Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Invisibles #6: 'Arcadia: Part 2: 'Mysteries of the Guillotine'

‘Mysteries of the Guillotine’ is the least dense issue of the Arcadia arc, moving the plot forward, and reinforcing some thematic points, but it’s not as mindblowing as the other issues in the arc.

The opening pages show the way that the peasants have to come to ascribe the qualities of a god to the guillotine. It is the thing that will bring them liberty, and they worship it as such. This connects what we saw in ‘Down and Out in Heaven and Hell,’ the way that objects can be infused with power from belief....

I've taken down my posts on The Invisibles because they're all coming out in book form. The book, Our Sentence is Up, features revised and expanded versions of each blog post, covering every issue of The Invisibles, plus an extensive interview with Morrison himself. Visit your local comic store and order a copy now!


RAB said...

Nothing to add here except that I'm really enjoying this...and in fact I'm rereading each issue as you review it, taking your observations into account. I'm really impressed with the way you're keeping the structure and themes of the whole in mind as you look at the individual parts.

And I share your enjoyment of Morrison's De Sade -- he's definitely fun and likeable here, not at all the sort of image we've gotten of the man in other pop culture over the years!

Patrick said...

Thanks man, glad you're enjoying it. There's very few comic series where there's enough legitimate material in every issue for it to be worth writing about, but this is one of them. I was planning on doing one issue a day, but as I'm getting into it, things might speed up a bit, fitting considering themes of the series, the compression of time as we approach the singularity at 2012.

David said...

Belated quick question: what makes you equate "Satan" with John-A-Dreams?

Patrick said...

The whole John a Dreams thing is something that makes me feel like a computer from 1995 trying to run today's programs, something's coming through, but it's not all there. Basically, my understanding is that John is taken outside of time and shown the entirety of time by the 'alien greys,' like in Grant's description of his abduction experience.

But, rather than being returned to time, John became a fifth dimensional being and his identity was split into a variety of 'fiction suits.' Now, you could argue that John is like the reader, in that he 'plays' every character in the goings on, and each time through, he can choose to play someone else. There's a whole meta level to it, but that's beside the point for now.

Basically, I feel like John saw what needed to happen to bring humanity to the supercontext, and he chose to re-enter the game in a variety of guises to ensure that this happens. The thing that normally tips us off to his presence is the white suit, which we see on John himself, Quimper and Satan.

Satan clearly exists outside of time, and plays both sides, providing the information that's needed to ensure certain things happen. That would fit with John's role as someone who's beyond the game. Also, there's a symmetry to Satan helping initiate John's replacement into the higher mysteries of the universe. Also, at one point Satan says something like "Quimper told me to tell you, 'Once my name was John,'" a statement that's ambiguous, potentially referring to both Quimper and Satan.

I'm sure I'll get into this more as the series progresses, but that's the quick answer. Though I may be thinking of things differently by the time I reach the relevant material on this read.

Patrick said...

And, I'd just add, keep the questions coming, I created a whole framework to interpret the series the first time I read it, but I'd love to hear where you differ, and maybe we can go in some new directions in interpreting the series.

David said...

Satan also says he replied to Quimper: "John, John, hiding in plain sight, that's not playing the game" which I think clarifies that Quimper = John in this dialogue.

I never saw the white suit thing as a John indicator, and was happy to take John as simply(!) being Quimper and Flint, or alternatively, as you say, everyone.

I do have a few big differing readings about the series, but I don't have time to get into them, so I'm afraid it'll just be small comments when I have time! I wish I did, because I love The Invisibles and it's great to see people actually rereading stuff. (Hey, where are all those B5 commenters?)

Patrick said...

This is what Grant had to say on the John a Dreams issue: "Hi James - yes John-A-Dreams put on a 'Quimper' suit to help his friends reach an understanding about the universe they were inhabiting. Look for all the guys in white suits in THE INVISIBLES..they're all John and all Quimper. Quimper is also an immune cell granted hideous self-consciousness and forced to inhabit the solid world. Everything in INVISIBLES is more than one thing so whatever you take from it is fine"

That would also make John Orlando, and each of his incarnations has some part to play in helping to educate the various members of the cell. I particularly like the symmetry of Fanny being raped by the same people who raped Quimper, and then ultimately reclaiming power and saving Quimper from his imprisonment in this plane.

Satan as John works because he's an instructor, but I don't know that it particularly adds much to the story.

And, definitely comment when you get the chance. For the B5 posts, there was a bit of lull in commenting, but it seems to have revived for the end of season four run. It definitely seems like there are more comments when I like the episode than when I dislike it, which is probably a result of the fact that the more I like an episode the more I engage with it and try to figure out the layers. Maybe the weaker episodes have those layers too, but if I'm not hooked, I'm not going to delve deeper. That actually applies to The Invisibles too, the reason I'm able to analyze it so deeply is that I was completely hooked by the cool action stuff on the surface. I'm glad Grant chose to present his cosmology in this form rather than in a traditional philosophical text.