ApocalipstickOrder this bookStory: King Mob’s Invisibles cell makes its way back to the 20th Century after its retrieval of the Marquis de Sade. Their opponents have moved in for the kill, and a maimed Jack Frost decides to make a run for it on his own. The conspiracy is on the move elsewhere, as a British aristocrat uses the downtrodden as hunting quarry and Chicago corporate leaders get their kicks from killing and re-animating inner-city crack users. Lord Fanny and King Mob’s search for Jack leads them to trouble, and gives Fanny reason to recall her journey from Central America.

Review: In many ways, the three chapters between Jack’s departure and his companions’ search for him are the emotional and thematic core of “Apocalipstick,” even if the “main” characters never appear. It’s very easy to get caught up in all the magic and madness of the Invisibles’ fight against the conspiracy and forget the purpose of that fight, the effort to free the human spirit. The interlude chapters explore the chains that bind that spirit – exploitation of minorities and the poor by the corporate elite, the corrosive effects of fear and hate and ignorance, the struggles of everyday people to achieve their dreams, and the crushing weight of their failure to do so. The best story of the three may be the one with no supernatural elements at all, in which we see a man’s life flash before his eyes through a series of disjointed flashbacks. The layout of this story is very effective, as scenes and fragments blend together before the story reaches its climax and they come full circle. It’s the story of a man who wanted more from life than what he got, and probably deserved more… the injustice resonates, and as a bonus, it reinforces why we want the Invisibles to win. A world this unjust is a world that needs to be remade.

The other interludes do introduce or develop characters who will play a part in that struggle. Sir Miles, the aristocrat we glimpsed in “Say You Want A Revolution,” comes to the fore as a major villain; he is heartless, obsessed with control and domination, utterly convinced of his own superiority and the worthlessness of the average human being. Jim Crow is a voodoo sorcerer and an Invisible who moves nimbly through the spirit world and through the streets of Chicago; Crow’s story is hard to describe other than in the vaguest terms; it’s a full shot of the head-trip weirdness that makes The Invisibles what it is. It’s a story of well-deserved comeuppance that gives a few hints of troubles to come.

With the interludes over, Morrison returns to the search for Jack. The three-part Sheman story moves the overall plot forward and flashes back to Lord Fanny’s childhood and development as a magician. Fanny was born a boy, but in his culture, shamanic powers and responsibility passes through maternal lines. So Fanny’s mother and grandmother do the only thing they can do – raise Fanny as a girl, and hope that (s)he will be able to pass through the trials successfully. The circumstances that bring about the reminiscing are considerably less than pleasant, and end in a cliffhanger to be resolved in the next collection. It’s a good story, one that plays with our understanding of time and identity, but it didn’t have quite the same punch that Arcadia did.

The comparison is probably unfair; Arcadia was something of a wakeup call that said, “OK, weird but cool stuff on the way – open up your mind!” The groundwork had also been laid by the preceding story of Jack’s training. “Sheman” is just another piece in the puzzle; an important one, and an entertaining one, but since we already know to expect the unexpected, it doesn’t have the same bracing shock-to-the-system effect. That the story still works shows that there’s more to The Invisibles than mere shock value; there is a plot that’s engaging in its own right and characters to get behind. I’ll be waiting eagerly for the next chapter in the story.

Year: 2001
Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencillers: Jill Thompson, Chris Weston, John Ridgway, Steve Parkhouse, Paul Johnson
Inkers: Thompson, Dennis Cramer, Weston, Ridgway, Parkhouse, Kim DeMulder, Johnson
Colorist: Daniel Vozzo
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Pages: 277

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