As I’ve mentioned before in our discussions of Invisible Republic, one of the most interesting things about this book is the nature of the dramatic stakes. Nobody is fighting to “save the world” in the “present day” narrative. The world is already “done”, a grey nest of poverty and squalor. The efforts of intrepid reporter Babb, even if he is successful in adding to the history of the Malory Regime, will not save the world, or change it significantly. The stakes are simply how history is remembered, and what bearing it will have on the present. After four issues, I understand the title better than ever, because the conflict here is over something that is indeed invisible, but a republic nevertheless.
The two timelines of the narrative take place in the present, and 42 years in the past, but interestingly, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman don’t refer to it in those terms. Instead, they show the “past” sequences in rich earth tones (colours by Jordan Boyd, who gets a cover credit here) and cut to the “present”, blue-tinted, washed-out colours with the caption “42 years later”. It’s a creative way of reminding us that the heart of this story is Maia Reveron, and what happens to her in the deep past of the moon Avalon.
There’s actually quite a bit more history in this issue than in any other. Having previously relied on Maia’s account of the past, in this issue we hear Arthur McBride’s official history for the first time, and are even taken on a quasi-guided tour of some major historical landmarks of present-day Avalon. Some of the history is starting to take shape, but other elements remain obscure, most notably an explanation of why Arthur McBride’s regime was called the “Malory” rather than the “McBride” regime. This is such a pressing and obvious question that a character in the story asks it, but his question isn’t answered.
And just as in the previous issue, we get some insight into the nature of historical research, and its allied practice, journalism, when Woronov, a modern-day journalist and colleague of Babb, notes how the Reveron journal is only one source, and that’s neither historically nor journalistically robust evidence for a story. It’s Woronov that leads us to other historical voices, and things begin to come into focus about the history of Avalon.
Meanwhile in the Maia Reveron segments, we spend more time with this unlikely heroine as she struggles to make it “in the big city”, without her cousin’s streetwise protection.
Events that begin with shoplifting a jar of honey from a street vendor take a turn into the imagery of the Iraq war and IED’s, and finally into a long, bucolic sequence in an apiary. Maia once again proves herself to be an immensely sympathetic character, with a fragile heart and a deep sense of morality and duty. We’re reminded that her and her cousin toiled as indentured servants on a farm before escaping, an indication of the quality of life they had been living on Avalon. When we combine Maia’s memories with some of the factual historical information from this issue, we get a much clearer sense of the life she was escaping, and how working in an apiary is much preferable. Maia, more than anything else, just wants to live her life and be happy. Arthur, on the other hand, seemed cut from a much angrier and more determined cloth.
The key questions of Invisible Republic remain: how did the Malory regime come to power, and how did it fall? And most intriguingly of all (we get a sequence set in a strange “castle” high atop mud flats that only adds to the mystery), who else in the present wants Maia’s journal so badly that they will kill for it? We know someone does. The real antagonist of the story remains unrevealed.
This issue of Invisible Republic continues the tradition of fantastic artwork (there are night sequences here that are simply beautiful) and deeply involving storytelling.