Anytime a comic book that is, for the most part, terrestrial goes to space for an extended arc it’s a real crapshoot. This is due to the fact that not only are you taking your characters into unfamiliar surroundings, the writer brings the audience along with them. Now, this is not the first time that Mark Grayson has been to the black; he had a nice chat with Allen the Alien on the moon all the way back in issue five, and he’s been to Mars on a bodyguard mission for American astronauts. Beginning with the end of issue 25, however, he agrees to help an unknown alien race after an emissary comes in the form of Mark’s favorite comic book character, Science Dog. (It’s like the end of Contact, but instead of Jodie Foster’s dead dad, it’s a 6 foot tall anthropomorphic dog with a jet pack.) After attacking this horrifying abomination, because who wouldn’t, Mark agrees to help the insectoid race called The Thraxan—after all he is a hero. After a six-day journey to the alien planet, a bored-out-of- his-skull Mark can’t wait to get to work. The young man’s enthusiasm is greatly tempered upon finding out that the leader of The Thraxan is none other than his disgraced father. After an extremely emotional reunion between the two superheroes, we learn that Nolan brought Mark to the planet to defend it from Viltrumite soldiers looking for the elder Grayson. He needs his son’s help to keep his new Thraxan wife safe along with the child they share together. Mark is understandably upset by the shocking development that his father moved on so quickly from he and his mother. After an info dump about Thraxan lifespans (they’re only nine months long), a trio of Viltrumite soldiers attack.
The next sequence of pages is quite thrilling as Invincible is at a disadvantage for the first time in a long while up against the far-stronger Viltrumite interlopers. He finds that he hasn’t been pushing himself in regards to his powers like he should be. Once Omni-Man shows up and injects himself into the fray, it turns into what Jim Ross would call an absolute slobberknocker. Seriously, the blood spilled in these issues is something to rival the goriness of the filmographies of Quentin Tarantino and Sam Peckinpah. Skulls are getting pulverized left and right. Here’s where Bill Crabtree’s use of bright colors really comes in handy, the swaths of bright red blood really pop on the page. Also, the way that Kirkman is able to convey the power of the people of Viltrum without ever really saying a word about it makes the kryptonian-like aliens all the more imposing.
While her son is off gallivanting in space, Debbie Grayson has put her shattered life back together, at least partially. She’s gone to real estate certification classes while our hero has been away at college. Unfortunately, the last time Mark sees her before he goes off-world, she has found comfort in liquid courage, causing her son to be concerned.
None of the other major supporting characters really get much screen time in this arc. Although, as consolation, the version I’m reading has collected the various backup origin stories that appeared after the main story of several issues when the singles were coming out. These mostly serve to flesh out the backstory of the newer Guardians of the Globe members.
This arc closes with Mark helping the Thraxan people rebuild their destroyed society. He’s also asked by his father’s alien wife if he can take her child with him to be raised on earth, otherwise, due to its Viltrumite heritage, it would outlive generation after generation of Thraxan. Mark obliges.
When Invincible gets back to earth, he gets chewed out by his government liaison for going rogue. The way Mark stands up for himself in this conversation by defending what he did as completely necessary and the right thing to do, shows that Mark is growing both as person and as a superhero. You don’t see this type of character development in mainstream superhero books published by Marvel or DC. Invincible is a true gem.