"The All-New, All-Awesome Invincible!"
In my review of the first compendium, I touched on how a massive strength of this series is it's ability to actually move the timeline forward, having it's characters grow, change, make mistakes and mature, and how it allows the storylines to actually have real depth, weight and stakes. That whole idea is present in the first compendium, but it explodes into high gear here.
I remember thinking how interesting it was that the previous compendium cut off at #47, and this picks up at #48, as #50/#51 is such a clear turning point for the series. It didn't affect my enjoyment at all, but it creates an interesting precedent for the volume where three issues in there's a "season finale/new beginnings" feel I think is the best way for me to describe it.
So like I mentioned, that turning point for the series could not be clearer. There's a new tagline above the Invincible logo (that I used to start this review with), a flashy Jim Lee cover to celebrate the occasion, it's telegraphed as a new jumping point, Invincible now has a sidekick in his half-brother Oliver, currently going by Kid Omni-Man (it's a whole thing), there's a new colorist in FCO Plascencia and oh... what's that? Mark has a new blue and black suit, huh? In comparison to the classic suit it's a step down, it just doesn't compare, but on it's own merits I do actually like the blue suit. It's a fun change that also ends up having a notable thematic meaning, with how the series takes a darker and more brutal tone (a shift that, unlike the blue and black suit, stays with the series for the rest of it's run). Everything I just mentioned about #51 speaks to another point I made in my review of the first compendium, how Kirkman can take those tricks and gimmicks the big two use, and actually incorporate them into the story in a meaningful and interesting way, that hopefully at the time did get new readers into the series, but also doesn't feel cheap or empty. When a big two comic says "nothing will ever be the same again" (naming no names Spidey editorial) you laugh, but when Invincible says it you believe it, and actually start worrying about the future of the characters involved.
FCO is the colorist on the book from #51 to #86, and what a spectacular run that is. It's easily one of my favourite periods of the book, just because of how intense, thrilling, exciting and emotionally and dramatically rich it is. Before I actually talk about the stories involved themselves, I have to spend some time gushing about FCO's coloring. I just used the word rich to describe the story, but his coloring gives the art an incredible, rich feel that takes Ottley's art, and along with the story the book itself up a significant amount of notches. This is a common theme talking about this portion of the series, but while Crabtree coloring Ottley was great, FCO coloring Ottley is spectacular. It also helps that as the series goes on Ottley really comes into his own in general as an artist.
I once heard someone say that when he first joins the book his art looks like Cory Walker's and he gradually evolves and moves away from that, and I can see what they mean. "Cinematic summer blockbuster" is the phrase that immediately comes to mind when talking about the duo of Ottley and FCO during their time on the book. Crabtree's coloring was more 2D, which again while still good, FCO's is much more 3D, giving the art literal depth and richness as the story gains those same things thematically speaking. I just love it so much. It's absolutely glorious to look at, and it's so much fun to read.
Going for the hat trick of revisiting points I made in my review of Vol. 1, do you remember when I saw that the series only gets more bingeable as it goes on? By this point in the book it's so incredibly easy to glide through the issues like it's nothing, especially once you get to #60 with the Invincible War and everything that comes in the aftermath of that. I really enjoyed the first 50 issues, I thought they were great. But for me it's in this compendium where it transitions from "just" being a great comic, to one of the best superhero comics (and comics in general) in the universe. In fact, when Mark returns to his yellow costume in the aptly named Invincible Returns #1 they return to the tagline used on many issues of the first volume, now dropping the "Probably". It's not my personal no.1 favourite, but in a list of my top 10 superhero comics it would be on there, and I think that just goes to show how many fantastic superhero comics are out there that I love. Anyway, I digress.
I mentioned in my review of the first compendium about the reputation of the series, and when you see people share and talk about lots of the "oh snap!" moments, or ones that are just generally cool, a lot of them come from this set of issues collected here. So naturally, while not knowing what was going to happen, I was very excited and they did not disappoint. I think this compendium highlights the impressive balance Kirkman is able to achieve, where at times there might not be much breathing room between issues, but once the dust has eventually settled there's enough breathing room in the right places to work on that character development and growth, and to make sure you do still care about these characters and what they go through. Because... oh boy.
This review has gone on so long that I feel like to say much more will just belabour the point, but oof, yeah. My point being though how between the turning point of #50 and the Invincible War of #60, you're still compelled by the adventures of Mark's new era in his blue and black suit, and his new partnership with Kid Omni-Man. In another comic lots of the issues of Invincible would feel like filler, but here they just don't. I suppose that ties back into my points about how the events of the comic actually matter and have an impact.
In a similar vein, one of the most fun aspects of the series is how Kirkman will set something up in one issue, and then dozens of issues later at least he'll be like "hey remember this?! We're paying it off now!" and everytime I just went "ooh, neat." It just contributes to that awesome balance where because things are moving forward, when ideas come back around or story threads get paid off it feels fascinating and compelling, rather than tired and over-done when the same villains are brought back time and time again for 60 years of big two comics. Granted, that's a whole other conversation that I won't get into here, but I say it just to completely highlight the strengths of Invincible in that sense.
If you reached the end here again, thank you so much! And well done, frankly. These must be some of my longest reviews ever, and I expect the review of the third compendium will be around the same. Until then though, all the best, and I'll see you around!
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