7.6

Invisible Republic Vol. 1 by Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman

Comics Reviews Corinna Bechko
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<i>Invisible Republic</i> Vol. 1 by Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman

Writers: Gabriel Hardman & Corinna Bechko
Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: August 26, 2015

Some books commit to the long haul. That certainly seems to be the case for Invisible Republic, Gabriel Hardman & Corinna Bechko’s comic studying the parallel formation and ensuing legacy of a political strongman several centuries in the future. The setting is a moon called Avalon, which still bears the scars from terraforming. The plot revolves around a writer, Croger Babb, who discovers an account written by Maia Reveron, the cousin of one-time political leader Arthur McBride. As Croger investigates this secret history—an “untold story of the Malory regime”— the reader sees it unfold at the seams: a political thriller laced with science fiction where nearly every character is capable of more than he or she first alludes.

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Once the template forms, two compelling narratives emerge. In the past, Arthur slowly amasses political followers, while Maia goes into hiding, recoiling from the events that a fateful confrontation sets in motion. In the present, Croger investigates more details of Maia’s life: why she was written out of the official history, for one, and how she finds herself at odds with a number of political factions that arise after McBride’s fall from power.

Hardman’s art is memorably dense: he makes use of a number of small panels and effectively conveys small changes in facial expressions and body language. An early scene where Maia and Arthur face off against a nasty bunch of soldiers sees the latter transform from nebbish to terrifying, and also showcases Maia’s potential for both wariness and shock. Given that several of the characters have multiple loyalties or secret agendas, that range of subtlety is a useful skill to exercise. At times, the work resembles John Paul Leon’s art for The Winter Men: quietly comprehensive without ever straying into excess. Here, Hardman’s aided by Jordan Boyd’s coloring, which nicely sets distinctive moods for each time period and setting.

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Invisible Republic Interior Art by Gabriel Hardman

Invisible Republic flourishes in the small details. Avalon feels like a fully lived-in world, and in both of the timeframes, the reader is left to synthesize certain details from the narrative rather than through blind exposition. As much as this first collection is the beginning of a much larger story, Hardman and Bechko’s script makes it clear that these are characters who have already experienced significant life events.

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Invisible Republic Interior Art by Gabriel Hardman

The authors haven’t given themselves an easy task. They need to unravel Invisible Republic’s central mystery in compelling ways and demonstrate, through worldbuilding, why that mystery exists in the first place. The first line of the series states “It’s the past. Nobody here wants to talk about that.” There’s an implied why in that line; this collection neatly depicts the beginning of the answer, and holds out the promise of a long, intriguing explanation to come.