Thursday, February 10, 2011

Issue Nineteen: Assasin

This is late - I've been depressed. Also, no detailed summary - KM tricks Sir Miles, he and Fanny break free. Ragged Robin, Jim Crow, and Boy locate them magically. Miss Dwyer turns into a monster beetle, and Fanny and KM are still trapped in the base with her.

Everybody has a secret origin, and they all suck. Bruce Wayne is a crying little boy, Clark Kent is a farmboy. King Mob was a rebellious kid in a band.

That's why you wear the costume. You can talk all you want about "protecting your loved ones," but the truth is: Nobody would be impressed by Peter Parker fighting crime in jeans and a T-shirt. When you wear the costume, you become an icon. You take on meaning, become more than human. Hilde puts on a wig and leather and becomes Lord Fanny. And Gideon Starorzewski wears a suit made of pop-culture deities and rebellion and Michael Moorcock stories and magical traditions and becomes King Mob.

And the question remains: Is King Mob a good person to be? Dude destroys SOULS. Not in a "I shall destroy your soul, verily, let us wax wroth" way, but in a "I just ripped your aura out of you, and now you are going to cease horribly" way. I mean, it's right there in the title of this issue. ASASSIN. He's not a magician, not a shaman. If he's got the mirror stuff inside of him (and we can assume he does, since it seems to go hand-in-hand with having a Barbelith/magic stone experience), he doesn't seem to be using it.

Fanny runs through lust and filth because that's how she connects to the gods she uses as an interface between "her" and "the magic" (which is also her). King Mob is way more straightforward - his idealized version of himself is a badass superspy from a convoluted conspiracy thriller, and thus he lives a life where he gets to be that. That means he shoots dudes in the head, rips off auras, tosses off cheesy one liners. James Bond as totem animal.

Jim Crow drives around in a big hearse, because Jim Crow walks with death. And we keep getting told that death is no big, because life is a transitory existence and we're all going to wake up into infinity and blah blah blah. But, you know, just because a man's "initiated" doesn't mean he's good. Sir Miles is initiated. He's wearing a costume made up of aristocracy and he does some pretty crappy things with it.

So the question stands: Is King Mob a good guy?

I mean, it's not like the "scorpion gods" are other, evil gods messing with us. We keep getting told that ALL the gods/aliens/whatever are masks being worn by Barbelith. Is "Dude what kills better than anybody" a vital component in a team whose job it is to save the world? Is King Mob a necessary, aggressive part of the defensive program? Would you read a comic book if it didn't have awesome gun fights and explosions?

Once you've seen the big circle in the sky, once you have your magic stone, is that the end of growth? You pick your totem and you get your superhero costume and then you just fill that role for the rest of your life? Because King Mob just got tortured within an inch of his life. Yeah, it was a trap, but he was crying. He was close to broken. Does he just get back up and start shooting people again?

Or has all of this just been the secret origin of something even better?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Michaels & Sullivan: Holistic Sudoku


The walls are covered with clippings from newspapers. Some of them have headlines that read things like "Sudokuists Supreme Sizzle Snake Smugglers," and "Puzzle Patrons Pummel Petty Pursesnatchers." Others appear to be solved puzzle pages. One whole wall seems entirely devoted to a massive, thousand-cell puzzle. A man, MICHAELS, is slumped, asleep, in a chair behind a desk piled high with pens. His face is ink-stained and grizzled, and his breath stinks of whiskey. Suddenly, the door bursts open and a fast-talking palooka with a lot of moxie (SULLIVAN) walks in.

Michaels, wake up, you worthless son of a Quizzler, we gotta case!

MICHAELS (groggily)
What? Who is it... Marlene?

Damn it, man, do I LOOK like Marlene? We both know that two-bit hussy walked out on you the minute Big Will Shortz flashed his bankroll at her. Now get your booze-soused brain in gear, we GOTTA CASE!

All right, all right, I'm up. What's the skinny, Sully?

No skinny this time, boss, this one's all fat. The Clogstein Diamond's been lifted. Filched, even!

Where's the canoe factory, Sullivan? That's flatfoot business. There's no angle. No percentage for numbermooks like us.

Boss, the gumshoes are stumped. See, the only dirt they could dig up at the scene was a Sudo! They figure the crim left it behind, as a clue, Gorshin-style!

You got my attention but you ain't got my heart, ya loveable galoot. The boys in blue aren't the sharpest tacks in the tack shop but they can solve a Sudo if someone throws it in their faces. Why's this our business?

