Note: Here it is, the first part of the previously announced Invincible “Reboot?” storyline. Now, here at Panels and Pixels, unless otherwise stated, reviews are often as spoiler-free as we can manage. But I’m going to try something different here. I won’t be outright spoiling the book but I do want to discuss some specifics of what happens and have more of a general chat about the content. So if you’re deathly afraid of knowing what happens in this week’s issue; flee! Run! Otherwise, join me below…
Huge Spoilers follow for the entirety of Invincible to date (issue #1-124)!
Let’s dive right in with the most burning question of them all: Is this an actual reboot? No, no it is not, it’s not even a relaunch. Mark Grayson, Invincible to most, has had his consciousness sent back in time to issue #1. He is powerless, he is young, he is skinny and he’s reading Science Dog on the toilet. What this means is he is aware of everything that’s taken place since, one moment he was on an alien planet, the next he’s here’s back here on Earth. Nobody else has been affected.
The first thing Invincible does is very understandable and likely what anyone would do: he seeks out his partner, in this case Eve. She of course doesn’t recognise him, but Mark is able to get an audience with the rest of his old super team, which includes Robot, Rex and Dupli-Kate. I appreciate that (series writer) Robert Kirkman didn’t waste time here having everyone doubt Invincible’s story. This is a world with super powered teenagers, of course they’re not going to find time travel that incredulous.
One of the most interesting interactions then takes place here as Robot talks about his struggles to understand people and how he actually fears for his own potential to do evil things from a logical place, essentially the danger of his heightened intelligence combined with an extreme lack of empathy. The is of course retroactively foreshadows Robot’s evolution to multi-tasking super-genius and finally full on super villain. It implies that Robot is a very different person now in present day and that perhaps he was always doomed to go down this path, all it was going to take was time, something Robot had plenty of in the Flaxan dimension. It adds a surprisingly layer of sympathy to Robot as a character, and implies back in the modern day he’s much more misunderstood than callous. It’s only a brief conversation but it’s a strong bit of character development from an unexpected place, perhaps providing some fodder for future interactions.
Meanwhile the rest of the issue speeds things up and burns through some earlier storylines in just a few panels, explaining that Invincible is stuck but making the best of his situation. I especially appreciated the scenes that showed his vulnerability, he’s upset and anxious about being stuck in the past, but with little options he’s having to soldier on. Though I was surprised not to see him torn up over losing his daughter in particular, if this new timeline is for real then she’s just been obliterated from existence.
Kirkman has been known to play with comic book tropes in the past and he’s not been shy that it’s his objective to do so. For instance, in Invincible deceased characters don’t return from the dead, beyond cameos when we step into alternate worlds anyway. The reboot is another tired plot device in mainstream super hero comics, arguably almost as infamous as the death and rebirth of popular characters. Here Kirkman deliberately plays on the fact that we as readers are as clueless as Invincible is. We don’t know how real this reboot is and we don’t know how Invincible is going to get out of this, or if there’ll be any lasting consequences from it. Although the question mark in the title does heavily imply this isn’t going to remain the status quo at least.
Invincible has dabbled with time travel a little before, but not a lot. What it did show is that someone can travel back in time and change a timeline, we saw this much earlier on in the series. So if this is genuine time travel, and not some sort of illusion, Mark could have theoretically already changed the past through the events of this issue.
If this was any other comic book, I would say there are going to be no repercussions from this storyline and that it’s all an illusion. But Invincible has usually been very good at avoiding fake-outs and boldly sticking with consequences. So I’m happy to say I don’t know what to expect!
If you’re a lapsed reader this seems like a fun point to return, it’s nostalgically entertaining to see the characters young again and poor arrogant Rex back, unaware of his upcoming fate. Ryan Ottley was of course not the artist of Invincible back when the series launched, but he does a great job here of contrasting his usual depictions of characters, like Eve and Invincible in particular, with his interpretation of how different they were back in this high-school era.
As for asking if this is a good jumping on point for new potential fans, I suppose? Honestly the continuity of Invincible is so linear I would never recommend jumping in mid-run. If you really wanted to start reading right now then it’s easy enough to gather what’s going on, but the real meat of this issue is for long-term fans. The most intriguing question about going back in time is of course what will Invincible’s father do? Despite becoming a hero again, he’s still a man responsible for a lot of death back at the start of the series. Can Mark get through to his father and play on his divided loyalties? We’ll have to wait for next time to find out.
Overall this is a great issue and another sign that Invincible has gotten back on track. The last couple of years have been very up and down for the series, but recently it’s levelled out and gotten back to being a consistently fun and unpredictable sci-fi flavoured super hero comic. This looks to be the start of another entertaining story-arc, lasting consequences or not.