Invincible Volume 19: The War At Home, collecting Invincible #103-108.
Script by Robert Kirkman. Pencils by Ryan Ottley. Inks by Cliff Rathburn (Chapter #1-4) Ryan Ottley (Chapter #5-6). Colours by John Rauch. Letters by Russ Wooton.
Last volume was... interesting. Mark regained his powers and all seemed well with the world. Until he decided to USE those powers to team up with Dinosaurus, who was in the middle of his plans to kill a whole mess of people, in order to save more. As you can imagine, being the moral arbiter of the universe, Invincible wasn't a fan of this plan. It all ended 'happily' though; with Dinosaurus dead and Mark back working with Cecil. Which is... nice? I guess. Kinda. Then, because things couldn't get any worse, Angstrom freakin' Levy returned. Let's see what godawful mess he has planned, this time.
Chapter one is very much about laying threads, for the rest of the volume. There isn't a huge amount going on, but there's a whole lot of set up. Most important scenes to take note of: Rex being a jealous bitch, Atom Eve nearly killing her baby, Nolan setting his reign as leader of Viltrum off on bad start, and William being sassy as hell. Also, Levy returns, captures Eve, and banishes Mark to an alternate dimension. AGAIN.
Chapter two finds Mark back in his own personal hell, the desolate desert world that Angstrom uses as a form of prison. At least this time, he's not alone! Sadly, the person he's stuck with is one of the evil Invincibles from Levy's previous attack on this reality. Also, he's now a cannibal. Back in our reality, Eve desperately tries to hold off Levy, without using her powers, for fear that it will injure their child. Left with no other option, she decides to try something Mark hasn't attempted before. She reasons with Levy.
Chapter three finds every calming down, from their narrow miss with Levy. But Mark isn't quite so calm. In fact, he's more driven now that he's been in a while, some would say obsessed. Up on their fancy moon base, Nolan is finally ready to pass judgement on Thragg. His choice is unexpected. Meanwhile Rex comes clean with Amanda, about his feelings since returning from the Flaxxan Empire, and Mark breaks the good news to Nolan.
Chapter four begins with our missing ally and best kitty in the universe Battle Beast, who has seemingly just finished subduing a whole planet, because that's what he does. He's then summoned back to Talescria by Space Racer. I wonder what that could be about... Back on Earth, Invincible continues its tradition of truly awful dinner parties, as Mark, Eve, Debbie, and Nolan sit down for dinner and a few secrets come out.
Chapter five sees Doc Seismic putting his new makeover to good use, and Amanda has a hard conversation with her son. During the fight, Invincible is assisted by a surprising ally. But the shocks don't end there, as Mark gets a late night call that he's been waiting eagerly for.
Chapter six sees Mark once more traveling to an alternate dimension. Thankfully, this time he's with his ally Robot and the travel is controlled, so at least that won't be an issue. So, after a fairly heavy argument with his intended, he travels to a world run by a slightly insane version of himself, who he believes to be holding Levy hostage. What could possibly go wrong?
Say it with me, folks: Taheg is ALWAYS right!
Very much a bridge volume, Volume 19 wraps up a few of the threads left over from Volume 18 and sets up the world changing events of Volume 20. That's not to say that there aren't some great moments, they're just a little pale in comparison to what they follow, and what's to come.
Okay, a minor bugbear of mine. It happens in basically everything, and I really don't know why writers keep doing it.
So, Nolan is now the head of the Viltrumite Empire, and that's awesome. The troops are loyal, due to his legendary bloodline, and the fact that he's pretty cool. Thragg has been overthrown, and is now rotting in a cell, waiting to be executed, as is the Viltrumite way. Seems simple enough, right? Lop off his head (it make take a while, have you seen his neck?) throw his body into space and move on, to a brighter future.
Apparently, Nolan didn't get that memo. He decides, as all naive heroes do, that living in shame and defeat, to witness how happy everyone is without them is the worst fate a victim can suffer. Which is fair enough. Except that it's UTTER NONSENSE. Sparing the life of probably the strongest Viltrumite that has ever lived, a monster of a man who has sworn bloody vengeance against you for destroying everything he's ever worked for, is never going to end well.