That's just it, Michaels. They solved it easy, sure, but then... when they filled all the numbs in, it formed 9 smaller sudos... and when they solved that one, another 81. By the time anyone realized what was going on, four coppers were dead and another 20 in the doctor house. This ain't no normal Sudo-crim, boss.

Sully! The numbs in the first Sudo... anything twig you oddstyle about them?

Whaddayamean, boss? Looked fresh to me.

And a clock just looks like a sundial to a caveman. But to a space caveman.. Sully, I'd bet you a year's pencils that those numbers were all prime. He's back.

Who's back, boss? What are you chewing on?

MICHAELS (standing up, putting on his hat)
Get my gun and my erasers, Sully. We're on the case. The Cross-Hatcher's gonna pay for what he's done.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Issue Eighteen: Messiah

The Invisibles
Volume 1
Issue 18

"Entropy in the U.K. Part Two: Messiah"

Sir Miles continues to interrogate King Mob. KM is injected with a drug called Key 17, which causes the user to be unable to distinguish between written words and the actual things they represent. Sir Miles convinces Gideon that he has cut off his fingers and destroyed his face.

Flashbacks show King Mob spending time with Aboriginal people in Australia. He declares himself "Scorpion Dreaming" and is allowed to descend into Ayer's Rock, where he sees a gigantic, fish-like spaceship, and then begins to have a "Barbelith" experience similar to Jack Frost's.

Sir Miles, unable to prove that the man he has been torturing is King Mob, is forced by his superior Miss Dwyer to drink her milk, which has been tainted by nanomachines related to the archons of the Outer Church. Using the psychic boost they give him, Sir Miles finds a memory of King Mob performing a tantric sex ritual with Lady Edith Manning, and discovers that the Invisibles learned Jack Frost is returning to Liverpool.

Boy investigates the apartment King Mob keeps in his "Kirk Morrison" persona, only to find that the police are already there. She is grabbed by a policeman, but fights him off, and is driven away by a random passerby who enjoys seeing people stand up to the cops. She arrives back at Invisibles HQ, frantic in her certainty that something has happened to KM and Lord Fanny, only to find that Ragged Robin has recruited Big Jim Crow to help them.

I'd like to show you something now. A mirror.
I was having trouble breaking this issue down, until I was hit by a sudden revelation. The whole first volume of The Invisibles is a meditation on shamanic initiation. And we get some of that, with King Mob's flashbacks. But Gideon isn't the character being initiated here: Sir Miles is.

Sir Miles is the one gaining access to a language "whose words do not describe things but are things" in the form of the drug Key 17. It's Sir Miles who has a "magic stone" forced into him in the form of Miss Dwyer's archon-changed milk. He's reliving memories of his youth, having parts of his identity stripped away, reacting with fear when touched by a higher world. And he comes out of it with power and understanding.

Of course, in regards to a lot of it, he refuses to listen. Part of the fun of the Gideon Stargrave interludes is the way they reflect and contain the world of The Invisibles in them. Gideon is being pursued by a psychically created double (shades of Sir Miles being a mirror image of King Mob) while his trusty assistant rattles off yet another variation on initiation - it's all there, if Miles and his unsavory associates had the capacity to listen. Even more so when KM, re-living his Barbelith moment, starts rambling the heavy stuff.

"Qabbalexic neurostasy.. trans-mater... ellipticryptic hymgnosis... ectogens... infoplacental halluciongenesystems." Frankland dismisses them as speaking in tongues, as if that makes them less important instead of more. None of that stuff, far as I can tell, is English, per se, but it brims with ideas. And all of them relate to a connection between language/information and birthing. Rebirth from flesh into ideas. It's the Barbelith experience, in word form, and Frankland and Miles just skip over it like an impatient reader moving over the page.

Gotta dreaming?
I don't have a lot to say about King Mob's Australian experiences - it's one more version of the initiation from another angle, with the descent into the rock mirroring Fanny's descent into the underworld and Dane's trip down into the tunnels. The idea that Ayer's Rock itself is a magic stone, one for the entire planet, is an interesting one, though. The hippy from a few episodes back (in fact, the one where half of the sex ritual we see in KM's mind takes place) talked about the planet itself becoming sentient. Maybe he was closer to the truth than we thought - we've been told the end of the world is coming, and the entire planet being initiated into magical awareness would look a lot like that.

