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March 09, 2006


Dave Intermittent

Started reading Robert Wilson's Masks of the Illuminati yestarday, randomly (or...perhaps not?); it'd be fun to put the relevant R.A.W. quotes up into that progression you have there. Not that I'm the first, or even the hundred and first, to make that connection, but it is fun to see the ideas pinging and ponging between Morrison and Wilson.


Masks was probably my favorite of the Illuminati books, although I liked the first couple of Historical ones too. Haven't read them in years, but they can evoke just as much nostalgia as The Invisibles, for an even earlier time.

Please forgive the oddity of burying all the analysis in my own comment thread (in what should have been the first comment--damn you, Dave!), but there’s a lot more to say about this comic and I didn’t want to interrupt the collage. As you’ve probably gathered, I found the final issue of Mister Miracle... well, to call it Morrison’s most exciting comic in nearly a decade would be a gross overstatement, but it got me rifling through a couple years’ worth of Invisibles back issues--the really good years--and that’s hard to beat. Certainly it fired up circuits that haven’t seen use since “Sensitive Criminals” or “American Death Camp.”

I also recommend that you check out this thread from the good people at Barbelith, who have already verbalized many of the things I would have said in a full-on post: the multiple realities of the Life Trap as an in-text explanation for the shifting art styles on this title, all manner of rabbinical sorting out of timelines, and confirmation that I’m not crazy for seeing the titanic, bearded Oracle as yet another working-out of Morrison’s fave anxiety of influence. (Alan Moore-acle, indeed.) Or at least I’m not the only one. For more on the Oracle, scroll down to Mario’s 23:48 post and follow that motherfucking link!

Also, a big shout-out to Peter Hensel for being the first to notice the religious allusions in this series. In the final issue Shilo is not just Christ but the Buddha, fighting to break out of a cycle of endless resurrection to attain spiritual peace—and a bodhisattva, staying behind in the cycle to help free the rest of us. Only this bodhisattva has to free the gods as well as men, Morrison’s democratic spin on this myth for the modern age. Aurakles promises to free us all, but only by destroying us and demanding our sacrifice: he is the God of our fathers, the Urizen (or, if I were inclined to make a Doom Patrol reference instead, “mad Ialdabaoth, the stern and frowning dad of this world”). But while the Oracle can help Shilo out of one level of the Life Trap (a DC continuity in which, nonsensically, a youthful avatar and apprentice of freedom becomes a jailer--I sense the hand of Chuck Dixon), he only sends him into another even more degraded one.

That reality is, of course, current DC Comics continuity in all its post-Identity Crisis glory. Morrison positions Seven Soldiers as simultaneous to the more mainstream apocalypse of Infinite Crisis, the more serious (and certainly more entertaining) cosmological dust-up happening off in the sideshow while everybody’s distracted by the shenanigans in the center ring. We haven’t seen this type of pairing since the original Crisis and a little story called “American Gothic,” by a certain stern and frowning dad…

And there may even be an element of comics critique in this elaborate structural homage. The Moore-like Oracle sends Shilo into the world of Infinite Crisis; is Morrison subtly blaming that kill-happy event and all the similar four-color carnage on Moore? That’s certainly a popular interpretation, even with Moore himself, but I find it’s gotten tiresome; comics writers have been criticizing the excesses of the eighties for nearly ten years now, starting with Moore and Morrison (circa Judgment Day and Flex Mentallo), and yet the ante keeps getting raised higher with each new rape or murder (generally not the work of Moore or Morrison). Mercifully, Morrison keeps the dig at Moore fairly muted and then he looks for a way out instead of wallowing in the bloodletting as Geoff Johns et al are wont to do. The escape route--Shilo’s greatest trick--is not a God-of-your-fathers covenant and sacrifice like Oracle/Ialdabaoth/JHVH demand or even a redemptive self-sacrifice from on high like Christ, but a superhero bodhisattva who comes to the very Morrisonian realization that his tormentor is just as trapped as he is and they can both break out of the cycle together by forgiving themselves.

“It’s only you fighting them that gives them strength.” --Jacqui, Invisibles #5, 1997. My favorite scene in my favorite issue of what was my favorite comic, back in my favorite years.

That love and compassion have always been there, lurking in the background, each part of Morrison’s work reflecting the whole. I believe it may even be a type of hologram.

Dave Intermittent

Add the ending to New X-Men as well, in which fighting is literally infectious, and the only way out is the cleansing fire of love. And of course, the Filth is an extended inversion of "as above so below" in which we learn that what's below creates what's above, and that micro scale love can create macro scale love; it's turtles all the way up.

I wonder as well how this ties into the anti-dad of Seaguy? But there's probably a Barbelith thread on that by now....

I read the Illuminatus trilogy way back when, but for some reason Masks has sat on my shelf for years. I'm finding that Makss tends to hang together better, thought the homage to Joyce gets a little tiring.

Dave Intermittent

Apologies if this is already somewhere in a Barbelith thread but: I suppose what Shilo winds up eating is an Easter Sundae, of sorts?


Easter Sundae... awesome!!


And damn you a second time, Dave Intermittent.

Kevin J. Maroney

I think most of the time you're spot-on--but the Barbelith assumption that the Oracle is somehow an Alan Moore reference strikes me as creating a link ab nihilo, based on a (not very strong) physical resemblence. Is there anything specific to tie him to Moore, given that the Oracle appeared in the ur-story from which all of Morrison's Seven Soldiers descends? I mean, Morrison is subtle, but when he has a connection he wants you to make, he makes it good and hard.


Only the physical resemblance, and the general Moore homage/anxiety that's run through the entire megaplot. Appearing in the JLA story doesn't have to limit the Oracle's range of meaning; Morrison's already cast him as the god of your fathers, which makes him a convenient vehicle for any filial artistic rebellion. I'm happy that he isn't limited to comics metacommentary, especially of the tired the-eighties-were-so-'orrible variety, but the element seems to be there.

David Golding

I've written a bit about Moore/Morrison anxiety and Watchmen/Invisibles, partially inspired by your writing.

I wish I had something to add about Seven Soldiers, but I'm only just starting the first trade paperback now.


Hi, David--sorry I didn't reply earlier. I've only been able to sample the "Arcadia" stuff but I liked it quite a bit--Invisibles readers should definitely check out that link.

You have some very pleasant reading ahead of you, although I must say nothing whets the appetite like a good monthly release and nobody knows how to work that anticipation like Morrison.

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