In the town of Stillwater, nobody dies. That’s not just a promise…it’s a threat.
Ne’er-do-well, Daniel, who has recently been fired and beat up by a bouncer when he was a jerk at a bar, receives a letter telling him that a great aunt has died. Hoping for an inheritance, he heads to the small town of Stillwater with his best friend Tony to investigate. The town is off the beaten track and a police officer stops them on the outskirts, warning the two men to behave. While there they witness a boy being pushed off a building and with no townspeople reacting to his fall. They are flabbergasted when the boy recovers quickly and runs away, revealing the secret of the town to the two men. Tony is killed by the formally affable police officer, but it is revealed that Daniel was a former resident of the town who was smuggled out as a toddler, so his life is spared.
Daniel, who was known as Tommy as a child, meets his mother Laura who had made the sacrifice of secretly sending him away so he could grow up and not be eternally caught in the body of a small child. No explanation is given as to why suddenly the town inhabitants stopped aging and miraculously heal from accidents. They are naturally afraid of outsiders finding out and the government swooping in to do experiments on them, so they remove themselves from society, and iron-clad rules are established to keep them safe. But this isn’t natural, and people are struggling as the decades go by. There are now some splinter groups who want to rebel and leave town, and of course, Daniel is chaffing at being a prisoner in a toxic community he doesn’t remember. Warped by power, leaders will do anything it takes to stay in control, and some plot threads are left open to build on.
The art establishes a realistic small-town atmosphere. All the characters are unique in looks and personalities, with a good artistic representation of the different walks of life within the town’s inhabitants. I enjoyed the panel configurations, there was a nice variety of small and large panels that pushed the action forward. The coloring is subdued and fits the narrative of immortality dragging on, with no new experiences or people livening their lives up.
The book reminded me of the sci-fi book Pines by Blake Crouch, in that people are trapped in a seemingly idealistic town, but a secret is rotting the town from within and the graphic novel series Revival by Tim Seely and Mike Norton in which a strange phenomenon changes a town forever. I enjoyed this first volume in this new series, and want to tune in to see how Daniel, Laura, and all the other townspeople cope with the so-called gift of eternal life.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!