Both Arthur McBride and his cousin Maia Reveron eventually become revolutionary leaders: this is not really much of a spoiler for the continuing saga of Invisible Republic. But it’s important to note the differences between these two people, not necessarily in what they want to achieve, but how they hope to achieve it. Where Arthur, like many revolutionaries, is obsessed with control and authority and wants a loyal band of followers to obey his every whim without explanation, Maia adopts a more humane approach, no less strong, but she definitely leave the notion of demanding fealty in the mud flats surrounding her headquarters. In Maia’s revolution, the people involved can make choices, can leave at any time and are treated with respect. At least, that’s the image she projects, and the ideal to which she strives. It’s also important to Maia to limit collateral damage, something about which Arthur never appears to be particularly concerned. For Maia, killing an innocent in the pursuit of a higher goal is completely out of bounds. For Arthur, the only things that are out of bounds seem to involve disobeying his imperial will, cloaked as it is in nauseating and hollow corporate team-building exercises.
We set up that dichotomy in our discussion here of Invisible Republic issue #8 in part to forgive, or at least excuse, some of Maia’s more seemingly ruthless behaviour in this issue. We’re speaking, of course, of the older “42 years later” Maia, hardened by life and the burdens of leadership, and by her struggle against the Malory Regime. While she might come across as callous, she in fact is simply being strong, and being the leader she needs to be in these difficult and dangerous times. Co-writers and co-creators Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko have been masterful in letting the details of the struggle, its issues and its personalities, leak out over the past few issues. We’re still not sure, as readers, what happened during the years of the Malory Regime that made it so bad, what eventually became of Arthur and what Maia hopes to achieve in her aged incarnation. But we are a bit clearer on why Maia is the way she is, and Hardman and Bechko give us a whopper of a clue about the origins of Maia’s diary, around which all the drama of Invisible Republic swirls.
“Maybe [Maia]’s the kindhearted, magnanimous person she portrayed herself as in that journal, or maybe she’s just as ruthless as her cousin,” Fran Woronov observes after an incident that brings such questions to the surface. The argument between her and disgraced reporter Croger Babb concerns, as it has since issue #1, who gets the Reveron diary, and whatever secrets it can reveal. Babb, at a considerably lower point in his career and personal development than Woronov, has dreams of turning it into the great novel of the Malory Regime, the inside story, a bestseller that can refurbish his own reputation. For Woronov, now having met the real Maia Reveron in person, the diary has become something of an accessory, as they now have the opportunity to observe a new revolution from the ground floor and get some good, first-person reporting done, rather than adapt a source. Her point is strengthened somewhat by the revelation, by Maia, of the circumstances under which the original diary was written. Unfortunately (for the characters) and fortunately (for the readers), those circumstances are left just ambivalent enough for us to anticipate more information to follow, and call into question the purpose and veracity of the diary.
There are, of course, other interested parties in the diary, particularly Maia herself. But Maia isn’t the type (or so we are led to believe), who would just take back her book arbitrarily and leave Woronov and Babb empty handed. That isn’t in fitting with her open and collaborative approach to revolution (if such a thing is conceivable). She asks, and when she gets the answer “no”, she offers one last bit of enticing information and then allows Babb and Woronov to go their own way. (Woronov, as we are reminded, doesn’t have the diary with her but instead hid it in a safe place.)
Meanwhile, in the flashback scenes, we see Arthur attempting rather clumsily to keep up the pretence of a team effort by having corporate “speakers circles” and allowing his team members to voice their concerns, but like all corporate events (at least in my experience), he has no interest at all in what his team members have to say. The exercise is all for show, all to give his underlings the illusion of being a team, which makes them more useful to him. Maia dares to speak out of turn, and, worst of all, to speak the truth, pointing out clearly that this is all a sham and calling into question their revolutionary activities. While we don’t actually see Nica in this issue, her influence over Arthur, and Maia’s vehement disapproval of it, are at the heart of their argument and appears to be what is driving them apart. If they ever were together: we saw from the very first issue that Arthur views Maia as a useful simpleton at best, a dangerously undisciplined force at worst.
At the end of this issue, our focus is once again on the Reveron diary, what it means and who will possess it. For a book with such complexity and allusion as Invisible Republic, it’s admirable the way that the creators have kept the dramatic focus squarely on that book and what it means to history, present and future. This continues to be one of the strongest comics in current circulation.