"Best Man Fall"
So, you've realized that there really is more going on in the world than you ever thought. All your sci-fi nerd dreams of the way the world work are true. And so you fit yourself into those tropes, become a super-spy, chaos magician assassin. And one of the bad guys you're chasing pulls a lever, and now there's an alarm going on. That summons some faceless mooks, so you do to them what you always do to faceless mooks: Put a bullet in their brains with a pithy one-liner.
That's "The Story of King Mob, Psychic Agent Provocateur." It's a fun story - we've been reading it for eleven issues now, and we'll be reading it for a long while afterward. But let's try a different one. Just as an experiment.
So you grow up with parents who fight, and a mean older brother. And you head off to the big city, and you meet a girl. When you were a kid you saw Armstrong on the moon and watched fireworks in the sky and dreamt of floating above the earth. But dreams don't come true, and you need work, so you sign up for the army, and you learn to be a soldier but you also learn that soldiers get hurt, and you get sent home and your mom dies and you have a baby. But she has cerebral palsy and your wife got fat and you got old and you hit her and then you apologize and you wonder how this became your life. And you need money, because your daughter's condition isn't cheap. So your old army buddy hooks you up. Sure, the place is weird, and the things they're doing to those kids seem wrong. But it's the government, isn't it? And you need the money.
And then one night some bad guy pulls a lever, and now there's an alarm going on. And you get summoned, and then what always happens to faceless mooks happens to you, even though you have a face. A name.
Your name is Bobby Murray.
There are two main ideas running through this issue. One is easy: there is no such thing as a "faceless" stormtrooper. Every person King Mob kills in this series had a childhood, a family, a life. No one is just their uniform. We're all a series of events leading up to our death. There's a great panel, near the end of the issue, where we see Bobby at Harmony House, in his helmet, but with his face clearly visible. And across the page from him, faceless and strange, the helmeted King Mob.
On the next page, we move back to the day Bobby asked his wife to marry him, both of them wrapped in bliss. And is it a coincidence that her earrings look exactly like the blank badge of the Invisibles? In that moment, together, they've carved out a real joy, without being touched by the government or the corporations or the world around them. For that moment, together, they were invisible, too.
And now he's dead.
Yes. This is happening.
The other idea being played with here is time. Bobby's life is shown in an almost random order, jumping years from panel to panel, flashing forward, flashing backward.
The strangeness of it all is most pronounced in the scene with Bobby in his crib, as bubbles that no one else seem to see float around the room. Bubbles like mirrors (and again, 3D mirrors in the Invisibles reflect 4D reality - movement through time) and then the boy - it seems - speaks, saying "Edith says to call him Boody." And we're reminded he couldn't be saying that. "He's only a year old."
We'll see later that this moment is intersecting with others, that the Hand of Glory is once more at play. But the Hand is just an artifact, an illustration of what's happening all the time. As readers, we can see the entire span of Bobby Murray's life. We can jump back and forth from panel to panel, watching him age and grow younger and age again. He's a year old and thirty and fifteen and every age in between.
This isn't just an issue about "Oh, that King Mob shouldn't have shot him, he had a mum." This is a portrait of the life of a character in the story we're telling ourselves called "The Invisibles," and what it looks like from the outside. It's out of order and confusing and strangely full. And even Bobby can sense the way the past and the future are labels more than absolutes, fearing the gas mask (and the cellar that it hangs in), representing, in short order, the shovel he uses to bury his dog, his brother who dies with words of hatred, and his own death at the hands of a masked man.
I bet I could be an actor
"I did it. I opened the door and I saw the scariest thing in the world and it was just a gas mask." The issue is bookended with scenes of Bobby, as a child, playing a game where he pretends to die, and narration, from an unidentified source telling someone (the reader) that they have to remember. This is just a game.
So yeah, Bobby Murray died. But if I jump back a few pages, there he is, alive again. And if that voice is to be believed, all of this, all of this struggle and fighting is a pantomime. A game we play, of living and struggling and then falling dead. And then you get back up, and it's someone else's turn to play.