Invincible Volume 9: Out Of This World, Script by Robert Kirkman, Art by Ryan Ottley, Colours by Bill Crabtree.
Last time we saw Invincible, he rescued his friend from the depredations of the evil/annoying D.A. Sinclair, and then shot into space to save the Earth from a Martian invasion.
This time around, he's in for a slightly more relaxed time. Kinda.
Chapter one starts off easily enough. Invincible goes into space, again. Thankfully, this time nothing major is going down, so it's practically a holiday. He's called home to fight a very familiar angry squid monster .
After quickly dispatching him, Mark returns home for a little R&R. Spend some downtime with his new brother...
Who may or may not have developed his powers early. Gulp.
Chapter two finds Earth in dire need, once more. A grave threat is approaching and things are looking grim!
Nah, just kidding. It's Allen the Alien! Everyone's favourite one-eyed, super-ripped cyclops has come to Earth to request Invincible's help. Only slight problem is that Invincible was busy, so Immortal went out to meet Allen. And Immortal is a dick. So, the meeting doesn't go too well...
Thankfully, Invincible arrives before Allen can put the name "Immortal" to the test and they get to have their discussion.
But, there's one more conversation that Mark needs to have. One that won't end quite as well as his talk with Allen does.
Chapter three is a really rough one, for Mark.
He somehow manages to mess up the sure thing he had with Eve (while also mooning over Amber, whom he dumped last volume). He then actually gives attending college a chance, and that doesn't end well either.Then he tries to break up the constant failures by going to lunch with his mother. Only to be interrupted by a very angry Viltrumite lady, who arrives and tells him that she'll murder Debbie, if Mark doesn't come with her. Winning!
This rather angry young lady fails to identify herself, just yet. But she's come to check up on Mark's progress, to see how he's doing with the whole "Weaken Earth for Viltrumite rule" plan. Needless to say, she's not best pleased when he tells her that he's basically ignored that whole plot.
Chapter four starts with a big bang! The bang in question being the sound of Viltrumite fists colliding with Invincible's jaw. Scary Lady spares no time in demonstrating just how much more powerful she is than Invincible, and thankfully, dumb though he undoubtedly is, he takes her point. She flies away and leaves him somewhat worse for wear, with the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head.
As she's leaving Earth, our angry Viltrumite friend runs into Allen. She tries to pull the same alpha routine on him that she pulled on Invincible, but Allen is having none of it. Because Allen is the ALPHA. However, during her weak attempt to attack him, she lets some vital info slip, and Allen quickly comes up with an ingenious plan.
Chapter five sees Invincible teaming up with the last person you'd expect... a fully healed and slightly upgraded Rex-Splode! yay...
Together, they team up to try and stop two time travellers from stealing the Declaration of Independaence. Sadly, neither one is Nick Cage.
And they would have handled them easily, if they hadn't been set upon by an enraged Multi-Paul. Yup, you heard me, Repli-kate's brother Multi-Paul has finally arrived and his first act is to screw everything up, for no reason. After multiplying as much as he can, and getting in the heroes' way long enough for the baddies to escape, Multi-Paul is finally stopped by an unexpected ally. I still think he's a dick, though.
And in the depths of space, a grim pronouncement is made, and a sentence is brought down.
Chapter six sees Allen's plan begin to unfold, and a great friendship blossoms.
Meanwhile, two down on their luck villains find out that sticking to the straight and narrow isn't as easy as you'd think. And when they eventually fall off the wagon and try to pull some crime, who should step in to stop them, but Invincible...
...and his new sidekick, the Amazing Oliver!
This is going to end so, so badly.
Speaking of ending badly. Remember last volume, when Sinclair the Tool teamed up with Cecil the Untrustworthy?
Yup. We're DOOMED.
Why this book is so good:
We're in the calm before the storm, people. It's not that these volumes are bad. They're fun and have some really strong and important character development. Without these volumes, a lot of what's to come would fall really flat.
That said, compared to the FIRE of Invincible vs Omni-man, and the ABSOLUTE INSANITY which is to come... these middle volumes are fairly slow. That said, Kirkman is still a fantastic writer, Ottley's art still shines, and Crabtree still makes his world sing. So, there's good stuff to be found here.
Let's get started, shall we?
This was NOT a good volume, for Mark. Invincible may be kicking ass and winning hearts, but Mark just can't seem to catch a break.
In much the same way as people only seem to love Spider-Man when Peter Parker is a struggling photo journalist, Kirkman seems to always find a way to hurt Mark, when Invincible starts to get ahead of himself.
After breaking up with his girlfriend last week, Mark is strong-armed into having "The Talk" with Eve. He treats this subject with all the subtlety and grace we've come to expect from our fledgling superhero, and manages to massively bungle what should have been a sure thing.
