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Invincible: Volumes Eleven & Twelve

This is it! There are some spoilers in this review, but frankly if you have read this far, then you are familiar with the Invincible series and can properly geek out with me over the reveals in these concluding volumes.

Volume Eleven:

Mark and Eve have settled somewhat uneasily into life on the planet Talescria, and when he and Oliver are helping keep Thragg and his soldier children at bay, Mark is sucked into a deep cave and meets a strange entity. In a deus ex machina plot device, he is thrown back into his past on Earth as a teen but with his current memories. With his hard-won knowledge, he is able to keep his father from killing the Guardians of the Globe and helps the various heroes (good to see Rex Splode again!) prevent mishaps that save millions of lives. However, he knows by remaining in this timeline, he will never have his baby girl Terra so he makes the hard decision to return to his original life, erasing all the good he was able to do in the past. Going between dimensions, the timelines don’t sync and he returns five years later finding Terra a child. Just wanting to reunite with his family he declines to help Allen fight Thragg, but Thragg and his children don’t care what Mark wants. More battles, more betrayals, and then a devastating death that I felt was unnecessary.

This volume has Ottley do the art in the first half, and Walker in a more cartoony format illustrates the second half. I’ve noticed that Kirkman and Ottley are always ego-boosting Walker in the sketchbooks that conclude each book, so I wonder what was going on behind the scenes between them all. But I am looking forward to seeing how the three of them conclude this entire series in the next volume! 

Volume Twelve:

The end of all things! We open with Oliver’s funeral…I am still salty about this. We’ve had some hard deaths in the past, especially Rex Splode, but this death hurt. We find out Allen had him spying on Thragg and pretending to betray Mark, because I didn’t believe for a minute Oliver would have gone to the dark side. But that left me hating on Allen, who used the philosophy of sacrificing the one for the many. Mark even understood this, but still. (Aside: The Viltrumite genes are supposed to be so strong than any child will look humanoid despite the alien species they are mating with. But it was a big stretch that insectoid Thraxan mothers would not pass down any of their characteristics to their children- like Oliver and then all of Thragg’s offspring. I could even accept that, but when Oliver has children with a lobster-looking alien, his twin children still look like him!)

Thragg and Mark have their final battle, but at a great cost to Thragg’s children. At one time he seems almost loving to his twin daughter Ursaal, but then he reveals his true colors as he admits he has bred his children to be fodder in battle. He views them as inferior and doesn’t care they are dying by the thousands for him. Mark’s last fight with him was very talky, as Mark is explaining how his cause is better, and thus he has more to fight for. While Omni-Man survives the battle, he takes a hit that proves to be too much for him. He is able to have some last poignant words with Mark, but I was very upset that Debbie was a few minutes too late to be with him. As a wife and mother myself, that upset me, because I have really bonded with her character. (Another aside: I have enjoyed getting to know many of the heros and villains that dip in and out of stories over the course of the twelve volumes. But where did Tech Jacket and Wolf-Man disappear to?)

With Thragg dead, now Mark can finally deal with Rex. Rex has had absolute power, but that power has absolutely corrupted him. He was given a pass for far too long, with Nolan even accepting him, but Mark knows the good can’t last. Finally the two of them have it out, and Mark is able to neutralize Rex but still harness his intellect. The story can now conclude, as Mark steps up to lead the Viltrumites and meets Annissa’s son, Markus. We see Markus and Terra age (Terra is such a brat!) with Debbie as a loving Grandma. A few threads are left open if the story is ever continued with Mark or with his children, but the series is brought to a close in a neat bow.

Invincible has been an amazing series! It took familiar superhero tropes and twisted them in unusual and bloody ways. Kirkman, Walker and Ottley told a story from beginning to end and were able to offer fresh commentary on issues going on in our own world but adapted into the Invincible universe. I am amazed that Kirkman was creating and writing about The Walking Dead at the same time, with a fifteen year overlap. In fact, as much as TWD has been heralded, I feel Kirkman’s Invincible was the better of the two. And in a graphic novel the art work is as important as the writing, if not more, and both Walker and Ottley contributed mightily to the series. Their illustrations defined the books. I’m loving the animated series, and look forward to many years of watching future episodes, and seeing how similar or dissimilar it will be to these graphic novels, so I’m happy that I have more Invincible in my future!

