Invincible Volume 10: Who's the boss? Script by Robert Kirkman. Art by Ryan Ottley. Colours by Bill Crabtree (#1-3) FCO Plascencia (#4-6).
Last time around, we saw a bunch of scattered stories, all tied together by the recurring thread of them generally ending quite poorly for our titular hero Mark "Invincible" Grayson. I'd really love to say that this next volume seems to find him getting some much earned rest... but we all know that was never going to happen.
Chapter one opens with Mark, William, and Rick enjoying a nice night off. Which is hard to do when one of you is a superhero in disguise, one of you is dealing with massive PTSD, and one of you is William.
Sadly, Mark's day off ends terribly, when Doc Seismic somehow manages to capture every superhero on Earth in one fell swoop, and seal them all up in nice little plastic bags, deep under the surface of the Earth. The only people left with a chance of stopping him are Invincible and Atom Eve.
And, if you've been reading this series up to now, you probably know how this fight is going to end...
Chapter two begins with a battered, bloodied Invincible waking up shrink-wrapped alongside Atom Eve. They plot a way to escape, free the others, and defeat Doc Seismic. But while they're plotting, Darkwing swings in with an army of Reanimen and saves the day. Safe to say, Invincible is not best pleased, by this turn of events.
In fact, it's safe to say that being rescued by a man he arrested for murder, who brings along some zombie robots that nearly killed you last week, puts Invincible in a somewhat savage mood.
A mood he directs almost entirely at his boss, the always untrustworthy Cecil Steadman. It's safe to say, the meeting does not end well.
Chapter three sees Invincible handing in his notice at the Global Defense Agency. A few of his fellow heroes join him in departing, but not before Cecil reveals a few failsafes he had in place, just in case Invincible went the same route as his father.
And for the third time in as many chapters, Invincible proves how inaccurate his name is.
On the plus side, seeing him all smooshed like that warms Eve's cold heart and they totally hook up. So, that's kind of a plus?
Chapter four sees Mark beginning his tutelage of his new sidekick, and younger brother, Oliver. It also sees the debut of his new, more Grimdark suit, to go along with his new somewhat more angry persona.
Eve returns to the States and has a run-in with her parents, who are just the freakin' WORST.
And another failed attempt at rescuing Multi-Paul by well-meaning, but ultimately a bit rubbish Mob Boss Titan. This gives Invincible and Oliver, who has now crowned himself "Kid Omni-man," much to everyone else's dismay, a chance to show off what they can do.
Turns out Kid Omni-man can do quite a lot. And he's getting stronger, faster, and tougher far more rapidly than anyone else could have expected. But I'm sure that can only be a good thing, right? And, this chapter ends with the rage-aholic Pot Noodle making his "triumphant" return.
I'm not going to ask what he was doing with a camera pointed at Mark's bedroom...
Chapter five begins with Mark getting word of an impending disaster, in the same way that all great heroes do. By hearing about it on the evening news! It seems The Mauler Twins (again) have decided to take over the missile silo that The Lizard League tried to take over before. Because apparently, originality is a highly prized attribute in the InvinciVerse.
It goes really well. For the Mauler Twins. Thanks to a new cannon they've built, they were able to take down the Guardians pretty quickly, and then make equally rapid progress with Invincible, who is just on top form so far this volume.
There's one small thing that the Twins hadn't counted on, or rather one small person. As Kid Omni-man swoops in to save the day and bust some heads.
He makes incredibly quick work of the Twins, and saves the day while Invincible is off trying to stop the rocket they shot towards the sun.
The real problem begins when Invincible returns from space, to find the bloody mess that's all that remains of the Mauler Twins.
Safe to say, he's not exactly thrilled with how his young protege handled the situation.
This leads to a fairly grim conversation, high up in the sky above the prison. A conversation with a fairly startling conclusion...
Chapter six begins with Mark taking his special lady on a dream date, high in the mountains. He then royally screws it up, because he's Mark. Thankfully, Eve is still in the early "Don't worry, I'm a cool girlfriend" phase of the relationship, so she lets him off.
The rest of the issue sees Mark trying to stop Titan from releasing Multi-Paul, which results in Mr Liu, the shadowy robot dragon guy, releasing Multi-Paul. Another victory for Team Invincible! They also accidentally spark a gang-war, between Titan and My Liu. Efficiency is key, people.
The issue concludes with Mark having another heart to heart with his heartless little brother. They conclude happily, with Oliver agreeing NOT to murder everything he touches. But Oliver is clearly lying. Because Oliver is a dick.
Why this book is so good:
Oooh, BOY! Did things just get crazy in here? Volume 10 of Invincible is another landmark issue. Much like Omni-man's turn, the true history of the Viltrumites and a few other big moments that are yet to arrive.
There's a fair amount going on this volume. But, in order to keep this retrospective under 10 minutes, I'll focus on the two main arcs.
Arc One, Cecil is a dick:
Well, it's been building for a while, but the big reveal is here! Yup, turns out you can't even trust shady, off the books government organisations these days. I mean, what is the world coming to?
This "shocking" reveal, which I think by this point was only really a surprise to Mark, is one of the many reasons that I love Invincible. Kirkman creates these amazing, multifaceted characters that you just can't help but love. And then shows you exactly why you need to hate them.
He also takes characters that you probably should hate (I'm looking at you Mauler Twins) and shows you a lighter side, that makes you kind of feel for them.
And the best part is, you can never tell which he's going to pull next.
