Having just read Invincible #110, I feel compelled to write about it. Since finishing issue 109 last month I’d been really excited to read it and find out how the cliffhanger is resolved. The previous issues had really been a return to form for the series. They’ve been incredibly intense with dark storylines peppered with a little bit of light humour and fun callbacks to earlier issues. Altogether it ensured I was very excited for 110.
I was not expecting what happened at all.
SPOILERS follow for Invincible #110
Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence And Rape
Issue 110 is a comic that made me incredibly uncomfortable. I’m used to seeing horrific things occur in the series and explicit violence, but 110 was dark in a very disturbing way that the series have never approached before. If you are unaware of what happens, towards the end of the issue the titular hero Invincible, Mark Grayson, is flying from his home when Anissa, an evil character that had recently become a reluctant ally, approaches him. Mark refuses her advances and tries to leave but Anissa attacks him and the two briefly fight in mid-air. She then uses her superior strength to knock him to the ground where she holds him down and proceeds to rape him.
It’s an upsetting scene to read, the act itself is shown with small panels of their faces and silhouettes of their full bodies. There’s no explicit nudity but it’s made extremely clear what’s happening. Worryingly there is no warning at all, or if there is I didn’t see it. Invincible carries a 17+ rating on Comixology, so at least the series is intended for adults only, but when it comes to print there’s no indication. I’ve never been one to argue for censorship but with this subject matter there really should be a warning on the cover.
My gut reaction is that I feel like this has gone too far. Writer Robert Kirkman has previously jokingly come close to breaking the fourth wall in Invincible to remind everyone that it’s his comic and he’s perfectly fine with having increasingly controversial events take place. I sincerely hope that this isn’t intended to be seen in the same way those events were, to the creative team’s credit I really don’t think it is. But this has really pushed the limits of the type of content that’s expected in Invincible.
This is a very personal tragedy to inflict upon Mark and it’s an incredibly sensitive topic than the comic has never shown before. It’s incredibly rare to see it in a comic book and there are obviously reasons for that. It’s not something that should ever be shown lightly, it could be argued it should never be shown at all. I’m not trying to imply what Kirkman’s reason was for writing this, as obviously I can only speculate, but the whole sequence feels unnervingly out of place with the rest of the series. It’s never been shy about showing excessive and bloody content, but sexual violence like this is new territory.
Reading it there are signs that show it’s been taken appropriately seriously by the creative team. Mark has tears in his eyes and is visibly shaken by what happens, Anissa comes across as despicable. There is clearly no consent at all from Mark about what’s taking place. On the letters page there’s none of the usual light-hearted introduction, they acknowledge what happened as a horrible act.
Everything else aside, one thing that left me particularly uncomfortable about this is that the upcoming issue 111 is being billed as a fresh new direction, a new jumping on point. It makes it feel dangerously like it was something just to fill time between issues. If Mark just shrugs off what happens a few pages in then it’ll be painfully insensitive. How it’s handled going forward is key. I hope instead that 111 is the consequences of this, and that’s supposed to be the new story.
I expect Kirkman to comment on it in some form before the next issue is out and it’ll certainly be brought up in the letters. A couple of mainstream comic book sites might stop to reflect on it too and I’m sure some other bloggers like myself will put in their thoughts. I look forward to seeing that as I think it needs to be discussed.
Overall I think I need time to stew on it. I originally wrote this draft after having immediately finished the issue, instead of writing the review I had intended to write. I’m aware of the fact that I am not someone who has the right to properly address whether this is suitable for a comic book like Invincible. Instead I can only state what was my personal reaction to it, now I’m going to keep an open mind and listen to what others have to say over the next few days.