-Nancy

Start at the beginning and read the first volume at Image Comics!

Read my reviews of previous books:

Volume One, Volumes Two-Four, Volumes Five-Six, Volumes Seven-Eight, Volumes Nine-Ten

Invincible: Ultimate Volumes Nine & Ten

I’m nearing the end of the series, with only two volumes to go after these two, and the action, humor and pathos never stops!

Volume Nine:

In the first half, Mark regains his powers, so he checks in with Dinosaurus who he left unsupervised. Big mistake! This dinosaurus plotline fell flat for me- it was just so talky about right vs wrong just for Mark to learn a lesson about understanding Cecil’s decisions better. So it’s ok that a million people died, so long as Mark realizes life is not always black or white. Plus, it has bothered me to no end that we never learned what turned mild mannered David into an insane dino/human hybrid. At least there was some amazing artwork with some very cool one or two-page spreads, as the various heroes dealt with the chaos that Dinosaurus caused, with all the faces of characters reacting to Mark’s “death” being a favorite. Another significant plot was that Nolan was revealed to be the Viltrumite royal heir and all of a sudden Thragg is overthrown. Eve reveals she is pregnant and won’t be able to use her powers as it could hurt the baby. A little joke with Mark attending a comic-con about hitting the 100 issues is appreciated, as Invincible was hitting 100 issue at this time IRL.

Angstrom Levy pops up again and he and his multi-verses of different Invincibles worries Mark, and despite Eve seemingly talking sense into Levy after he threatens them, Mark is concerned about what Levy could do in the future. We also get worrisome windows into what Battle Beast, Rex and Doctor Seismic are up to. Rex, especially, is unraveling and reveals his true nature to Mark.

Although Ottley is credited for all the art in this volume it seemed off. Eve and Debbie’s faces seemed different, and I double-checked that Walker wasn’t part of the art team in this volume. Speaking of art teams I should mention that Rathburn (inks) and Rauch (colors) always hit it out of the park.

Volume Ten:

Often in the Marvel & DC comics, heroes make decisions that are always for the best, but in this series Mark is always making mistakes. He often learns and grows from them, but chaos and death often follow him. His determination to kill Levy drives a wedge between him and Eve, and he has to figure out how to get out of a dimension that Rex stranded him in. Months go by, and Eve is nearing the birth of her child when he returns. Mark tries to warn people that Rex has gone insanely evil, but his pleas come too late, and Rex attacks all the heroes resulting in many of their deaths. In the midst of all this, the Viltrumite Anissa assaults Mark, demanding he father a child with her. She rapes him in a very uncomfortable scene. He understandably is reeling from her attack, and it throws him off his game while he deals with all that is happening around him. That his and Eve’s baby daughter is born is a bright spot in this grim volume.

Battle Beast and Thragg get into a fight to the death when they encounter one another, as Thragg has settled down on a familiar planet and has worked VERY diligently at increasing the Viltrumite ranks. The planet he picked is actually brilliant and his children will be ready soldiers in no time. Speaking of other planets, Mark & Eve with their baby daughter Terra leave Earth as they can’t cope with Rex’s betrayals and how everyone is looking past his choices. They meet up with Oliver, who due to his mother’s bloodline, has aged rapidly and they are now are about the same age. We meet Oliver’s girlfriend, Haluma, who looks like a giant lobster but turns Oliver on (love the mandibles joke).

As we now move towards the conclusion, some threads are being tidied up. We see Mark’s first girlfriend with a new boyfriend, and some bow ties are added to Art the superhero’s tailor, Eve’s parents and William & Rick’s character arcs. This was a more poignant story than usual, although you can’t have an Invincible volume without battle scenes throughout. The last page was a gut punch for what it symbolized, and in the enjoyable sketchbooks at the end of each book, artist Ottley said it was rough to draw.

I’m now ready to head into the last two volumes and see how everything gets wrapped up!

-Nancy

Who will win this epic battle?

