The supposedly best superhero book in the universe hits its 100th issue a few months after its estranger sister book “The Walking Dead” dominated charts and garners some quite positive reviews. But does “Invincible” #100 measure up to the challenge?
As a note, some inherent spoilers are tip-toed around. I do my best not to spoil anything, but with an issue like this it is a bit hard.
Written by Robert Kirkman
Illustrated by Ryan Ottley
10th ANNIVERSARY LANDMARK 100 th ISSUE SPECTACULAR!
THE DEATH OF EVERYONE: CONCLUSION! It’s all been building to this. Mark Grayson’s entire life as a superhero, all he’s learned, all he’s endured, it’s all been leading to this one moment. Will he become the hero he was meant to or will he choose… a DIFFERENT path? The aftermath of this EXTRA-SIZED issue will shock you.
If there’s one name that’s relatively synonymous with the best of creator-owned comics, it’s definitely Robert Kirkman. From books like “The Walking Dead,” “Haunt” and “Thief of Thieves,” Kirkman has given us some industry staples in terms of books to look forward to regularly, and his past work with things like “Astounding Wolf-Man” and “Brit” only further prove this. Heck, “Super Dinosaur” remains one of the few actually all-ages comics that just gets better and better per issue without feeling like it panders to either crowd, and that is a claim very few books can boast. Yes, Robert Kirkman, chief creative officer at Image, the founder of Skybound and New York Times bestselling author is quite an accomplished man in the world of creator-owned heroes.
So why isn’t this issue, the big hundredth issue of “Invincibe,” Kirkman’s superhero mega-opus, so much better than it actually is?
From the incredibly grabbing first page, “Invincible” #100 very quickly turns into a less-than spectacular series of not quite interesting events. Despite a backdrop full of mass destruction, at no point does “Invincible” deliver on its promise to shock or awe, choosing instead to lightly float through a series of moments for characters you assumedly have some fondness for, all towards an inevitable conclusion that essentially just ends the book. From start to finish the book is as unmemorable as they come, and when it comes to the excitement inherent with picking up a hundredth issue, you can’t help but find this a rather large let down.
The biggest disappointment about this issue is how truly little happens. This was a big story compacted into three issues, and last issue essentially stole the cake for what was to come with one epic and uncontrollable splash after another. This issue (or at least the solicit) is essentially a lot of misdirection; the drama angle is played up a fair deal here, but despite all of the time we’ve spent with these characters nothing really tugs at the emotional heart strings — certainly not more so than we’ve seen in the past. “Invincible” has been home to a lot of greatness that excels beyond excelling in the comic world, yet when we look at this issue in comparison with even “The Walking Dead” #100, the differences are quite staggering. One book introduces a new villain and literally destroys all hope for the future; the other features a lot of monologuing and telling instead of showing, which breaks one of the primary rules of a visual medium.
This leads into the other big problem the book has, which is that despite working with a guy as tremendously talented as Ryan Ottley, “Invincible’s” big hundredth issue is mostly a talky. Kirkman has always been a fan of dialogue, but lately the book has become rather excessive in the amount of discussions people have as opposed to the actions they take. This issue is pretty much a prime example of that, as one would expect a generally more exciting issue. Yet only the first five pages are truly stand-out in terms of being rather memorable, with maybe a few more moments scattered throughout depending on your attachment to certain characters, and the rest of the book is dedicated to setting up a somewhat (emphasis on somewhat) new status quo going forward. (And really, even then it’s not so much new as it is just an old model with a new coat.) Big centennial issues like this usually do “change things forever,” but given the kind of no holds barred creator we’ve seen Kirkman to be in the past it’s honestly a bit surprising to see him play it so safe here after all this time.
Really, if anything “Invincible” seems to suffer from the same symptoms that “Fables” has, in that its main story is over and it’s just trying to find something new to do. For those not following, “Fables” reached the end of it’s “main story,” the battle against the Adversary, at issue #75 and has since stumbled through various stories looking for some kind of new hook and not finding any. The same can be said for “Invincible,” having reached the end of its main story at issue #77 with the end of the Viltrumite War, which had been building since the first issue. Since then, stories have been decent but not as compelling or exciting as before, and “The Death of Everyone” is a pretty prime example of this, choosing not to end with a bang but rather a whisper.
This doesn’t make the book bad, mind you. Just not up to par; at worst, relatively disappointing. “Invincible” (and “Fables”) is, was and always will be great, and perhaps it’s the book’s own legacy hurting it but there’s nothing here to impress or excite more than any other particular issue of “Invincible” we’ve had in the past.
Now, sure, there are some relatively big moments. In terms of characters, there are quite a few changes that happen within the issue, even though they may be subtle. Really, every great thing about this book you can chalk up to the phenomenal talent that is Ryan Ottley, because its the art that saves the book. The opening sequence is big and brash, like the boom of a cannon being fired, and Ottley’s ability to jam pack so much into the book is never not impressive (an opening splash with over 50 panels full of cameos is particularly exciting). There’s also a great eye for character here, since the book is made up primarily of personal moments based around character reactions, and the way Ottley brings out the best of visceral emotions in the various characters throughout is absolutely tremendous. If you’re looking for a gorgeous comic book, one that remains glorious to behold issue to issue, look no farther; Ottley is definitely a “can do no wrong” artist at this point, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
On top of that, the book’s relatively unsubtle meta commentary on the general tropes of the superhero genre is indeed fairly clever, truth be told. “Invincible” was always able to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek when it came to certain superhero elements, including Mark’s commentary on the nature of comics in a few issues or just the general parodies that populate some of the book. The idea of titling a comic “The Death of Everyone” and then not actually killing everyone (or, really, anyone) is pretty humorous, and the ringer that Kirkman puts Mark through in the issue is a not-so subtle nod to what we’ve come to see at Marvel or DC when it comes to titular heroes getting beat around in landmark issues. Heck, just essentially not delivering on a stereotypical “everything changes forever!” type issue is the biggest gag a book like this could conceivably pull, and it does that in spades.
But then again, as interesting as this commentary may be, being clever only gets you so far; actually saying or doing something goes much farther. That and, realistically, some of this commentary seems to be accidental rather than intentional. And for a guy like Kirkman, who has proven to not be shy about tearing things apart for devastating results (just look at “The Walking Dead”), the whole issue feels a bit weak. And after pulling the same basic trick three times now (#64 and #75, if memory serves), it’s beginning to feel a bit formulaic.
“Invincible” #100 should be a big issue. Forget that — it should be huge! Colossal! An absolute titan! But when it comes down to it, the amount of things that could’ve or should’ve been in this issue very largely outnumbers that which is actually in the issue, and as such “Invincible’s” hundredth issue is not particularly engaging or exciting. The book still remains one of the better comics on stands, but you can’t help but feel that this was a bit of a missed opportunity to show off what’s so great about the series, in the same way that issue’s like #60 or #75 did not too long ago with their grandiose events. There’s just nothing very special going on here.
Final Verdict: 5.0 – Pass unless you’re a regular