Invincible Volume 18: The Death Of Everyone. (Collecting Invincible #97-102).
Script by Robert Kirkman. Pencils by Ryan Ottley. Inks by Cliff Rathburn. Colours by John Rauch. Letters by Russ Wooton.
Last volume, we found out the dark truth behind Robot and Monster Girl's time on the Flaxxan homeworld, Mark lost his powers, and Oliver continued to be a huge tool. So, business as usual really. This time round, it's all much calmer. All we have to cope with is Invincible nearly killing everyone. Far simpler.
Chapter one begins with a nice, light-hearted side plot. As poor Zendale, better known to us long time readers as Bulletproof, fills his parents in on his dark secret, and the tragic story behind how he first gained his powers. Sticking to their form of being just awful, his parents react terribly and things get really messy, really fast. It's a pretty grim start to the volume. But Kirkman balances it all out, by wrapping up the chapter with Mark regain his Viltrumite abilities. Yay, I guess?
Chapter two sees Mark putting his newly reclaimed powers to good use. By desperately trying to undo whatever horrible crap Dinosaurus has done this time. Yup, the angry T-Rex is back, and this time he just might have gone too far. He's done something devilish in the city of angels, and time is running out to stop him. But even with the combined might of the Guardians of the Globe, will there be enough time to save LA... and the world? And then, just when you think things can't get any worse. Guess who's back!
Chapter Three finds our heroes desperately trying to un-ruin the world. But, as evil as he may be, Dinosaurus is thorough. So, while the Guardians do their best to save as many people as possible, an angry and hurt Invincible confront Dinosaurus. It goes really well.
Chapter four starts with Invincible's head getting popped, live on television, broadcast to the whole world. Kirkman teases us for a few pages, before revealing that of COURSE Mark is still alive, but Dinosaurus has him trapped in a trace-like state, in an attempt to convince Mark that Dino was right to murder everyone. It doesn't end quite the way you'd think, though.
Chapter five begins with some life-changing news for Mark and Eve, both at home and at work. With a child on the way, and the hero community turning against Mark (again), It feels like nothing will ever be the same again. But thankfully, Cecil was never one for change. And has a few ideas on how Mark and Nolan, now returned to Earth, might be able to make things work, going forward.
Chapter 6 sees Thragg returning to his classic form, thrashing the crap out of Nolan, while giving some necessary exposition. This ends up biting him in the ass, a little, as he accidentally lets slip a fairly vital piece of information, that he had intended to remain secret. In happier news, Mark asks Eve a VERY important question. Some would say, the most important question there is.
Volume 18 is a real dark one. Even by Invincible's standards. We start of with the tragic tale of Zendale and his genius brother Tyrone. I've not really had any feelings, one way or the other for Bulletproof, until now. But Kirkman does a really great job in a fairly short amount of time, making you feel for the guy. Until now, he's mostly just been the guy playing second fiddle to Invincible; with a very similar powerset, but just not quite as good.
Now, we get a chance to see things from his side, and we realise that playing second fiddle is something he's fairly used to, growing up the artist, in the shadow of his brilliant scientist brother. The same brother that tried to use Zendale in his twisted experiments, with the aim of granting himself superpowers. An experiment which turned Zendale into Bulletproof, and Tyrone into charcoal.
Thankfully, before it can all get a little too upsetting, Kirkman wraps up the issue with some meta commentary, through his clearly not a proxy comic author, Mr Phillip Schaff, and complaints on Science Dog #100 having too many variant covers. I see what you did there Kirkman!
Then, we have the "main" arc, of the volume. AKA, Dinosaurus finally goes too far.
In an attempt to save the world, Dinosaurus plants earthquake machines throughout LA. Invincible manages to bring in the Guardians, and destroy enough of them that it won't destroy the city.
He does this just in time for Dinosaurus to reveal his real plan, which this caper effectively distracted them from. As his bomb detonate, the Arctic ice shelf is destroyed, and basically any coastal city or small island nation is instantly flooded. England wasn't shown, but it's safe to assume we're all underwater now.
It seems that killing nearly a million people, and flooding a large part of the world is Mark's 'dealbreaker' and he finally realises what everyone has been trying to tell him, from the start: Dinosaurus is freakin' crazy. Yes, he sees the bigger picture, and his general ideas are solid. But he's FREAKIN' CRAZY, and he always goes way too far. His intellect is utterly untempered by even the tiniest shred of humanity, and his logic is so cold, even Spock is saying he might need to warm up a little.
