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Invincible Volume 24: The End of All Things, Part I, collecting Invincible #133-138.
Script: Robert Kirkman, Artist: Ryan Ottley,
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn, Letterer: Rus Wooton.
In the last volume, Mark, Eve, and Terra decided the best thing for them to do was hide out, far away from it all, on a nice flowery planet, with no other people on it. Thragg, thought the best thing for HIM to do, was send two of his strongest children there, to murder everyone. This clash of ideals ended up with one of Thragg's children dead and the apparent turncoat Oliver Grayson also split in two. This "tragic" turn of events spurred Mark and Eve to return to the fight, and now? It's going DOWN.
Chapter one opens with a funeral, the first we've seen in a while, but far from the last. As with pretty much every gathering of people in Invincible, it quickly devolves into a brawl. With the revelation that Oliver was a spy for Allen, and that Allen engineered Thragg's attack on Mark, it's safe to say tempers are a little higher than normal. Thankfully, calmer heads prevail, and the chapter concludes with the singular, solitary happy moment of this volume.
Chapter two find the coalition ready to bring the fight to Thragg. But before all hell breaks loose, Mark attempts to recruit his Father and the Earthbound Viltrumites one last time; he also spends a final fun night with my new favourite Grayson, his daughter Terra.
Chapter three, and the final war begins! The Coalition attempt to reclaim the planets lost to Thragg's campaign, but find support a little thin on the ground. But, when they finally track down Thragg's home base, chaos reigns!
Chapter four sees Thragg unleash the full might of his near limitless horde of ViltrumiteBugSpawn. Shocked at the sheer numbers they face, the Coalition try their best, but are pressed back by the volume of their foes... but is there more than there seems, to this retreat?
Chapter five begins, and the battle is at its peak! Mark's plan is revealed, and the coalition army lead the Viltrumite horde right to the final staging grounds: Earth!
But with the Earthbound Viltrumite's mustering to defend their new home, Robot does what he does best: Something equal parts nice and awful. Because he's Robot, he's the worst. (He was the second worst, but he's reclaimed his title, now that Oliver is 6ft under).
Chapter six, and our volume come to an end, with one of the most ridiculously over the top and awesome battle scenes in Invincible history. the Coalition throws everything they have at Thragg, and he throws it right back. But do they have what it takes, or will the price of victory be too high? Back on Earth, Robot continues to be awful.
Damn, this was a volume, wasn't it? The war has begun, and everything went from Zero to HOLY SHIT so freaking quickly. Let's dig in, shall we?
Okay, first off: I've got some humble pie to eat. Seems, last time we spoke, I was rather mean about Oliver. I might, possibly, have implied that he was a no-good traitor, and didn't deserve to be mourned, on account of being a giant tool. It would seem, however, that I was incorrect in that assumption, and he actually was working for Allen the whole time. This doesn't explain why Oliver didn't alert the Coalition when he found out Mark was in danger, but I guess we can chalk that up to panic. I still think he's a tool, though. So, I don't retract that part. Just the traitor part.
And, as befits his standing, as a more or less loyal bellend, the volume begins with a huge state funeral, for Oliver. As happens all to often, the event turns a little sour, when Mark loses his shit and starts a fight with Allen, because he blames Allen for Oliver's death. This turns out to be BANG on the money, as shortly after Eve breaks up their fight, Allen confesses to his special lady that he knew Thragg was planning to attack Mark, and he let it happen to try and get Mark on side.
I just... I can't help but think this is yet another case of Mark being rightfully angry at someone, but being told that he's in the wrong. It happened before when Haluma nearly killed Mark and Terra, and it's happening again now. For a guy that is as wrong as often as Mark is, it feels a little unfair when he's made to feel bad about being right. Especially when the fight between Mark and Allen ends with Eve interjecting, to say some pretty brutal (but, to be fair, 100% accurate) things to Mark about his behaviour.
Thankfully, unlike with Haluma, the Allen situation at least ends well, with him confessing to Mark fairly soon after... only for Mark to just kinda shrug and take it in stride, while Eve loses her shit and nearly crushed him.
It all just feels a little off. Allen has proven time and again that he's willing to do whatever it takes to protect the Coalition. It's expected, at this point. So, when Mark rightfully gets angry at him, for putting his brother in danger, I feel like Eve really should have had his back. And then, when Allen returns, all downcast eye and stumbling apologies a few pages later, it feels slightly out of character for Mark to just shrug it off and say "It's all good. I'm sure Oliver would understand." Who knows, maybe this is just the new pragmatic Mark, showing off his cooler head in the face of a situation that would have driven him into a murderous rage before. Maybe he's just saving his anger for Thragg. I guess we'll never know.
Thankfully, things start to look up, after that. Mark, knowing full well the gravity of the situation they're in, goes to see his father to attempt, one last time, to get him to join in the fight. It doesn't go too well...
I really enjoy seeing the way Mark and Nolan's relationship has evolved, over the volumes. From father and son, to sworn enemies, to mentor/mentee and now to an odd kind of comradeship. They evolve in a way that parents and children rarely seem to, in comics. Comics, as a medium, have a fairly static feel to them.
Spider-Man may have been around for nearly 60 years, but to most fans, and in most books, he's still a dorky teenager, or at most a down on his luck 20-something photographer; Aunt May is still there, to cheer him up and pat him on the head when he needs reassurance. Even though these books have been around for longer than most of their fans have been alive, you never get to see the young heroes grow and eventually stand shoulder to shoulder with their parents.