Invincible: Ultimate Volumes Seven & Eight

Invincible remains strong in these middle volumes! Sometimes a series can get wobbly in the middle, but instead, I feel the plot threads are tightening up as we move closer to the conclusion.

Volume Seven:

The first half dealt with the Viltrumite War and took place almost exclusively off-Earth. Nolan reveals himself to Debbie and Oliver, and while Oliver is thrilled to see his father, Debbie is justifiably distraught to see the man who betrayed her. Nolan takes his two sons to fight his kin and there is a funny Star Trek: TNG joke (although at their expensense- please don’t mock my beloved TNG!) and soon enough they encounter the Viltrumites. Epic war scenes that had six awesome two-page spreads to convey the chaos of space fighting. They finally reach a stale-mate as the two sides can’t seem to win- but the Viltrumite retreat does not mean Invincible and his allies won. A Sophie’s-choice is made in the end to Mark’s sorrow. But they are alive, ready to battle another day…

Now that the Viltrumite invasion is on the back-burner Nolan tries to reconcile with his estranged wife, whose heart he broke and Debbie seems open to it, so they both leave for outer space to see if they can salvage their relationship and also to visit Oliver who is recovering from the war. This leaves Mark & Eve to work through their issues after Mark’s long absence, and Mark learns of a hard decision that Eve had to make while he was gone. Mark had previously been furious at Cecil for making hard morally-grey decisions, but now he too makes certain choices with villains that may pay off in the long-term, even if it doesn’t look good in the short-term.

Robot (now called Rex) and Monster Girl return from the Flaxans dimension they transported to and come back grown up and are obviously reeling from some trauma that occured to them while there. Mark & Eve visit married couple Immortal and Kate who are now parents, and I have to say Kate is a b*tch! What does Immortal see in her? There is an odd side plot about Eve gaining weight and we find out that William and Rick are now dating.

Volume Eight:

Allen the Alien is now the leader of the Coalition of Planets and wants to take a hard line with the remaining Viltrumites on Earth, much to Nolan and Mark’s dismay. Oliver, who feels no love for Earth, sides with Allen but everything comes to a stalemate when Thragg learns of their mission. But Mark gets hurt in the melee and has his powers dissipate which then ties into Bulletproof having to wear Mark’s costume to keep up appearances on Earth. Mark utilizes Dinosaurus in some long-range plans but underestimates how they can truly work together. Nolan and Debbie have reconciled, and they reconcile over & over & over again if you get my drift. Poor Oliver gets an earful one night and there is a funny visual of him covering his ears the way Nolan had to in a previous book when staying at Allen’s.

However, the most epic storyline is Robot and Monster Girl’s as we finally find out what happened to the duo when they went through the portal during one of the semi-regular invasions by the Flaxans. On Earth, they were only missing a few months, but in the Flaxans dimension, they were there 700 years and led a coup against the corrupt government there. When they came back they told team members they were there 12 years, but so very much happened while there including love, betrayal and trauma. A nasty surprise is revealed during the next Flaxans invasion on Earth, surprising the pair who thought they left the planet in a peaceful state. But that surprise is nothing compared to the last page that divulges an ugly secret and what you thought about one character’s motives is completely upended.

Ottley’s and Walker’s art is better melded in this book, as Ottley draws the Earth scenes while Walker drew the Flaxans scenes. Amanda (Monster Girl) has a cool Queen Amidala vibe going, with elaborate hairdos and outfits while she is the Queen Consort with Rex. Awesomely drawn fight scenes and weird monsters, villains and aliens remain a strong suit in this series.

-Nancy

Invincible: Ultimate Volumes Five & Six

I’m half-way through the entire Invincible series! Mark has proved to be a flawed but very appealing superhero and the action never stops!

