When Grant Morrison tragically died from a severe case of rotting face cancer in 1996, the comic world lost one of its most influential voices just as he was beginning to produce some of the best work of his career.
Nobody was more influenced by Morrison’s short time in the US comic world than frequent collaborator Mark Millar, and nothing showed that influence quite like his continuation of The Invisibles.
Millar claimed his decision to continue with Morrison’s Vertigo magnum opus was inspired by a deathbed wish from Morrison, although nobody else actually heard this request.
To be fair, Millar did alienate many of the Invisibles readers when he killed off King Mob in issue three of the revamped volume two, although it was a suitably noble end for the character - flayed alive at the impossible corner of the nexus of all realities while mounting his illegitimate step-sister.
There was further alienation when King Mob was replaced by Millar’s own obvious surrogate, although Scotty McCoolasfook eventually evolved into a surprisingly thoughtful character.
Millar did score points with the Invisibles faithful when Invisibles volume 3: the Unfunnies began with the main characters discovering a copy of the Invisibles comic from a universe where Grant Morrison never died, hinting at a complicated tale of fiction suits and a conflict with no sides, but this was slightly undone when Lord Fanny had to use it as toilet paper during a team vacation in Rwanda.
After that, it was full steam ahead to the finale, which saw Sir Miles Delacourt assume a godhead position and start an incredibly violent rampage across London, only to be taken down and buggered by the sudden appearance of a bearded Ganesh in the book’s climax. The book also gained much of its notoriety for its final pages, where Dane McGowan kicked Jesus in the teeth and assumed the position of New God for the 21st Century.
This plot movement, which saw Pope John Paul Ringo formally excommunicate Millar, gathered much attention, although most people are more familiar with The Invisibles from the movie version, released in 2003 to an indifferent critical reaction and modest box office success.
The film project, which was in the works since Millar was in the middle of Volume Two, initially saw directing talent like Terence Malick and Sofia Coppola circle it, before Brett Ratner stepped in to direct the final movie. Fans of the comic book derided Ratner’s dull and lackluster style, but the real nail in the coffin was seen at the first cast announcement, with Vin Diesel stepping into the lead role as Dane McGunnin, and Jackie Chan taking on the part of Boy.
The movie came and went, and Millar’s career went on. He famously stuck with Ultimate X-Men for 102 mind-bending issues, saying that somebody had to keep the spirit of evolution moving after New X-Men wrapped up with #152 following a dreary 26-issue run by Frank Tieri. He put in another respectable 36-issue run on the Wolverine: You can Probably Stop Doing That Now title and recently returned to the Vertigo imprint with Seaman, Kick-Ass and Joe the Warcop.
As satisfying as some of these titles have been, none of them are quite the kick in the teeth that Millar’s Invisibles was. Even with the meta-textual high-jinks of volume three, who really knows where Morrison really would have taken the title? In the end, there is only Millar's compelling and flawed interpretation, and that will have to do.