There comes a point in the life of every superhero where he must choose to fully embrace his destiny or shy away from it. Yes, in theory, this is one of the first choices a person makes when they choose to use their powers for good. However, in Mark Grayson’s case, even though he’s leading a double life as Invincible, superheroic exploits are tanking his civilian life. His grades are shot, all his personal relationships are under major strain, and because he’s off saving the world he misses an opportunity to save a friend. Arcs where everything goes to crap aren’t that new or interesting. Hell, just look at Daredevil in the mid-2000s, that stuff makes Grapes of Wrath look optimistic by comparison. What sets Invincible apart, in this regard, is the writer’s understanding of character growth and how to properly portray someone maturing into adulthood.
Mark’s emotional maturity is on display when he finally realizes that being a decent boyfriend and a good superhero at the same time is damn near impossible, and unfair to his girlfriend. So, the high school sweethearts decide to end things on mutual terms. There’s a nice undercurrent of tension to the scenes leading up to this moment, and there’s a real sense of catharsis from both halves of the former couple. There’s this balancing act of small professional victories going on here, because even as Mark’s sense of order and stability slowly crumbles, Ryan Ottley is able to gift the audience with a beautiful, hopeful single-splash page of Mark and Sam kissing for the first time.
The superhero portion of these issues is primarily about Invincible and the Guardians of the Globe taking on Martian enslavement parasite aliens, not dissimilar to the DC universe’s Starro. As the group tries to take on a Martian armada, their ship is blown clean out of the sky. Luckily, Atom Eve is is able to form a giant bubble around the group protecting them from debris and the vacuum of space. As the group makes their way into the belly of the Martian warship they learn how difficult it is to take on an enemy that has a hivemind. They are almost crushed under the weight of thousands upon thousands of tiny starfish-like aliens. While this is going down, the members of the Guardians of the Globe who were left behind on Earth must face a group of snake gimmick terrorists in a nuclear facility. They’re basically the Invincible universe’s answer to G.I. Joe’s Cobra or Marvel’s Serpent Society. There is even DC’s’ Kobra, but it starts with a K, so it’s entirely different from the G.I. Joe version. What I’m saying is, there are lots of snake-themed supervillains. Anyway, the B team gets the piss beat out of them with only Rex Spode barely surviving the encounter after suffering a gunshot wound to the head. But this does, in terms of story, continue a tradition of heavy losses and fights were Mark Grayson isn’t involved. I hope this comes up in a future issue.
Elsewhere, the team that is battling the enslaved Martians barely escapes after our titular hero delivers a sonic bomb to the head of the hivemind, breaking the aliens’ control over their host, a human astronaut who was left behind during Invincible’s trip to Mars in a much earlier story. This plot development does lead to a nice stinger where the seemingly safe astronaut coughs up two alien mind control parasites, hopefully setting up future conflict somewhere down the line. All is not well however, as our band of heroes still has to escape the alien warship. When the aliens continue to fire on the party’s escape vessel, Invincible, seemingly fed up with being in mortal danger, nonchalantly flies through the antagonistic warship triumphantly splitting the boat in twain. So, again, even if his personal life is crumbling, Mark Grayson makes a hell of a hero.
One last thing of note from this set of issues is that Oliver, Mark’s rapidly aging half-brother, has developed powers similar to Mark’s and his father’s. Has invincible found a new partner to bust criminals’ heads with? Not if the boys’ mother has any say on the matter…