(Although, this may have something to do with the high mortality rate of comic book parents...).
That's why it's so refreshing, to see books like Invincible, where Mark starts off in total awe of his superhero father: in early volumes, he's totally cowed by him, unable to even keep up with his flight speed, when Nolan goes all out. But now? 24 volumes and a whole lot of heartbreak later, Mark is more than capable AND willing to call his father out, when he needs it. This growth, both mental and physical, really helps the reader to feel like they've been on a journey. No one, reader or character, is the same as they were when it started, and that's pretty special.
Okay, next thing we need to discuss:
I know I joke a lot, about how awesome Thragg is, and it's just because he's really really cool, as a character. We do, however, also need to acknowledge the fact that he's f*£%ing terrifying.
In this volume we finally see Thragg unleash his army of mass (re)produced Viltrumite Bug Hybrids. They're not anywhere near as strong as pure Viltrumites or even Earthbound Viltrumites, but they have one major benefit. There's freakin THOUSANDS of them. Thragg has clearly been busy, getting busy, because his army is huge.
But, as I mentioned before, they're not all that strong. Invincible can murder them by the hundred, Allen squashes them like flies, so they're really not a threat to anyone.
So, how is Thragg still winning? Easy. By employing one of the harshest, most messed up tactics in military history.
Total, utter obedience, that borders on worship.
It seems Thragg has found a way to make his Bug Babies useful. He throws them, in massive numbers, at the Coalition. They literally throw themselves. In order to die in such massive numbers, that they tire out their enemies. The first major battle of this way involves Eve, Mark, and Allen getting swamped by the vast numbers of Thragg's hordes, killing them by the hundreds, and slowly getting more and more fatigued. It's a pretty hard chapter to read, made all the worse thanks to the beautiful art, making sure you can see every detail of the brains and blood splattering around. Then, as if it can't get any worse, Ursaal goes to talk to a few of the survivors after the battle, only to find that their only problem with the massacre that just happened, is that so few of them got the chance to die for Thragg.
It's a deeply, horrifyingly disturbing scene. Not because Kirkman made it up, but because he absolutely DIDN'T. This kind of indoctrination has been a part of war for as long as man has pointed over the fence at his neighbour and told his friends "Hey, that guy is different, let's go kill him for it."
So, I feel the need to state, just to be clear, that while I do love Thragg as a character, and have made mention of that fact numerous times, if I was in the Invincible Universe, I would absolutely be a part of the Coalition. Who, in all fairness, have done some sketchy things in their time, they've yet to do anything on the level of "raising child soldiers to act as suicide troops." That one is pretty much a dealbreaker, for me.
Sorry, that got a little bit real, there. Here's a picture of Terra being hilarious, to balance things out.
The Coalition barely survive their run-in with Thragg's sacrificial child army, and manage to draw them away from their base and towards... Earth. Which would be a terrible idea if it wasn't for the fact that the remaining pure blood Viltrumites are all currently living there.
And it turns out, Earth is pretty freakin awesome, because all those old scary Viltrumites, like Robot Monocle guy, and braid-with-a-blade lady, they're all living here quite happily, and are actually calming down quite a bit. Even evil rapist Anissa is now calm... Which leads to the final mention of this horrifying event, as Mark finally comes clean to his father about what happened... and Nolan does nothing. Worse than nothing, he actually excuses Anissa's actions by saying that mating in that way is kind of a Viltrumite tradition. Not even going to START on that. But yeah, seems Kirkman decided to drop the ball one last time, by having Nolan handwave away with Anissa did, tell Mark that it angers him, but then go on to say that Anissa has reformed now, and won't do it again. Gee, that helps...
Kirkman, thinking that he's slick, then tries to distract us from this annoying scene, by throwing another freakin awesome battle at us. And, credit where it's due (which is mostly with Ottley, honestly) the battle is FREAKIN AWESOME.
This is probably the most over the top battle yet, in Invincible. And if you think about how crazy some of the previous battles have been, that should tell you how epic this one is.
It seems the murder babies are "safe" at home, this time around. Thragg has only brought soldiers that are actually capable of putting up a fight with him. And put up a fight, they do!
But literally none of that matter, because they only thing anyone can see is the latest showdown between two of the heaviest hitters in the series. Yup, it's time for Nolan Vs Thragg, Round 3!
It's a short, brutal fight and just goes to illustrate how epically powerful Thragg is. Which raises the question: How on Earth is Mark ever going to stop him?
Overall, Volume 24 does pretty much everything you could want it to. Wrapping up most of the threads that were left hanging, and paving the way for the epic conclusion to this legendary saga. It's not a total win, with some points seemingly just there to annoy the reader. And some plot arcs, like Robot kidnapping the Viltrumite children, so inexplicable and poorly developed, that I honestly had nothing to say about them, here. But, while it wasn't an absolute win, it was pretty damn close, and the stage is now set for the grand finale.
So, if you want to see how the Invincible series ends, join me next week for Invincible Volume 25: The End of All Things, Part Two! Alliances shift as the battle between Invincible and Thragg rages on. But what is Robot up to on Earth? Every single story for the past 14 years has been leading up to this epic series conclusion!
If you want to read Volume 25, collecting issues #139-144 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!