The latest issue of Invisible Republic begins with a welcome look into Maia’s past. The little incident in the fish farm that’s depicted reinforces two main character points: that Maia is a lot stronger than she sometimes appears, and that Arthur did care a great deal about his cousin. Perhaps he still does. It’s those kinds of character revelations that are the focus of issue #9, rather than action sequences or high tension. To be sure: there are the usual revelations here, as one more bit of the puzzle of how we got to, and from, the Malory Regime is clarified. But mostly this issue explores deeply personal relationships, and contrasts their nature. Some relationships built on love later get disrupted by other, more tangible political goals. Others experience the reverse, and what seem like love relationships are revealed to be simple political convenience.
Our guide through most of this is Maia herself, depicted as a child and as a young woman in the “42 years ago” timeline. (In the “42 years later” timeline, we see some of the same themes played out by Woronov and Babb, and this leads into the important twist at the issue’s end which, of course, we won’t reveal.) Maia, of course, has really always provided the key perspective in this story, through her diary. All the conflict in the present day timeline seems to revolve around it, as if it was more important than the still very much alive Maia Reveron herself. Which, in a sense, it is, because as we’ve mentioned here before, this book is about controlling history, a classic tool of oppressive regimes, stretching all the way back to ancient Egypt. A person’s oral testimony is ephemeral, and subject to the whims of memory, but once committed to paper (or papyrus, or stone) it becomes eternal and therefore dangerous. Invisible Republic is a story about stories, which is something that elevates it far above the usual science fiction fare.
A word on timelines and perspective: there’s a fascinating and very subtle change in this issue from previous issues. We get a specific year for the events involving Woronov and Babb, still chasing the Reveron diary, and their path has led them to the temporary seat of government. Instead of “42 years later” or some other relative date, we get “2843”, a subtle way of showing us as an audience that this particular part of the story is not told from Maia’s perspective. It’s about Woronov and Babb, and since they officially parted ways with the middle-aged Maia in the previous issue, they’re now literally making their own history. They’re part of the larger story now — no longer outside observers. They’re meeting the people from the resistance and, as it turns, also from the old Malory Regime.
Another important relationship explored in this issue is between Archi and Luis — the beekeepers who took Maia in when she needed help, and followed her into the movement. Archi later broke from the movement, which back in the days of Arthur McBride was a dangerous thing to do, but he remains personally loyal to Maia. All Archi wants is to repair his relationship with his husband, but just like the way politics got between Maia and Arthur, they pull this committed couple apart as well.
In Invisible Republic, at least for the past few issues, all roads appear to lead back to Nica, the noblewoman who seems to hold the purse-strings (and other strings) related to the budding movement that (we presume) will result in the Malory regime. We’ve seen Nica as a younger woman, Arthur’s lover and a fairly toxic influence on him in general. We’ve also had glimpses of her in the 42 years later era (or 2843, as we know now), but little actual evidence of her agenda in either. Here in this issue, Nica finally reveals important parts of her character and clarifies the balance of power to Maia, and thus to us. We expect a character like Nica to be all-knowing and crafty: that would be the usual setting for the mystery villain. But writers Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko take a different road, one that leads back to Maia’s special understanding of Arthur. It’s a great decision, and one that once again demonstrates why Invisible Republic is among the strongest of today’s comics.