J.G. Keely's Reviews > The Invisibles, Vol. 5: Counting to None

The Invisibles, Vol. 5 by Grant Morrison
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's review
Nov 14, 2007

it was ok
bookshelves: comics, fantasy, science-fiction, reviewed, contemporary-fantasy, urban-fantasy
Read in November, 2007

I would enjoy Neal Gaiman more if he were a madman. Unfortunately, unless he starts making bookplates in the Blakean style, I don't think this will ever be remedied. He is a competent writer, and interesting, but rarely pushes the limits. Perhaps this shows that he is wise enough to recognize his own limitations, which is more than I can say for Morrison, especially in 'The Invisibles'.

Morrison never fails to push the boundaries, but this only makes it more and more apparent that he is not a visionary writer. Though he is an avid reader and draws from many eccentric sources, he never seems capable of combining them into something greater than the scattered parts.

Without a greater philosophical cosmology to tie things together, he ends up writing in a hodge-podge which has impressive breadth, but negligable depth. There are little spots now and again which go up to your calf, but the next step always lands on the careless sandbar of Morrison's ego.

The only thing that does connect all the disparate elements is the plot, but that isn't saying much. Morrison wasn't blessed with Alan Moore's ability to make a driving plot out of the bizarre, and Morrison's penchant for writing six titles a month certainly doesn't help anything.

Again, it is a matter of overextension. I am lucky enough to have more than a passing familiarity with a few of the mythologies he references. Unfortunately, this means that I can see the holes in his plots and references. Those with greater experience must find it even more disjointed.

However, for those with much less experience, the text seems revolutionary, since the facade covers much of the bare scaffolding. If you didn't know that he was scraping this all together week to week, you might wonder if the mistakes and confusion was just you 'not getting it'; in such straits, many readers fall back on a cautious sense of awe, not wanting to admit that they don't get it.

His King Mob character is set up to be the cool anti-hero, but since Morrison already finds his character to be interesting and sympathetic, he forgets to convince the reader of this fact. It should be unsurprising that Grant likes his character, since he's writing an author surrogate.

He can never seem to keep himself out of his comics, which is another symptom of his big ego. It was a half-hearted trick when he played it in Animal Man, but making a Gary Stu secret agent with an active sex life is even more cringe-worthy. It might not be so obvious if he didn't mention that 'he's still single!' in every other letters column.

It's been pointed out before that there are striking similarities between King Mob and Spider from Warren Ellis' 'Transmetropolitan'. They are both violent, outspoken anti heroes who look like Captain Picard in sunglasses with body mods.

The comparison favors Spider, who is a strong, entertaining, sympathetic character. This is despite the fact that he never eschews his spiteful take-no-prisoners exterior. Ellis manages to write an outspoken writer character who isn't just a mouthpiece for the author, for which he should win some sort of prize. Meanwhile, Morrison can't separate his authorial voice from a secret agent wizard.

Morrison also adds another protagonist to appeal to the kiddies, namely a troubled teen right out of the monomyth. Like every other monomyth hero, this character is rather empty, serving merely as a central focus for the frenetic action. Knowing Morrison, he's probably another author surrogate of how Grant imagines himself as a child.

Morrison does write interesting turns now and again, though the more he explicates, the less clever he becomes. I keep feeling like I'm going to be forced to rate this book lower, but something generally comes along and saves it.

As it is, I wish that it was more like some of Morrison's other work. He's at his best when he's not investing his ego in the outcome. His one-offs and fun little forays are great, but he takes his magni opera too seriously for them to succeed. Like Neal Stephenson, he's throwing everything he can in there to see what sticks. In the end, he's spending too much time on the peripherals, and not enough on the story and the characters.

My Suggested Readings in Comics
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07/06/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Thomas (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:01PM) (new)

Thomas Great review, Keely. I've read most of Morrison's comics, and I really do love his ideas. But I often have a sense of dissatisfaction with the stories. Your review brought into focus a lot of what's causing my discomfort.
I've been reading his run on All Star Superman , and it's currently my favorite superhero book on the shelves. So I'm definitely a fan. But your review is great food for thought. I think Morrison should drop some titles, and put more care into fewer books. His plotting is often full of holes, and I think some comic fans are brow beaten into not admitting they didn't get it. I've read Seven Soldiers a few times now, and man, I really don't get it!
On the subject of King Mob as a stand-in for Morrison; I read somewhere that while Morrison was subjecting King Mob to a bunch of torture scenes in the pages of The Invisibles, the author developed a horrible skin condition on his face. So he changed the plot, giving King Mob victory in battle and lots of sex scenes, and I guess Grant's face cleared right up and he started getting laid like a rock star.

message 2: by J.G. Keely (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:01PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

J.G. Keely I've had a lot of struggle trying to find why Morrison has appealed so much to me at some times and at others, completely lost me. As an attempted-author (which must be something like an attempted-murderer), I feel it is to some degree necessary to come to terms with what about stories is capable of reaching me so that I may better understand my relationship to them.

I've always thought we learn more from failures than from successes, so in that vein, I should thank Morrison for being so very ambitious and falling short enough to be a cautionary example but not too short to be entertaining.

Christian This captures what bothers me about The Invisibles.

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