Volume Five:

This fifth volume has the theme of- who can you trust- as Mark grapples with Cecil Stedman, the leader of the Global Defense Agency. Mark has always followed Cecil’s commands, but Cecil’s use of the Reanimen and the looking past of Darkwing’s murderous past, show that he is morally corrupt. Another example is when Mark teams with the Wolf Man who has been wrongly accused of a crime, and Cecil won’t help out, because he feels he can not gain anything from him like he can from Darkwing. During this time Mark’s younger brother Oliver has acquired his powers and wants to start fighting villains, so Mark steps up to teach him how to utilize them, but Oliver himself makes questionable decisions, as he admits that he is not human and not subject to their morality. A bright spot is his deepening relationship with Eve and that the former Teen Team sides with him as they too realize that Cecil can’t be trusted. And in a parallel story, Allen the Alien and Omni-Man team up to break free of the spaceship they are imprisoned in and a secret is revealed about the Viltrumites. But what is Angstrom Levy planning…

Artist Ryan Ottley has really hit his stride with the illustrations. I liked the costume change (although the yellow was iconic) so he wouldn’t clash with Oliver’s new costume, which paid homage to Robin’s (DC) costume. Loved the 16-panel grid showing Invincible’s look in other multi-universes! 

Volume Six:

I am now halfway through this series, and it has hit its stride- Mark is no longer a new superhero, instead, he is an established warrior grappling with moral decisions of whether it is right to kill a villain or not. Levy sends dozens of Invincibles from other dimensions to attack Mark and the entire globe so every single Image hero is called into action to combat them. Two important heroes make the ultimate sacrifice to fight them, and cities across the world are left in ruins with millions of innocent bystanders killed during these battles. If that’s not bad enough, the Viltrumite Empire sends one of their deadliest soldiers, Conquest, after Mark. Their fight was excessively long and bloody. In another part of the universe Allen and Omni-Man team together after their escape and make plans to prepare weapons and allies for the impending war with the Viltrumites who want to take over Earth and breed with them to strengthen their dwindling numbers. In the aftermath of the two earlier battles the little pink aliens from Mars are planning their own conquest- poor Earth is just always under siege!

The illustrations style shifted a bit in the last half of the book, as original artist Walker drew parts of the story, but I have to admit I much prefer Ottley’s work now. Walker’s Omni Man and Eve’s faces were especially different and not to my liking. This series pulls together so many different plot threads and themes- it can be a bit much. It can veer between gore, campy fun and poignant emotional moments in just a few pages or even panels, giving me whiplash sometimes. Nevertheless, this first half of the series has been a romp and I look forward to the last half.

-Nancy

Sixteen different versions of Invincible!

Invincible: Ultimate Volumes Two-Four

When I read the first volume of Invincible back in 2016, I loved it! Yet, it took the awesome new animated series on Amazon Prime Video for me to dive back into the series. Cory Walker, who was the co-creator with Robert Kirkman and did the illustrations for the first ultimate volume, was replaced with artist Ryan Ottley for all the remaining volumes and this change was pretty seamless. So expect me to go through the rest of the 12 ultimate volumes in the next few months! Some spoilers ahead.

Volume Two:

Mark aka Invincible and his mom are dealing with the fallout from the reveal that Mark’s father, Omni-Man, was actually a bad guy who was planning to take over Earth for his alien planet. His disappearance has left a void and Mark is struggling with his grief as he also tries to keep up with his senior year of high school, a girlfriend and of course fighting villains. There is a lot of character development as he struggles with balancing everything and keeping his identity secret. There are many many plot threads- the underwater duel ceremony (so ridiculous but so flippin’ funny), the Mars mission, an evil scientist on his new college campus, the multi-verse of Angstrom, the anti-hero Titan, and a love triangle with Eve and Amber. Sometimes the stories could become confusing, they’d drop a storyline, pick it up again unexpectedly, and then drop it again. This volume concludes with a story about Allen the Alien and gives some interesting backstories to Monster Girl, Rex Splode, The Immortal, Dupli-Kate and Atom Eve. I’m still digging the art and loving the font they use for explosions, with all the interlocking O’s.

