"The ONLY superhero comic you will ever need!"
If you only ever read one superhero comic, and that was Invincible, it's safe to say you'd be very well off. I've said this in both my reviews of the first two compendiums, but it's easily one of the biggest strengths of the series so it's worth repeating endlessly:
Invincible is a superhero comic where the characters are allowed to change, status quo shifts are allowed to happen, and the story is allowed to end.
If that sounds appealing to you, you need to read this series. It's such a phenomenal ride and it's just so much fun. Now of course there are practical real-world reasons why Invincible is allowed to be like it is in a way that's much harder for Batman and Spider-Man, say, but I digress. It's not a perfect ride, as I mentioned before some of the earlier moments haven't aged well, and there's... something that happens in this compendium that's controversial to say the least, but on the whole it's such an entertaining, thrilling and generally very exciting read.
It's so impressive to me throughout this series how effectively Kirkman takes all the superhero traditions, not just within the story but marketing wise as well, and actually makes them arguably even better than they are at times within the big two comics. Especially when here they can actually mean something, like I keep talking about. Marvel may attract more readers to a new run of Amazing Spider-Man by renumbering it with a new #1, but that book is going to sell incredibly well whatever happens, at least relative to other books even if it dips now and again (sales wise at least, but I digress again.) Whereas with Invincible you hope that the more emphasised "1" on #101, #111 or whatever issue will actually drive more support to the book, as the taglines above the logo on each issue aren't just empty marketing phrases, but promises that are regularly fufilled. Or the creative team tries to, anyway.
Do you ever read something and think there's more potential there than what was actually utilised? I don't think I ever felt that way about Invincible across its 144 issue run. It might have been cool if the Reboot arc was a bit longer, but then you run the risk of dragging those sorts of ideas out too much. Without spoiling anything that was a really interesting and compelling way of reflecting on everything that had happened in the comic up to that point, contrasting it with the present at the time, and using it to generate some emotional conflict as the comic rapidly approached its endgame. Under another writer, if not executed well, the way that storyline could have felt very cheap, instead of it actually feeling impactful and genuinely heartbreaking. I think that applies to a lot of what's carried out here, where it's executed with such a fine balance of taking some classic ideas, archetypes and traditions and re-working them just enough to work in this new book in such a fantastic way.
On that note, I feel like there are many points here where the status quo is genuinely shaken up, where if the comic continued with the status quo prior to that shake-up it would have still been good, but it might not have quite the status is does today. That goes all the way back to the initial issues of the series. There's something introduced in those issues that might seem like another shallow instance of a trope that we've seen overplayed so much by now, but then multiple times throughout the story it takes the character of Omni-Man further and further away from the basic ideas of that trope, and that's just one example. Going off memory I would say after the first dozen issues, and then #25 onwards, it's something that becomes especially prevalent in the content of the second compendium, as I talked about in that review. You realise this isn't just any old superhero comic anymore, which in the early issues of the series you'd honestly be forgiven for thinking. It's something special. They even reference this in the solicit for #118, a big status quo change for the series, saying "As things take a drastic turn for our heroes, you’ll find yourself asking… is this book still about superheroes?"
I'm wary of belaboring this point, but looking at the 2015 cover date for that issue, it's interesting to consider the context of what was happening with the New 52 at DC and the various rebrands and relaunches that happened throughout the 2010s at Marvel. Naturally as an issue solicit that question there is speaking rhetorically, but it speaks to how much this book evolves over it's run not just in terms of everything I've mentioned, but also genre wise. Continuing the threads of this review and the previous ones whilst trying not to go round in circles, Invincible feels like so much more than just a superhero comic by the end. The phrase "the little superhero book that could" comes to mind when thinking about the start of this series. Notably there was a major plot point in #7 or #12, I can't remember which one this tidbit refers to, that Kirkman was going to put in #25 at first. Then Eric Stephenson, I think it was, said to move that up otherwise Invincible wouldn't get to #25. Obviously my memory of the details on that are shaky, but the point still stands. A fair amount of why I thought of that phrase is because of Walker's artwork from the start of the book. As I said in my review of the first compendium I liked it, but I think it only got better when Ottley came on. Then in my review of the second compendium I talked about the elevation of the book and the artwork when FCO Plascencia comes on to color Ottley's art, and how it goes up several notches and becomes this cinematic, blockbuster treat, and to reiterate what I said there I do think that carried all the way to the end of the book around 100 issues after FCO's first issue on the title.
So my point being in using that phrase, to highlight how far it goes where at many points throughout this third and last compendium and especially the final 12 issues, where it's become this incredible cinematic summer blockbuster that's such a joy to soak in. Some of the fights throughout this book are so fantastic to observe, with such rich animated vibrant colors and dynamic detailed art, while still retaining that crisp animated quality. Importantly though, Kirkman never forgets to include the emotional moments or develop the dynamics and relationships of the characters, where yes the ending feels epic in a blockbuster way, but also feels so impactful on that emotional heartfelt level. I mean the final page and final lines alone are just so perfect. Such a great final issue. I started this review talking about how this comic is actually allowed to end, and what's interesting is how while it feels like a more or less perfect ending, the universe it leaves behind still feels so rich, developed and lived in. Like the comic could have gone on forever, but again it was allowed to come to a close. It's something showcased in the final issue, where the character arcs throughout the series feel clear by the end, and it manages to be a satisfying ending that's also made to feel organic. It doesn't feel rushed like it might have been if that issue wasn't handled as well.
On a side-note before I conclude this review, I've adored Jean Francois Beaulieu's coloring on Jorge Corona's work when they've worked with Skottie Young on Middlewest and The Me You Love in the Dark, so it was a joy to see Beaulieu have a coloring stint on Invincible here.
To bring it full circle, in my review of the first compendium I talked about this series's reputation for being so bingeable, and I'm yet another person that can agree with that. After getting it for Christmas 2021 it took me a less than a couple months to read the first compendium, and then I had to get the second immediately, which I read within a month. Many issues of that I glided through so easily. After a one week breather I was desperate to see how the story concluded so purchased the third compendium, which I read in only a week. That might be a long time for some people, but for me that's so fast it's almost a blur. Ryan Ottley is easily one of my favourite artists and I'm so excited to see what he does next, and on the Kirkman side of things to dive into more Walking Dead, since I have the second compendium of that but I've yet to start it.
If you've made it this far, thank you! It always means a lot.
Here's a fun fact (at least to me) about my connection with this comic for making it this far, before I conclude this review: This comic started very near the time I was born, and when it ended I was only just getting into single issue, week to week comics. I apologise for making some of you feel old, but I just thought that was neat.
Is this the best superhero comic in the universe? I'm confident saying that despite it's occasional flaws, it's easily one of the best, if not the best, and it works incredibly hard to claim that title. This might go without saying by now, but highly, highly recommend if you haven't already. It's one wild ride that I'm so glad I finally read.
You can also find his podcast on Twitter @JoeTalksComics, which you can listen to through Anchor, where you can find links to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify, or you can click those hyperlinks directly.