It bills itself as the best superhero title in the universe. So why would “Invincible” ever consider doing a reboot? Mainly to freak out fans at the possibility that Robert Kirkman’s long-running superhero title might be giving in to the compulsion that has gripped the Big Two for the past few years. Naturally, that’s not what happens here and the end result is that the title arc winds up being just a fun little diversion that sets up the next round of drama in Mark Grayson’s life.
Before we get to that, though, the first three issues of this volume continue the existing ongoing narrative. So there’s more about how the superhero resistance is dealing with Robot’s “takeover” of the world, Mark and Eve’s (and Tera’s) continuing adjustment to life on an alien planet, and the looming threat of Thragg and his Viltrumite/Mantia hybrid offspring. If you’ve been enjoying this stuff so far, then you’ll be pleased to know that there’s more of it to like here.
Of particular interest is how the fight against Robot is going amongst the other superheroes on Earth. While the traditional endgame for this storyline would be to have the character revealed as a crazed madman who needs to be taken down, Kirkman is actually doing a good job of convincing me that might not be the case. Robot hasn’t actually taken over the world, just pulled a lot of strings behind the scene in order to make it a better and safer place. Yes, he did kill a lot of good people in order to make that happen. As Brit points out, one of those people — Cecil Steadman — would’ve given his own life in agreement if he had known this would’ve been the end result. This means that the heroes who are still fighting Robot aren’t doing so for the best interests of the world, but for revenge instead. The whole thread is basically a really clever and engaging subversion of expectations for how you’d normally expect this storyline to play out. In a nutshell, it’s why I love and continue to look forward to seeing in “Invincible” after all these years.
In comparison, the alien culture clash stuff with Mark’s family isn’t quite as compelling, but does offer some more straightforward fun. This comes in the form of the Mark and Eve (briefly) dealing with visiting a rural area during a vicious alien mating season, experiencing their current planet’s equivalent of going to the movies, and not helping out a struggling alien because something weird might happen (and being right about it). Kirkman has been mining this particular vein of humor for a while now, and it has yet to get old because of all the new weirdness that he keeps coming up with for the couple to encounter. It’s not all about making Mark and Eve suffer, though. We actually get to see them enjoy themselves in an amazing pair of sixteen-panel-grid pages that show Eve’s and Mark/Tera’s day for themselves, respectively. There’s so much detail and character crammed into these pages that you’ll likely be noticing new things about them every time you read this volume.
Then we come to the Thragg subplot and while there’s not a lot of direct contact with him here, the search for him does lead directly into the “Reboot?” arc. Now, the setup for this storyline is pretty straightforward: Mark finds himself transported back in time to the day his powers kicked in, but with all of his knowledge of the past several years still intact. So we see him trying, and succeeding to convince the members of the Teen Team (Robot included) of this fact, stopping several known threats before they happen, and confronting his dad over the man’s plans to take over the Earth. There are many more scenes like this and the best part about the arc is how it presents a more hopeful take on the “Invincible” mythos where a lot of the drama that has characterized Mark’s life was headed off before people could die as a result of it. It also shows us Mark at his best as he tries to find solutions to the problems of his past that benefit everyone, and largely succeeds as a result.
Given how this arc shows many things working out for the better, there’s the danger that following it for a longer period would’ve given us a storyline that eventually became drama-free and not very entertaining as a result. However, Kirkman makes the main conflict here an internal one as we find out that even though he’s saving countless lives by changing the past, every minute Mark spends here away from his family in the present is pure torture for him. When given the chance to return, that’s when the complications set in as we learn that there are things that even a real hero like Mark just won’t do.
At three issues, “Reboot?” comes off as a nice diversion even as it sets up some potential issues for this series. I say this because Mark’s return to the “present” comes with a big catch. Not only is it something that puts a big complication into his relationship with Eve and Tera, but the nature of the catch also threatens to upend the nice storytelling groove of Robot’s thread as well. It also portends that the Thragg business is heading towards “The Viltrumite War II” a lot sooner than originally expected.
I will say that when Kirkman used this trick in “The Walking Dead,” it was to skip over the boring business of things going really good for everyone and get to the point where things start getting worse again. That’s what I’m hoping the case is here, and I don’t think he’s doing this lightly. I believe that the man has a plan and this is only the latest stage of it. Aside from having my expectations upended on a regular basis, that’s what I’ve been trained to expect from this series after twenty-two volumes.