Say You Want a RevolutionOrder this bookStory: The Invisibles are a secret society that has fought for centuries to free humankind from the mental shackles imposed on it by forces of authority and control. The enemy is fond of torture and lobotomies to keep us in line; where that doesn’t work, magic and microwave transmissions will have to do. The turn of the millennium draws closer, and as King Mob, the leader of one Invisibles cell, says, “We’re in the final furlong of a race between a never-ending global party and a world that looks like Auschwitz.” To help turn the tide of that battle, King Mob’s cell recruits a juvenile delinquent as its newest member; after he spends some time being trained (without realizing he’s being trained), the group uses magic to project their psyches back in time to revolution-era France and ask the Marquis de Sade if he wouldn’t mind popping back with them to the twentieth century.

Review: “Say You Want a Revolution,” the first Invisibles collection, is one of the most truly creative pieces of writing I’ve ever seen. Grant Morrison packs so many ideas in here that there’s almost a palpable sense of your brain going places it’s never gone before – it’s easy to get swept up in the exhilarating rush from one idea to the next and then back again, and the sense of never quite being sure when the rug’s going to get pulled out from under you.

The plots themselves are inventive, but where the book shines is in its structure – the narrative unfolds in a very dreamlike way, with liberal use of non sequiturs, quick scene transitions, literary excerpts and allusions and often-rambling dialogue. Things often seem a bit off-kilter, but the absurd never becomes total nonsense. The use of magic here is patially responsible for the less-than-linear tone, and it’s particularly effective. Morrison considers himself a magician, and his scripts are parts of his spells; like the Invisibles, he’s trying to remake the world with power of his thoughts and words. It’s powerful stuff, suggesting we push ourselves up against the boundaries we set for ourselves and those that are set for us by society, to see why they were put there and if they’re doing more harm than good. The Invisibles is about seizing your destiny, and “Say You Want A Revolution” is the opening salvo in a war of liberation.

The message of liberation often takes a dark tone, and I’m pretty sure I don’t share a moral sensibility with most of these characters. The darker corners of the psyche are explored here, and while they aren’t glorified, but neither are they necessarily condemned. Still, there’s nothing gratuitous here. Steve Yeowell (who draws the Dead Beetles and Down And Out In Heaven And Hell arcs) and the team of Jill Thompson and Dennis Cramer (who handle Arcadia) don’t pull punches with their depiction of Morrison’s scripts, but neither do they wallow in lurid detail. Heads fly as the guillotine does its work, people are kicked, stabbed, and beaten and worse, but since the art is neither photorealistic or highly detailed, there’s a level of abstraction that lets you appreciate the reality of what’s going on without being repulsed by it, even if you consider yourself among the squeamish. On the whole, the art is more conventional than the script – competent, but never spectacular. It tells the story well – and it’s a story well-served by being visualized in comics form – but it’s the words of the story that have the most impact.

Suffice to say, I’m eager to see where the rest of this story goes. Unfortunately, even though The Invisibles concluded over a year ago, DC hasn’t finished putting out all the collected editions, and the ones it has released it released out of order. So even though this book ends on something of a slight cliffhanger, the very next volume in the series won’t be out until April. (Editor’s note: the series is now complete.)

Year: 1996
Writer: Grant Morrison
Line Artists: Steve Yeowell, Jill Thompson and Dennis Cramer
Colorist: Daniel Vozzo
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Pages: 224

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Dave Thomer ()