Review by Ian Keogh
Robert Kirkman is so accomplished at working his characters through their lives and throwing in at least one neat twist per book that there may be a tendency to take Invincible for granted. At which point he’ll detonate an exceptional plot bomb. So it is with Happy Days.
We didn’t see much of the alien Viltrumites in Who’s the Boss?, but they’ve been core to the series from the start. Invincible, Mark Grayson, derives his powers from being half Viltrumite, as does his brother, and the threat of this race of savage supermen again let loose throughout the universe has been running in the background since the earliest books. Here we discover why that hasn’t occurred, and it’s brilliant.
A further example of Kirkman’s imaginative plotting is that two volumes previously Invincible broke up with former girlfriend Amber. In most ongoing superhero titles it’s unlikely she’d be seen again until a substandard writer either killed her for shock value or transformed her into a super villain. Kirkman is so much better, and although almost in passing, Amber’s role here is memorable and very well handled.
In other places, though, there are dips. A teaming with the Astounding Wolf-Man, with a sequence illustrated by that series’ artist Jason Howard, never transcends being contrived, and a trip to the future is strange, but not compelling. Highlights so far not mentioned are a chapter dealing with a would-be superhero not quite in control of his equipment or temper and the developing relationship between Invincible and Atom Eve. Kirkman is taking this slowly, and he lays in another plot that comes to fruition in the following Still Standing.
Page after page, chapter after chapter, Ryan Ottley provides cohesive storytelling amid dynamic layouts. Whether it’s Omni-Man and Allen the Alien in space, a forest with Wolf-Man or the uneasy domestic sequences of the final chapter he’s never at a loss and clarity is paramount. He’s very self-effacing when commenting on the layouts and sketches provided as bonus material (in every Invincible collection), and perhaps this contributes to his being under-rated. From this book, though, he stops both pencilling and inking, and Cliff Rathburn takes over the inking duties. There’s an initial sharpness that rapidly dissipates, and after that Rathburn is so sympathetic you’d be hard pressed to notice the difference.
While there are those dips, it’s unlikely anyone who’s enjoyed Invincible to date is going to be throwing this into the corner in disgust.