Invisible Republic is an intriguing, literary-minded science fiction graphic novel that begins small but builds in size and momentum as the plot progresses. So although the POVs initially seem quite diverse/happening across large swaths of time, slowly and assuredly they begin to converge by the end of this first volume (which has a definitive story arc). But the focus of this future-noir is on the people; author Hardman builds characters that are extremely flawed but also brilliantly ambitious in their own ways. It is in their weaknesses that they fall and their strengths that they succeed – perhaps not always for the greater good.
Story: In a planet/moon on a far reaching system, a somewhat down-on-his-luck reporter stumbles across a manuscript written by a woman with ties to a Che-Guevara type revolutionary. What he discovers is an explosive tell-all that could shed new light on the planet/moon’s tumultuous history. But there are those who do not want to see a memoir published of this woman who seemingly has been erased from history. Politics and double crossing will soon hound the reporter as he attempts to make his career on his explosive find. At the same time, the story of the woman, cousin to the revolutionary, slowly unfolds in the past.
We’re given two main POVs: reporter Babb and cousin to fiery revolutionary McBride, Maia Reveron. Her witness to actual events, many of which were dramatically changed to favor revolutionary McBride, are quite revelatory to Babb. And while he begins to track down more information of the mysterious McBride cousin that no one has heard of, his life is soon put in danger. He’s not sure who is after him and the memoirs – or why – but his flight and then Maia’s reminisces are the basis of Invisible Republic.
The art is suitably detailed and expressive, with Maia’s POV colored in oranges/reds and Babb’s in blues/greens. Ironically, those choices make the present time of Babb seen far more depressing and Dickensian (which is very much the feel of Avalon) than Maia’s warmer past. The art is quite straightforward and very Bladerunner in feel – a very run down, dirty, and demoralizing metropolis of the future.
Although the pace is languid (Babb’s researching is counterpointed by Maia trying to start life over as a bee keeper and keep running from her cousin and the past), it is steady. As more and more truths come out and author Hardman carefully adds reveals about both the past and the present, the plot intrigues. It may seem confusing at first but clearly there is a big picture we’re building toward in future volumes.
In all, I enjoy Invisible Republic. It feels very much like a literary sci fi piece – intelligent, restrained, and with a very interesting build toward a surprising future. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.