Invincible had me conflicted at first. I had heard good things and was excited to jump in to the back issues I got ahold of leading up to the issue I was reviewing. I had read about an emotional storyline with hard hitting and realistic violence where real (and real bad) stuff happened to the characters and I was expecting to be roped right in. I dived in eagerly annnnnd, I felt meh. The first few issues looked like a composite of the kind of thing I’d seen in superhero comics since I started reading them, brightly costumed heroes, chintzy names like Dinosaurus and Bulletproof and cliché sci-fi topics like interstellar love affairs and species obliterating plagues. It was exciting and well done, but I felt like I’d seen it all before. It felt like a B-hero book where occasionally a guy gets his eyeball punched out... and then I kept reading.
Invincible does something interesting and if you don’t look hard or long enough you may miss it. It’s a book that takes many familiar ideas and injects heart into them, takes extra, small steps to make all of the characters “human”, and the violence? Far from a gimmick, once you get to learn these characters and exist in the universe it does send a message... Heroics are a brutal goddamn business. Spoilers Ahead!
It’s weird, the more I read the more I kept going back to Pixar`s The Incredibles. That movie wasn’t just taking pages from the playbook, it WAS the playbook, but the heart and humanity behind the characters took what could’ve been a bunch of lame hero gags and made the material into one of the greatest superhero flicks of all time- and that’s just what Invincible does. Try to read a few issues and then not get upset when Allen has to beat up Nolan or fell for Invincible when he`s “killed” by Dinosaurus. Speaking of the violence, once you get a feel for the characters it feels almost sick to see. Imagine if in the last fight scene in Pixar`s film when Mr. Incredible gets flung around by the robot if you could hear his bones cracking, watch him spit up blood, all in front of his family... that’s how dark and desperate the bloodshed in this book can feel if you really invest in it. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
This issue was nearly entirely centered on a knock-down drag-out fight between the dictator-like Virtramite leader General Kregg and Nolan Grayson, unknowing heir to the Virtramite seat of power. The opening scene felt particularly crushing as Nolan and his wife had just resolved to make the best out of his exile to the moon and he had repented for his past mistakes. Then, just as he and his wife were off to make the best of a bad situation (wink wink. No seriously, these two are boning down every other page.) Kregg crashes is and starts teeing off, nearly killing Deb Grayson in the process. It’s a total dick move.
The battle is brutal. Nolan, who we’ve just really come to understand is a standup guy gets brutalized in a one sided fight that ends with him losing his eye (Kregg literally punches it out of his face). It’s cool to see him still fighting back against impossible odds though and firmly places the once morally grey demi-god as a force to root for. We finally get the big picture flashback-style of the deal with The Scourge virus and the history of the Virtamites during the time of the plague and where Nolan Grayson and his family fit into it all. It’s well done and appropriately carnage strewn, we see why it is the people in this universe truly fear the Virtamites and see them earn their title as a “warrior race”. If they treat each other this way, how the hell would they deal with their enemies?
Ultimately Nolan is saved in a long-time-coming scene where the other V-mites basically tell the good general they’re tired of his shit. Just like that, Nolan Grayson, the former earth-hero Omni-man is made leader of what is left of the most powerful race in the galaxy. It’s an awesome moment and really powerful if you’ve kept up with everything leading up to it. The Virtamite mini-coup was particularly badass as the newly Earth-schooled in compassion warriors usurp their psychotic leader with a reflection on their glory days and their departed former leader, “it was never Argal`s strength we followed, it was his wisdom!”
The issue doesn’t cover too much, but that’s okay as it`s really best it focus on the fight and cementing Nolan in his new spot as leader (giving a particularly badass peace speech decked out in Macklemore level fur). I wasn’t disappointed. We also get to see Invincible himself deal with his father`s new position a bit which is fun and understandable considering. How would you feel if your dad suddenly became the most powerful man in the universe? And watch him awkwardly pop the question to Grace at the end (squee!).
This issue is compact, intense and hard hitting, soaked in blood and big moments. It’s a simple but effective issue with weighty plot developments paired with Ryan Ottley`s simple, but always cinematic art. This is a good issue of a good series of comic books that I’m eagerly planning to follow from here on out.
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artists: Ryan Ottley
Inker: Cliff Rathburn
Publisher: Skybound and Image Comics
Release Date: 4/24/13