Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Review - The Invisibles

I have only recently started to ‘get’ Grant Morrison. Up until a couple of months ago, I had only read a few Grant Morrison comics that I had enjoyed – most notably All Star Superman – and I mostly tended dismiss his work as incomprehensible. I would occasionally start to read some new series by Morrison – New X-Men, for example – and really enjoy the first couple of issues but I would soon lose the plot and give up. However, I recently bought and enjoyed all the TPBs from his recent Batman run, which led me on to a major Grant Morrison spending spree. In recent weeks, I have read and enjoyed all three of his Animal Man TPBs, all six of his Doom Patrol TPBs, the entire run of Seven Soldiers, and have more stuff lined up to read soon (all his New X-Men stuff, most of his JLA run, The Filth, Marvel Boy, Final Crisis, We3 and Seaguy). I haven’t understood everything I have read but I enjoyed it all nonetheless, and feel that I will get even more out of these works if I read them again, which I fully intend to do some day. However, for the last couple of weeks I have been reading The Invisibles – all seven volumes – and I’m afraid it’s exactly the sort of thing that turned me off of Morrison’s work in the first place.

I will admit that a large part of the problem is me. I have a low tolerance for this sort of writing – I struggle with most poetry and have not enjoyed what I have read of the work of William Burroughs. The contents of my head are already a mess and I prefer fiction that helps me make sense of the world, not fiction that confuses me further. I also have a low tolerance for conspiracy theorists (I am inclined to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald really did shoot JFK, that 9/11 was not a conspiracy by the US government, and that nobody has ever met an alien) and a low tolerance for magic (I thought a little bit less of Alan Moore after finding out that he was some kind of wizard and lost interest in Promethea long before the end). At the risk of seeming like a bit of a prude, I also have a low tolerance for work ‘inspired’ by LSD (I love the work of Robert Crumb but think his Weirdo-era stuff is far superior to any of his drug-inspired ‘60s work). I mean, I’m sure it’s a lot of fun to get off your tits on drugs and write comics, but that doesn’t mean it is fun to read. The drug references in Morrison’s Doom Patrol actually worked well, and the Magic Bus storyline was a particular favourite of mine, but here it just gets a bit tedious. I mean, if you cut out all the scenes in The Invisibles where some character is either on acid or talking about acid, the whole thing wouldn’t even fill two books. If you also cut out all the scenes where characters are taking drugs other than acid (including some blue mould that grows on the walls of an abandoned tube station) it probably wouldn’t stretch to one volume. And cut out all the stuff that seems to have been written on acid and you would most likely end up with no books (for all I know, Morrison wrote this on nothing stronger than tea and crumpets, but I think it’s more likely that industrial quantities of acid were consumed during the making of this series).

There were moments during The Invisibles that I almost enjoyed and moments where I even threatened to suddenly ‘get’ it. Mostly, though, I didn’t enjoy it and didn’t ‘get’ it. A lot of the time, I was just reading the words and looking at the pictures and not taking much in at all. I have only just finished reading the seventh volume and I would really struggle to explain what the whole thing was about, which isn’t a good sign. In fact, I don’t think I will try and explain the plot in any detail as attempting to do so will probably make me feel even stupider than I already do for not getting it. It was something to do with the end of the world and time travel and a conspiracy to do with aliens, except they were aliens from another dimension or time aliens, rather than space aliens, and our heroes spent a hell of a lot of time on drugs but still managed to shoot straight and function more-or-less normally. I really liked some of the characters, particularly Lord Fanny (a transvestite), Boy (a girl) and Ragged Robin (a girl from the future), but also disliked others – Dane (a Liverpudlian teenager) was annoying in the first book and didn’t get any less annoying as the series went on, while King Mob (a compulsive drug user with multiple piercings) was a bit too ‘cool’ for my liking. The series suffered slightly from multiple artists but all of the artists were very good. Phil Jiminez (not an artist I usually have much time for) and Chris Weston (an artist I like a lot) worked particularly well on this series, I think.

Like most of Morrison’s other work, I think I would get a lot more out of this if I read it again. However, this is the first of my recent Morrison purchases that I don’t think I ever will want to read again and these will probably end up on eBay sometime in the near future. In the unlikely event that I do decide read them again, I will probably want to drink a nice cold pint of acid first (that is how they serve acid, isn’t it?) to enhance the experience. As for the cost, well, I bought the first four books on eBay for about a fiver each, which I guess counts as a moderate bargain, but the last three books I paid full price for (full Amazon price, that is, not the full Titan Books price – I’m not a complete idiot!).


  1. I would love for you to read the books again Rob and write another review here. The Invisibles is flawed but it's flawed genius I would say.

  2. I want to read all the other Morrison stuff I have first, but maybe next year I will buy that guide to The Invisibles you can get, read that first, then give it another go. After drinking a pint of acid, of course.