Invincible Volume 5: The Facts of Life. Written by Robert Kirkman, Art by Ryan Ottley, Colours by Bill Crabtree.
Last volume, we met some pivotal figures in the InvinciVerse: Angstrom Levy introduced us to many different versions of himself, we had our first run in with the Sequids (more from them real soon), and we met the throwdown KING, the master of the RING, The Undefeated Battle Beast! Good times were had. Also, Mark nearly became king of Atlantis, and Debbie continued to spiral deeper into depression and alcoholism. Because we can't have anything nice.
So, shall we see what unmitigated horrors Kirkman has in store for us, this time around?
Volume 5 picks up right where 4 left off. Like, literal panel progression. With Eve dropping the bombshell that she's quitting the Hero life, and going off to get her White Savior on. Best of luck with that.
The main push of the chapter is Mark starting college, which I'm sure will be totally fun, safe, and incident free. Right up until our old friends the Reanimen come back. I guess coming back from the dead is kind of their thing, can't really blame them.
Do you know who we CAN blame? This bellend:
Meet D.A. Sinclair; The D.A. stands for Deluded Asshat. It seems that reanimated corpses generally just want to die again. Makes them a little useless when creating armies of robot killing machines. So, instead of thinking "Maybe this is a bad idea", he decides to try using a living person instead.
Thankfully, Invincible is able to stop the current corpse based Reaniman, before it can cause too much chaos. Downside, in doing so he had to slightly abandon his girlfriend, the long suffering Amber. Being a hero is hard work!
In Chapter 2, Invincible is sent to fight "Totally not Batman", who is currently fighting the good fight in Midnight City. And by fighting the good fight, I mean he's murdering a bunch of people.
Needless to say, Invincible isn't totally sold on this crime fighting tactic, and as it turns out, neither is the government.
So, naturally they end up in a bit of a scrap. Worryingly, it seems the new Darkwing has a few tricks up his sleeve that no one knew about.
Thankfully, up Invincible's sleeve is the arm of a Viltrumite...
With Darkwing II locked up for safe keeping and the streets of Midnight City "safe" for now, Mark is free to go about his business.
But Cecil is getting a little worried. The Mauler Twins are up to something, and he wants to know what! Of course, we already know, but we shouldn't say. It'll ruin the surprise.
Speaking of surprises! The chapter ends with out totally not at all suspicious friend robot sneaking off to a secret chamber in an undisclosed location... To speak to his true master:
This thing! Which looks like but apparently isn't Chewbacca's testicle.
Chapter 3 is a very dialog heavy chapter. A lot of very necessary conversations are had. This is great for the characters involved, as it allows them to clear the air. It's GREAT for readers, because it gives us some fantastic character development, and helps us feel closer to these characters we're supposed to know. Kinda hard to write about, though.
The pages of text culminate with some much needed truths being shared, as Mark tells Amber exactly who he is, and why he's been so distant of late. Isn't that sweet?
Then, because we can't have anything nice, the chapter finishes with Mark and Williams new friend, Rick Sheridan, strapped to table about to be turned into the first wave of living Reanimen. Because D.A. Sinclair is the freakin' worst.
Chapter 4 is basically a flashback chapter. Mark comes clean with Amber and tells her everything. Recounting the events of previous volumes, everything from the first time his powers activated, up to the truth about his father and the Viltrum empire. Along the way, he also accidentally reveals that Eve from their school is Atom Eve. Which doesn't really matter anymore, because she's retired.
Amber takes the news like a champ, totally accepts everything, and then asks if Mark wants to—what's the polite way to phrase this—spend the night with her.
Chapter 5 leaves Mark and Amber to get better acquainted, and instead jumps across the galaxy to spend more time with everyone's favourite cyclops, Allen The Alien!
After his run-in with Invincible and Omni-man, and finding out that Invincible is a Viltrumite who might be willing to help them fight the rest of the Empire, Allen flies home as fast as he can, to the Coalition home base on Talescria. While he flies, we're shown a quick recap of his past, explaining why he's such a badass.
Then, he returns home, spends some time with his special lady, eats some bugs, talks to his bosses, all the good things. Yay for Allen!
By the way, remember when I said we can't have nice things?
Bad times for our boy Allen.
Attacked by a couple of VERY angry Viltrumites, Allen takes a savage beating and is left for dead, floating in the void of space.
Thankfully, Allen is awesome, so he survives, but he'll be in recovery for a long time yet.
Far worse, though... Thadeus, the epicly bearded leader of the coalition comes in to see Allen in private. It seems the Viltrumites have a spy on the council. Which, as you can guess, is something of a problem.
Chapter 6 sees things somehow get worse. Because, Kirkman.
It seems the Mauler Twins are finished! Their giant machine is complete, linked up with the other versions all around the multiverse and they're ready for the next step in their plan. Downloading all that information into the mind of Angstrom Levy.
Naturally, Invincible swoops in to put a stop to all this and knocks out the Twins with shocking ease. Saving the day, in a matter of seconds.
Wouldn't it be nice if things actually ended like that? Damnit, Kirkman...
Twins out for the count, Levy opens his dimensional portals, and a whole army of Mauler's march out. They quickly overpower Invincible and things start to look bad, for our young hero.
