Invincible Volume 11: Happy Days. Script by Robert Kirkman, Art by Ryan Ottley, Inks by Cliff Rathburn Colours by FCO Plascencia.
Wow, things went a little crazy last time. Mark (Invincible) and Cecil finally had a parting of the ways. A parting that ended with Invincible covered in blood, Cecil's army of zombies a lot smaller, and the Guardians of the Globe fractured forever. And then Oliver killed a bunch of people. Because he sucks.
But don't worry, things are calmer this week. Well. Relatively speaking.
Chapter one begins with Mark and Eve taking a well earned break in Paris. Mark is no longer working for Cecil, so he's off the clock. Nothing can stop them relaxing, and having a truly magical time.
Nothing, that is, except for the world's worst Milli Vanilli cover band:
You might recognise these time traveling travesties from their brief appearance in Volume 10, where they stole the Declaration of Independence. Well, they're back now and they're not trying to steal valuable documents. This time, they're here for Invincible!
It turns out, they're actually HEROES. Yeah, I know. And they've come back to ask for Invincible's help, to defeat the evil overlord that rules the future with an iron fist.
Thankfully, the problem is resolved quite quickly, and Mark is returned home before Eve can even miss him. Ain't time travel grand?
Chapter two takes us out into deep space, where Unopan's chief export, Allen the Alien, is currently "in jail", pretending that he can't flex one toe and blow the whole place up. He's doing this, because he wants to get close to one of his cellmates. A certain well mustachioed misery-guts by the name of Nolan "The hero formally known as Omni-man" Grayson.
Over the course of their months locked up together, their wary alliance soon gives way to genuine friendship. So, when the day finally comes for Nolan's execution, Allen puts his plan into action and attempts a daring escape!
But Nolan has more than friendship, to bring to the table. He brings with him a piece of information that will make the Alliance very, VERY happy.
Chapter three sees us returning to Earth for a smaller, but no less important crisis. Remember Amber? Mark's first love? Remember that tool with the goatee that stole her heart? Yeah. This may come as a surprise to you, but it turns out he actually WASN'T that nice a guy. I know. I'm shaken to my very core. So, naturally Invincible has to pay him a little visit, hang his ass off a building for a bit, until he learns some manners. Also, Mark and Eve start planning their future together. A future which doesn't involve living in Mark's mother's house. They also don't involve the surveillance drones that Mark has finally noticed, spying on him.
Chapter four, and things get serious again. Mark consults with Robot, to see if he can identify the mysterious camera, and track the signal back to its source. Of course, Mark doesn't need Robot's help. He already knows exactly who sent the drone!
So, he goes to attack Cecil. Because of COURSE Mark is wrong. He's wrong about almost everything.
But, while he's there, Cecil manages to rope Invincible into suiting up for the GDA one last time, and assisting them in tracking down and arresting a werewolf, who just murdered his wife.
But of course, nothing is ever simple. So there's far more to this story that anyone realises.
Chapter five finds Invincible and his new werewolf ally trying to fight their way out of the GDA, because Mark never learns.
After a brief, vaguely hilarious fight with the Guardians of the Globe, Mark and Gary set out to clear Gary's name. They return to his home, speak to some old friends. It's all rather heartwarming. Doesn't really do any good, though... and the chapter comes to a close with a rather large question mark hovering over the events that occurred therein.
Chapter 6 is much more cut and dry. Composed mostly of small fragments of stories, this chapter jumps around a lot. We see Immortal and Kate buying their first home, Robot finally finds a workaround to stop Monster Girl's age regression, and Eve comes up with a very practical solution, for her and Mark's money woes: Private Security! She and Mark are now the proud CEOs of "Invincible Inc." a private security firm. Their goal is to guard the prisons, hospitals, and basically anywhere that villains usually attack. Which actually, if you think about it, is a pretty great idea.
Then, the chapter comes to a close with Angstrom Levy, and the worst Brady Bunch episode of all time.
Chapter seven is something of a cautionary tale. Superhero PowerPlex puts into action his plan to get vengeance on Invincible. It does not end well. For pretty much anyone involved. Be careful what you wish for, folks.
Why this book is so good.
Volume 11 is a real mixed bag.
Time travel is always fun. There's nothing I love better than a well written time travel arc. Doesn't matter what series it's in, if you can nail time travel, there's SO MUCH you can do with it. Kirkman nailed time travel. He did this by following the golden rule. Keep it simple, keep it short.
There wasn't a huge plot arc, no in-depth discussions on the ramifications of time travel, and altering your own timestream. None of that nonsense. Mark jumped forward, saved the day, stole his own clothes and returned home safely. Job done!
But along the way, because he can't resist some good breadcrumbing, Kirkman drops a hint or two, that you'll only catch on your second read. Hinting at at least one major plot arc that is to come. Tricksy little hobbit.
This is why I love a good time travel arc. You can use this as a chance to make vague, interesting statements, that don't SEEM to have any relevance, but on later reads, your fans will understand what you've done. Kirkman did it to us with the repeated mentions of Viltrumites not having Super Hearing, and he's doing it to us again, now.
And speaking of cool stuff that happened this volume:
Allen's plan to free Nolan finally goes into effect! Got to say, I think the Bromance between Allen and Nolan is one of my favourite arcs in the series. Allen and Mark get on fairly well (for now... See, I can do foreshadowing too!), but seeing the way Kirkman expands on the relationship between Allen and Nolan in such a short time, and with so few panels, is really a testament to both his skill as a writer, and Ottley's skill as an artist.
