Invincible Volume 25: The End of All Things, Part II,
collecting Invincible #139-144.
Script: Robert Kirkman, Artist: Ryan Ottley,
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn, Letterer: Rus Wooton.
Last time around, war were declared. Yup, in the culmination of a little over twenty volumes of world building, character development, and amazing action, Mark Grayson, the hero previously known as Invincible, finally got off his butt and joined the Coalition in their war against Grand Regent Thragg and his army of disposable bug children. It all went reasonable well, right up until Thragg turned Nolan into a Viltrumite Kebab. So, shall we jump back in, and see just how mad that made Mark?
Chapter one opens exactly where the last volume left off, with Thragg splitting Nolan like a cheap piñata. Obviously, Mark takes this personally, and the greatest showdown in Invincible history begins. Mark Grayson vs Grand Admiral Thragg, with the fate of the universe in the balance! Can Mark truly overcome the strongest Viltrumite that's ever lived? Not alone...
Chapter two sees things get HOT. And I'm being literal, here. Mark and Thragg fall into the heart of the Sun; two men enter... but only one can leave! In other news, the Viltrumite bug children have joined the Coalition, but can they truly be accepted?
Chapter three finds everyone a little unsure how to feel. The battle is won, the universe is safe... but a heavy price has been paid. So, with the coalition torn between celebration and commiseration, Robot decides that now is the perfect time to be an asshole. Because... fuckin ROBOT. SUCH a tool.
Chapter four begins, and Robot has set up a barricade, to keep the Coalition off of Earth. He's also holding the Earthbound Viltrumite children hostage, because he is just the absolute worst. So, fresh from recovery after saving the Universe, now Mark has to put an end to Robot. Once, and for all!
Chapter five sees the dawn of a new Era. As Mark is crowned Emperor of the Viltrumite Empire! But when the past comes back to haunt him, he begins to realise that maybe his future isn't tied to Earth, anymore. Maybe his fate lies in the stars.
Chapter six answers one of the great questions of life: What happens, next? With the way over, Earth safe, and Mark supreme ruler of the Viltrumite Empire... What next? I think you'll find the answer is quite simple: Next, we LIVE!
Oh boy, this volume has ALL THE FEELINGS. I had forgotten how many conflicting emotions Kirkman managed to stuff into this final volume.
I'm still a little thrown from re-reading it, honestly. But, I think the best place to start, is the peak of it all: Mark vs Thragg, because honestly, WHAT a freakin fight.
Here's the thing: there have been bigger fights, there have been bloodier fights, there have been more action packed fights. But the final Mark Vs Thragg is above them all, because it's just so, SO brilliantly written. I mean, yes, this fight is taking place inside the burning heart of The Sun, they're hammering away at each other to the point that by the end they both look like burned out hamburger...
But the real fight, the one that actually matters, is so much deeper. They're not just two men, slugging it out to see who gets to sit on the throne. This is a war of ideology. This is Peace & Freedom vs Might is Right.
And honestly, it's the culmination of the series is more ways than one. It's not just a case of the hero wailing on his nemesis until one falls. Yes, Mark wins the fight. He punches and gets punched more than his enemy, and stays standing at the end... but not because he's particularly stronger, or tougher than his foe. Quite the opposite, actually. It's because he has something worth fighting for. Thragg, for all his high talk and fancy titles is a sad, bitter old man fighting because that's all he knows. He's fighting because he wants to hurt the person that showed him what a weak fool he really is. On the other side of the battle, Mark KNOWS he's the underdog in this fight, he KNOWS that there's every chance he's going to die... but he keeps on pushing, he keeps fighting, even once he's reduced to a barely sentient piece of beef jerky.
Because that's just who Mark IS. I've said it over and over again through this comic: Mark has never been the strongest, toughest, or most skilled person in the comics, but he the best "Hero" there is, because at the end of the day he will NEVER give up, because he knows he has something that's actually worth fighting FOR. He has a family he knows he has to protect, and a world so full of potential that only he can save. And, most important, he has allies that are willing to do anything to help him. While Thragg? Thragg fights alone, and he dies alone. And ain't that just the saddest thing?
But of course, this IS Invincible. And the comic couldn't end without one Robot being an absolute bellend one last time...
The Coalition saves the world, and Robot repays them by holding their children hostage. I mean, at this point I'd say "I told you so," but I think we all saw this coming, so what's the point?
Thankfully, it turns out that everyone else is as sick of Robot's shit as I am. So it doesn't take long for Mark to gather up an army, to take Robot down for good. This final showdown sees the return of Fan favourites such as Immortal, Dupli-Kate, Monster Girl, and Brit. But honestly, it all feels a little anticlimactic. After the amazing final showdown between Mark and Thragg, having Mark so quickly get dumped into yet another fight against frakkin Robot just feels like eating a Michelin 3-star meal, and stopping off for a McDonalds apple pie on the way home.
It was fun to see some old faces again, and it was good to see Robot finally get the ass kicking that he so richly deserves... but it all felt a little tacked on, a little unnecessary. Especially as it comes RIGHT after a far better fight. It really feels like Kirkman was told he needed one more issue to round out the final volume, so he whipped this up, to fill some air time.
