In this volume of Invincible, our intrepid hero runs into a foe he’s never faced before, moral complexity. The young superhero really doesn’t know what to do with himself after. The world begins test Mark Grayson’s patience after he gets blindsided by an attack from bumbling villain Doc Seismic and his bevy of monstrous minions. Almost every superhero in the Invincible universe gets taken down by the old school villain. He then puts them into bags as if the heroes were fish won at a local fair. It may sound like a plot to that Treehouse of Horror segment that Lucy Lawless is in, but the writing here is so good that that doesn’t matter. Just as all hope seems lost for our heroes, Darkwing, a Batman-like vigilante that murders the fuck out of people, murders the fuck out of Doc Seismic. He has a cadre of DA Sinclair’s zombie robot Reanimen with him. Mark is, quite understandably, flabbergasted by what he has just seen because he turned over the crazed Darkwing and Sinclair’s sick experiments to Cecil Steadman, the government agent that gives Mark all his orders. What I really like about this twist that, for Invincible, comes out of nowhere, any seasoned comic book reader sees coming from a mile away. Mark is appropriately infuriated by the actions of his close confidant. Mark Grayson believes that the world and its heroes are inherently good people who shouldn’t kill. He also believes that the government possesses that same inherent good. One of his foundational beliefs has been shaken. So, he has to do something familiar that he understands, which just so happens to be to punch stuff. He takes out a lot of aggression on a couple of waves of government- sanctioned zombie robots. Before he can wrap his hands around the throat of his former boss and warn him against coming after Mark or his family, the communicator embedded in Mark’s ear begins giving off sonic pulses that mess with the boy’s equilibrium. After a tense scene at Guardians of the Globe headquarters, Mark and several members of the team make the choice to leave the government’s service This is the first time that Mark”s morality will be challenged, but it won’t be the last.
Before we get to more moral gray areas, let’s dive into something lighter. Mark and Eve are finally together and this brings a whole different type of dynamic to the book. With Invincible away from the government, he is forced to go back to basics and either look for crime or respond to one on the news. There’s something very classic about that approach, so even as we deal with heavier themes, there is a bit of levity. The issue that ends this chunk of story is the young couple’s first date, which, of course, is interrupted by two time travelers that need Mark’s help to take down a tyrannical, crazed Immortal. Mark loses control of his temper, something he’s been doing a lot lately, and obliges the time-displaced date crashers by ripping Immortal’s head off at the request of the undying being. That taken care of, the date resumes and the two former teammates decide to go globetrotting, because they can. This is represented in an absolutely gorgeous splash page from Ryan Ottley.
The only other major development here involves the youngest Grayson, Oliver, joining the brotherhood of tights and becoming a superhero. He chooses to take the name Kid Omni-Man as a way to honor the boys’ father. His wiser older brother tries to dissuade him, explaining that the name is tainted by their father’s betrayal of the public trust. Oliver won’t relent, so the name stays. When the Mauler Twins attack the same army base that the Lizard League tried to take a while back, Mark and Oliver are there to stop them. In the course of the fight, Oliver makes the call to end both of the blue- skinned twins in bloody and brutal fashion. Invincible freaks out and when Oliver uses the tired argument of pointing out the revolving-door prison system that exists in comics, Mark won’t have it. I admire Invincible’s convictions, partially because I share the same beliefs, but also because he is a man with a code, and you know how important it is for men to have codes, especially the moral kind. Plus,he doesn’t follow his alien race’s eugenics-like line of thinking.
With the book’s new status quo comes infinite possibilities. There’s nothing like the freedom of many possibilities to make everything seem like it’s going to be okay. But this is a comic, so dark clouds are ever on the horizon.