Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"SOMEHOW IT’S ALWAYS A SURPRISE WHEN IT ACTUALLY WORKS..." (The Invisibles ARCADIA Volume 1 #5-8)

Of all the story arcs in all the series, I had to try to find an insertion point into this one: ARCADIA, The Invisibles Volume 1 issues 5 - 8... the hot mess, the near series-killer, ruled over by the twin fey poet-Archons of Byron/Shelley, its secluded Silling-hells skulking with the wretched detritus of De Sade and his snickering pull@yerpud4enlightenment™ philosophy, while to the right and the left and left again we find time machine windmills and face-wearing star demons and the Gnostic Lucifer-figure busy at his chessboard and his teasing: the whole of it rendered by one of my least favourite artists on the series, Jill Thompson*.

Yet the glossolaliac head of John the Baptist babbles away here, and that babbling covers a multitude of sins. Sweet Essene-Jesus-bot, I love that thing! What a centrepiece for your Thanksgiving slaughter-fest, no? Looming over the ham there, delicate spray of zombie-saliva catching the candlelight as the sweet potatoes n StoveTop get passed round to the chittering syllables of whatever-it-is-that-YOU-want-to-hear. Lovely.

That’s a Hallmark moment right there. That’s fucking ROCKWELL.

Anyway. ARCADIA: it’s enough to make one want to select a different stress point on the space-time supersphere, vanish in a wailing rain of coloured cubes, and move in to attack “The Invisibles” somewhere in the future. Which may in fact happen by the time I’m done.

But for now, instead, we’re bogged down with Poussin’s painfully slow shepherds examining the tombstone as King Mob informs us that...
... we’re at the mercy of the way the ontic highway chooses to manifest itself in response to our subconscious requirements, dig?
Oh, we dig, we dig, though it’s not really our requirements the book is worried about: Morrison is feeling his way out into the rest of the series and we can only follow. In my case, reluctantly, and so apologies for getting behind on this thing. As it is, the following observations will tend towards incoherency.

This was the bit where you could feel Morrison still fleshing it out, trying on a couple of different faces for comfort and ease of use. If the entire arc could be boiled down (and quite successfully at that) to the first page of #5, why was this not done? This was also the bit where, here in 3D real-woild comic-reading land, Morrison initiated the famous sigilized wank-a-thon effort to save the book from plummeting sales, of which much too much has been written elsewhere already. So I’ll digress.

(Why did I just flash on the scene in Casablanca where everyone in Rick’s sings La Marseillaise? Single tear tracing silver path down Bergman’s cheek. Oh, I’m choking up heah. I’ve some glitter in my glitch, a real RKO archeo-spasm. A moment, please...)

In any case, wank-a-thon successful (insert un-ironic fist pump here), it's the start of a beeyootiful friendship and thank god, because, though at the time it was clearly maybe not-worth-saving, a number of the elements given form here played out well later on. Without ARCADIA, we would not have been treated to Edith Manning’s brilliant deconstruction of De Sade’s laughable orgone-fuelled Transynthesis commune in Volume 3 #8 (as with our poets here, I simply cannot lay down the cash to purchase the idea of the Marquis as a psychic liberator) or enjoy the little Castaneda kicks of Fanny’s temporal loop-de-loop initiatory experience in the SheMan arc. These among others.

But “there is only the dalang”. And, as Davis has mentioned previously, the dalang has us by the dangly parts (the medulla oblongata, natch! autonomic functions only, as we respirate from frame to frame) and leads us where he wants us to go. And we are going to hang with Shelley and Byron! Yay! If it KILLS US and almost kills the book (it's these two bundles of fun that are to blame, no matter how much you wanna pin it to the degenerates in 120 Days of Sod All), that’s where we’re going.

(Note: Morrison has never tried to pull this again, anywhere. For the lessons learned here alone, ARCADIA had to happen. Or perhaps it’s less a case of Morrison taking his lumps and becoming a better storyteller and more that of his audience being trained to know what constitutes “good Morrison”? Hmm.)