The fact that so much is said, both by and about the two characters, in the matter of a single issue is really something special.
The fact that this issue is the first time that Nolan has admitted since going rogue that he still has feelings for Debbie is neither here nor there...
But seeing these two great warriors both going on such similar journeys despite starting on such seemingly opposed sides, is an excellent balance to the extreme violence and gore that makes up so much of this series. And is one of the many reasons that Invincible is considered one of the greatest runs in comic history. Illustrating once again, that even the hardest hearts can have a little warmth to them.
Of course, this chapter wasn't JUST about warriors and their feelings. It was also about breaking out of a Viltrumite space prison.
Allen, Nolan, and Battlebeast make quick work of the few guards and make their escape. But it's not just his strong right arm that Nolan brings to the resistance. He also carries with him some potentially game-changing news.
The Viltrumite race has been DECIMATED. In the entirety of the universe, there are less than 50 full blooded Viltrumites left. Awwwww yeah!
This is HUGE news. Up until now, we've thought of the Viltrumites as many things. Noble Peacekeepers. Tyrannical Warlords. An all-conquering, unstoppable force.
But, weak and near extinction? That's new. But what could have caused such a drastic reduction in their numbers? Is it their love of fighting? Have they killed themselves off faster than they can breed?
Or, is there maybe another reason? One that was teased this issue, maybe? I guess we'll have to keep reading, to find out.
The last two plotlines of this Volume are slightly more minor, in terms of long term impact. But they still had some good things to say.
This first plot is Mark and The Wolfman vs Cecil. This particular section starts off on a bit of a bad foot. As Mark finds the camera that's been spying on him and instantly assumes it's Cecil. He talks to Robot, who is unable to identify the machine, and Mark just assumes the worst.
The only problem is, while it feels like they're trying to be quite mysterious about thees cameras, and hyping up Mark's search to find out where they're from... we already know. We've known for a while now... it's Levy. This makes a lot of the run feel like filler, as Mark desperately tries to solve a mystery that we already know the answer to. Thankfully, when he makes his wildly incorrect assumption, it backfires, and sends Mark soaring off into another, far more interesting plot.
Mark is sent to arrest a murderous werewolf, who is quite quickly revealed to be innocent, and is desperately trying to clear his name. In trying to assist him, Mark ends up running afoul of Cecil. Again. And clashing with the Guardians of the Globe, to hilarious ends.
This plot once more brings to light Mark's hardheaded nature, and once again sees him clashing with a clearly repentant Darkwing, over the events of Night City. It's interesting that in a volume where Mark frequently talks about his own inability to control his temper, and wondering if he needs to think more about improving himself, he's unable to see that others are capable of similar journeys.
We also get to see Mark UTTERLY dominate the Guardians of the Globe. Another subtle way to illustrate just how powerful he's becoming, and just how quickly.
Lastly, we have Mark vs PowerPlex.
This is as close to a cautionary tale as Invincible is ever likely to see. Newbie "Hero" PowerPlex embarks on his vengeance-fueled journey against Invincible, after the death of his sister, during Invincible's fight with Omni-man.
After trying and failing a bunch of times, to get Invincible to fight him, PowerPlex eventually takes his wife and child "hostage" in an attempt to draw Invincible out.
Yeah, you can already see where this is going.
Both end up dead, after PowerPlex loses control of his powers, and accidentally fries them. Needless to say, he blames Invincible for this loss and swears vengeance once more.
So, basically, it's exactly the same as the Levy plot that annoyed me, but with more dead children. Needless to say, NOT a fan. As I said before, I really strongly dislike the trope of "villain blames hero for their own actions." What makes this part all the stupider is that to start with, PowerPlex had a solid point. This arc touches upon a plot point that is becoming more and more important, of late: Just who is responsible for the collateral damage, when superheroes and villains clash?
I think the worst part of it all, is that there's the skeleton of a great story here: PowerPlex draws out Invincible, confronts him for the loss of his sister, Invincible is sorry, realises that the more he hits PowerPlex the stronger he becomes, and that the only way to end this is NOT to fight, they hug it out. Everyone cries, we all feel better. The end!
It could have been a strong, emotional conclusion to the volume, leaving everyone feeling a little sad, but oddly hopeful. Instead, the arc ends with PowerPlex locked up, driven mad by grief, and plotting violent and bloody reprisals against Invincible. I guess he can add his name to the list? It's a pretty long list though...
Overall, Volume 11 was somewhat uneven. Starting out incredibly strong, but faltering in the closing pages. Kirkman is at his best when he's writing grand, overarcing stories, of global conquest and the fight for survival... but it's really starting to feel like he just can't do filler. Whenever he tries to write a small, one-off story, it always seems to fall a little flat for me. This isn't really a bad thing, as in general I'm not a fan of filler stories, and when he's on fire, Kirkman is one of the best in the industry. But it does make some of these volumes drag a bit, as we have to sit through damp squibs like PowerPlex, in order to get to the really amazing parts that make this series so memorable.
And believe me, there are some AMAZING parts to come. Just you wait.
So join me next week, for Invincible Volume 12: Still Standing. As Angstrom Levy makes his move! (again...) and Invincible is joined by... Pretty much the entire Image universe! And all of that is just a lead-in, as Invincible faces his most dangerous foe yet: CONQUEST.
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!