Invincible Vol. 24: The End of All Things (Part One)
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artists: Ryan Ottley
One of my favorite ongoing comic series is coming to an end. I assume this is the Penultimate Volume of the series, as I know the ongoing series is ending and the title is “The End of all Things: Part 1.” This installment is coming off one of my absolute favorites in the entire series, and it’s obviously setting up the final conclusion so it read as a bit of a letdown compared to what’s come before or will likely come afterwards.
**Spoilers for Invincible up until this point**
The main conflict in this volume arises out of Mark’s grief for the death of a family member in the last installment, and his subsequent return to the conflict against Thragg and the conquering Viltrumites. Along with Atom Eve, he enlists Allen, his dad, Space Racer and a female alien whose name I don’t remember to come up with a plan to combat Thragg. The plan is clever in drawing all the other big Invincible characters back into the story prior to the big conclusion, however it is also pretty hard to believe Mark would be willing to risk the battleground becoming the one he ends up selecting.
Another installment, another (apparent at this point) major character death, however along with Mark’s prior relative, this one was pretty predictable in terms of casualties (let’s just say it’s a fairly superheroic cliche at this point). The most interesting parts of the story going on at the moment are Thragg’s daughter’s reluctance to blindly follow him, and Robot’s dual plans involving Viltrumite children and getting involved with the space conflict. I’ve been wondering how our heroes would deal with the seeming thousands of Viltrumites when every one that they’ve encountered on their own has been a match for everybody except for Mark, and this volume explains it away in not entirely satisfying manner. Basically, Thragg’s offspring are not fully powered up, so they’re easier to kill in hand to hand combat.
I’m focusing on the negative here, because the rest of the story has been so wonderful for fifteen years now that I’m very eager to see how Kirkman decides to end it. At this point, even a total dud or ambiguous ending won’t take this one off my list of great series to reread or recommend to others. Grading the series as a whole, it’s one of the bests. Grading just this installment, this was just OK.
Invincible, Vol. 23: Full House
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Cory Walker
Invincible, Vol. 23: Full House is a solid installment in the continuing adventures of Mark Grayson and company, however it unfortunately suffers by comparison as it follows up one of the best installments in the series, Reboot? **Spoilers follow for events that have happened leading up to this volume** The cliffhanger ending of Reboot? had Mark returning to his wife and daughter after what seemed a few weeks for him but was five years for the rest of the universe. Full House picks up with Mark finding out what his family did without him, the state of the war against Thragg and how Robot’s reign as ruler of the Earth is going.
The bulk of the page count is spent with Eve, as Mark must accept and understand the situation she was in on an alien world, not knowing if he would ever return for so long. Mark and Eve always have one of the more rational relationships in comics, and the big revelations here provide some drama but also never really threaten the status quo of Invincible’s two most important heroes. Perhaps more important to the rest of the comic universe are Nolan’s (Omni-Man) acceptance of Robot back on earth, and Oliver’s direct line of communication with Thragg. The fact that the two other Viltrumite Graysons are both in some degree of cahoots with Mark’s greatest enemies foreshadows a conflict that will draw Mark (and Eve, and Terra) back into the fight against their wishes to take time as a family and detach.
Some other fun tidbits from this volume: Allen the Alien shows off his healing capabilities which rival or surpass those of the Viltrumites; Brit, The Immortal and a few other early Invincible characters make (brief) appearances; and an abandoned storyline of Mark’s violent sexual encounter with a female Viltrumite resurfaces with some fun implications for the future. (One of the fun things about reviewing comics is the sheer craziness involved in doing plot recaps.)
