Invincible Volume 13: Growing Pains. Script by Robert Kirkman, Art by Ryan Ottley (Chapter 1-2, 6 <Flashbacks>), Cory Walker (Chapter 3-5, 6 <present day>).
Last volume, Mark had the worst week EVER. It started with the return of Angstrom Levy, and his army of Alt-World Invincibles. It took everything that Invincible, and the majority of the Image Universe, could muster to stop them. Then, while everyone was fixing things up, and Invincible was wallowing in guilt... Conquest showed up! He may look like an angry Santa, but don't let that fool you. Conquest was one of the most brutal enemies Invincible has ever encountered. And it took the assistance of Oliver and Eve to finally bring him down. Thankfully, this week Mark gets a chance to rest, and recover...
Wouldn't it be great, if that were true? Maybe in a nicer world.
Chapters one and two see us catching up with intergalactic buddy cop movie "Nolan and Allan" as the two coolest guys with the most boring names journey the universe, looking for any help they can find, to tip the balance in the Coalition's favour, for the upcoming Viltrumite War.
Along the way, the encounter The Space Racer: a tri-eyed badass biker, with a gun that can't be stopped by anything, The Rognar: a lizard like race of aliens that eat Viltrumites like Candy, and attempt to recruit Battle Beast. Who they fail to track down, because he's too busy wandering the universe being freakin' awesome.
Chapter three sees us return to earth, where Invincible is currently deep in combat with Dinosaurus! Who is kind of like the Hulk, if the Hulk were a hyper-intelligent Dinosaur, and Bruce Banner was a burnout student. But while our new favourite villain is quickly apprehended, the more dangerous battle lies ahead. As Mark prepares for... dinner with Eve's parents!
As the chapter comes to a close, Eve makes a startling discovery. One which will change everyones lives, and may explain why her powers are currently so out of control...
Chapter four goes totally off the rails. As Alien Queen and fan of inexplicable bikini armour, Universa come to Earth. Her mission? To drain the planet of all its energy, and save her own doomed world. Thankfully, Invincible is there to stop her!
Worryingly, while he's distracted by her and her staff fixation, the Sequids have finally begun their assault, and have quickly taken over a whole city! Only the Guardians of the Globe stand in their way. And given how we recently saw Invincible beat them, with one of their own members, you can imagine how well they're doing.
Chapter five begins with Invincible once more swooping in to save the day. With Universa defeated, he's finally freed up to help take down the evil squid army. Sadly, it may be too little, too late. As the now uncountable hoards of angry squids seem to overwhelm the heroes, their plan to extract all the humans in the area, to remove the host links and subdue the Sequids seems doomed to fail. If they're going to win this day, drastic measures will need to be taken.
Chapter six sees Invincible once more returning to the Global Defence Agency, to have a "little talk" with creepy uncle Cecil. Heavy on the character development, Chapter six finds Mark regretting his actions, pictured above, that ended with an astronaught's brains splattered over his suit. He debates his recent decisions, on the subject of wholesale murder and decides that it really can't be an option. He then goes to stop local crime boss Titan, who is currently fighting a freakin' dragon and almost immediately tries to murder him. Because Invincible is a good natured, angry moron.
On the other side of the Galaxy, our old friend Conquest has escaped his prison that Cecil had him locked in, and has run back to the Empire. Where they are not best pleased with him. What good is a wrecking ball, that can't wreck things, after all? And it's then, that we're introduced to the baddest Mother-F***er in the entire universe, and one of the best villains in comics history:
You'll be seeing a lot more of this guy, REAL soon.
We then return to Earth, where Mark does what he always does, when he's not feeling right. He goes to see Art! They speak on Mark's current wellbeing, and Art does what Art does best. Talks things out and makes Mark feel better. This touching scene is capped off with the return of an old favourite... The classic Yellow suit is back! Awww, yeah.
But, that's not all that's come back...
Nolan and Allen have to pick up one last ally, before the Viltrumite War can begin: Invincible! So, while they do some other prep work they have to get to, Mark spends one last evening with Eve. Where for some odd reason they reminisce on the events of the last few volume, and all the horrible stuff that has gone down and the volume comes to a slightly bizarre end.
Another really solid volume, as we build up to something amazing, in the coming books.
I've said it before, but Nolan and Allen are one of my favourite duos in the series. Their bromance is always fun, and honestly, I could have done with a whole volume, or maybe even a side series, chronicling their adventures through space, recruiting soldiers to the cause. And, while they had a lot of fun, along the way, they also introduce a key factor, going forward: The Scourge Virus. A disease specifically targeted at Viltrumites, those it doesn't kill are left seriously weakened for an undisclosed amount of time, afterwards. When it was first unleashed, it wiped out 99.9% of the Viltrumite race and is responsible for their current diminished numbers.
And Thaedus, leader of the Coalition of Planets just happens to have a new strain brewing up. One that even current Viltrumites who survived the first outbreak, won't be immune to.
Which makes their current efforts to gather an army suddenly seem MUCH more important. As the other option is the death of anyone with Viltrumite DNA. Including, Nolan, Mark, and Oliver!
But sadly, this whole volume wasn't just Allen and Nolan, so we must inevitably return to Earth, and resume the story of young Mark.
Although, that does allow us to meet one of the better recurring villains in Invincible: Dinosaurus. Akin to the Hulk, but with more teeth, Dinosaurus is a very fun antagonist. He's not just Mark's match, physically speaking, he's also a SUPER genius. Sadly, this genius isn't tempered by anything resembling humanity, so his logic is cold. ICE cold.
