THE INVISIBLE MATRIX?
Pipeline Spoiler Warning: As much as I hate to do it, it would be impossible to analyze these two without putting spoilers in for both. So you've been warned. There are spoilers in here for THE MATRIX and the first two TPBs' worth of THE INVISIBLES. Skip down to the next section with reader reaction to the fight scene column if you don't wish to hear this.
He is the one who is forecasted to save the world from a conspiracy set up to manipulate humanity to do its bidding. He's resistant to the idea at first - and others in the small renegade faction that drafts him are dubious, as well. He is young and he is naive, but with time, he'll learn. And at the same time, an inside force amongst the renegades is plotting against them with the enemy toward his own selfish ends.
The evil men assume the shape of humans, dress alike, wear dark glasses. They control everything, although only our renegade group realizes this.
Is this THE MATRIX or the INVISIBLES? Grant Morrison believed he created it first with the INVISIBLES, and that the Brothers Wachowski stole it with THE MATRIX, thus killing Morrison's chance of a big score in Hollywood.
Is Morrison smoking too much drugs, or does he have a point?
Truth is, I think the similarities in some respects are uncanny. But, in the end, I think THE MATRIX is much much more than THE INVISIBLES has been so far. For one, the movie is coherent. Morrison's masturbatory meandering across the page with INVISIBLES just leaves one with greater confusion and sense of unreality.
The Brothers Wachowski are admitted comics fans. They hired Geoff Darrow to aid in concept sketches. (And it shows. The movie sets are often just real life Darrow drawings. They look really cool.) But they did more than that. They produced a live action anime film, complete with kung fu and zip pans and slow motion crawls and "Bullet-Cam".
The Invisibles team is comprised of a woman from the future, a bald-headed leader, a black New York street cop, a cross-dresser, and a high schooler who's the second coming. In The Matrix, you have a pair of brothers unaffected by the farce that is "reality," a bald-headed black leader, a woman fated to love the Chosen One, and the chosen one himself, a 20-something computer programmer stuck in cubicle hell.
So far, the coincidences are just that there's a team fighting the system from within it.
The concept of a Chosen One is as old as time itself, it seems. There's probably a special chapter in a Joseph Campbell book to explain all of this. Jack Frost in INVISIBLES. Neo in THE MATRIX. Luke Skywalker in STAR WARS.
The other characters on the teams aren't really analogous, except maybe for Morpheus and King Mob. Both are bald-headed leaders who have a penchant for wearing dark sunglasses and getting tortured.
Some events are similar. In the first INVISIBLES storyline, a major test of faith is in jumping off a skyscraper. In MATRIX, the big test is to jump between skyscrapers without plummeting to one's death.
In both stories, characters are told to stand around and "listen for" the sounds of the real world. There's a lot of kung fu fighting going on. There's a traitor amongst both groups. Reality can be programmed like a computer simulation.
THE INVISIBLES' menace simply wants to control the world. In THE MATRIX, the antagonists are out to enslave the human race in order to maintain their energy. (The humans literally act as batteries.)
In the end, though, THE MATRIX is as much a rip-off of THE INVISIBLES as it is a rip-off of the FOX series, VR.5, or the excellent movie, DARK CITY. In DARK CITY, reality is rearranged every night and only our protagonist realizes this.
VR.5's similarities are more superficial. A great deal is made of the difference between reality and computer-generated reality, but the key to it - diving through the telephone wires - is eerily reminiscent of how the people transmit themselves into The Matrix in the movie. And there is an old-fashioned rotary dial phone on Morpheus' ship in THE MATRIX. In VR.5, much was made over the acoustic modem Sydney Bloom used to transmit herself into virtual reality.
Quite honestly, I think Morrison is over-reaching on this one. And I don't think that much of THE INVISIBLES, although Phil Jimenez's artwork on it is beautiful in the second trade paperback. However, I do think THE MATRIX is a great movie, if only for the way they pulled off the story than for the actual story itself.
BACK TO THE FIGHTS
Special thanks to Lauren Katzive, who wrote in to point this out:
- "You mentioned Scott McCloud but not his incredibly appropriate comic DESTROY. All fight, all the time -- 1 shot comic."
Actually, that was what I meant to type when I mentioned ZOT! by mistake. Thanks for the catch!
