As I read through Invincible, I find it amazing not only how many tones the book pulls off, but also the number of superhero tropes the plot is able to accommodate organically. In this set of issues, the love triangle between Mark, Amber and Sam (Atom Eve) comes into heartbreaking focus. We also witness Mark’s first “kill.” Plus, on the Guardians of the Globe front, a long simmering plot comes to a boil.
When you have a well-trodden plot device like the love triangle there’s very little you can do to make it feel fresh. Robert Kirkman goes the route of making Samantha the one with the unresolved feelings for Mark. While, yes, making the girl the one who gets “friendzoned” is, at this point, as fresh as five- day-old unwashed underwear, it’s the earnestness of Samantha’s feelings, which she’s had since the early issues, that make make the audience’s heart ache for this girl who can rearrange matter on a molecular level, but can’t get a cute boy to notice her. Sam doesn’t tell Mark of her feelings directly. Rather, he learns of his friend’s feelings for him from a far future version of her. God, I love comics sometimes. On Mark’s end of things, this storyline shows that even though Invincible may be an extremely competent superhero, Mark Grayson is still a dumb teenager oblivious to when a girl has feelings for him. It makes him look like an absolute doofus and is, overall, highly enjoyable, even if he does make the decision to continue dating his uninteresting girlfriend Amber.
One thing this book is very adept at is foreshadowing. Anytime Mark has revealed his extracurricular activities to a civilian, somebody, usually Mark’s mom, brings up the fact that a super villain could use one of Mark’s friends to get to Invincible. This is exactly what happens in issue 33 when Angstrom Levy, whose super-science experiment Mark interrupted a handful of issues ago, uses his knowledge of different dimensions to take Debbie and Oliver, Mark’s little brother, hostage. This pisses our hero off something fierce. When he gets to the house where his mother and brother are being held, after a classic super villain monologue of intent, Angstrom uses his powers to send Invincible quantum leaping through different dimensions. The villain does all this while threatening the well-being of Mark’s family. At one point, Debbie gets too confident and tries to clock the intruder with a blunt object; she ends up with a broken arm for her trouble. When Invincible sees his mother harmed, he flies into a murderous rage. Levy gets a classic case of bad guy bravado and tries to go toe-to-toe with the superhero. Mark punches Angstrom until he’s not there anymore. Mark finds himself stranded in a deserted dimension covered Angstrom’s blood, his costume torn to shreds. The weight of Mark’s actions hit him like a sledgehammer to the skull. He just killed somebody, which makes him more like his father than he is comfortable with.
The other major bit going on in this group of comics pays off a long-running thread. Guardians of the Globe member and winner of the most original superhero name of all time, Robot, has been sneaking off to some unknown room in Guardians Headquarters that has a person that can only be described as Kuato from Total Recall in a fluid bath. It’s played as something very mysterious, but as it turns out, that deformed human is Robot, and the robot we have known up to this point was just a way for him to interact with the world. He gets a nice, young clone body for himself and transfers his consciousness into his new body. Sometimes comics can be bonkers as all hell.
It’s rare that a comic stays as great as this one has for three years. That is something to be applauded.