Speaking of that ritual - it's essentially King Mob having sex with time itself, merging Edith in her 20s and Edith in her 90s, youth and death and all the years in between, sinking into and losing himself in it. If the "gods" are just us, unmoored from time, then King Mob has found a handy way to commune with them...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Slight Delay

Hey, Chicago got hit with a blizzard a few days ago, and I got stuck at a friend's house, not conducive to writing. Next issue will be up tonight.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Issue Seventeen: Entropy in the U.K. Part One: Dandy

The Invisibles
Volume 1
Issue 17

"Entropy in the U.K.: Dandy"


Sir Miles begins his psychic interrogation of King Mob. However, instead of actual information, he can only find bizarre science-fiction stories about a dandyish super-assassin named Gideon Stargrave. King Mob claims that he is a writer (Kirk Morrison, whose books have been seen before in the series) and that these are ideas for a book he's writing. Miles eventually manages to push deeper, and discovers King Mob's younger self, a violent rebel not unlike Dane McGowan, and learns that his last name is Starorzewski. He prepares to physically torture KM to extract more information.

Sir Miles also reports to his superior, Miss Dwyer (previously seen bringing Dane McGowan to Harmony House in the first issue). However, he is horrified to learn that an archon of the Outer Church, The-King-of-all-Tears, is about to manifest himself on the earthly plane.

In flashbacks, King Mob has a conversation with his friend and mentor Elfayed, in which Elfayed tells KM his theory that humanity is consuming its environment at an advanced pace because it is preparing to metamorphose into something new.

Ragged Robin and Boy, worried over KM and Fanny's disappearance, split up - Boy to check out King Mob's apartment, Robin to "go see a rock band."

A police officer named Harper is in an armed showdown with a criminal. Harper's phone rings, distracting the criminal, and Harper kills him. He answers the call, which is from his old friend Jack Flint (seen in a strip club in a previous issue) and is told that Division X is being reactivated.

Wizard prang, old bean!
Have we ever talked about the fact that King Mob is Grant Morrison? Not in a subtle, a few details pulled from his life, sort of way. His fantasies in this issue are from wish-fulfillment comics Morrison wrote when he was younger, he's an author (who publishes under the last name Morrison, no less). As much as the Invisibles is about the transformation of its characters, it's also trying to transform us, to act like a how-to guide for enlightenment. And Morrison is leading the charge, here, with a character who is essentially himself but idealized, Invisible.

And in this issue, he lets that mask slip. One of the things I've always loved about this one is the complete, un-self-conscious way Fanny and KM slip into their cover stories - every reaction they give lines up completely with the events of the shooting, and with how a normal person would react to them. And I think, at least partially, this is coming from a real place. KM is in as bad a situation as he's ever been in, and he's tapping into real, legitimate fears to make "Kirk Morrison (also KM, of course) seem scared shitless by what's happening to him.

A bit of the old ultra-violence
And meanwhile, his mind cycles through adolescent fantasies (steeped in violent rebellion, crazy sci-fi elements, big explosions, the Gideon Stargrave bits are like a timeline of the development of the ideas that eventually matured into The Invisibles) that get closer and closer to the ways Morrison thinks today, as Sir Miles smashes against his psychic resistance. There's even a gorgeous shout-out to The Prisoner, with King Mob and Sir Miles saying some of the show's opening dialogue, along with a shot of Mob, dressed as The Prisoner, is pursued by the ominous Rover (who looks uncannily like the Invisible blank badge).

And why not? This is King Mob's origin story, but it's also the origin of this whole book. The Prisoner, with its surreality, its strange sci-fi plots, and especially its focus on self-determination and individual freedom, is as much a parent to this book as Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius stories, which serve as the template for all the Gideon Stargrave stuff. There's even a shout-out to Orwell, with Sir Miles referencing Room 101 from 1984 - the worst room in the world.

And at the end, Sir Miles does break through - at least a little. He finds that young man, Polish, bushy head of hair, last name Starorzewski... But when he finds him, he's got a solid colored circle at his back, and he's holding a gun that kill ideas. Sir Miles may think he's broken KM, but he's got a lot to learn.

Casper the benign tumor
We also get another conversation with Elfayed, and once again he's talking about mummies. Last time this came up, I associated mummies with preservation, stagnation, but maybe I was wrong. He's much more inclined to think of them as prototype cocoons, as more symbols of transformation and change. (King Mob, awesomely, says the mummy reminds him of the Invisible man - he's right, in multiple senses of the word)

It's another reminder of the principle he lays down earlier, "As above, so below," (shades of the way Fanny's near-death experiences reflect her "higher" descent into the underworld, as well as Ragged Robin talking this issue about making friends with your cancer cells). The human body consumes itself as it dies as part of a transformation into something new, just as humanity is consuming the world for the same reason. Fanny manages to get a laugh out of one guard, and it's an entrance point into bringing down the whole base. Small changes reflect bigger ones.

As above, so below.