Invincible Volume 7: Three's Company. Written by Robert Kirkman, Art by Ryan Ottley, Colours by Bill Crabtree.
Last volume saw Mark reunited with his father on the distant planet of... seriously, did that place even have a name? On this distant bug-world, Nolan had a swift rise to rule, re-married, and sired a child. All in time for the Viltrumites to return and straight up murder everyone. So, Nolan reached out to the only person in the universe who might actually be of help: Mark!
This proved to be a little optimistic, as Mark serves as little more than a punching bag and temporary roadblock to the attacking Viltrumites. Eventually, Nolan and Mark sort of win, but are too exhausted to resist as Nolan is carted away to who knows where, and Mark is sent home to deal with an even bigger threat:
An enamoured Atom Eve. Gulp.
Chapter one sees Mark taking a quick weekend break to Africa, to see his long time super-friend Atom Eve, now retired to a life of quite contemplation. This romantic weekend is somewhat slowed down by the presence of Mark's long suffering girlfriend Amber. I'm sure this will end REALLY well.
Back stateside, lots of people that shouldn't act like dicks are acting like dicks.
Our old friend Sinclair is hard at work turning living people into sort-of-living people, and somehow convincing himself he's making progress. Sadly, Mark still has no idea what he's up to, and even less of an idea that he currently has their missing friend in his clutches. Because Mark is an idiot.
Also, Robot's boss, the testicle with teeth, has recruited the Mauler twins, to help him move his mind into another body. One that he's cloned from Rex's DNA. Not creepy at all...
Chapter two continues the awkward love triangle between the blissfully oblivious Mark, the surprisingly conniving Eve and the clearly suffering Amber.
The holiday goes well, despite Eve's barely contained hostility toward Amber. There's wonderful food, beautiful views, and even some minor heroics, to help Mark with his new exercise schedule. Yup, everything is going just swimmingly... Until a phone call from an old friend, sends Mark running home.
It seems his time away has done little to calm down Mr Levy. Chapter 3 begins with an exceedingly angry Levy, holding Mark's family hostage. He still blames Mark for the fact that he now looks like an angry bowl of Ramen, and even though Mark tried to tell him he was wrong, he's happier just to keep hating him. Right up until he kills him. Because. Super-villain.
Of course, Levy is no match physically, but one area in which he outstrips Invincible by a huge margin is Intellect. Because, as previous stated, Mark is kind of a moron.
So, Levy sends our hapless hero flying through the dimensions, hoping that whatever he comes across in those other worlds will tire him out to the point that Levy is able to overcome him, in a physical altercation.
Needless to say, this plans works a treat. Right up until it doesn't. The final showdown between Levy and Invincible takes place in a distant, ruined reality. Levy starts the fight looking like an enraged bowl of Super Noodles, but ends it looking like a dropped jar of jam.
While this is no doubt a very satisfying conclusion, it does leave Invincible a little bit stranded. In an alternate dimension. Alone.
Chapter four find Mark alone in a dead universe, talking to himself and trying desperately not to think about the fact he just beat a man to death. This doesn't go all that well. Thankfully, before he can get too moody, he's rescued by some familiar faces. Well... sort of familiar. It seems this version of our favourite heroes are actually from 15 years in the future. And by the sound of it, they've been 15 pretty terrible years.
But the important part is that they've got the tech to get Mark home. But not before Future Eve makes a startling confession to Mark...
Back in his home reality, Robot's master is finally in his new cloned body. At which point he makes his final confession: the tin plated tosser we've come to know and deeply mistrust, known as "Robot," is actually a simple automaton. A puppet, controlled by the monstrous form we see before us. But now, he's grown tired of seeing the world through his digital eyes and wants to truly interact with his peers. His first step? Beat the stuffing out of the Maulers. After that? Who knows!
Chapter five is fairly low key. Serving as minor character advancement and a cool-down chapter after the chaos of Chapter four. The new and "improved" Robot is introduced to his colleagues in the Guardians of the Globes. Mark has a heart to heart with Art the Tailor. Then, on the advice of his father he picks up Nolan's old books.
Not the travel ones, though. The other ones.
The secret Sci-Fi ones.
The ones which just might hold the key to defeating the Viltrumite Empire.
Why this book is so good:
This was an odd volume. It starts off quite calm and relaxed. Very much a Mark book, more than an Invincible book. Then suddenly, it very very much isn't. Then, it goes back to being calm and nice again.
We begin with Mark's Girlfriend Safari. And I've got to say, reading this series through again for this retrospective, I really don't like early Eve. My first time reading Invincible, I was a big InvincibleXEve shipper. I wanted them together from day one. So, needless to say, I wasn't exactly Amber's #1 fan.
