Invincible #55, in stores nowInvincible #55
“Lock Down, But Not Out!”
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Ryan Ottley
Colorist: Fco Plascencia
When I was reading this week’s Best Shots comments, I happened to see a quick post by Lowetech: “Why no love for Invincible?” Well, Lowetech, I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t seen a new creative team for Thunderbolts, you probably would have seen the love. And then I figured—what the heck. Happy Turkey Day.
I think Invincible is typically a great comic, and its level of quality only fluctuates by a small degree on an issue-to-issue basis. And while I do not think issue #55 is the highest quality Kirkman and Company have produced, the series as a whole is still setting the bar high for its competition.
This issue focuses less on the adventures of Mark Grayson—aka Invincible—in favor of the macro storyline of the Viltrumite Invasion, and the incarceration of Mark’s father Nolan—aka Omni-Man—for his refusal to participate. In other words: newcomers beware. The story opens with Allen the Alien, a telepathic bioengineered ubermensch, as he bonds with Nolan in their mutual imprisonment. Yet when Nolan is called for his long-awaited execution, Allen busts a move to rescue his friend, in the hopes that his insider info will stave off the Viltrumites.
Confused yet? I warned you. But in Kirkman and Company’s defense, they try their very hardest to convey as much backstory in this issue as possible. Unfortunately, with that constraint as well as the focus on the battle between Nolan, Allen, and the Viltrumites, it does leave this 20-page story feeling a little thin. The last time Kirkman framed a story in this fashion—and you’ll know what I mean when you see the charming one-page interludes with Mark and his new superpowered girlfriend, Atom Eve—he managed to cast a wide net and give greater definition to Invincible’s then-nascent supporting cast. Because that was in service of the characters, there’s a hook—with this, because it’s just about the fight scene, it becomes less resonant. Punching and kicking just aren’t as fun as Mark dealing with his girlfriend, his mother, or his superpowered brother.
Of course, while I feel the plot might be a little thin, Kirkman and Ottley really shine when it comes to emotional beats. The unexpected popularity of Allen the Alien came from his aw-shucks attitude and his sense of humor—when Nolan signals that now is the time to escape, Allen’s reaction is priceless: “Sweet!” Furthermore, when he breaks out all the prisoners of the base, he simply turns to one and grins: “Would you be interested in helping my friend and I escape this prison?” The one prisoner is probably the biggest laugh-out-loud moment of the book: the bloodthirsty Battle Beast, a hilarious skewering of the sci-fi warrior stereotype. One part Klingon, one part Thundercat, and one four-part French braids, Battle Beast steals the show. “Viltrumite?! Did you say viltrumite?! …The fabled world-conquerors—feared across the universe—in all corners of existence?!” he screams. “I must face you in battle! Fight me!” Nolan’s dumbstruck reply—“This guy for real?”—just seals the deal. Well played, Kirkman… well played.
However, these descriptions simply don’t do justice conveying the feel-good feelings and humor Allen stirs up—much of these moments are driven by the emotions of Ryan Ottley, who gives each character a vibrant energy while maintaining the composition and storytelling of each page. Expressions such as Battle Beast’s reaction to the word “Viltrumite,” or even Mark’s face when he realizes he’s going to get a lot more than he expected during his date with Eve, are comedy gold. That said, some of the pages of the fight scene seem almost too cluttered, without a clear flow of the action. This may be more due to another partner in crime, however: Pascencia’s colors do steal some of the energy from this book—while one could argue that this is simply due to the unique color schemes of a Viltrum space prison, the colors seem just a touch too pale and pastel for my liking.
In short, is this the best Invincible comic to get into? Probably not. But it is a decent comic? Absolutely. While it’s certainly Kirkman’s prerogative to delve into his grand story arc, I feel I must be tougher on this creative team than I would be on most. This is a team that can hit a home run, month after month after month (so long as Kirkman keeps his promise to be on time in 2009) – so don’t settle bunting the ball! Be the one we need, Invincible!