I get it, Nolan is different now. He's a brighter, happier leader who wants to take the Viltrumites down a kinder, more peaceful path. And that is a great sentiment. However, it will never last, as long as monsters like Thragg are still alive. There is no world where people like him can just sit happily to one side, and let others live their lives. I've seen it in so many different shows, games, and books that it's genuinely starting to annoy me. Especially as 999 times out of 1000 it ends the same way: The villain returns, and does something horribly and usually fatal, to someone the hero loves.
Want proof? Look at the other plot, running in this very volume! Angstrom Levy returns for the fifth time, to try and get revenge on Invincible, AGAIN. This time, he captures Eve, who is currently unable to use her formidable powers, for fear that it will hurt her unborn child. So, she's left helpless in the face of the sadistic and utterly insane Levy. Faced with no other option, and no way to fight back, Eve does something that Mark probably should have done about 6 volumes back. She sits down and talk to Levy. Tries to convince him that Mark really never meant to hurt him, and that holding on to all that rage is doing no one any good.
It's actually a pretty great scene, and easily a top 3 Eve moment. It almost seems to work, too. However, before we can know for sure, Invincible returns from the alternate dimension with a VERY angry Evil Invincible, who drags Levy into a third dimension, for undoubtedly horrible reasons.
Now, I know what you're going to say, "but Taheg, if after all this time Levy can be redeemed, doesn't it show that Mark was right to spare him and that maybe there IS hope for Thragg?"
No. No, it doesn't.
It shows that redemption IS possible, for the sad people who have either been lied to, or have lied to themselves. Levy might have been redeemed (we'll never know for sure), but only because at his heart, he was a good person that snapped after having his mind blown wide open in a science experiment gone horribly wrong.
But Thragg? A man who has spent centuries killing his way across the universe, leading an evil empire bent on enslaving any race he deems to be "Lesser"?
There's no saving people like that, and by trying, all you do is doom their future victims.
Speaking of Levy, after losing him with AltInvincible, Mark is unable to just let it go. Despite Eve pushing him to just forget about it and go on with his life, Mark is unable to live with the Sword of Damocles hanging above his head, and contracts his good friend and occasional creepy asshole Rex Robot to assist him in tracking Levy down, to find him, and bring an end to this, once and for all.
Naturally, it doesn't take Robot long to track the guy down, and they find Levy hooked up to some kind of bizarre torture machine, so that AltInvincible can take his dimension hopping powers and enslave the multiverse...*cough* which wouldn't have been possible, if he was dead *cough*.
Thankfully, before this can happen Robot steps in. Worryingly, he does this by disabling both Invincibles, killing the evil version, decapitating Levy, and stranding Mark in the dark universe. Crap.
Overall, Volume 19 is kinda hard to get a fix on. While in many ways it borders on skippable, there are some really strong character moments, that make it a great read.
Kirkman has always been a great writer of characters. One of the reasons his work is so well loved, is because he creates characters that you instantly fall for, or instantly hate. He then spends the rest of the story making his characters jump around from the hate list, to the love list, and back again.
In this very volume we see two such arcs: Angstrom Levy, first introduced as a budding hero, who just wanted to get a better grip on his powers. He goes on to become one of Mark's most dangerous adversaries. And yet, at his end... he's almost redeemed. We see a final glimmer of hope, that he might not be totally beyond redemption, before it's snatched away and he's snuffed out, the eternal unanswered question.
Then, on the flipside, we see Robot: First introduced as the mechanical leader of the Teen Team, he goes on to become one of the most important, albeit creepy, members of the Guardians of the Globe. Right up until he tries to take over the world. It'll be interesting to see how this arc plays out, next volume. Is he beyond redemption? Will the Guardians need to kill a former ally? Who knows.
It's this kind of growth that makes Invincible such a great book to read. The writing for these arcs is so complex, it rivals anything seen in fiction. Kirkman's abilities to play with these characters, and keep you on your toes, ensures that even after over 100 issues, you can never be 100% sure what's going to happen. Even with characters you were sure you understood.
So, if you're as eager to find out exactly what the hell Robot thinks he's doing, join me next week for Invincible Volume 20: Friends. Things get even darker for Invincible, as he's betrayed by one of his own!
If you want to read Volume 20, collecting issues #109-114 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!