Spoilers in review

It bears repeating that for superhero comics Robert Kirkman is only rivalled by Mark Waid when it comes to a talent for being able to completely twist a plot away from reader expectation. It’s writing gold, and almost every Invincible book has at least one jaw-dropping moment that no-one saw coming. There are several here, one being the beginnings of a reconciliation between Mark Grayson’s parents. If you’d like to read the book entirely without spoilers, don’t read beyond the third paragraph.

Parental rapprochement is the least of it, as the central conflict was given plenty of build-up in the previous Growing Pains. The Viltrumites are an ancient and extremely powerful alien race, each one akin to Superman. Their galactic expansion was halted once previously, but at great cost, and they’re now once again active and covetous.

Ryan Ottley is a very deceptive artist. His style at first appears to be clean-lined standard superhero content with strong layouts and clear storytelling. It’s all that, but give him the chance to depict some mayhem and he supplies fantastic battle sequences with the gruesome cost there on the page. Plenty of red ink was required during the printing process.

The opening chapter is a touching blend of gathering forces and fond farewells that segues into a bloody and costly first skirmish. The surprise here is that Invincible is laid out, and takes no further part in proceedings for two chapters as he recovers. There may be a mere fifty Viltrumites left, but the damage they’re capable of causing is beyond calculation, and Kirkman’s really clever in laying out their plans. It seems by the end of chapter six that all is done and dusted, but Kirkman surprises on two levels, and when he finally brings the Viltrumite War to its conclusion it’s in a manner that no-one would predict. And it’s a very clever ending that leaves an awful lot of possible long-term consequences open. Yes, you can read about the specifics elsewhere, but why deprive yourself the thrill of surprise.

A heartwarming coda ties up a few loose ends and leaves us with a foreboding possibility. Superhero comics don’t get much better than this. Next up is Get Smart.