Everyone wants the Reveron journal. That’s been true since issue #1 of Invisible Republic, and it’s, if anything, even more true as we pass into the second major story arc here in issue #6. Once again we’re presented with the themes of controlling the story, that perception is more important than reality and history is something to be used carefully to move forward. There are major twists here, compared to what came before, but the main thrust of the book is the same. Maia Reveron’s account of what happened to her in the formative years of the Malory Regime, under the leadership (real or perceived) of her cousin, Arthur McBride, is the hottest collection of paper on Avalon. The unlikely journalistic pairing of Fran Woronov and Croger Babb are the only people outside of the inner circles of power who have actually read the journal, and come into its possession. As the big twist at the end of issue #5 suggested, now there are new interested parties, and the game is being played for higher stakes.
Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko continue to present this story in two timelines: the present and the past, “42 years ago”, at the start of the regime that has since manifestly failed. In that timeline, Maia and Arthur have just started to identify as revolutionaries, and Maia remains a great “outside-inside” voice, with a unique perspective on the history. She’s part of the movement in its earliest days, but still an outsider. She is loyal to Arthur, but skeptical of him. And she asks the right questions, which makes her an extremely valuable historical reporter. She doesn’t see herself as a reporter, of course, which makes her even more valuable. Maia is someone with personal loyalty, not political loyalty. You can almost hear her saying the words of Luke Skywalker: “It’s not like I love the Empire – I hate it! But there’s nothing I can do about it right now.” That’s Maia. She’s much more interested in her friends and protectors Luis and Archie than in bringing down any kind of government or setting a new one up. At least, in the past.
Here’s where we get to the big spoiler, so I’m giving fair warning. It’s not really a spoiler in the sense that I’ll be revealing the climax of the issue or some twist at the end. This development is revealed at the end of issue #5 and continues to develop through the early pages of issue #6. But if you haven’t read the first arc of Invisible Republic, it’s probably just as well that you read no further.
Okay… SPOILERS potentially from here.
In oscillating between the present and the past, Invisible Republic has always raised the interesting point of those two timelines meeting. And lo and behold, here they are, meeting in the most dramatic way possible. Maia Reveron is still alive, and well, and active in the present. Now in her sixties, she’s no less sweet and charming, but determined to control her story, as she wrote it. She’s been the one behind the hunt for her diary all along. It was her who sent the “thugs” to beat up Babb in the early issues and injure his hand (Babb brings that point up here), and it’s her who has been behind the forces all along. What Maia, the middle-aged, modern version of Maia, really wants is a better world, not unlike her younger self. The difference is that now she’s in a position to deliver that, the right way, without her cousin.
In fact, none of that is particularly spoiler-y, because the real twist is the introduction of a new character who also bridges the past and the present, and presumably has similarly power-oriented motivations. Even all these years later, the surviving factions that started the Malory regime are battling for control over the history and the present economy of Avalon.
Hardman and Beckho have a wonderful time setting up the Maia character, using the great device of having Babb and Wornov taken to the secret hiding place deep in the mud flats blindfolded, as if they were being escorted to meet an elusive terrorist leader. (Michael Mann’s film The Insider opens with that kind of sequence, and the comic’s imagery is similarly rich in washed-out middle eastern tones.)
Maia herself, as we’ve mentioned, is consistent in middle age, but she is guarded by a vicious-looking sabertoothed mammal, presumably indigenous to Avalon. The contrast between this small 60-something woman in an old hat and the bear-sized predator that she keeps as a pet says a great deal. Maia may seem harmless, but her good nature has brought her legions of unlikely protectors. (This is a great minor theme, by the way, namely Maia’s facility with the natural world. Recall that before she worked as a beekeeper, and the bees liked her, too. If sentient animals such as bees or dogs are comfortable around a person, they have a good heart. Those sorts of animals see through our human shenanigans. That’s why I always trust the opinion of my cat, William the Bloody.)
Even more fascinating is Maia’s perspective in the past sequences. We learn, for example, that Arthur wasn’t exactly the leader of the movement, especially in the early days. As one character says, he was more like their “mascot”- a symbol of ragged strength and resistance that was easy to sell to the general public. How much Arthur himself is aware of his own symbolic role remains to be seen, but people like him often have a hard time accepting that reality is anything less than what they deem it to be. In other words, Arthur may well be buying his own bullshit. He’s certainly been given every reason to do so, with rebels obeying his barked orders in the apartment complex they’ve occupied. Maia, as usual, asks the right questions as she surveys this collection of supposed revolutionaries: who’s paying for all this? The answer leads to yet another conflict and challenge that she has to deal with, 42 years in the future.
Invisible Republic is mature, intelligent science fiction. Its cinematic nature and influences are very off-genre, in the best sense. This issue, other than referencing the unlikely The Insider, is also strongly reminiscent of Assays’ Carlos miniseries, in that the central, indeed the title character, is less aware of his own limitations than the characters around him, or the audience. Carlos in fact comes to mind several times in this issue, particularly in the slow-burning tension of the scenes, and in its central subject, that perception is reality in politics and activism. Carlos was also a story that focused on character while exploring those themes, without ever getting too close to the character himself. The way Arthur McBride is handled here is almost identical to the infamous terrorist for hire. We know that he will fall someday, and that fall will be in the Greek tradition, in which his own defects of character lead to his demise. Maia, on the other hand, in her present-day incarnation, opens up a path to the future, where anything can happen. In balancing the power of the past with the promise of the future, and keeping an eye squarely on character, Invisible Republic has the potential to touch absolute comics greatness.