes place in. This one stars Jim Crow, mentioned by Boy when she was training Dane a few issues back, and it's a doozy.
On the surface, this is a pulp story. "Magic crack creates black techno-zombies, drive by whites!" But if pulp is metaphor, a society expressing its fears and uncertainties through disposable literature, this issue is a scream of discomfort at race in America.
And this isn't a story that would work, set in England. The British aristocrats who work for the Outer Church hardly even SEE race: anyone who isn't them is filth to be crushed and controlled. But their analog here, Mr. Dollimore (with his name suggestive of puppetry) is the human face of whites shitting on blacks in the 20th century. Rich white men manufacturing crack to rip out the souls of black men? That's not a metaphor, that's a headline.
He's found a way to live out 120 Days of Sodom in the flesh, stripping all consequences from his actions, and he turns it over to others. I don't think Pearson, the new recruit, is especially racist (although to be accepted into that circle, maybe he'd have to be), but for that kind of freedom, he's perfectly happy to screw over black men. Institutional racism with death and magic crack.
And how is our villain punished? Ripped apart by the black god of death, at the hands of his cronies dressed in a symbol of white belittling of black culture, as a good man refuses to help him.
Why doesn't Peebles fire? Fear of pissing off death? Or is it just that he believes that Dollimore deserves to suffer for what he's done? Is that lack of compassion a failing, or is it simply Dollimore reaping what he's sown? One thing is certain: Crow/Guedhe summoned the detective here to see that justice was being done. He wanted him to KNOW that even if Peebles couldn't prosecute this man, there are powers that can. It's a gift. Bon appetit.
The door to Everywhere
So, that's the normal part of the issue. Let's dive into the weird.
The metaphysics of this issue are tricky, because all of our exposition comes from Jim Crow talking to himself, and he doesn't need to explain things to him. But here goes.
Crow is being ridden by the Voudoon death god Baron Guedhe. In voodoo, you summon a loa (god) to ride you, to use your body, as a way to tap into their power. But what does that mean in the cosmology of The Invisibles? What is a "god" in a world like this?
When Jim trances, leaving his human self behind, he's moving onto the ontic highway, the same "more real" plane we've seen before. He's merging with his higher self, the death embodiment Guedhe. The two ideas, Crow and Guedhe, become indistinguishable. We've moved into an area where the two things, man and god, are the same.
And then we start moving through puddles. First, stepping from the graveyard crossroads, Guedhe's domain, into the "real" world, the shadow-casting world. The one where spheres float in the sky (the one where Dane McGowan once rode his bike). We've been here before, but it looks different this time, strewn with bones, and the sphere is the city of the dead. But in that first scene, there's still a traffic light, dead center. Barbelith, from yet another point of view.
And that's when Jim starts puking up magic liquid glass.
"Molten imagination, the bricks and mortar of the universe, endlessly morphing, infinitely pliable." Magic mirror. "Time stuff." Along with Barbelith, one of the big secrets at the heart of our story. A flat mirror reflects 3D space. This is a 3D mirror, reflecting 4D (time) space. Or, hell, it's moving through time, too. A 4D mirror reflecting everything?
Let's stick to facts. It looks like liquid glass. Magicians can summon it from inside their bodies. It lets you see and play with reality. Jim imagines a place (an imaginary place, if you're seriously still worrying about what's "real") and steps through, to meet a god/idea called Zaraguin.
And we step into an even WEIRDER place, where the minds of dreamers are drained by extradimensional bugs, and biological UFOs wage war. Parasite UFOs drain Placenta UFOS that kill themselves to feed those in need, we're out on the edges of existence here. Remember the aliens Dane saw? In Morrison-land, UFO/aliens is code for things so outside our context that we really can't understand them.
It's like we've burst through into the microbial layer of some even bigger universe. This is just what it looks like, for one mind, from below. Who knows what we look like to the UFOs?
We'll be back here, though. We've been here before.