Or – “These Days, The Government Agencies Always Go Bad…”

Back in the day, the government agent was someone you could trust…  Dick Tracy.  Nick Fury.  King Faraday.  James Bond.  The spies were always honest, and they stopped those with ignoble or antisocial points of view, for the good of America and/or Mother Britain.  In this, the age of irony, we have seen a paradigm shift, where even Nick Fury has admitted that he’s engaged in monstrous behaviors, engaging wars, setting up innocents to be killed, and generally being a jerk.  For a couple of years now, Invincible has been working for Cecil Steadman, a government spook who literally has the influence to do whatever is necessary in the name of truth, justice, and the American way.  There’s no way that *HE*, too is an amoral buttmonkey, right?


Previously, on Manhunter:  Omni-Man is gone.  Revealed as nothing more than a would-be conqueror, the hero beat his son nearly to death and fled the planet.  After recovering, Invincible took over for his dad as super-powered agent for Cecil the super-spy, working undercover for the gub’ment.  After a mission to find a murderer, Invincible was horrified to find that the killer was Darkwing, a fellow superhero, and turned him over to Cecil’s custody.  Last issue, after a vicious battle and capture by super-villains, Invincible found himself being saved by Darkwing and an army of undead Reanimen.  Turns out that as ‘Vince has been taking villains down, Cecil has been turning their skills and abilities to secure his own powerbase.  Worst of all, when Invincible flipped out about it, nearly the entire Image universe was there to see it, and all the other heroes think that the kid has popped his cork.  Returning to the Pentagon to confront his erstwhile boss, ‘Vince is led into the “White Room” for a talk, the better to have him ambushed by undead cyborgs…

Surprised and engraged, Invincible is afraid he’s under attack, but Cecil tries to play innocent.  “I don’t particularly wish to end up like Angstrom Levy,” he replies, and Invincible flies into a rage at the thought of the villain he accidentally beat to death.  Ripping into the Reanimen, Invincible screams that nothing Cecil can do will silence him, that the truth will come out.  “You sound like a child,” replies Cecil calmly.  “I think you underestimate my reach…  My hands are in EVERY pie, Mark.  That’s how I’m able to do what it is I really do…  I protect the world.  And you’re going to try and stop me?  That makes you my ENEMY.”  Mark smashes robot after robot, but suddenly the White Room subterfuge field fails, and we see literally HUNDREDS of cyborgs lined up to attack.  “We could be here all day,” replies Cecil.  “Why don’t you just give up?” Invincible refuses and prepares to tear into the creatures, when Cecil decides to let the other shoe drop…

He triggers a device, and ‘Vince collapses in horrific pain, blood suddenly pooling in his ears.  Cecil reminds him that his OWN FATHER went bad, that there was no way that the gub’ment was going to blindly trust him.  The communicator that Mark had implanted contains a weapon that attacks his inner ear.  Another shot puts Invincible down, and Cecil wonders if it could actually kill him.  “What… do you think the RANGE on that thing is?” Invincible asks, before taking off at full speed and crashing through the roof.  Another detonation brings him down in the parking lot, and Cecil teleports out to find him.  The range, he says, isn’t that great… But it’s good enough.  “Last time,” snarls Invincible, “the Pentagon slowed me down.”  Racing through the sky, we’re treated to a hilarious series of teleports, as Cecil keeps missing the racing hero.  “Crap!  Crap!  Crap!” he cries, before catching his quarry right outside the headquarters of the Guardians of the Globe.  The team, at first, thinks Mark is crazy, but Cecil finally reveals his hand, and the entire team rises up to fight alongside him.  Rex Splode, being an idiot, destroys Cecil’s brain mine remote control, leaving Invincible with the thing turned on high and moments from death.  Robot manages to block the transmissions, and Invincible slashes through the attacking Reanimen like a branding iron through string cheese. 

Cecil admits defeat, and tells them all that heroes are a dime a dozen, telling ‘Vince that he’s fired.  “Get in my way again, and I’ll let them kill you,” and Invincible agrees.  But before Cecil can follow his army into the teleport window, Mark has a last word.  Flying across the room, smashing Cecil into a wall, he lays out the reality of their situation.  “We’re DONE, get it?  I don’t what you messing with my life.  Whatever you’ve given us… it’s MINE.  YOU STAY AWAY FROM MY FAMILY…  If you try to recruit my little brother…  I’LL KILL YOU.”  Cecil is left coughing in a heap as Mark asks the Guardians to remove the device from his ear.  When he returns home, Mark Grayson explains to his mom and brother that he’s lost his job, then tells his friend Atom Eve something she’s needed to hear…  “I was going to die, and all I could think of… was you.”  Eve and Mark kiss, and a new era of Invincible officially begins…

We are treated to TWO backup stories this issue, the first explaining the secret origin of Cecil Steadman, how he was scarred in action (turns out that the horrific mass of torn flesh on his face is all that remains of his actual skin after a run in with a nerve gas) his run in prison after murdering two super-villains, even his recruitment of Omni-Man to the agency.  It is clear throughout what Cecil says aloud at the end.  “I’d make a deal with the devil himself if it meant the safety of this planet and the people on it.  That’s my JOB.  That’s what I do.”  It’s a chilling moment, especially given that he’s still in control of the agency, and has access to technologies and powers that make him the most dangerous man alive.  The Science Dog backup is cute and essentially familiar and forgettable, with aliens, a missing hero and a seeming sacrifice.

This issue really does what it promises, shaking up the status quo in a pretty huge way, leaving sweeping changes across the Kirkman image titles, and making me wonder what Mark Grayson is going to do now.  The Guardians of the Globe have changed, with most of the members quitting, and Cecil has been set up to be the greatest villain Image has ever seen, not to mention finally getting Mark & Eve together.  This issue was quite awesome, with Ryan Ottley and Cory Walker knocking the art out of the park, delivering action and buckets of blood, with Kirman’s writing living up the Invincible’s title of “Probably The Greatest Superhero Comic Book In The Universe.”  It’s a 4 out of 5 star book, easily the most anticipated buy in this week’s sack of comics.  I suspect that next issue would be a good point to start jumping onboard, if you’re interested, and I highly recommend you do.


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

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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1 Comment

  1. Lifeisaglitch
    June 16, 2008 at 2:24 pm — Reply

    This issue really shook it up, almost as much as the one where Papa Mustache shows his true face.
    And considering its issue 50 (big round of applause for the Kirkster) and that the series (IMHO) hasn’t drifted beneath 4 stars yet, it really goes to show you that Image is kicking-A-. This book really got me hooked bad and its certainly giving “Runaways” some serious competition for the title of my favorite series.

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