While Reboot? nailed every note and provided fantastic twists and character development for Mark, Full House suffers by returning to the status quo despite an opportunity to shake things up by jumping five years ahead. Even the most shocking moments in this volume were negligible on their impact for the overarching series by the conclusion of the sixth issue (Allen’s storyline, Eve’s revelation, Oliver’s communication). The huge cast of characters Kirkman has developed for this series is great for long term storytelling but if it suffers a drawback it’s that certain characters seem to exist only to be killed and that was the feeling I had (instead of grief) at the loss of one recurring character at the conclusion of this volume. With the announcement that this series is ending, I’m predicting this to become more of a rapid fire occurrence in the world of Invincible as Thragg rarely makes an appearance without killing somebody. Hopefully Kirkman will avoid using the Deus Ex Atom Eve superpowers again though as it is in danger of taking away from the usually high stakes in the series.
Typically the easiest fault to point at Invincible is that it’s not new reader friendly, and I’ll concede that’s an issue for this series. However as the title heads to its conclusion I appreciate that it does reward long term readers with plenty of plots that will only make sense to those that have read it all. The entire series is in print from Image Comics as TPB’s, so there’s no excuse for not just starting at Volume 1 for those looking to try it out (seriously, why would you begin something at Vol. 23?). While I prefer the volumes that are entirely Ryan Ottley’s art, Cory Walker’s art in this volume is still very good and does not draw attention to the change in art styles except for on three or four pages scattered throughout (not bad at 6 issues of 22 pages each). Full House was not one of my favorite chapters in the Invincible universe but it did nothing to take away from what is shaping up to be one of the best complete comic series I’ve ever read. Let’s just hope Kirkman can stick the landing.
Invincible, Vol. 22: Reboot?
Author: Robert Kirkman
Release Date: February 2016
I don’t know the last time I’ve read anything, be it a comic or book, where an author laid out two possible paths for a plot and I was so equally excited to read either one of them. This volume of invincible continues the existing storylines on both Earth (with Robot eliminating crime at any cost) and in space (where Mark and Eve are adjusting to alien life with their daughter and searching for Thragg).
The diverging plot twist occurs when Invincible has an opportunity to go back to the events of the first issue and use his knowledge of the future to save lives. In a series like this one where so many major characters have secrets that is a very intriguing path to follow. The ongoing storyline that has been built up for years through hundreds of issues was left off on a cliffhanger that was equally interesting to continue reading.
I’ve heard this series is ending, and barring a total collapse of galactic proportions this will end up being one of the best comic series I’ve ever read.
The Walking Dead Compendium 3
Author: Robert Kirkman
Release Date: October 2015
** spoiler alert ** This was a definite tale of two halves situation. The first half of this compendium told the story of Rick and the gang fighting Negan, recently introduced on the show. Although these issues were written well enough and included some unpredictable developments I sort found myself hating reading it. The death of a longtime popular character kicks off this arc, but rather than being shocking it just felt draining. Once again, the few people left in the world were going to murder each other and follow an asshole rather than set up any sort of sustainable system. Does Kirkman have any story ideas beyond this depressing pattern of despair?
Thankfully the second half rectified those problems before ultimately foreshadowing a return to form in the end. Amazingly, Kirkman tells interesting stories about conspiracies to replace leaders, new strategies for safety and coming of age in the apocalypse. Negan even shows up and is tolerable. The new villains are clever, and creepier than any that have come before. Despite all that, I can’t help but feeling that this is all building to more of the same at the conclusion of this compendium. I’ll pick up volume four when it comes out but I’m not optimistic this story has the guts to move in any real new directions in the future.
Invincible, Vol. 21: Modern Family
Author: Robert Kirkman
Release Date: June 2015
As a new dad, I enjoyed the family parts of this collection and could relate to the feelings Mark was experiencing. The rest of the story moved a little slower than typical for this series, as Marks and Eve decide whether to leave the planet, Rex’s plan comes to fruition and Thragg fights s battle that lasts about four issues.
Invincible Vol. 20: Friends
Author: Robert Kirkman
Release Date: November 2014
** spoiler alert ** Along with Savage Dragon, this is the book where the status quo shifts the most every few issues. This volume featured the ascent of Robot, and the loss of a character that’s been around since issue one. Can’t wait to see where it goes from here.