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The Invisibles: Apocalipstick

By Mike Everleth ⋅ June 3, 2006

Cover to graphic novel The Invisibles: Apocalipstick featuring a woman with a burned face

The last stop on my “Get to Know Grant Morrison” library tour is the first comic collection that doesn’t come with 30-40 years of baggage behind it. The Invisibles, an original creation by Morrison, are a ragtag group of “soldiers” in some sort of inter-dimensional conspiracy war. What this collection does share with the other Morrison books I’ve read (which you can catch up here if you haven’t been following along), is that even without the baggage Apocalipstick is just as confounding as the previous book — but in this case that’s a good thing.

Since Morrison otherwise works on characters and material he has no final control over, The Invisibles is his chance to explore a world entirely of his own creations. Thus he fills the comic with all kinds of outlandish ideas, but at the same time Apocalipstick reads more like a collection of short semi-connected stories than a full cohesive package. It’s also obviously an incomplete package since this is only the second installment of a larger overall story. The material really screams to be presented in a larger, omnibus style package. But, since this is all I’ve got at the moment, I’m still able to view as just a stellar collection of shorts. In fact, the three-part “She-Man” arc is the best thing I’ve read by Morrison yet, with the one chapter “Best Man Fall” a very close second.

“She-Man” focuses almost exclusively on the Invisible agent Lord Fanny, a Brazilian transvestite. Born as the only child and son of a family of witches, Fanny’s grandmother and mother raise him like a girl in order to fool the gods and continue the family heritage. The gods, of course, are not fooled, but welcome Fanny into the fold regardless. Meanwhile, as an adult, Fanny is targeted by an enemy of the Invisibles although she doesn’t recognize the hitman for who he really is.

Morrison cuts back and forth between the adult and child Fanny, as well as presents other key moments in his/her life, treating each event as a chain in Fanny’s development. A development into what I don’t know, but is hopefully resolved in later chapters. Fanny is a great character, a person trapped between several worlds: Between those of a man and a woman and between Earth and the other-dimensional worlds that hovers in the background of The Invisibles.

“Best Man Fall” couldn’t be any different than “She-Man,” even though it also charts the entire life of another character. This character, though — Bobby — only has a brief, tangential relationship with the Invisibles. Bobby, although he appears to be a good kid, is born and raised on the wrong side of the tracks and grows up to become a real thug. It’s an interesting, sad portrait highlighted with great artwork by Steve Parkhouse, whose work I haven’t seen in a long awhile.

What I don’t fully understand, and this may just be because I haven’t read any of the other Invisibles collections, is how DC decides to carve the series into separate books. Apocalipstick begins with the conclusion of a previous storyline. It’s a fast-paced, action-filled introduction in which we don’t get a grip on who the characters really are. As an end chapter, I’m sure it’s very exciting. But as a first chapter, it’s very uninvolving, so much that I didn’t think I was going to enjoy the book as much as I ultimately did.

The same goes with the final chapter included in the collection. “London” exclusively stars the character Jack Frost, who hasn’t been seen since the first chapter (all the other Invisible agents “introduced” in “Things Fall Apart” make cameos through the entire book). After “She-Man” ends on such a satisfying conclusion, tacking on “London” at the end is a kind of a let-down as a denouement.

Finally, while I don’t know what the other two stories included in the book, “Season of Ghouls” and “Royal Monsters,” actually have to do with the larger Invisibles storyline, they’re at least really creepy horror stories. At least some of the characters in “Royal Monsters” appear in the “She-Man” arc, I would hope “Season of Ghouls’s” Papa Guedhe is someone who Morrison resurrects in later Invisibles collections.

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