Well, it’s the poets I have the real problem with. Life imitates Art here fo sho: do NOT tell me what they are doing, please. Watching these two engage in their proto-emo shenanigans: drinkin’ and musin’ and visitin’ madhouses, while their more practical friends and relations pick up after them: irritating. Just... irritating. Shelley loses a child because he’s a pretentious... oh! IRRITATING. Worse than the noble monsters in Castle Silling, worse than useless, because they aspire to nobility and ruin lives just as easily in the process.

But then, perhaps that’s where GM is taking us with this stodgy and overblown narrative? In #8, towards the end of the magical mystery tour, there is a panel... well, Shelley has just had an imaginary conversation with Imaginary Byron, and then declares to the air: “I know where Utopia (Gr. ‘no place’) lies.” Then, in the next panel, as he points a finger to his forehead, with an expression on his face that can only be described as idiotic (and this in both the vernacular sense and the original Gr. idios ‘trapped in a private world’):
It is here. Where is the love, beauty, and truth we seek but in our mind? The golden country, forever new? The home of all hearts, untouched by time and pain? Here. Waiting for us to grow up and recognize it and come home.
Well, thank you Mr Fancy Pants. The text here may as well be switched out for a big DERP. I'd settle for a duh-doy, though. It applies! Goddamnit, my kingdom for a decent scanner so I could SHOW YOU THIS PANEL!

Hoo. You'll have to look it up.

OK. This panel, coming after long speeches about saving the world with words, of speaking to future generations of solutions that won’t apply, won’t even come close to applying... friends! It’s Coloured-Cube-Rain Time! Can you hear that wailing?! It's me becoming sick of ARCADIA! And we re-enter with considerable relief into the final pages of Volume 3, the first and final issue GLITTERDAMERUNG! King Mob to the Jack Frost of 2012:
I saw Boy in New York the other day. She looks great, does karate three times a week. Says she’s stopped trying to save the world, because saving is what misers do.
Which is why Imaginary Byron in that final scene starring ‘The Poets!’ comes off better than Shelley ever will: he’s Boy’s practical precursor. “Stop talking to the future, Shiloh,” he advises. “Go to your wife and child, who need you more.”

Why talk to it at all? Just GO THERE. Take your family on the package tour; the kids’ll LOVE IT. I think that may be the point. Everybody talks about the future, but nobody DOES ANYTHING about it.

Except the Invisible Army. Maybe.

On a personal note: Davis, all your recent examination of Morrison-as-writer-as-slavemaster wigged me out to such a degree that I actually removed the Blank Badge from my black pea-coat! Gah.

(I left the one pinned to the sporty windbreaker, though...)

And finally: Jack’s finger, severed and consumed by Orlando during that nifty set-to in the windmill. Question: does the Buddha Matreya evidence regenerative powers in the traditional texts? Because sure as shit that digit is back on and wagging in later issues!

LATER ISSUES! Next up for me (we live in hope): those three tasty one-off issues, easily some of my fave stories. As in ever.

* * * * *

* I know she’s produced incredible work since, particularly the totally fun Beasts of Burden, but her efforts here I find blocky, sketchy, etc... but really I’m being unfair. I know it. Look, don't listen to me. My development vis a vis funny books is severely arrested. The problem is I respond to comic art on some atavistic-teenage level: give me flash! gloss! cool! Almost nobody beats Jimenez or Phillip Bond, in my book. And Morrison’s long-time collaboration with Quitely gets me wet every. goddamn. time.

Sorry Jill.

3 comments:

  1. Further comments when it's not SIX A.M. [DAMN IT], but obviously the rest of The Invisibles takes place in a parallel timeline where Arcadia was a one-issue story in which Morrison didn't have the space to include Jack's finger being snipped off. A BETTER WORLD.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jack's vanishing/returning finger is the central Mystery of The Invisibles. If we could understand it, we would understand not only the series, but ourselves and the Universe itself...

    NAH. I'm taking the piss.

    ReplyDelete
  3. First, there is a finger. Then, there is no finger. Then, there is a finger.

    ReplyDelete