Reading through now, though I have to say I've changed my opinion quite a lot. Amber puts up with a LOT of shit from Mark, and handles it all pretty well. Meanwhile, Eve is pretty horrible to Amber, but in that low-key valley girl way that Mark probably doesn't even notice.
I really enjoyed the scene of Mark and Eve sitting on her roof, sipping coffee and enjoying the early morning sun. It made me realise two important facts:
First, Eve has, by far, the most versatile power set in the series. Molecular manipulation is always a powerful ability. Combine it with Eve's intellect, and you've got a lady capable of picking up a handful of leaves, and turning them into a cup of coffee in the blink of an eye. Then crumbling another handful of leaves to make cream and sugar. Kinda makes you wonder why she's hidden herself away in the middle of nowhere... but that's a story for another time.
The second thing that scene helped me realise, is that Eve is pretty mean, early on. As we've established, she's an incredibly powerful character. But, like all heroes on her level, it's made her distant. The way she talks about "Normal" people is vaguely terrifying, when you consider what she's capable of doing with little to no effort.
Thankfully, Mark's little trip comes to an abrupt end, before anyone there says anything that they might regret...
Which leads us to the second major arc of the volume.
Invincible vs Angstrom Levy. Again.
I think I've made my feelings on Levy pretty clear, in the past. So I don't need to go into that again now.
However, I DO enjoy this little showdown of theirs. Because, while I find the character of Levy quite bland, this fight highlights one of Mark's major weaknesses. As a Viltrumite, Mark is strong, durable, and incredibly fast. He's trained enough, by now, that's he's also a capable hand to hand combatant.
However, he's also dumb as a bag of spuds. Never is this more evident than when he gets over-emotional.
Levy exploits Invincible's utter lack of tactical knowledge, and short temper, and uses this to repeatedly send Invincible to a variety of fun and recognisable alternate universes.
From the world of talking dinosaurs (who I like to imagine all have British accents), to worlds suspiciously similar to Marvel and DC. There's even a brief nod to one of Kirkman's earlier works. A slightly more niche title than Invincible, you may not have heard of it. It's called The Walking Dead.
But, of course, you can only play shadow game so long, before you fail to dodge a hit. And eventually, Invincible gets his hands on Levy and we see Mark's temper in full force.
As someone who knows all to well the struggles of containing a bad, sometimes destructive temper, that look on Mark's face is all too familiar.
Absolutely fantastic work from both Kirkman and Ottley on this whole arc. Seeing Mark's utter devastation, when he calms down and realises what he's done, was heart-wrenching. Then seeing him struggle to deal with his actions, while all alone in a barren wasteland just twists the knife further.
Then, when he's finally rescued, he seems the further impact of what he did. His outburst left him stranded there, which was bad for him. But, from the little we can gather from his allies, the consequences were infinitely worse, for the world he left behind. Let's hope Mark learns from this and learns to think a little more before he charges in.
Next up, we have the big reveal! And the ending of sorts, to Robot's big secretive arc.
Yup, it turns out Robot wasn't working for that blob guy, he WAS that blob guy. I know, it was a real shocker...
While this does slightly feel like a filler arc, used to pad out a very uneven volume, I did kind of enjoy Robot's shenanigans. He's one of those characters that you just love to hate.
And while this arc doesn't feel hugely impactful now, it lays the groundwork for some huge events to come, and instills in the reader one very important message.
Do. Not. Trust. Robot.
To round out the volume, we have Mark's conversation with Art. It's a fairly short, sweet scene. Art is a great character, he's like Mark's Alfred, but without the creepy pencil-thin mustache. I think Mark really needs a strong, solid presence in his life, right now. And Art is that, and then some. Seeing them talk out the slightly trick situation Mark has found himself in was a rare heartwarming moment, after the more shocking scenes we've had in the past few volumes.
Then, just to remind us that Kirkman is ALWAYS working, that small, sweet scene turns into a fairly pivotal moment in the series. As Mark find's his father's books and realises they're essentially catalogues of weapons to use against the Viltrumites. Not bad, for a day's work.
Overall, Volume 7 is a bit hit and miss, for me. It felt like this was very much intended to be a Mark plot line. Furthering his character, showing his more human side and grounding him once more, after the extreme brutality and heroics of Volume 6. But then, half way through, Kirkman got bored, brought back a tired villain, and gave us an overly complex "fight" that was resolved a little too easily. It all ended up feeling very tacked on, and a little out of place. Especially given how the chapters before and after were both far more grounded.
Although, I applaud Kirkman's balls, for putting two full pages of text in at the end there. Honestly, I'd quite enjoy reading more of "Nolan's" books. They're fun concepts, well written. What more could a sci-fi geek ask for?
So join me next week, for Invincible Volume 8: My Favourite Martian! Where Mark finally decides to look for his missing friend. And also has to deal with the small issue of a giant Martian horde on its way to wipe out all life on Earth.
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!