It’s funny, I tend to run hot and cold on Robert Kirkman’s Marvel series, but I’ve yet to read a disappointing issue of Invincible. I’m sure it has something to do with who Kirkman is working for on each series. With his Marvel books, Kirkman is working for a paycheck from the country’s largest comic publisher. No matter how good or bad his comics, Kirkman will continue to draw a paycheck and continue to get work from Marvel until his comics start to lose their popularity, and there’s no sign of that. I’m not saying that Kirkman is coasting on his Marvel success – anybody who created Marvel Zombies is clearly not coasting – but Kirkman always has that luxury with his Marvel work.
Invincible, on the other hand, is clearly Kirkman’s labor of love. He’s not writing the series for the money – he could probably make more money writing some random super-hero series for Marvel – but more because he passionately wants to tell the stories of the characters he created. Kirkman wants to tell us about Mark Grayson, his father and mother, girlfriend and friends. Kirkman obviously enjoys taking his time with the characters’ story, enjoys fleshing out characters that he knows well and who can provide great surprises both for readers and for Kirkman himself.
Invincible #31 is another transitional issue, after last issue’s transitional issue. The issue begins with Mark’s mother agreeing to take care of Mark’s father’s alien baby, which gives readers a nice view of Mark’s selfishness. The relationship between Mark and his mom seems so natural and normal. This isn’t some sort of false sitcom family. Instead, their relationship feels like any college age kid’s with his mom.
The comic is full of scenes that are slightly off from the normal, and which take slightly unexpected turns. The battle at the center of the comic has an odd feel, and though Mark is able to defeat the villain, the way he does so is odd and a bit unexpected. Similarly, the scene where Mark returns to the dorm room he shares with his friend William has an odd feel, as William tells Mark off for not working harder to look for their missing friend Rick. William brings up a great ethical issue for Mark and, like most college kids, Mark just blows the event off. The fact that Kirkman then shows us Rick’s horrific fate just makes the scene even more interesting.
It’s a great tribute to the quality of Kirkman’s writing that Mark is still likeable despite his selfishness. It’s fun to see Robert Kirkman show off his chops on a series that obviously means a lot to him. He does a typically nice job on this issue.