The Desolate Noir of Invisible Republic

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Far into the future, humans have spread around the solar system. But expanding the territory available hasn’t stopped the continuing cycle of oppression then revolution. Invisible Republic tells two stories set forty years apart: a dictator’s rise to power and the writer who wants to find out what really happened all those years ago.

Invisible Republic: Volume 1 takes us to the bleak, hardscrabble moon of Avalon. The population there is still trying to recover from the fall of the Malory regime led by Arthur McBride. Croger Babb, a down-on-his-luck reporter on the hunt for a new story, comes across a pile of papers a street vendor is using for kindling. The papers turn out to be the journal of Maia Reveron. The journal reveals that the state-sanctioned biography of McBride wasn’t the whole story.

Invisible Republic 2Babb discovers from the journal that Maia is a previously unknown cousin of McBride and her journal gives a different version of the rise of the Malory regime. At first, Babb thinks he’ll be able to make some serious money from the journal, but his editor doesn’t believe the journal is real. He pushes ahead with the research anyway trying to prove it’s authenticity. Babb doesn’t seem to be making progress, but his research attempts haven’t gone unnoticed.

Babb is attacked and his assailant is after the journal. The attack convinces Babb that the journal is genuine and soon he’s getting more unwanted attention. A rival journalist, Woronov, demands that Babb let her in on the story. They decide to work together on the story, but other groups don’t want the truth to get out.

Writers Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman have interlaced Babb’s investigations with Maia’s escape with McBride from indentured servitude. The parallel story lines save the writers from a lot of historical exposition to explain the circumstances of the world, and Bechko and Hardman use the switching narratives to build dramatic tension well throughout the narrative.

Volume 1 has a lot of heavy lifting to do, introducing critical characters and plots for the series, and I think they were successful on those counts. However, there is so much plot to get through some characters’ development was a bit lacking. By the time I got to the end of Volume 1, Babb’s motivations and trajectory were clear and I was intrigued about what would happen next. However, I felt less connection with Maia, since she functions more as a carrier for McBride’s story than as an active agent in the narrative.

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The art in Invisible Republic uses deep shadow and desaturated palettes, which highlight the desolation of Avalon’s countryside and the noir-esque mean streets of the cities. Drawn by Hardman and colored by Jordon Boyd, the setting’s harshness is echoed in the strong, sharp lines and drab colors used for the characters. The page layouts are packed with detail, and the close quarters make the action scenes feel viscerally close. It’s an effective way to make the violence hit the reader harder, but there were times the proximity felt claustrophobic.

Invisible Republic: Volume 1 introduces a bleak, beaten world on the verge of collapse and some of the people who are doing their damnedest to survive in it. The moon Avalon is a hardened place with hardened people, and the narrative and visual choices made by Bechko and Hardman emphasize that with every panel. It’s an interesting enough world that I’d come back to see what new revelations are in store in Volume 2.

Invisible Republic: Volume 1, collecting issues #1-5, is available in print and digital versions at Image Comics, and Volume 2, collecting issues #6-10 was released on August 10.

//Images courtesy of Gabriel Hardman.

Kate Gorman is editor of Art & Literature on Paper Droids. She is also the author of the speculative fiction novel ON THE ICE, the screenplay and creative how-to collection INT-EXT, and the locative fiction audio walk series GREENWAY QUARTET.