Invincible Volume 6: A Different World.
Written by Robert Kirkman, Art by Ryan Ottley.
Volume 5 was a big one, for Invincible. We met wannabe supervillain D.A. Sinclair, supervillain in the making Angstrom Levy, and Allen The Alien took one of the most savage beatings we've seen so far in the series. One that we thought he might not recover from. For about a panel and a half.
This time around, if you can believe it, things are going to get EVEN crazier. So how about we dive in, and see what Volume 6 has in store?
Chapter one opens with everything seeming SO simple. Invincible smites baddies, Rex Splode gets a taste of Karma, and Mark forgets his mother, again. So far, so normal.
But Mark has a guest coming for lunch, and it's going to make things... interesting.
Meet Science Dog. He's a comic book character. And no, I don't mean that in the same way that Mark and Debbie are comic book characters. He's a character from a comic INSIDE the comic book you're reading. He also happens to be Mark's favourite comic character. And now, he's shown up at Mark's door, asking for a favour.
Because, obviously, that's not really Science Dog. That's a 6 foot tall hyper intelligent bug-like alien. Because that makes so much more sense...
He's here to ask Mark to come back with him to his homeworld, and try to save it from the evil that has befallen it.
Naturally, being the good boy that he is, Mark immediately agrees.
Naturally, everyone else thinks it's a freakin' stupid idea.
Naturally, Mark does it anyway.
So after some tearful goodbyes and a bit of shouting (mostly from Cecil), Mark flies off on a 6 day journey to Bug World. Where he meets their current monarch, the person responsible for asking Mark to help them.
Yup, this is happening.
Chapter two begins with some seriously mixed emotions. An equal parts happy, furious, confused, and upset Mark confronts his "evil" supervillain father Nolan for the first time since their fight, which left Invincible little more than a stain on the mountainside.
It's safe to say, emotions are a little high.
However, there's no time for that. After a hasty explanation, and a quick Donkey Punch, they get down to the business at hand.
The Viltrumites are coming.
After Nolan left Earth, he decided that the best way to smooth a potential return to Viltrum was to conquer a different planet, and offer that to his people as something of a peace offering.
Only problem is, this is the new, reformed Nolan. After settling on... bug world (did we ever get a name for this place?) Nolan quickly rose to become kind, found a wife, and settle down. Now, suddenly, things are complicated, and he can't just hand them over to the Empire.
Of course, the fact he has a new bug baby to look after doesn't help.
Especially because of the child's extremely accelerated aging and potentially "shortened" lifespan (possibly as short as a mere thousand or so years), he would immediately be executed by Viltrum High Command.
So, Nolan is left with only one option.
Call for Mark, get him to fly half way across the galaxy, and assist him in a potentially suicidal defense of his new homeworld, against a Viltrumite assault squad.
Yeah. This isn't going to end well.
Chapter 3 begins back on earth, where Omnipotus is attacking! And without any Viltrumites around, the fight isn't going too well. Cecil has assembled every available hero and thrown them all at this big bad, but he's just too big and too bad to stop.
When all looks hopeless, an old face returns, to save the day. Nice. And then time reverts, and no one in the crowd has any idea how close they just came to total annihilation.
Back in space, two Viltrumite soldiers have arrived and are quickly laying waste to everything they can see. Nolan goes to hold them off, while Mark takes Nolan's wife and child to the safety of some nearby caves.
All is well, for about 10 seconds, until a third Viltrumite surprises them and the chapter closes on a huge cliffhanger!
Chapter four begins with a bang. This particular bang being the sound of Mark's fist colliding with a Viltrumite skull. With his attacker stunned, Mark attempts to flee with his charges. As you have probably come to expect, it does not go well.
Rescued at the last second by Nolan, they get mother and child to safety, and finally overcome their powerful foe.
They return to Bugopolis, or whatever this city is called, and find that things have not gone well in their absence.
Thus begins Chapter 5. Quite possibly the goriest, most brutal chapter of the series so far, as Mark and a very, very mad Nolan engage with the two surviving Viltrumites.
The battle ends in a tie, of sorts. As both sides fall to the floor in blood drenched exhaustion.
Mark awakens later, to find his wounds tended and his father being carried away by a Viltrumite recovery squad. They leave Mark with a proclamation: He is to take his father's place as overseer of Earth. The Viltrumite Empire will return in 100 years time. At that point, he either needs to be ready to hand the planet over to them, or he'll fall alongside it.
Chapter six sees Mark return to Earth, to be met with some angry yelling, some big surprises, and a whole lot of angst.
With no place left to live on his own world, Nolan's new bug-baby has come back to Earth with Mark, to be delivered safely into the capable hands of Debbie Grayson. Which seems more than a little insensitive, if you ask me. But no one did, so I guess I'll stay quiet.
That's not the end of Mark's fun, though. It seems Cecil is still pretty mad about Mark just taking off like that. The way Cecil sees it, he pays to have Invincible on call, ready to defend the world whenever, wherever he's needed.
The way Mark sees it, Cecil can go suck eggs.
This is REALLY not going to end well.
Why this book is so good:
Oooh boy, that was a volume and a half. Where do you even begin to unpack something like that?
