The Imagination Manifesto is either the work of a madman or a genius. Book Three is the penultimate volume of the series, containing four separate yet interconnected, stories. Each is a unique mash-up of art and photography, poetry and prose that is strung together on one narrative line that runs through the three volumes.
“The Tomorrow Society” is the story of a group of heroes with mythical objects fighting secret wars the world never knows about and may never have happened, a question the heroes cannot even answer for themselves. “Magic Words” shows the power of images and iconography in a story without words, as mystics fight a silent war against everything wrong in the world. “Sixgun Quixote” is a unique western that tells each story through the eyes of the poetry and violence in a new look at the old school pulp western. “The Imagination Manifesto,” the namesake of the collection, describes the battles waged by the true ruling powers behind the scenes, how monsters and magic are only as powerful as the belief the world has in them. It is the story of a mystic warrior named Endswell as she searches for the murderer of Queen of the World and attempts to restore order, such as it is, to her own world.
While the stories are separate, insomuch as they are serialized and run through each volume, they are interconnected by the overall narrative. They all hinge on aspects of the War that Never Happened and relate back to core characters in The Imagination Manifesto story. Pay attention because a detail that seems tangential in one story might be key in another. And even if it isn’t, this is the type of work where the devil is truly in the details.
This is not an easy read. You will not blow through it in a few minutes, satisfied that Spider Man has saved the day. And if you try to, you will miss out. This is the type of work that demands your focus as you must pay attention to the images to understand the story. It is a true partnership between the written and visual aspects of comic books.
Each of the four stories is an exercise in visual storytelling, a true test of the sequential narrative used in comic books. The symbols and imagery say as much, if not more, than the words on the page. This is not your typical four colour splash page with action flowing from panel to panel, leaving surprisingly little to the imagination. The key word in The Imagination Manifesto is manifesto; this collection is a list of demands for the comic book industry to try harder. It is truly a visual masterpiece.
While each story has its own powerful style, the imagery in “Magic Words” is especially key. It is a story without words, an exploration of the power of the image in the medium as the mystics use symbols to fight battles that you can only understand from context. A few pages later is “Sixgun Quixote,” a work inspired by the cowboy poetry of John Toone. According to Chomichuk in the afterword, the poetic stories of an urban cowboy helped give birth to this piece, alongside a trip to the infamous Tombstone, Arizona. Rest assured that this is no retelling of the Kurt Russell movie, but the visit did shape the images the narrative hangs on. The poetry defines the events that happen and the fates of the characters, whether they know it at the time or not.
Each of the stories is an exploration of the effects of myths and mythology on culture, both on their own and as a complete graphic novel. It asks us if we define the myths or if the myths define us. In the world of The Imagination Manifesto, both are ultimately true.
As good as it is, Book Three is not something you pick up and read on its own; these stories are serialized, meaning there is a starting point for them in Book One. But the unconventional beauty of the images working in perfect unison with the story is apparent regardless of which volume you are reading. While comic books and graphic novels rarely ever actually end, Book Three does have a very final feel to it. Each of the four stories comes to its respective end while leading up to the endgame played out in the final chapter of The Imagination Manifesto arc.
To say this graphic novel compares to anything else is an almost impossible statement. The closest comparison would be the work of writers like Warren Ellis, Jonathan Hickman and perhaps Kurtis Wiebe, though the similarity is more one of tone than anything else. The content and imagery of The Imagination Manifesto is truly a unique, inventive offering that has to be read to be believed.
Alchemical Press | 122 pages | $24.95 | cloth | ISBN # 978-0981355054