Saturday, May 9, 2015

31 Days of Comics: Day 9 – Comic That Totally Blew Your Mind

ROB'S NOTE: May has become the go-to month of the Comic’s Industry (even though National Superhero Day is late April, but whatever… Congress… pshaw).  It is when Marvel drops their big movie of the year.  May also sees the annual Free Comic Book Day celebration take place on the first Saturday of the Month, so I hope you all got to check that out.  May also has 31 days of the month so what better way to celebrate the wonderful world of sequential art with the 31 Days of Comics?
Seth Hahne, who runs the blog GoodOkBad, has put together the 31 Days of Comics challenge.  A daily challenge in which you are given a category and you have to fill it with a comic that you think fits it the best.  You’re all on the internet, I shouldn’t have to explain it to you.  For the rest of the month I will be taking this challenge.  It is my hope it encourages others to make and share their own lists either in the comments here or on their own websites.  The sharing not only might turn comic fans on to works they have yet to sample but maybe catch the eye of a few non-comic fans and highlight the diversity of the form. 

Our prompt for Day 9 is “A Comic That Totally Blew Your Mind”

The Invisibles
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Various Artists

There are so many ways to interpret this prompt that it has taken me a while to come to grips with it.  Blowing your mind can mean so many things.  It can be the plot twist you never saw coming.  It can be the page of art that makes you just weep at its beauty.  Maybe it’s the incredibly stupid decision made by a writer or editorial that makes you clutch your head and yell out “Why would Peter Parker make a deal with the devil?!?!?!?”  In the end however the true mind blowing experiences in your life are the ones that forever change the way you look at the world around you.  That was Grant Morrison’s goal with Invisibles, and with me (and countless others) he succeeded.

The story of the Invisibles is easy to explain.  There is a secret war going on between the Outer Church, a group that wants to bring about conformity and order to society, and the Invisibles, a group of terrorist cells organized to bring freedom to the people.  It’s a basic story, in that regard.  It’s good vs. evil.  It’s control vs. freedom.  It’s order vs. chaos (although in this case chaos is actually preferred).  In the hands of a less talented writer (who has done less drugs) it becomes a simple, paint-by-numbers action story.  In the hands of Grant Morrison it becomes something much, much more.

The ideas behind Invisibles are complex to say the least.  The only thing I’ve read more times that the Invisibles is a book called “This Sentence is Up” which is a 300 page companion book exploring Invisibles.  The nature of reality, the nature of magic, the nature of fiction, violence, duality, morality, and the essence of time all go through the ringer here.  Morrison spends almost 60 issues weaving these ideas throughout the narrative.  This is not a comic to be read as escapist entertainment.  This is as taxing as a 300 level philosophy course at times. 

Although many of the ideas of the story continue to bounce around my head one in particular stays with me to this day and is the biggest reason I say Invisibles totally blew my mind.  Dane, aka Jack Frost, starts the story as our point of view character who is slowly recruited into the Invisibles in their fight with the Outer Church.  The Invisibles become convinced that Dane is the key to winning the war and train him in their ways.  As the conflict progresses Dane comes to the realization that the conflict itself is a sham.  Order and Chaos, Freedom and Control, and all of the other supposed difference between the factions are part of reality.  They are the different sides of the same coin.  The goal of the struggle isn’t to “win” the war and vanquish the other side, it is to bring the two sides together and merge so that humanity can advance to the next stage.  In essence Dane realizes that this isn’t a mission meant to destroy the Outer Church. It is a rescue mission for humanity.

So many times in our life we find ourselves in conflict with others and immediately go into the mode where we must “win” the conflict.  We don’t take the time to understand the others’ point of view.  We don’t look at the reasoning they are using.  We don’t ever try to reconcile our different perspectives into one that elevates both sides.  I know I was guilty of this constantly.  10 years ago my goal would have been to prove that fans of the TV show Arrow were wrong and make them feel bad and defeated.  Now I seek to come to an understanding of why they are wrong and rescue them from this state so they can evolve (ok, so I’m not as evolved as Dane yet).

Invisibles is a book that is meant to not only be read multiple times (it’s first line of the book is “And so we return and begin again”) but to also to be re-read from the perspective of different characters.  There are other Morrison books that are technically better, more thrilling, and more emotional.  But there is no other comic book that attempts to do as much as this one does, and for the most part succeeds.

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