After the first big twist, and the loss of innocence at Omni-Man's betrayal, Cecil stepped in and was every part the Wise Mentor trope. He swooped in like a mean version of Santa, took care of Debbie, and made sure she and Mark would be safe. And then, most important of all, he gave Mark a purpose, at a time when he so easily could have spiraled into a real darkness. Signing Mark up to the GDA, giving him a chance to be a real hero, and show that he wasn't his father was exactly what Mark needed, at the time. And Cecil not only gave him the chance to do that, but he gave him everything he would need to be the absolute best at it.
But then, the cracks started to appear. And now, those cracks have burst open, and the poison has flown free.
Because here's the funny thing about shady undercover defense agencies. The reason they're shady and undercover, is usually because they don't exactly follow the law. They treat them as more like, guidelines. To be followed when they suit their purpose.
So, When Cecil met Sinclair, creator of The Reanimen, it was an easy choice to recruit that bell-end to the team. Even if Mark hated him and wanted him "punished", Cecil saw the bigger picture, and saw how useful that psychopath could be.
And the worst part is... He's not exactly wrong. That's what makes this "twist" so compelling, and separates it from some of the more clear cut heel turns we've seen.
I mean, yeah. The Reanimen are messed up. That's not right and I'm not going to argue that they are.
But Mark was also furious that Cecil had recruited DarkWing. You'll remember him as the totally-not-a-Batman-rip-off that was murdering people a few books back. And yes, that was wrong. But, let's look at Mark's history here: his record isn't exactly spotless, either. And he was working under far less pressing conditions than DarkWing was.
This interaction shows one of Mark's major flaws off: he's moral, and just a little blind. He's made plenty of mistakes in his past (and is going to make SO MANY MORE), and he accepts them and expects others to accept them as well. But when the time comes to forgive other people, suddenly, he expects them to follow a hyper-strict moral code. One that he himself frequently fails to live up to.
It makes for an incredibly interesting scene. One on hand, you can see what Mark is saying. Allying with anyone that you think is useful, as Cecil does, can lead to working with some fairly dodgy people. But at the same time, Mark is being a little too rigid with others, while expecting flexibility back. It makes it all but impossible to really, fully decide who is in the right. And that is ALWAYS great to read.
And then, the big reveal: Invincible has a weakness! Nope, not his rage. Nope, not his family either. Not his lack of intellect or foresight... okay, Mark actually has quite a few weaknesses, ones that are routinely exploited to make him suffer. But this is a HUGE one, and in fact, one that is a factor for all Viltrumites.
It seems that Viltrumite's equilibrium is incredibly sensitive. It's part of what allows them to move at high speeds in all directions while flying, without losing their sense of direction (or their lunch).
It also means that a specific, high frequency can all but disable them. Mark was able to work around this flaw in his fight with Cecil, but this isn't the last time that we'll see this weakness cause trouble for Mark. Also, this makes all those comments about Viltrumite's not having super-hearing suddenly make WAY too much sense.
Arc Two: Oliver is a dick.
So. Oliver murdered a couple of people in this volume. And he didn't really seem to care that much. Or at all.
It seems, in fact, that he doesn't really care about human life in the slightest. This puts him at odds with his brother, who really does quite like humanity. Most of the time.
This leads to a few of the better conversations, this volume. Mark and Oliver discuss the pros and cons of murdering criminals. It's a debate as old as comics, but still one that is interesting to see, and it's always fun to see how different writers put their spin on this age-old problem.
I'm not going to lie, I'm not a huge fan of Oliver. I don't really think many are, honestly. But he's worth keeping around for this volume alone. His stance is coldly logical, and quite hard to argue against; he murdered the Mauler Twins. Two henchman who have had a hand in untold crimes, from petty to capital, just since Invincible has started and who knows how many that we haven't seen. They were directly responsible for Invincible's run-in with Angstrom Levy, which resulted in Mark taking his first life (or, as far as he knows). So, really, is the world not better off, with them taken out of it?
But, the best part of all of this isn't what Oliver says. It's who he is. I've mentioned before that Invincible is slowly losing his humanity. Dumping his girlfriend, leaving college, ignoring his friends. Slowly "Mark" was dying, and Invincible was taking over.
And now, directly in front of him, he sees what he could become, if he totally abandons his humanity. Oliver is the living example of the worst that Mark could so easily become. And the best part is, Mark doesn't have a solid argument against him.
In one of the best scenes of the volume, when pushed, Mark admits that he's slowly starting, on occasion, to agree with his father's viewpoint.
Combine this with Mark's ever-bubbling temper, which causes him to frequently lash out at those that don't deserve it, and you can see Mark slowly starting to look inside, and really ask some hard questions about who he is, and who he wants to be. And that's always great to see.
Overall, this was an excellent volume, that perfectly sums up why I love Invincible so much: morally grey, asking some hard questions that don't have easy answers. All tied up in a blood and guts splattered ribbon.
Kirkman continues to show why he's held in such high regard, by fans and other writers alike. Creating a world where you're never sure what's going to happen, who you can trust, or what to expect next. So perfectly balancing out the out-of-this-world superhero adventures, with the down-to-earth realism of a family drama, and the deep morality that the best of fiction always addresses.
And, as always, Ryan Ottley's art is a feast for the eyes. His trademark rapid action is in full effect, but also the more subtle work during some of the more text heavy panels, adding full emotional range to difficult scenes, making sure that you're always immersed and aware of what every character is feeling. It's a hard road to walk, and Ottley's art is dancing along it.
So join me next week, for Invincible Volume 11: Happy Days. Mark is dating Eve, and all is good with the world. Except that he's back living at home with his mother and murderous younger brother Oliver. Oh, a new deadly villain group has its targets set on Invincible. Fun times!
If you want to read along with me, you can find every issue of Kirkman's Invincible on Comixology, collected volumes on Amazon, or better yet, at your local comic store!