This Volume starts out quite slowly, to fool us into a false sense of security. The opening scene in the comic store is hilarious as always. As usual, Kirkman uses the comic store owner as a stand-in for the worst parts of the fandom. Deriding Mark on his loyalty to his favourite book, talking about how the quality has dropped off so badly... but he still reads every issue. Just so he can complain about it. Not going to lie, the whole interaction was as funny as it was annoying, being as I've had SO many interactions along those same lines.
Seeing Rex get his comeuppance, as Kate cheats on him, and seeing him find out in exactly the same way that Eve did (literally the exact same way, same panels and layout and everything) was a rather nice touch.
One slightly weaker part of the story was seeing Mark STILL not realising that his friend Rick being missing for over a month is a little odd. I mean, yeah, we're given some fairly flimsy covers, to explain his absence, but at a school where corpses are being brought back as robot killing machines, you'd think they'd be a LITTLE more wary when people start going missing...
Then, we have one of the better recurring arcs. Debbie's ongoing battle with her loss of Nolan, and the ensuing spiral into alcoholism which reaches a peak, this volume.
After a rather sad lunch with Mark, that he nearly missed, being reminded of how fun it used to be, soaring through the clouds in Nolan's arms, sense Debbie spiraling once more.
But Debbie Grayson is a fighter, and every bit the hero her son is. So, while Mark is soaring through space, getting his ass kicked alongside his father, Debbie is working towards her Real Estate license, but after a rather tense meeting with Cecil, she spirals again.
We see her again, wallowing, flicking through old albums and thinking of the good times. You'd think this would push her over the edge again, but she powers through, throws out her bottles, and pushes forward to a new day.
So, when Mark returns in the final chapter, with a young baby in tow, Debbie is ready to take on this new charge and care for him.
Her arc is well realised and I enjoy the fact it shows the strength required by the people on the outskirts of these heroic times. How even the smallest victories still require just as much strength as the grand world-ending battles.
I DO think it's a little sad, though, that talking often about how she's more than a wife and mother, and wants to do something just for herself... She ends up going back to being a mother again, to look after another of Nolan's offspring. However, the arc is well done and it leads to some interesting things, so I guess I can forgive it.
Meanwhile, back on earth, Robot is up to his usual nonsense.
He's taken a sample for Rex Splode and returned it to his ballbag-looking master. He seems to have some kind of plan that involves stealing Rex's body. I'm sure his intentions are totally above board.
I mean, why else would he need to hire the Mauler Twins? They're totally legit assistance, who NEVER work with anyone sketchy.
Speaking of, I quite enjoyed their little adventure this time around. Take a set of clones, that are always arguing about which one is real and which is the clone. Now make sure they KNOW. How will that play out? Turns out, kinda badly. It's an interesting run though, and adds further depth to two (or should that be one?) of the better side characters in this series. It would be so easy to make them simple henchmen for hire, who show up when something needs mauling and then vanish the rest of the time. The fact that Kirkman took the time to give them a surprisingly deep arc, with notes of almost BSG/WestWorld-level identity discussions is a testament to how much skill and care he's used on this book.
Next up, we have a couple of very interesting scenes.
Until now, Cecil has very much played the kindly uncle. He looked after Mark after the absolute THRASHING he took at his father's hand.
He hired Mark and gave him something to focus on, made sure his family was taken care of and got him a full scholarship to the college of his choice.
But now, Mark is seeing the OTHER side of our dear Mr Steadman.
Mark, until now, has very much seen Cecil's gifts as just that. Taking care of the son of his friend and one of his best employees, a nice touch.
But that's not how Cecil sees it. The way HE sees it, Mark is his employee. As such, he needs to do what he's told, when he's told and he needs to do it sharpish.
Even if what Invincible does is the right thing, as it was in this case, if it's not the thing Cecil told him to do, then it's a bad thing.
This seems a small disagreement now, but as time passes, it's only going to get worse. And if it should go to far, suddenly Mark's good friend Cecil could prove to be his worst enemy...
Then, we have the main arc of the volume. Mark and Nolan versus three really angry Viltrumites.
Man, that was utterly brutal. I mean, I've spoken before about Ottley's art and how he's able to capture the speed and ferocity of combat in this series, but WOW. This volume he absolutely outdid himself. The brutality of this fight was next level, even for this series.
But of course, in the midst of an excessively brutal and gory fight, Kirkman has to throw in a little philosophy, just to balance things out.
It's not the most original take, but seeing Nolan start to embrace his humanity, even the more painful parts, is great growth for the character. It's hard to believe that the same man who only a few volumes before was saying that the people of Earth were gnats to him, and that their deaths would mean nothing.
Overall, Volume 6 is a very strong entry, and sums up everything that is great about Invincible.
You've got a string of really important and powerful character moments: Debbie's small victories all adding together, Mark's interactions with long suffering girlfriend Amber, and seeing him slowly outgrow her.
Some deep moments, that really leave you thinking: The Mauler twins and their clone dilemma, Nolan and his slowly flowering humanity. Is it truly better to shut off your emotions, when your life contains so much death?
And then, just to balance all that out, some glorious ultra-violence, blood splatter and more than a few smashed heads. Because we can't get too cerebral now, can we?
And bubbling under the surface, the distinct worry that our "allies" might not be as trustworthy as they seem...
Don't you just love it?
So join me next week, for Invincible Volume 7: Three's Company. Where a trip to Africa finds Mark torn between two lives. And Angstrom Levy makes his move!
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!