So, Mark tries and fails to fight Dino, as always. One thing I really enjoy about Invincible, is the recurring fact that while Mark is the hero, he's nowhere even CLOSE to the strongest character in the series. Nolan, Thragg, Allen, and Dinosaurus all routinely pound him into Invincible paste, and I've long suspected that after a particularly vicious argument, Eve could click her fingers and pop him like a balloon. But, despite this, Mark keeps coming back; he may not be the strongest, toughest of fastest, but his will to keep going is the best out there.
Of course, that doesn't help him, when Dino pops his head like a grape. Thankfully, within a couple of pages, its revealed that Dino has both teleport tech AND cloning tech, and used these in conjunction to swap Mark for a replica and kill that, in order to free him from the expectations of his friends and family, and allow them to carry on murdering people for the betterment of Earth. Which, when I say it here, sounds even dumber of an idea than it did when Dino said it.
And thus, we reach the conclusion of Dinosaurus' arc. And it's not some grand showdown, an epic battle between Dinosaur and Man, atop a flaming dam, with a doomsday device moments from destroying the world. Nope, it's actually a pretty quiet affair. All talk, no punch. Mark realised, as we all have by this point, that to defeat Dinosaurus isn't to beat the man (or... dinosaur). To truly stop Dinosaurus, you have to defeat his IDEAS. Prove the fault in his logic, and he will finally be stopped.
And that's exactly what Mark does. Showing a rare amount of acumen, Mark reasons with Dinosaurus, and shows him the error of his ways. It's a pretty amazing scene, seeing Mark take a moment to step back and actually use his brain, something he's been saying he wanted to do for a while, to address the problem at its source, rather than simply punching stuff once after the fact.
And it works out, as Dinosaurus is defeated, once and for all, and Cecil swoops in to clean up the mess. This leads to another great scene, as Mark finally begins to realise that he doesn't actually have moral authority over the world, and he just might not know what's best in any given situation. I'd love to say that this is a great turning point for Mark, and that he'll be a better hero from here on out, but this is about the third time he's had one of these revelations, and promised to change his ways, yet he's still making the same mistakes over and over. So, while I really hope this one sticks, I'm not totally convinced...
And so, the Dinosaurus arc comes to its oddly muted conclusion. With probably a couple of million people dead, the world's faith in Invincible all but destroyed, and the superhero community united in thinking he's a murderer. On the plus side, Cecil is willing to overlook that and work with Mark again, because of course he is.
Lastly, we have Viltrumite Arc, which takes an interesting turn, this volume.
While it's not the hugest part of this volume, the events here have some pretty far reaching consequences. As Nolan returns to Earth, Grand Regent Thragg can only assume that he's come back to steal the Empire away from here. Of course, this isn't even a little true, as the only thing Nolan cares about right now is spending some *cough* quality time with Debbie *knowing wink*.
This leads Thragg to attack Nolan in his fancy new moon-base, and attempt to finish him off, once and for all. As he does this, he also delivers an epic monologue, about Nolan's true heritage, and why that means he has to die. The only slight problem is that the other Viltrumites all hear this, and now they know that Nolan is their true leader.
I've noticed Kirkman doing this a few times, in the past. In the same way that Game of Thrones had a habit of using soft core pornography to keep people engaged while they covered large passages of necessary exposition (leading to the horrific new word "Sexposition"), Kirkman has a habit of using Invincible's trademark excessive, bloody violence to fill pages, while he has characters fill in necessary blanks. He uses is more than once in this volume, both during Dinosaurus' fight with Invincible (which Dino explains what he's doing and why, all while crushing young Mark), and now, when Thragg pops Nolan's eye out, while explaining to the audience that Nolan is the rightful heir to the empire.
It's a solid technique, but much like GoT, Kirkman needs to be careful not to overuse it. As no matter how skillfully it's used, there will always be people that miss the point, and focus too much on the gore, not realising that there is far more to the scene than is initially apparent.
Thankfully, as accustomed to violence as they are, the other Viltrumites WERE able to see beyond the blood. Realising that Thragg just might not be the best person to run their empire, they knock him out, lock him up, and the heir of Argall finally takes up his birthright.
All hail Emperor Nolan! Long may he reign!
Overall, Volume 18 was an excellent addition to the series. Delivering that heady blend of ultraviolent action and thought provoking moral questions that have made this such a well loved series, for so many years. Kirkman continues to play with concepts like hero and villain, while delivering a deeply satisfying story that will stick with you long after you've set down the book.
But, of course, just because one of Invincible's Nemesiseses (Nemesii? does that make more sense?), just because one of Invincible's many many arch enemies is dead, doesn't mean he has time to relax. Because bad things, are headed his way...
If you want to see how bad things can get, join me next week for Invincible Volume 19: The War At Home. Angstrom Levy returns! (again) to take revenge of Invincible (again) and all those he loves (most of whom would DESTROY Levy, given half a chance).
If you want to read Issues #97-102 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!