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Invincible vol. 18: The Death of Everyone

August 15, 2013

Robert Kirkman wasn’t kidding.  In issue #100 of the series (chapter four in this collection), everyone dies.  The two issues collected after that in this volume are nothing more than blank pages.  I can’t imagine how he’s been able to sell any issues of the series after this.  Are people just buying it on autopilot now?

Okay, that was terrible.  “The Death of Everyone” doesn’t live up to its title in that regard.  To be honest, those of you expecting a shocking death or dramatic change in the status quo with the anniversary issue may actually come away disappointed.  (It does have one of the all-time great editor’s notes, but I imagine that’ll be small comfort to some.)  That’s not to say that there’s still plenty to appreciate here.

Mark Grayson burned a lot of bridges in order to collaborate with Dinosaurus on saving the world from itself.  He believed that he could keep the villain’s “ends justify the means” methods in check while they worked together.  That was all fine, until now.  After Invincible was out of action for the last couple of volumes, Dinosaurus reverted back to type and has come up with a deviously simple way to kill off a substantial portion of the human race to stop them from ruining the planet.  How does he do it?  It involves Greenland.  Now the two are at each other’s throats as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Personally, it’s kind of disappointing to see that their collaboration turned out like this.  As I said way back when they first teamed up, Kirkman had the freedom to take this partnership in a direction that didn’t conform to superhero convention.  As that doesn’t happen here, I’m left wondering what the point of it all was.  Except that Mark spells it out for us in his big speech to Dinosaurus where he realizes that he’s become the bad guy in his own story.  It’s a good character moment that actually gets through to the dinosaur and leads to an outcome in this conflict that I didn’t see coming.

(The whole scene is also infinitely more interesting and credible than Bendis’ efforts in trying to do somewhat the same thing with Wonder Man in “Avengers.”  I’ll get to the sorry state of that volume sometime this weekend.)

The end result of all this is the re-establishment of a status quo from early on in the series in a way that makes a lot of sense.  I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s amusing to see and makes perfect sense that Invincible would team up with this person again because “he’s worked with a lot of villains in the past.”  It may seem like the reset button is being hit here, but enough has happened that the fit is verrrrrrrrrry uncomfortable with a lot of the cast upset that the title character isn’t behind bars for what he has done.  That, along with the pleasantly surprising developments in the “Viltrumites on Earth” subplot, and the fact that “The Death of Everyone” also involved a new life at the end of the anniversary issue, can still surprise and has plenty of interesting ground left to cover.

However, even if the anniversary issue didn’t deliver on the “shocking death” being teased in the lead up to it, you’ll still find a couple in this volume.  It’s actually rather disturbing in the way the scene escalates and because of the relationship between the parties involved.  That the whole thing gets covered up may seem to make the parties involved completely unsympathetic, but then you’ve got that last panel in the sequence showing them together living with what they’ve done.  It’s part of a beautifully essayed sequence and it lets you know that Kirkman isn’t done with this subplot by a long shot.

Though I’ve talked about disappointment a lot in this review, one thing that I was not disappointed at all with was the art.  Ryan Ottley has proved time and time again that he’s one of the best superhero artists out there with his work on “Invincible” and he manages to outdo himself here.  There’s an issue made up entirely of full-and-double-page splash sequences that’s just fantastic to look at and observe all of the detail that he manages to cram on each page.  It leads into what is easily one of the goriest moments in the entire series -- and one that would feel like an awful bait-and-switch if we didn’t know that there was no way they’d go through with it.  Not only does this volume give Ottley a lot of chances to show off his skill with delivering epic action, but the many conversations between the characters also remind us that he’s one of the best at making talking heads look interesting.

So, not the best milestone series event I’ve read yet still plenty entertaining.  Though the status quo may seem like it has been reset, there’s a delicate balance of terror to that situation while a lot of the key relationships in this title continue to move forward in interesting directions.  If nothing else, this volume shows that even when it’s not at the top of its game, “Invincible” is still better than most other superhero titles on the market.

Jason Glick

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