The new story arc of Invisible Republic, which begins here in issue #11, is a bit of a departure from previous issues and arcs in this compelling and complex science fiction drama. Readers will remember that issue #10 ended with the long-awaited publication of the diaries of Maia Reveron, with a foreword by Croger Babb, but loyalties and allegiances that we considered so simple and solid by at the beginning of this series seem a lot more ambiguous by the end of this latest issue.
Croger Babb, despite his scandal-ridden past, is basically the same as any good investigative journalist in that what he wants more than anything else is to tell the truth. People in that profession seem to have an unshakable belief that once the truth is out there, in the public forum, the public at large will rally to their words and bring about lasting social change. They have faith that people not only read, and contemplate what they read, but they base their attitudes on what is presented in the media. That’s a considerable amount of populist optimism, and one has to wonder, based on what’s happening in the political world at this moment, if it really has any basis in fact. But Croger believes it, and that’s the primary story of this issue.
Starting with a specific date (2844), a rare mention in the pages of Invisible Republic, we see Croger and his publisher on a successful book tour of the Reveron diary titled, of course, “Invisible Republic”. This leg of his tour takes him to Earth which, in the time-tested science fiction tradition, is a poisoned wasteland inhabited by a hardy few. (Babb himself is from Mars and is anxious to get home.) We then are treated to Babb’s pitch in front of an audience of the Reveron journal and its importance. But here is the main twist: based on the events of the past few issues, especially the “present day” revelations of Nica, it’s not entirely clear whether Maia Reveron is truly the hero Croger Babb wants her to be. Maia spent years in prison, and while she continues to attract loyal followers and has many vestiges of her personality as a young woman, she’s not the same person who wrote the words in the diary. She may, in fact, be someone much more dangerous than Babb or his journalistic compatriot, Woronov, ever anticipated.
During Babb’s speech during his book tour, a member of the audience asks the essential question (and frankly, one that this comic has grappled with since its first issue): “What about the fact that Reveron is the one telling her story? Of course she’s going to put herself in a good light.” Babb repeats that he has met Maia Reveron and considers her a friend (it doesn’t appear that Maia reciprocates this sentiment), demonstrating his unshakable faith in his narrator. He wants her to be a pure soul and an expression of freedom — mainly freedom of thought and information — so much that it blinds him. Croger Babb has crossed a journalistic line that probably would have been better to respect.
Meanwhile, we get more glimpses into Maia’s past with the usual episodes from her journal rendered out excellently by Gabriel Hardman, with colours by Jordan Boyd. Maia recounts some good times, living on the planet Asan, which is wild, untamed and has a beauty all its own. In an Invisible Republic tradition, we’re treated to exotic animals and an intriguing look at an alien ecosystem. Given all of the politics and the history, this comic still makes sure to work some genuine, old-fashioned hard science fiction in every issue, which is a wonderful element. (What other comic, sci-fi or otherwise, takes so much time to highlight beekeeping, for instance?)
The main take-away element from this new issue, however, is that Maia is probably more complex than we initially thought, and perhaps Babb is a bit more simple. His simple faith in her simple story may lead him and others to dangerous places. There are forces at work in the universe of this comic that have their roots in the wild forests of Asan or the rocky beaches of Avalon that stretch right into the corridors of power in this richly detailed and well thought-out science fiction epic.