WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR “INVINCIBLE #110”
To begin with, I have been in love with Invincible for a long time. I have gone on countless message boards and told innumerable new readers how wonderful it is. I have held Mark Grayson up as the single best new character of the modern age of comics.
I’ve had reservations about the title in recent months. It has seemed like Robert Kirkman had let things grow a bit too decompressed, allowing for drawn-out stories which came across as filler rather than moving the plot along at a brisk pace, something which was a great strength of the early arcs. In the last issue or two, it seemed as though things had course-corrected slightly. Mark was whipping from place to place, reality to reality, and there seemed to be a very real threat on the horizon. For months, Image has been teasing a “bold new direction” for the series. Kirkman has stated that he wants to make the series darker and more adult.
Many readers, myself included, thought that perhaps this meant that Mark would find himself dealing with characters who felt more horror-inspired, rather than the grand science fiction themes which drove the book through its first 100 issues. This was an appealing idea, as it would mark a definite departure but also allow the character to explore an area of fiction which he’d largely left alone in keeping with his role as Image’s premiere super-hero. After all, the long-time heavy hitters such as Superman and Batman have tread this ground in their storied history, so if Invincible was to be their modern-day match, he needed to follow a similar path.
Unfortunately, it appears that Kirkman’s intent is not to explore different types of antagonists so much as it is to take Mark down the “grim and gritty” gauntlet.
In an example of a classic “shake-things-up” maneuver, Kirkman torpedoes the stable relationship of Mark and Eve in order to manufacture conflict, rather than go the much riskier (and more difficult to write) route of having them work their problems out like grown-ups. The decisions made by Eve in this issue almost suggest that she’s being mentally manipulated somehow. The lack of reasonability on the part of a character who has known for the entire run of the series both that Mark is a super-hero and what that life entails is borderline ridiculous. There is no discussion, no negotiation, no real explanation, despite the copious number of word balloons devoted to Eve’s rant.
Then Kirkman rapes Invincible.
No, that’s not hyperbole or an example of that tired fanboy moan of “such-and-such raped my childhood!”. In the pages of “Invincible #110,” Kirkman literally has Mark Grayson be raped by a female Viltrumite.
I don’t know why I was surprised. For over a decade this has been a go-to trick for the bigger publishers. If a character feels as though they’re getting stale, you either murder their significant other, rape them, or have them become a villain. Kirkman delivers a slight variation on the theme in having the act perpetrated against the book’s protagonist, rather than a supporting character. He also extends the scene far beyond the usual panel or page into a nine-page sequence whose ultimate end is obvious from the moment the rapist says “Do you honestly think I don’t realize how much you’d enjoy this?”. The scene is lengthy, brutal, and entirely disgusting.
I don’t know if I’ll keep reading this book after this. For a title which has held my love for so long to resort to such a cheap set of tricks made me feel a deep sense of disappointment. Invincible has, so often, been the book that simply did it better than the rest of the comics universe. It subverted tired ideas and took readers in unexpected directions, rather than employing them for shock value. That seems to have been thrown out the window in favor of using these themes in the same way that comic publishers have used them for decades, something which greatly cheapens the title.
The only reason that I am not giving this issue an absolute rock-bottom rating is the art itself. For what the script demands, Ryan Ottley does a superb job. He captures a great deal of emotion in the Mark/Eve scenes, and manages to convey the menace of Mark’s assailant in a way which makes her legitimately disturbing.
VERDICT: For being just another comic doing what comics have always done, albeit with well-executed art, I give it 3/10.