After the sometimes-underwhelming art of the previous two collections, Phil Jimenez's artwork in the first half of Book 3 of the Invisibles is sort of like a slap to the face: vibrant, detailed, masterful. Luckily, he later became the regular artist on the series, but here he only illustrates the opening arc, a three-part saga that details King Mob's torture at the hands of Archon agents, and which also provides this volume with its title.
In a way, this is the true beginning of what the Invisibles would soon become known for: fast-paced ideas and action, and an onslaught of mysticism, fringe science, and conspiracy theories. I've never been sure if it was Jimenez's amazing artwork that lead to this, or if Morrison finally thought his readers were "ready" for the big time, but regardless, from here on out things happen, and events unfold at a maddening pace all the way until the final volume of the series.
Having been captured at the end of Book 2, Invisibles King Mob and Lord Fanny are at the mercy of Sir Miles Delacourt, straightlaced and overbearing agent of the demonic Archons. Here, finally, we get to know a bit more about King Mob, as Delacourt invades his mind and sorts through his past. This is full-on psychedelia, as King Mob attempts to defend himself in the guise of fictional character Gideon Stargrave, a mod super-spy from the `60s (and author Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius in all but name; something Morrison readily admitted). This results in Delacourt waging a mental war against King Mob's psychic defenses, with the Stargrave segments providing some outrageous cross-dimensional action sequences. Very heady stuff, with lots of mystic ideas dropped, this arc is easily one of the high points of the entire series.
After this storyline, the narrative slows down for a moment as we have a single-issue peek into Boy's background. Boy, the black female martial artist Invisible, was never Morrison's strongest creation. In fact, he eventually admitted this, and basically dropped the character toward the end of the series. Therefore, her spotlight issue, "How I Became An Invisible," is probably my least favorite story in the Invisibles canon. It hints at interesting developments that later become integral to the series (shadowy government agents taking innocent black Americans prisoner, and shipping them off in mysterious trains), but Morrison ruins it all by having the characters speak in some of the most fake "black" dialog ever. You can tell he's out of his element, a Scottish writer creating "urban" dialog for inner-city black Americans. It doesn't really work.
Things get back on track after this, with the narrative picking right up after the events in the opening arc. Though King Mob and Fanny have defeated Sir Miles, they're still trapped in a building that's crawling with enemy soldiers and ultraterrestrial beings. The remaining Invisibles cell (Dane, Boy, Ragged Robin) call in reinforcements, and fellow Invisibles Jim Crow and Mr. Six show up to help. This results in a multi-issue storyline that features all sorts of high-concept action, as the Invisibles wade through hell-on-Earth protective spells and defend themselves against cancer-inducing nanoweapons.
The book ends with a single-issue look at Division X, the swaggering British counterpart of the X-Files (Mr. Six is one of the three members of Division X, incidentally). This story seemingly has nothing much to do with anything else in the series so far, until much later, when the themes brought up here are developed. The story does feature the first appearance of the impish, demonic Quimper, a frightening little creature who will cause the Invisibles much trouble in future volumes.
As mentioned, Phil Jimenez provides the art for the first half of the book, with Steve Yeowell filling in the other half. This is pleasing thematically, as Yeowell started off the series, and his finishing up the first major arc makes sense. However, I've never been the greatest fan of his work. The Boy/Division X issues are penciled by fill-in artists: one scratchy, the other Todd McFarlane-esque.
This trade paperback wraps up what was the first volume of the Invisibles comic run. After these issues, DC/Vertigo halted publication for a few months, and Morrison revised his approach to the story. After this, no longer would the story come off as methodically-paced as it had in earlier issues (the Marquis de Sade storyline in the "Say You Want a Revolution" trade in particular); instead, the series would feature nonstop action, sex, and ultraviolence. Some say this new approach was a "watered down" version of the Invisibles, but I say that's hogwash. The stories collected in this book are great, true, but the best was yet to come for the Invisibles.