But here's the real question: Is this actually a bad thing?
Honestly, I'm not so sure. While I do think that Mark and Eve are meant to be together, and will end up together, I don't think now is the right time for either of them. While I often joke about Mark being a little dim, I think it was a case of "out of the mouths of babes" here. While he could have phrased what he said slightly more gently, I don't think he was entirely wrong. And until he know what his feelings for Eve really are, it's best for everyone, Eve included, if they don't do anything.
And that's not the only place, that he was wrong, but also kinda right.
It would seem that his habit of not attending school, in order to save the universe on multiple occasions, is starting to catch up with him. His grades are slipping, and one of his professors has outright said "I don't care what happens between now and the end of term. You've already failed".
But again, Mark's abject failure raises a strong question: Does Mark even NEED school? I mean, he's already got a job that pays far more than any entry level position he could get. He's got a true calling in his work as Invincible. What good is there, in sticking around to complete college, when there's every chance that he's going to flunk out? I know if I was in his position, I'd find it really hard to concentrate on mundane nonsense like Calculus, when I saw no benefit in it, long-term.
Then we have Allen, and his surprisingly effective plan. After arriving on Earth, I think mostly to show off his new improved physique, and getting shut down by Mark (but not before picking up Nolan's books, which are going to come in real handy, real soon), Allen returns to space, where he effortlessly manhandles the scary Viltrumite lady that had so recently spanked Mark like a naughty puppy.
This was a fairly classic, but very effective way of showing JUST how much stronger Allen has become now, without having to actually show him and Mark fighting again. We've seen the pair of them clash before and it's usually fairly even, with a slight edge to the Unopan. But now? We see Invincible get utterly wrecked by his new Viltrumite friend... who then flies into space and gets hilariously blitzed by Allen. So, in our minds, we know now that Allen wasn't kidding earlier, when he said Invincible couldn't take him.
And that's why Allen is the man.
Then we have two minor arcs, which both have the same problem.
First off is Invincible vs Multi-pPaul. A strange, slightly out of nowhere scene, where Invincible goes to stop a routine time-theft, and ends up fighting Dupli-Kate's brother. All well and good, so far. Of course, as you'd expect from him fighting a replicator, he's quickly overwhelmed by copies, and is struggling not to straight up murder them all. But, before he can totally lose his cool, he's saved by... Repli-Kate! Yay, she's still alive! Isn't that wonderful?
Eh, not really. She's been gone for about two issues. Her "death" was extremely sudden and just kinda of slipped by, with only Immortal really seeming to care. Then, before anyone can really miss her, she came back and we're all meant to be surprised. It felt like there was no weight to her death, because it was so unremarked and undone so quickly. Add to this my feelings about her death last issue, and the whole arc just seems like cheap filler. Which, in a series with the quality of Invincible, can feel incredibly jarring.
Then, because if a mistake is worth making, it's worth making TWICE(!), we have Magmaniac and Tether Tyrant. Two down on their luck minions, trying and failing to go legit. Over the course of the issue we see them complain a lot, and then eventually snap and go back to a life of crime. Only to IMMEDIATELY get caught by Invincible and Oliver. Now, here's my problem. Conceptually, this was a fun arc. We get to see two recurring minions, trying to be legit and failing. It's arcs like this that show the "real world" side of life in the InvinciVerse.
There's only one problem... It felt hollow, because they tried to stay good for about 30 seconds. It feels, to me, like this would have been better if Kirkman had stretched it out a bit more. Instead of giving us the whole arc in one volume, thread the occasional scene in, now and again. Show us them trying, failing and trying again. Maybe one of them could get a job? Give us time to really FEEL for these struggling villains; show that one of the many ways that the InvinciVerse mirrors our world, is how difficult it can be for ex-cons to rejoin "normal" life. And only then, once we really feel for them, do they fall back on their life of crime. Make it really hurt, to see.
But hey, that's just how I'd have done it. I'm not the multiple award-winning comic author, so what do I know?
Overall, I did like this volume. I know I've been a little hard on these last few volumes, but it's only because the overall quality of this series makes it all the more glaring when you spot something you don't like. But, while it's sad to see, it's really interesting to see Mark slowly becoming more jaded, more distant from humanity. The more he succeeds as Invincible, the more he seems to suffer as Mark... so how long before he decides that Mark is no longer necessary, and he should just be Invincible, full time? I guess we'll have to wait and see...
So join me next week, for Invincible Volume 10: Who's the Boss? When Mark begins to question Cecil, and the orders he's giving, things quickly spiral out of control, and suddenly his closest allies become his most dangerous foes!
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!