Invincible does a lot in the second volume. It introduces the series’ major antagonist and introduces us to new artist Ryan Ottley, who is still with the series to this day. It also really codifies its form which helps the reader know what is truly important in the book.
With issues 7-12 Robert Kirkman puts the focus on Mark Grayson and not Invincible. This is a book about a kid growing up and trying to find his place in the world. That kid just happens to have powers. I understand that this argument could be made for any superhero book, however, the fact that this book has maintained the singular authorial voice for so long makes it a bit different.
Issue seven is the series’ most important issue up to that point and our titular hero isn’t even in it other than as an exhausted sleeping face on the first two pages. Throughout this issue we meet the Guardians of the Globe, this world’s foremost superhero team. They’re a thinly-veiled ersatz version of DC Comics’ Justice League. The six members we meet in this issue get three introductory pages with the exception of the Invincible universe versions of Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern; those two sub A-listers have to share page space. Each member’s intro is drawn by a different artist giving each of these new characters a distinct feel. This also functions as a good way for Kirkman to give different artists some exposure. The one thing that unites the episodic sets of pages is a distress call to get to the Guardians of the Globe headquarters where all the members are blitz attacked by an unseen force and killed. On the final page of the issue the murderer is revealed as Omni-man, an ersatz Superman and Invincible’s dad.
The majority of the rest of this set of issues is spent deepening Mark Grayson’s relationships and his understanding of the superhero side of his life. After his Teen Team teammate Atom Eve discovers her boyfriend Rex Splode is cheating on her with fellow teammate Dupli Kate (She can make multiples of herself, hence the name.) she lies sobbing with her head in Mark’s lap and in walks Mark’s mom thinking the girl has her head in her son’s lap for an entirely different reason. It’s a great visual gag…(PUN!!! ) I’ll admit that I brought this scene up entirely for the pun, but it does also speak to one of the main tenants of any superhero book, which is building relationships between characters. That is the most important part of any comic because if a reader can’t get behind the relationships between the characters they’re not going to continue to read the book.
The running plot thread through this set of issues post issue seven is Omni-Man’s struggle to tell his son what he did to his former teammates. This keeps Nolan from being a completely unreasonable character until the reasons for his actions are revealed.
It turns out that the elder Grayson’s alien race, The Viltrumites, aren’t a race of benevolent scientists as first presented, but rather a race of bloodthirsty conquerors seeking to subjugate every planet in the universe. Noncompliance with them earns any given planet total and utter destruction. It turns out that Omni-Man was sent here on an infiltration mission to weaken earth’s defenses. Nolan just happened to get sidetracked by the whole having a kid and living as a human thing. Who can blame him? I mean, really. When he gives his son the “we can rule the galaxy side-by-side” speech, Mark, shall we say, vehemently disagrees to this proposal and fights his father. Mark gets his ass handed to him. As his father wails on him they argue over the merits of humanity. The thrust of the paternal Grayson’s argument is that their kind live so much longer than humans, so it is irresponsible to get attached to humans. It’s the Highlander argument. After all, who wants to live forever? Issue 12 closes with a bloodied and battered Invincible making the argument that, even if he lost everyone else he cared about, he’d still have his dad. His father flees the earth in tears.
The second volume of Invincible begins to shape the larger world and plot in which the story takes place. Our hero is confronted with his first true personal tragedy. Kirkman’s storytelling acumen should be commended here, the build to the Omni-Man reveal made him telling his son his true origin all the more of a gut punch. A lesser writer would’ve made this story the first arc, but Kirkman is nothing if not confident in his own abilities as a writer. Closing out the first year of this new book so strongly means that the longer with these characters, the story can only get better and better.