REVIEW: Invincible #81

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Or – “I Wondered What Happened To That Guy…”

When Powerplex first appeared, I was intrigued by his backstory, a man driven to extreme methods by grief.  Even when he attacked the main character of the book, he maintained my sympathy, and since his story never achieved closure, I was looking forward to his return.  But, now that he has returned, I’m honestly not certain our main character is safe…

INVINCIBLE #81
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Penciler: Ryan Ottley
Inker: Cliff Rathburn
Colorist: Nikos Koutsis
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sina Grace
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, on Invincible:  Mark Grayson is the son of Omni-Man, the greatest hero in the world (and also it’s most terrifying villain, but that’s complicated.)  Having spent months in outer space fighting the threat of their own people, Invincible and Omni-Man have returned home to Earth and their respective love interests.  Of course, with a life like Invincible has, there’s always some unfinished business…

What The Tropers Call ‘The Berzerk Button…’

The issue opens not long after last issue’s devastating battle between Invincible and Dinosaurus, a skirmish that ended with most of Las Vegas blasted into atoms and the desert melted into a miles-wide sheet of glass.  The news quickly gets around, thanks to the media, and no one is more disturbed than former villain Powerplex, now a member of the superheroic Actioneers.  The sins of the past weigh heavy not only on Powerplex, but on the Guardians of the Globe and Invincible himself.  Kirkman plays with quieter moments here, as Invincible has to deal with the byproduct of his own actions (after letting a would-be villain go, the man sold his weapons and costume to a NEW villain) while the leaders of the Guardians of the Globe address the situation in Las Vegas.  Ryan Ottley’s quirky art is beautiful as always, and the little touches (Eve maintains the weight she gained while Mark was in space, Powerplex erupts with energy whenever our hero’s name is mentioned) truly make the story work for me, visually.

A Couple Of Clever Plans…

Mark finds a brilliant way of keeping the inventor out of trouble, while Powerplex shows his own ingenuity in tracking down Invincible to enact his revenge.  Most impressively, when attacked, Invincible responds not with his hammering fists, but with a grown-up logical argument, trying to talk his opponent down from what could be a fatal battle for either of ‘em.  Kirkman’s dialogue gets a little bit wordy in the battle, but never shies away from arcing electrical bursts or blowin’ up stuff.  It’s a distillation of the old-school Marvel storytelling method, and Kirkman is quickly becoming a master of the form.  (He’s also one of the only writers left who still uses the long-term back-burnered stories technique effectively in this age of ‘Event Comics.’)  The story has a big-time growth moment for our hero, who continues sloughing off his adolescent hero phase to become this world’s equivalent of Superman, and Powerplex’s comeuppance is a very touching moment.  This is Invincible, though, and so we end with an indication of clouds on the horizon, the cliffhanger of doom that Kirkman is so good at.

The Verdict: Every Silver Lining Is Surround By A Dark Cloud…

This issue is a contradiction, containing a big fighty-fighty and explosions while nonetheless serving as a quiet and thoughtful outing for Invincible.  Robert Kirkman’s love for this character shows through in every page, and it’s telling that Guardians of The Globe (the same writer with some of the same cast) is not nearly as much fun as Invincible, month over month.  I said Mark is like Superman, and that’s true, but he’s also Spider-Man as well, the plucky young man growing into a hero through adversity and in spite of everyone who would slow him down.  These last few issues are building towards some sort of change for Invincible and Atom Eve, but for all the foreshadowing, I’m still not sure what’s about to happen, and that’s the fun part.  Invincible #81 is a throwback to an earlier age of comics that doesn’t feel retro or rehashed, earning a very impressive 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  I truly worry about Mark after the last few months of this book, and that’s a rare thing indeed…

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  As much as I love Kirkman’s writing and quirky character work, can ANYONE explain to me the appeal of Brit?