Now, that's not to say it's totally without merit. Robot's end, like so much of this series, has a fairly perfect symmetry to it, that I find quite pleasing. At the end, even Mark must acknowledge that Robot HAS done a lot of good, for Earth. But, at the same time, Robot must also respect that he's a awful, awful person, and that cold logic is just not right to run a planet. So, what's the solution?
Easy. Keep robot's brain, and dump the rest of him. And so, Brain Tube is born!
The solution it turns out, is actually pretty simple.
Robot is a genius, credit where it's due. But his logic is cold, and thus he needs a tempering force, to stop him being such a tool all the time.
But, he's also an egomaniac. There's NO way he's just going to sit back and let someone else rule; sooner or later the drones would come back and he'd try to take over again.
So, they scoop out his brain, and the poor broken creature who spent the first decades of his life suspended in a tube... ends up right back in the tube, where it all began.
Now, he operates like a super computer with a bad attitude, and Mark leaves Immortal in charge, to filter Rex's logic through his humanity and try to find the least harmful way to put his plans into action.
It's actually a pretty elegant solution, and a very fitting end for both Rex—who did so many horrible things to escape his tube, yet ended up right back where he started—and The Immortal, a character who was initially so jaded that he was barely human any longer, and is now the emotional saviour of all of Earth. In many ways, it shows how some people will never change, but some still can. Which is a rather hopeful end, if you ask me.
And now, the end is near... Mark becomes Emperor, but after meeting his Son lil' Marky, who then proceeds to gain his power and go on a mini rampage, he realises that the Viltrumite Empire needs to leave Earth. So, he sets out on his new mission: to journey the universe, bringing peace to all. To turn the Viltrumite Empire into what it always could have been, a universal force of peace and goodness.
The final EPIC issue of Invincible catalogues the 500 years from the end of the Viltrumite War, until the present day. We're treated to all kinds of crazy scenes. We see little Terra grow up and become a total badass:
She becomes an integral part of the Viltrumite Empire, and doing it on her own strengths, by hiding her identity, so she's not given preferential treatment. We see her fall out with her father, and we see her return to the fold.
We see ancient grudge break to new mutiny:
As the child of everyone's favourite raging pot noodle returns, with his pet fox for some reason, to start up the dimension-spanning war of the Grayson Family and the Levy Clan, because apparently, he didn't get the memo that they ended up decent terms.
We even see young Marky (thankfully now going by the far cooler sounding Markus), cared for by best comic mother Debbie Grayson, take his first faltering steps into the world of superheroics. Of course, we also see him start a fight with his father, because he feels like Mark favours Terra... but they fix things up, it's cool.
And through it all, we have Mark. Lil' Mark Grayson, who we first met when he was flipping burgers and cutting class. Now? Now he's the leader of a galaxy spanning peacekeeping force. Talk about a glow-up.
We see him, now with the strength and wisdom to back up his moral convictions, taking the universe to task and actually improving things. Even if this does mean that he comes to blows with former "friend" Allan the Alien, when they both realise that Mark's peacekeeping actions have actually rendered the Coalition somewhat moot.
But, in the end, he does what he's been trying to do since day one: he fixes things, and settles down. So, as has happened so often in this grand tale, things have come full circle. Mark Grayson, who did it all for his family, after 500 years of trying and fighting, finally gets to relax, to kick back, and enjoy life.
A fitting end, for a true hero.
Honestly, I could talk for DAYS about this final issue. It is, in a word, perfect. There are SO many amazing story threads: Levy's child returning to Earth. Battle Beast's daughter swearing vengeance on the whole Viltrumite race. Markus becoming a hero and rescuing Darkwing on his first mission. The war against Allen and the Coalition.
Honestly, I think Kirkman manages to outline another 25 volumes worth of content, just in that final issue. With Invincible, he didn't just create a world, he created a UNIVERSE. One I would have been happy to live in, for decades to come.
But here's the thing. The best stories have three things in common: They know where to begin, they know the tale they want to tell and, most important, they know when they should end. Kirkman, if he'd wanted to, could probably still be churning out volumes of Invincible to this very day. There was enough content in that last issue to fill a lifetime's worth of writing. Hell, if he'd felt like it, he probably could have handed the universe off to his chosen successor and the whole saga would have outlived us all. Like so many other huge names before him, Invincible could have become a hero for the ages, celebrating 50, 60, 70 years of comics.
But, honestly, would that really be necessary? Sure, we'd have more Invincible to read, and that would be awesome. But isn't the best part of a great story the fact that it ends? Isn't that what makes it so great? I don't know about you, but I can think of a few stories that should have ended gracefully years ago. After all, it's better to burn out in a blaze of glory, than to fade away.
So, there you have it folks. The universe is safe, everyone is happy. Time to put the chairs up on the tables and switch off the lights, we're done here! I've really enjoyed my return to the world of Invincible. The first time I read it through I was so overwhelmed by the awesome, that I was blinded to some of the faults in the tale. Reading it through again with you now, allowed me to take a step back, and turn a critical eye to one of my all-time favourite series.
And honestly, I think my appreciation for the series has only grown. It's not perfect, nothing is. but it's DAMN close, and isn't that the best we can ask for? Kirkman, Walker, Ottley and all the other amazing talents that have worked on this series have distilled everything that is great about the superhero genre, and put it into one seminal work. Now, I'm going to take a leaf out of their work, and leave before I go on too long.