Early on in Invisible Republic #8, I was thrilled to find a powerful emotional moment comprised entirely by two people having a conversation. Croger Babb and his reporter friend Woronov discuss whether they will publish the journal that kicked off the series in terms of journalistic integrity and duty. It becomes a tense moment as the power dynamics between the two switch back and forth, occasionally coming close to outright threats and manipulations. Just as Babb and Woronov seem about to truly tear into eachother, an outside threat reminds them, and the reader, that they are both scared and confused in a situation that is beyond their understanding or control. It's the type of taught subtle character work that is sorely lacking in much of Image's spectacle and concept driven work, and serves to set the tone for another excellent issue of Invisible Republic. Issue eight begins to tie together many of the loose ends of the series, and by doing so, fixes one of the only major flaws of the book. Invisible Republic has been since issue one, divided into two storylines, one in the future and one in the past, and, until now, the past story has been far more interesting and involving than the future one. However, as the two reporters debate how to handle the journal, the original author, fugitive semi-revolutionary Maia Reveron tells them about the circumstances of its writing in one of the single most moving and revealing moments in the series. This reveals new emotional stakes that run through both stories and also shed some light on the conflicted motivations of a wartime reporter.
In the past, Maia's rebellious nature bring her into conflict with Arthur who is revealed to be an ever more egotistical bully, bent on leading the group as much through fear as through idealism. In another signaturely tense moment, Maia derails an abusive group therapy session by criticizing Arthur's methods, and we are treated to first indication that Arthur may see her as a threat despite their shared background (which is, coincidentally, another aspect that is fleshed out in this issue). Gabriel Hardman draws this scene as lit by lamplight, emphasizing the contours and shapes of each characters faces while obscuring just enough to make emotions hard to read. Throughout the issue in fact Hardmas continues to shine as he brings some slightly larger sci-fi concepts to life as well as his usual grubby landscapes and buildings.
With Invisible Republic getting so much right, I am a little disappointed that the book continues to feel emotionally distant. Despite the excellent characterization and emotional stakes, I have trouble connecting with Babb, Woronov, or Maia on any deeper level than enjoying seeing where their stories end up. Part of the problem may be that the book is so entirely somber (an occasional joke or smile might bring some life to the characters). Perhaps this will change as the book goes on and reveals more about its world, but I think it more likely that Invisible Republic will remain a somewhat analytical and distant story about politics, manipulation and war. This is not much of a problem though if Invisible Republic remains the original, quality books that this issue shows it can be.
Invisible Republic #8 Writers: Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko Artists: Gabriel Hardman and Jordan Boyd Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 12/23/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital