In Review: The Invisible Republic #4

An absorbing, gritty look at the secret history of a world as it's crumbling. Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: Against the backdrop of a darkening city, reporter Croger Babb makes his way forward, leaving behind him a paper trail that could shake the planet Avalon. Excellent image by Gabriel Hardman that sums up the premise of this series in one image. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the flying papers form the title of this book as it’s very much in the vein of a Spirit opening by Will Eisner. Overall grade: A+

The story: On dark Reveron Square, police drones soar over a recently finished riot as reporter named Woronov speaks into a recorder about what’s transpired. In the middle of her taping Babb stumbles to her and collapses. He’s taken away by an ambulance to receive attention for a chest wound, but leaves his precious bag behind. Woronov sees it just before she leaves. The story by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko then moves to the past where Maia Reveron, the cousin of soon-to-be dictator Arthur Malory, is homeless on the streets of the city. Her narration supplements the dialogue, showing what she can and cannot get away living day to day. A food stand catches her attention and starts a series of events that will have her life taking a turn. This flashback is intercut with Babb’s scenes with Woronov. She, naturally, realizes the contents of his bag could be an amazing story, but they have to be checked out. In the process of confirming the facts, they learn about the lives of others.  I am really liking the back and forth between past and present as both stories are revealing what happened to the world of Avalon and the life of its now-missing leader. This is an excellent story on the truth, and who gets to have the last word on it. Utterly absorbing. Overall grade: A+

The art: I didn’t become aware of Gabriel Hardman’s artwork until the short lived Star Wars: Legacy that Dark Horse published just before Marvel regained the license to the franchise. This book continues to show that he is an excellent illustrator. The opening shots after a riot might be set on a faraway world, but look as though they could come from today’s headlines. The light coming off the drones is a strong burst of light, whether they are on the page or just off panel, as on Page 2. The setting of the book is just science fiction enough to place it in the realm of possibility without going into Star Trek or Wars territory; the hospital where Babb regains conscious is a perfect example of this. The city where Maia roams is also a good setting with subtle sci-fi architecture. Page 6 has a major action scene occur and it’s rendered well, with the figure’s reaction and the debris field practically photo realistic. The characters are also drawn handsomely, with Babb looking constantly flustered — and who wouldn’t be after what he’s endured?, Woronov looking distanced from everything, and Maia being completely sympathetic in every panel. The most emotional page is 7; it’s a heartbreaker for what’s shown, with the final panel’s close-up on her face incredibly strong. Every page is beautiful. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Both stories have a deliberate color scheme and they enhance the tales being told. The world of the present, as Avalon crumbles, is in blacks, greys, and whites. It makes the world seem much more technological, but also absent of life, since all intelligent life is trying to leave that planet as quickly as possible. This bleakness makes the lights of the police drones all the more glaring as they zip in and out of panels. In the present, Jordan Boyd has warm colors, yellow, oranges, and tans, but they’re combined to look like ancient photos, as if time has aged the story. These colors also lend themselves to a strong story element of this issue that is highlighted on the final page. Boyd is the perfect match for Hardman. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Not listed on the inside cover, but mentioned in the letters page is Sylvester Cazadero as the letterer. Dialogue, narration, an angry transmission through a door, journal text, and scene settings are his contributions to the book and they’re good. Often when a book has to employ a character’s handwriting, the font can be difficult to read, but Maia’s writing is not. It’s a comfortable scrawl to read, and I was grateful for it being so. Overall grade: A+

The essays: Every issue of this series has contained an essay written by Corinna Bechko and this one is titled “Plastics!” Bechko logically states the necessity and use of plastics on our world and how they would be a valuable commodity on other worlds. It’s a concise writing that will have readers thinking about how important plastics are. The final page is a three paragraph piece titled “Emotion!” by Gabriel Hardman. Using a quote from Samuel Fuller, Hardman discusses how he approaches drama, being both writer and artist on a comic book. It’s an insightful peek into how he views his work should be done. Overall grade: A+ 

The final line: An absorbing, gritty look at the secret history of a world as it’s crumbling. I was lucky enough to purchase the first three issues of this series at the San Diego Comic-Con. You should chase down this series while it’s still new, because this will be something people talk about. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+ 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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