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Sunday, October 8, 2023

Invincible Vol. 7: Three's Company

 Title: Invincible Vol. 7: Three's Company

ISBN: 9781582406565

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Image Comics, 2008

Artist:  Ryan Ottley

Writer: Robert Kirkman

Collects: Invincible #31-35

Rating: 4/5

Volume seven of Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley’s ongoing superhero story opens with the new domestic arrangements introduced during A Different World at Mark Grayson’s house bedding in. Mark is also  Invincible, being of mixed human and Viltrumite parentage and as his moniker suggests, is an impervious superhero, righting wrongs, biffing bad guys and aliens and is a sometime associate of the Guardians of the Globe.

After a trip to an alien planet Mark returns and presents his human mother with an addition to her household, courtesy of her estranged husband, the Viltrumite, Omni-Man. He left the Earth after a fairly definitive father/son disagreement although they have subsequently made up. So given this slightly fraught home situation, Mark does what any normal young male would and leaves his mother carrying the baby whilst he heads off to Africa with his girlfriend to stay with his ex. All perfectly normal behavior.

Elsewhere, following the curtailed trip to Africa, Invincible’s girlfriend Amber meets a guy in the library that may provide him with a neat solution to the girl-next-door vs beautiful-superheroine dilemma; within the Guardians of the Globe, Robot’s master uses Rex Splode’s DNA to have a new body cloned by the permanently bickering Mauler Twins; and their previous employer, Angstrom Levy pitches up again and exercises his beef against Invincible. In an effort to exact his revenge he tumbles Mark through various alternate realities until Mark finally resolves the situation, possibly permanently and thereby marooning himself in another dimension. His rescue, courtesy of an alternate Guardians of the Globe throws in another complication when the alternate Atom Eve helpfully informs him that she has always loved him. Now there’s a plight that training from an all-powerful alien father can’t help you with. This leads to an interesting section discussing relationships with Invincible’s tailor who also supplies a potential method to defeat the forthcoming invasion of Earth by Viltrumites. You don’t get that in Top Man. In another scenario that proves how far-fetched the whole thing is, the government provide a tutor for the new member of the Grayson household, demonstrating their concern and care.

There are numerous storylines in Invincible and Kirkman’s skill lies in deftly interweaving them in and out of each other setting up potential future shenanigans. If he hadn’t made such a success of comics, you could quite see Kirkman writing for Eastenders, but the thought does allow for Atom Eve shouting out to a battling Invincible “Leave it Mark, that multi-limbed, death-ray wielding, alien octopus just ain’t worf it!”. Sadly, it’s not terribly likely. Yet even the most unlikely situations here, calling for the wholesale suspension of disbelief, have some form of hook and end on some form of cliffhanger that compels you to tune in again to see whose the baby is. Actually, in this volume, that’s not so far-fetched.

Ottley continues to depict the ongoing saga with bright, clean and sharp art that faithfully reflects the plot and it’s hard to imagine how another approach could work in this straightforward and linear story. The inclusion of issue 4 of The Pact at the back of the book, featuring Invincible and written by Kirkman but with his Super Dinosaur collaborator Jason Howard providing the art tends to prove the point. It might seem out of place, but given the way the Invincible story arcs break down, this would have been a very slim volume without it. Invincible is still recommended but you do need to start at the beginning to make sense of it.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Invincible Vol. 6: A Different World

 Title: Invincible Vol. 6: A Different World

ISBN: 9781582405797

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Image Comics, 2017

Artist:  Ryan Ottley

Writer: Robert Kirkman

Collects: Invincible #25-30

Rating: 4/5

In Volume 6 Mark Grayson aka Invincible, born of an human mother and a superpowered Viltrumite alien father, continues his development as a superhero and growth into adulthood. He has had a fair bit to contend with: his dad came clean about being an advance scout for a civilization bent on taking over the world; not loving his mother; nearly kills Mark in an epic father/son squabble and finally abandons Earth never to return. It could put a kink in anyone’s day really.

Mark endeavors to carry on a normal life by attending college (albeit sporadically) and being paid by a ultra top-secret department of the US government to use his powers for good along with a group of heroes called the Guardians of the Globe. His normal routine is thrown off-kilter when he is approached by an alien insect masquerading as a cartoon hero dog (to make the approach less strange and threatening, obviously) and then taken off-planet to save another world.

Here he once again encounters his Dad who has taken over the world of insects based on the fact that he is for all intents and purposes immortal. Especially when compared to the lifespan of the alien insects only being nine months. He also learns that his previous way of fitting in and acclimatizing to an alien culture has been repeated and this leads to further complications which will run and run.

Back on Earth, Robot of the Guardians is taking DNA samples from Rex Splode and passing them on to a creature that has briefly appeared previously and will soon take a more active role in the superhero group. The group en masse fight off another intergalactic foe that has materialized and manage to defeat them, only for the aftermath to show no signs of the tumultuous battle to save the Earth. Spooky.

Elsewhere, our second favorite twins, the Maulers, are doing what they do. Namely, bickering, killing each other and cloning themselves. And then finding themselves offered gainful employment by Robot.

Robert Kirkman’s story shows no sign of flagging, as new twists and turns are added to the plot on a regular basis. And this gives a clue to his approach: it’s really just a soap opera with spandex and aliens. This isn’t a criticism, Kirkman utilizes the device of many well fleshed-out characters, a plot that moves at breakneck pace and keeps on supplying developments that come out of the blue yet are consistent with the personalities he has created. Artist Ryan Ottley has fun with a fight on the Mantis planet that reflects its extremely gory and violent course, which is given a pink wash to reflect the copious amounts of blood shared around. Otherwise the art continues to possess a sharp, no frills approach that keeps the story motoring along.

Oh and there’s a great gag about the conflict of being a collector right at the start that neatly encapsulates every completist’s Catch-22, whether in comics or any other form.

There’s still no allegory or allusion, just a well-told story that continues to grip. Recommended.

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