Invisible Republic Volume 1 – Hardman, Bechko, Boyd

Ok, I read another one. Because it was that or focus on the US election. And if I get sucked in, I won’t sleep and that would be terrible for productivity at work tomorrow (and more importantly, focussing on the theatre in the evening). Also I don’t know enough about US politics really. I admit this is probably something of an error on my part. But I don’t know enough about UK politics, and that’s higher up the fixing it list.

Anyway. This is somewhat irrelevant to the main concern of the day, being comics.

In contrast to the joyous perplexity and silliness of Paper GirlsInvisible Republic is gritty SF, with an emphasis on the gritty. And, if I’m honest, “gritty” is not the quality I really seek in my SF, whether in words-books or graphic novels. It can be great, and I’ve read it before, and I will definitely read it again… but if you try to sell me on something, if your first words are “gritty SF”… I’ll probably switch off. I guess I just like my space futures to be optimistic (cf. preference for TNG over DS9), and gritty, grim, miserable space is just… it’s not the escapism I’m after. And since Invisible Republic is looking at an offworld colony facing famine and the history of a coup in a climate of militarisation… and also bees… “grit” is definitely the word to use. And in graphic novels I feel it can be overdone… you shade everything in greys and browns, and suddenly it’s so grim you can’t miss it. Shocker, yes they’ve done that… with the brown a more sepia tone for the flashback scenes. SUCH ORIGINALITY.

I guess that’s my issue with it. I don’t see what this has done that really had anything new to give. It’s well written, and colour-scheme or not, it’s very pretty in a grippingly realistic way, it paints a believable picture of off-world colonies in the aftermath of pre-FTL travel being outdone by FTL, and the problems of supply in a multi-world human race. It’s all valid stuff to write about, and can be done stunningly, and isn’t done badly at all here… but it’s all hardly new. We’re following the viewpoint of a journalist researching a story on the history of the coup on this world, and it’s a nice angle, and a neat way to work in the exposition and backstory. But from what we see of the journalist, I don’t particularly like him, nor do I feel like we’re supposed to. He feels quite tropey, both for gritty SF and journalists in SF… and what little depth he gets isn’t so favourable. And I think that’s meant to feed into the gritty meanness of the setting – no one is nice, the world isn’t nice and nothing will turn out well for anyone. YAY. But again, hardly new for the style it’s going for.

I’m not going to post a huge amount on this, because I don’t think I have an awful lot to say, and maybe three posts within 24 hours is pushing my luck on “does anyone even read this stuff?”. What I will say is that I will probably read the next one if presented to me to borrow, simply because I’d like to know if the story goes in an interesting direction. The first volume is, for all I’m whingeing about unoriginality, just the setup, and it’s entirely possible they could move in a cool, new and exciting direction from this point. And if it does that, I feel like my opinion really could change. For all that it’s not my favourite genre, there’s enough done well here that I can see my mind changing with enough impetus… but there’d need to be more put into the characters… and especially people who aren’t the journalist… before I’d be willing to commit my enthusiasm. What I imagine will happen is exactly the same level of originality, and I will not read beyond volume 2. But I am willing to be proved wrong. I hope to be proved wrong.

But I won’t be.

If you like this sort of spacey grit, then it’s a good example of what it is. But it doesn’t break new ground, and I’m not going to really remember it in three months. It doesn’t grab the imagination like some of the other stuff I’ve read recently, which is a shame for something so well executed. Ah well.



About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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