Charlton Hargro wrote in with some of his favorite fight scenes:
- "The best fight scenes ever done in comics were crafted by Frank Miller in the pages of DAREDEVIL. Usually in comics, the fight scene is used merely as a vehicle to get from one part of the story to another - they are treated as unimportant schlock. But when Miller came along, he made the fight scenes seem important. It wasn't just two guys throwing punches wildly without reason until someone was left unconscious on the ground. Miller's fights were technical. In his hands, DD's punches were precise. Characters would think out complicated maneuvers. And, best of all, the fighters rarely talked to each other. Anyone who's ever been in a fight knows conversations are a rarity when you are getting hit in the jaw. Once Miller revolutionized comics with this type of fight scene, many other creators followed suit. If you've never read Miller's run on DD, you must check it out (he had to separate runs actually -- both are great)."
This brings up another point I missed in that column, that Charlton hits dead-on. In a real fight, people don't spew dialogue. Heck, they barely have time to think it. There are generally two types of fights portrayed in comics. One is realistic and the other is more iconic. (Suddenly, I feel like I'm back talking about Scott McCloud again.) The former is one you generally see told with a lot of panels. The artwork focuses on moving the action and choreographing things nicely and getting the reader to pick up the pace in his or her own mind. The second one utilizes bigger panels and contains a ton of dialogue and exposition and captions. The second is more symbolic of an actual fight. The writer carefully explains the reasons and actions. I think these types of fights scenes are the antithesis of what Charlton talks about above. They're used to move the story to another place. They're not works of art unto themselves. The fights are mere plot points.
"Pooroldu" posted this well-reasoned analysis of THUNDERBOLTS on the Pipeline Message Board:
[Pipeline Spoiler Warning: This letter contains spoilers for T-BOLTS #1 - #6. If you haven't read them already, shame on you! And don't read this letter, either. =)]
- "As addendum to Augie's column, Thunderbolts deserves praise, especially in the title's first year, for having nearly every fight scene wind up being essential to the progression of the book.
"#1 Battles with the Rat Pack and Wrecking Crew (at the Statue of Liberty) gain the team prominence.
"#2 Rescuing Franklin Richards from the Thinker gains them access to Four Freedoms Plaza
"#4 Battling Arnim Zola with surveillance cameras puts the team in a bind to let Jolt join.
"#5 Growing Man battles forces the issue of Zemo obtaining the Avengers Files
"#6 - 8 Zemo gets the files after the Elements of Disaster battle, plus the team gains a temporary camaraderie with heroes like the New Warriors and Heroes for Hire
"Now, I didn't care for villains like Arnim Zola, but Kurt Busiek was able to use them to progress the story extremely well. In the end, I value that over the Thunderbolts facing Thanos, Galactus and Dr. Doom all at the same time."
This just points to the fact that in the hands of a capable writer, the fight scenes are more than just stuff thrown into a story to give it artificial drama or to speed up the pace. Really, the fight scene should be the climax. It should be a major turning point. A fight scene happens when two conflicting factions finally battle for supremacy, right? That sounds like a turning point. A fight that occurs for the fight's own sake is hollow. Nothing is resolved. Both parties limp away to fight another day, completely unaffected by the conflict.
Also on the message board, Eric Kibler points out a series where fights are done for fighting's sake:
[Pipeline Spoiler Warning: CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS II. If you haven't read it but still want to, don't read this letter.]
- "My favorite fight scene in recent months was Thor vs. Storm in Contest of Champions II. I won't spoil it for those who haven't read it, but it deals with how Thor, a noble, chivalrous god of Asgard, can defeat Ororo, a much less powerful female mutant, without looking like a complete cad.
"My least favorite fight scene was also in COC II. The Black Widow, a non-superpowed spy, faced off against Wonder Man, a Thor-class Marvel behemoth. Natasha (I still can't get used to calling her "Natalia", no matter how "correct" it may be to you Russian scholars out there) WINS! How? SHE GETS HIM IN A HEADLOCK!
"I don't blame Claremont. The fans dictated this outcome. All in all, though, I love this series. It brings out the kid in this aging comic book fan. And Iron Man has never been more cool."
This goes back to the Hulk vs. The Thing fight. It's just one of those traditionally cool things about comics. Every now and then it's fun to see two sets of powers duke it out to see who's stronger or better able to handle their powers.
CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS II attempted to wrap a flimsy plot around the core concept of getting heroes to fight each other, but that's not what anyone cared up. That book was read for the thrill of seeing heroes battle. We do that all the time, don't we? Particularly as we grow up, we envision these glorious battles between people who shouldn't logically have any reason to fight. Who's stronger? MARVEL VS. DC and DC VS. MARVEL are just two more examples of this. Heck, most intercompany crossovers follow this pattern. Those crossovers that are most critically acclaimed are those that properly interject the characters into the story, rather than just the powers.