The thing that this chunk of issues (0,20-24) of Invincible is really about is Mark Grayson, college student, marching slowly toward responsibility and adulthood. It’s worth noting that this section of the story only covers about a month of in-universe time. There’s a “The the Story So Far” recap issue where Mark reveals his secret identity to his girlfriend Amber. About the only thing that goes on in this issue is that we see Mark’s careful, strong façade crumble slightly when he talks about his father’s actions. There’s also an Allen the Alien stand alone issue in there, so we’re only getting four issues of main plot development this outing.
On a practical level, the book makes a few interesting stylistic choices. The most important being the way the author chooses to lay out one-on-one conversations by using about a dozen panels on a page. This does a couple of things: First, it puts the focus on the face within the smaller than average panel, so the emphasis is on a character’s emotions. Second, the panel size really helps these pages read quicker and more conversationally. It’s a cool technique. A less important stylistic choice is the one Kirkman makes in issue 23, the Allen the Alien issue. Here he takes on a more classic Stan Lee style omniscient narrator approach, which really pairs nicely with the story’s alien protagonist. The reason I want to single out these choices is because I think they are emblematic of what sets Kirkman apart from other independent creators. Most independent comic writers write using a very specific style which gives any book they do a similar tone and sometimes that doesn’t fit with the story they’re trying to tell. It’s the comic version of the phenomena where all Aaron Sorkin characters sound like Sorkin himself. Kirkman, however, really knows what he’s doing and avoids that common pitfall.
Obviously, Mark Grayson’s transition from high school to college is going to invite a lot of comparisons with Peter Parker’s similar change in the 60s. Things like this can’t be avoided. However, in Spider-Man’s life this change coincides with the legendary John Romita taking over penciling duties— large changes like this detract from the story initially. Also, these changes to any comic present a natural jumping off or on point, breaking up the story. The Invincible creative team is nothing if not scarily consistent. This makes the introductions of two possible arch-nemesises feel all the more important and weighty.
The one thing that Invincible has lacked up to this point is a consistent threat to our protagonist. That all changes with the introduction of two new threats into Invincible’s life. The first is a teenage goth mad scientist, D.A Sinclair, who’s making reanimate zombie robots that have now attacked the campus of Upstate University—Mark’s school— twice. The other villain who is truly introduced in these issues is Angstrom Levy, who made his first appearance at the end of the last set of issues. We now see that Angstrom’s plan is to absorb the knowledge of all the other Angstroms from other dimensions by constructing a machine that would suck the knowledge out of their heads and into his own. He does this with the help of the Mauler Brothers, a pair of supersmart alien brutes that have been in the book since the beginning, but haven’t really warranted mention up until this point. Just as Angstrom is having all this knowledge downloaded into his head, Invincible shows up to muck things up. Mark brawls with several sets of Mauler Brothers—thanks to Levy’s dimension hopping abilities, there are several different sets of the twins for our hero to contend with. Of course, the battle compromises the massive knowledge-downloading machine, so it’s understandable when Angstrom removes the helmet that is funneling knowledge into his head. Unfortunately, removing the helmet causes a great energy backlash destroying the machine and the building housing the machine. It also leaves Angstrom Levy grossly deformed with a large part of his body turned into brain matter. Mark Grayson, do you want arch-nemesises? That’s how you get one.
Overall, this set of issues is relatively light on plot, but it’s heavy on style which makes it just as readable.