Volume Three:

Mark is settling into his new role as a superhero and adjusting to the loss of his father, but wait- an alien comes looking for help and brings Invincible to his insectoid planet, and guess who is there! Mark is a hella lot more forgiving than I would be, as he suddenly has to adjust to being introduced to his baby half-brother and helping fight off Vitrumites who come to collect Omni-Man. But that’s not all! Once he’s back on Earth with his brother in tow, he has to deal with the multi-verse of the villain Angstrom (I love all the dimensions that Mark was thrown into- with some digs at Marvel & DC heroes and an obvious Walking Dead dimension), the mad scientist at college and a scheme between Robot and the Mauler Twins. To top it off, he’s trying to keep his romance with Amber going, but all his adventures pull him away from her. It’s hard to be a superhero…

Volume Four:

There are so many plot threads that run in and out of these volumes, but the evil scientist who has created the Reanimen and the Mars mission get some significant storylines. But the fact that Mark is half- Viltrumite is always an issue, so the Viltrum Empire is an underlying concern especially when they send Anissa, a woman soldier to scare Mark and give him a warning. Allen the Alien also gets mixed up with the Viltrumites, letting himself be captured so he can meet Omni-Man who is in jail awaiting execution. Those are significant storylines, but that’s never enough, as Mark has some additional curve balls thrown at him. His mother has agreed to raise his half-brother Oliver who is growing quickly and his romance with Amber is floundering. Mark is never there with her since he’s always on some mission that Cecil, who leads the shadowy government agency, is always sending Invincible off to. Their relationship ends realistically, with Eve waiting on the sidelines.

Now I am far enough in the series to make some observations- Kirkman makes several uncomfortable jokes about being gay and is pretty damn sexist at times. The storylines can be hard to follow, as there is no transition between scenes and location, just bam, you’re somewhere new (The Walking Dead did this a lot too). There are Easter eggs and connections to other Image publications such as Brit or Savage Dragon showing up unexpectedly is some group scenes. At times there is a lack of consistency between panels- Allen was a completely different color at one time and sometimes his head is drawn at different ratios, and at one point Mark was inexplicitly the same color as Oliver. While I am still very much a fan of this series, I can’t completely fan-girl over it, due to some problematic issues.

-Nancy

Invincible: Volume One

How did I not know of this comic’s existence???!! I found it by complete accident, for no one told me about it, and I haven’t seen it reviewed by other bloggers recently. It is written by Robert Kirkman, and is still being published concurrently with his The Walking Dead series. Just my luck that as soon as I discover this awesome first volume, there was recently an announcement that the series will be wrapped up in the next year.

We first meet Mark Grayson, a young superhero, who is annoyed at having to save the world from doom. The storyline continues with a flashback to four months prior, when he discovers that his powers have finally kicked in. He knew he was destined to have powers, as he is the son of Nolan, aka Omni-Man, the most powerful and beloved superhero on Earth. He and his mom Debbie have always known of Nolan’s alien origins, but the public is unaware of his alter ego. The story continues with Mark adjusting to his new found powers, and how he balances becoming the new hero Invincible with school, fighting villains, pairing up with other young heroes in a team,  and girl issues. Later his world is turned upside down, with a twist that will surprise you, and his life changes forever with this new knowledge. This new development is a game changer and sets up endless stories for the future.

The artwork is fun, fresh and bold. There are lots of little details that made me laugh, especially the homage to the Justice League and to Star Trek TNG, and Mark’s love for Science Dog.  I even thought the font they used for the big sound effects with the interlocking double oo’s added to the whole feel. The mustache on Omni-Man was appealing (TMI- I am a sucker for mustaches. I look forward to November when my husband grows a mustache for the charity Movember) and it was amusing to see mustaches on all the men when he reminisced about his home planet.

I read the Ultimate Edition, and it had a lot of extras in the back. One feature that I found fascinating, was the behind the scenes scripts between Kirkman and Walker. Kirkman had the dialogue and layout planned with details such as how many panels should be on a page, sound effects, setting details such as the Grayson’s home layout, and facial expressions he wanted used. Also included were mock ups of the pages, possible publicity, character studies, and side notes by the creators.

This was an outstanding start to a series that has now been running for years. I’m glad I caught onto this sleeper hit before it comes to a close. Bravo to the team that created a whole world as rich as the DC and Marvel superhero universes. I will be back for more!

-Nancy

Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, Ryan Ottley & Bill Crabtree. Invincible. 2005.

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