Or – “Never Trust A Shady Government Agent With Nigh-Limitless Power.”


When comics were young, the heroes were firmly pro-establishment.  Most were goverment agents of some stripe (you should excuse the expression) or another, but sometime in the mid-60’s the shift from “Kindly Government Supervision” to “Jack-Booted Thug Wrapped In The Flag” began.  We went from Franklin Roosevelt convening the founding members of the Justice Society to H.P Gyrich firing Avengers to establish a team with the proper seven-person mix of diversity and powers.  Even Nick Fury, that last bastion of red, white and blue lower-middle class honesty led several Marvel heroes into a situation that made the Bay of Pigs look like ‘High School Musical 3.’  For many issues now, Mark Grayson has been at the beck and call of Cecil Stedman, a card-carrying CIA spook without asking too many questions…  As the great philosopher Jesse Duke might put it, them proverbial chickens is headin’ in, folks, and they’s looking for a likely roostin’ point.

Previously, on Invincible:  Mark Grayson was pretty much the average kid, not great as a student or as an athlete nor as a ladies’ man.  His childhood was pretty much normal, with one Inv1.jpgmajor exception: his father was the superhero known as Omni-Man.  One fateful morning, he awoke with the superpowers he had been waiting for, got himself a costume and became a hero, teaming with the Teen Team, the Guardians of the Globe and dear old Dad until the day when (once again) everything changed!  Turns out that Omni-Man wasn’t a alien who wanted to protect the Earth, he was an alien overlord sent to conquer it!  Mark stood bravely against his dad (and got nearly killed for it) but Omni-Man’s love for his son kept him from beating the lad to death.  Now, many months later, Invincible (as Mark is publicly known) has taken over his Dad’s job, fighting alien invasions, criminal masterminds and super-psychoes under the command of the CIA, as personified by Cecil Stedman.  Last issue, Invincible and his associate Atom Eve confronted a loony named Doc Seismic, only to find that he had captured most of the superheroes of Image Comics.  Mark and Eve fought hard, but were taken out themselves, and left helpless in the clutches of Seismic and the subterranean race that serves him…

We open on the Pentagon, as Cecil yells into his communicator, desperately trying to raise Invincible, by far the strongest weapon in his arsenal.  He stalks down the hall, breaking into a lab, where a recurring character named Sinclair is working on a sinister looking techno-zombie.  (Sinclair has appeared before, as have his “Reanimen,” and he previously transformed one of Invincible’s close friends into a half-machine creature himself.)  Cecil barks to get “THEM” ready for action, and stomps away.  Meanwhile, underground, Invincible and Atom Eve are taken by Seismic’s giant spider and spun into a websac.  Mark awakes first, and is disconcerted to find the nubile young Eve in his lap.  She remarks that any sane person would have killed the heroes, and Mark brushes it off with a quick “Not his style.  He’s old school…”  Heh.  Invincible starts planning an escape, when suddenly…

…Darkwing to the rescue!  Let’s get DANGEROUS!  D.W. leaps into action, a terror that flaps in the night, leading an army of Reanimen and freeing the heroes (including Brit, The Astonishing Wolfman, The Savage Dragon, Dynamo Five and more) and they proceed to breaks stuff.  Lotsa punching, indeed, as Darkwing quickly takes down Doc Seismic (yanking him right out of Invincible’s hands, I might add) and everyone does the obligatory stand, pose, and look heroic…

…until Invincible SLUGS Darkwing so hard his fillings pop out.  Nearly every superhero in the world watches as Invincible seemingly pops his cork, ranting that Darkwing is a murderer, (he is) that he’s crazy, (he is) that he’s leading an army of killer robots composed of dead people, (Ditto) and basically crazying up the joint.  The Dragon tries to calm him down and Invincible (impressively) busts out of his grip as Cecil arrives.  The CIA man tells ‘Vince that they’ll talk about it later, and shuts Mark down firmly when he tries to protest.  Mark flies away in a rage, and only close friend (who not-so-secretly loves him) Eve comes looking for him.  Mark explains everything, including his thinking that he’s been working for the wrong side all along, realizing that Cecil protected Darkwing, not for justice’s sake, but for the sake of having another human weapon under his thumb.  He tells her they’ll “clear things up” later (Bow chicka bah WAAAOOOW!) and flies off to the Pentagon. 

Cecil is prepared for Mark’s arrival, and tries to talk him down off his high horse (“I seem to recall YOU not being so innocent of a murder charge, myself… or does Angstrom Levy not count?” Cecil cannily reminds Invincible) but Mark’s in no mood to listen, especially when Sinclair enters.  “You’re working with that guy?   I can’t believe this!  I can’t believe what you’re capable of!  How many MORE of my enemies are on your payroll?”  Cecil leads him into the White Room, a hidden area of the headquarters where special lighting and alien refractory technology create the illusion of an empty space.  Mark argues that Sinclair is crazy, that he’s dangerous, that he’s beyond reprehensible, and Cecil quietly points out that he’s no longer using fresh bodies for the Reanimen, instead utilizing cadavers.  “The lives his Reanimen will save…  He’s going to revolutionize modern warfare.  You don’t think that’s worth his freedom?” Cecil asks, ever so rationally, and Mark tries to argue before realizing where he is.  “Why did you bring me here?” he asks, and Cecil’s face turns impassive.  “For the element of SURPRISE,” he coldly states, as a horde of Reanimen step into view, ready to attack!

Never, ever, ever, assume that anyone with a mandate to do whatever they want is acting in your best interests.  Invincible has, frankly, been in one of it’s weaker periods lately, with tons of subplots vying for attention, but a general sense of quiet unease filling the book.  Now, we know why.  This issue really ratchets up the tension, and gives us a rare “Everything you know is WRONG!” moment that’s both dramatically sound and meaningful for the characters.  Robert Kirkman knows how to craft a storyline (especially a long and complicated one) and Ryan Ottley is one of those artists who can stylize his characters without completely mutating human anatomy.  Ottley’s “acting” and facial expressions are first rate throughout, and the reveal casts a different light on everything that Cecil has done throughout the series, a difficult and amazing proposition.  Next issue is the Big Five-Oh, and Kirkman promises that everything will change there.  Frankly, I believe him.  Invincible #49 ranks an impressive 5 out of 5 stars, giving us character business, guest-stars galore, continuity bits in the dozens (such as Mighty Man and Super-Patriot working together) and a shocking reveal that’s actually shocking.  I’m desperately anticipating next issue, and if you’re not reading this book, you’re missing a real treat.



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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