The fight he gets into this week stems from his thought that by interfering with the recovery efforts as Invincible has, he's set back humanity by decades. The deaths would have saved the Earth, the clearing and reconstruction would have created thousands of jobs and ushered in an era of untold economic prosperity. The few would die, but the many would survive and thrive.
It's an interesting viewpoint, and one that it's honestly hard to argue against, logically speaking. From a human, emotional standpoint it's obviously monstrous, but viewed objectively, his logic is sound. Of course Mark isn't exactly a logical thinker at the best of times. So he just punches Dinosaurus a bunch and causes him to revert to his human form... But this isn't the last we've seen of our dinosaur friend.
But, of course, there's never just the ONE battle in Invincible. And this volume also sees the Sequids finally coming up to the surface and putting their master plan into action. Of course, their master plan is really the same as all their other plans, just with more people. And, in much the same way, the heroes efforts to counter it are basically the same. Smash the squids, get the people to safety and wait for the Sequids to calm down again. It's not exactly a thrilling fight, but the art is excellent, and let's be real here... The point of this fight isn't actually the fight. This whole battle is a setup for the conclusion, where Invincible straight up murders an innocent person, because it was the easy way out of the current situation.
This leads onto one of my favourite topics: Invincible, and the slowly fading humanity.
Last volume was the nadir. Invincible had pretty much given up, and after the double blow of Levy and Conquest, he'd decided to just murder everyone he thought was an issue. This was such a colossally bad idea, that even CECIL takes issue with it.
Thankfully, in a surprisingly wholesome scene, Cecil and Mark have a heart to heart, and Mark opens up, admitting that he's not exactly sure his current "kill all the things" attitude is the best option. He then gets called away to settle a minor dispute with Titan, and nearly kills the guy. Because Mark is nothing, if not inconsistent.
Thankfully after nearly murdering his second person in the same issue, Mark goes for a heart to heart with Art, and sorts things out.
This sent me off on a bit of a tangent. I've always very much believed that (in comics. I need to stress this part. IN COMICS, NOT REAL LIFE) there were certain villains that simply could not be redeemed, and that the world (OF COMICS) would be better off without them. Can we really say that life is better, with the Joker in it? Is there really a case to be made, for the continued existence of Norman Osborn? Surely, given the chaos they've caused, it would be easier, safer, for the world, if the heroes just... took them out.
But that's the thing. Say Batman DID decide to end the Joker. Took him out, once and for all. Then, the next day he's fighting Scarecrow. Another mad man, with a LOT of blood on his hands. Why not take him out, as well? Then it's Penguin. Then Riddler. Then Harley Quinn...
At what point does it stop? To bring this back to Invincible, Mark isn't exactly known for his even temper, or foresight. Is he really meant to be the arbiter of who is and isn't redeemable? Kirkman illustrates this perfectly, in the scene with Mark and Cecil, by forcing Mark to confront someone that he had previous considered an irredeemable threat. D.A.Sinclair. Now a "model" scientist, whose work is saving countless lives, he's met someone he cares for and even has a kid on the way. He's repenting, for his previous transgressions, and genuinely feels remorse for his action, even as he seems his work save lives every single day. Those live that he's now saved. They would have died, if Invincible had killed or locked away Sinclair, as he'd originally intended... So, what really was the right path?
(I still think Sinclair is a tool, though. Can't help it)
This is especially important this volume, as we also have Dinosaurus to contend with. Much like Oliver has in previous issues, Dinosaurus here serves as a huge warning label, showing Mark the dangers of walking down the path he's set himself on. Dinosaurus believes himself to be smarter than everyone else, he truly believes that he knows best. It just so happens, the thing he knows best about is murdering huge swathes of people, to allow the Earth to recover. As I said before, there is some logic to his arguments. But this leaves the real question, the one Dinosaurus doesn't seem to consider: should a single person be allowed to make those kinds of decisions?
It's a question that requires a lot of thought and is yet another reason why this comic is so great. It takes subjects that comics have debated over on the sidelines, for decades, and drags them kicking and screaming to centre stage and forces the issues. More often than not, in ways that we could never have imagined. It's reasons like this, that Kirkman is the juggernaut he is today.
And then, as if to prove me wrong, we go from deep discussion of the comic "No Kill Rule", to that classic sitcom staple: The Flashback Episode! I'm guessing this was included, because they know that we're about to get some real callbacks, when the war begins, and they wanted to make sure that people who WEREN'T reading back to back, one issue a week, would still remember all the important details. Still feels a little odd, though. I don't like it when sitcoms do episodes like this, and when a comic does it, it feels even worse. This is compounded, because it comes at the end of a pretty strong issue, and leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.
Overall, Volume 13 is very strong. The Nolan/Allen adventures are entertaining, the Scourge Virus is a very interesting plot point, and the Dinosaurus/Sequid situations leave you pondering some fairly interesting questions.
Plus, we get to see the return of series Co-Creator Cory Walker, who I'm pretty sure came back just so he could create the design for Grand Regent Thragg, the coolest Freddy Mercury impersonator of all time. Great to see him return to the series and seeing his art alongside series regular Ryan Ottley highlights just how amazing both artists are, in their fields. Cory's superb character designs, combined with Ryan's talent at amazing action sequences leads to a combination that is almost impossible to beat, for series like Invincible.
So join me next week, for Invincible Volume 14: The Viltrumite War! Do I really need to explain what this volume is about? It's right there in the title! War! With Viltrum! It's going to be EPIC.
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!