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Monday, April 05, 2021

Review: Invincible Compendium 2

 Invincible Compendium 2 carries on from the first book, and you can see Kirkman having settled into a rhythm - have one threat in the background while the hero is dealing with another, and keep them coming fast and furious.

Superhero comics tend to escalate - after you've saved the world, you need to save the galaxy. After you've dealt with super-powered aliens, you have to deal with an army of them. This together with the problem that punching problems is of limited use in the real world, superheroes also tend towards taking over the world if they want to break out of the doom loop of capturing supervillains, putting them in jail, and then having them escape again only to do their dastardly deeds.

To his credit, Kirkman's book deals with all these issues. And it does so well in the context of the story -- Mark gets a younger brother who's half-alien, and hence doesn't have the same perspective as a human, and naturally asks wouldn't he have saved more lives if he'd killed the super-villains, given their penchant for escaping prisons and coming back to hurt more people. Similarly, by the middle of the book, he's questioning how much good he's actually doing by just repeating the super-hero loop, especially when one of the villains succeed in blowing up a city, and proving that the result was beneficial in the long run.

Kirkman isn't the first to deal with these issue. Alan Moore classically does this in Miracleman, still the best re-constructionist telling of the superhero story in history: the ultimate conclusion of the Superman history has to be Superman taking control of the world. It can't end any other way satisfactorily. A similar theme shows up in Warren Ellis's The Authority series, which also features the hyper-violence in Kirkman's work. To be honest Miracleman is a much better told story, tightly paced, and with much better science fiction (e.g., Miracleman's powers are explained, while Invincibles powers just rely on you knowing the superhero tropes). But Kirkman does do coupled superhero stories in ways that I thought were uniquely his own, so I still think his stuff is well worth the read.

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