I mean, do you know how badly you have to be getting smacked around, for the villain to take pity on you? yeesh...
The resulting explosion kills all the Maulers, and leaves Invincible shaken, but not too badly hurt. Thankfully, the Guardians swoop in at just the right time, to take him to safety.
And just moment later, Angstrom Levy, now looking like a really angry bowl of pasta emerges from the wreckage, convinced that it was Invincible who got in the way and caused the accident, which left him so mutated. Disappearing into a portal, he leaves to plot revenge! Jerk.
We then have a few little mini arcs, detailing the history of Monster Girl, Eve, Immortal, and Repli-kate. They're fun.
Why this book is so good:
Not a bad volume, eh? Building on a few of the threads started last volume, and weaving a few more into place, Volume 5 really sets up the arcs that will be making up the body of the next few volumes.
This volume seems the introduction of one of my most hated characters in the whole series, Sinclair, creator of the Reanimen. He's a little bit of a walking stereotype, the genius scientist who doesn't understand that their research goes too far. But Kirkman has a way of taking overly stereotypical characters, and spinning them to add greater depth. It's basically the whole premise of this book, so it's not really a surprise that he showed up.
The fact that he showed up DURING the cliche "My girlfriend thinks I'm a flake, but actually I'm a superhero" arc was just too perfect to be a coincidence. Thankfully, at least one of these arcs was resolved fairly quickly, with Mark coming clean to Amber almost right after. Wrapping the whole arc up with new friend Rick being turned into the first living Reaniman is just the kind of brutal twist we've come to expect from a series which thrives on showing us worst case scenarios, and then making them even worse.
We also see the conclusion of Levy's arc, which has been building for a while now.
I've got to say... I do not like this plot. In a book which makes it's name by setting up cliche characters, and spinning them into something different, Levy stands as the one time that fails, utterly. The whole "I screwed up, and now blame the hero for my mutation" plot is played out, and unlike so many other arcs in this series there's no real twist on it.
Levy continues to blame Invincible for his mistake, he comes back for revenge, mark beats him, he comes back later like a bad penny. It's not particularly interesting. And in a book where "Just throw them into space..." is the default setting for so many villains, I really don't understand how one as lame as Levy somehow gets to be such a thorn in Invincible's side.
Then we have poor Allen. In a volume which was fairly text heavy and lacked the brutal action which is Invincible's calling card, the duty of throwing hands fell to the One-Eye'd Wonder. It wasn't a particularly long fight, but Allen Vs The Viltrumite Trio had everything we've come to expect from Ottley.
There are many artists out there that draw amazing fight scenes. It's basically a staple of the medium. But there are few that can equal Ottley for the speed, clarity and brutality of his combat. The final gory splash page is one that stays with you, for a while.
Slightly longer than the fight does, honestly. With Allen being patched up and safe within a couple of pages. Part of me feels like that reveal could have been left a BIT longer, to make the readers suffer a little. But that's just me being mean, honestly. As a huge fan of Allen's I was glad to know we'd not lost him so soon!
Then, the last major plot point for the volume is the reveal that Robot is up to something. I'm sure you were all as shocked and amazed as I was, that the obviously shifty Robot was just as dodgy as he seemed! Of course, one thing we've learned from this series: Never judge a situation too soon...
Of course, while this arc does a lot of further the overall story of Invincible, and set up some major upcoming arcs, there's also a few side-plots, to keep things fresh.
Invincible vs Darkwing II was a fun little aside. Showing that not only is Mark growing in power, but he's also learning that you can solve fights with more than just fists. This is a vital lesson, that he's really going to need, going forward.
Then, we have poor Debbie. Who is continuing to spiral, now that she's not only lost Nolan, but is losing Mark as well to the combined time sinks of College life and being a Superhero.
I feel like Kirkman does a great job in showing her mental state, without making it feel like it's dragging the whole story down. It would be so easy for Debbie's plot arc to become a huge downer, that totally kills the mood and pacing of the series.
Thankfully, Kirkman handles the whole arc with a deft touch, and Debbie becomes a vital part of the story, showing you the very real, human side of the world of Invincible.
The huge burden faced by those that are left behind, to try and live a normal human life, while these world altering events explode around them, changing everything they thought they knew on a nearly daily basis.
This is summed up best by her conversation with Art. Probably the only person that really knows what she's going through, and knew Nolan for as long as she did.
Seeing Debbie sit there, clearly distraught, wondering if anything she'd experienced with Nolan over their decades together was actually real is a sobering moment of reality in a series that pages before was flying through space.
And then Mark comes home, for the first time in months, and acts like a dick towards her. Because he's an all powerful Superhero alien, but he's still a teenager...
Overall, Volume 5 was a fun ride. Balancing out the superhero craziness, with some real emotion. The writing and art were excellent, as always, and the threads that were put into place have left me excited to see what horrible things Kirkman has in store for us!
So join me next week, for Invincible Volume 6 A Different World. Where Mark is brought to a whole new world... Where he will either be their saviour, or spell their ultimate destruction.
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!
As a British person, I must dispute the portrayal of our country in Invincible. We're not all stupid enough to worship a trashbag that fell from the sky, or believe that someone is our ruler, because a hat fell on them.
Many of us are far, FAR stupider than that.