by Robert Kirkman (writer, co-creator), Ryan Ottley (pencils), Todd McFarlane (inks, co-creator), Greg Capullo (layouts), FCO Plascencia (colors), and Richard Starkings (letters)

The Story: Two brothers, one a priest and the other an elite commando, one alive and the other deceased, become bonded in their effort to protect the latter’s wife.

What’s Good: The most promising thing about this issue is the interaction between the Kilgore brothers, particularly between the living and the dead.  I really hope that this is explored further in future issues, as the more the series focuses on this bizarre relationship the better.  Daniel’s belief that brother Kurt is only a hallucination hints at Daniel’s belief in his own turbulent mental state.  Furthermore, his attempted explanations and reasons for Kurt’s appearances reveal a great deal about Daniel’s character, forcing him to acknowledge softer or more remorseful parts of himself that exist in some corner beneath his hateful exterior.  It’s a creative method of characterization.  The idea of two people controlling and speaking from one body is also rather cool.

Meanwhile, while I’m not sure how much of a compliment this is, the artwork here is, if anything, interesting.  There are so many talented hands in the cookie jar here, that what you get ends up feeling like a strange science experiment.  McFarlane’s inks give everything a moody and dark feel, and Capullo’s layouts bolster this through fostering a noir feel; while Ottley’s pencils, at heart, try to convey the light, bold superheroics he’s known for.  It’s a bizarre, but undeniably fascinating mash-up.

What’s Not So Good: Sadly, this just isn’t a very good book.

The problem is that McFarlane’s Spawn was a dead serious, pitch-dark series, while Kirkman’s costumed hero work has always had that grain of optimism and humor behind it.  It’s a clash of opposites that leads to a confusing book that is mediocre at best and cringe-inducing at worse

The McFarlane side of the equation is most at fault, as McFarlane seems content to truck out his well-worn 90s fare.  The disillusioned priest, the super-soldier who has a crisis of conscience and disobeys his orders.  The two friends/brothers torn apart over a woman.  How many damned times have we seen this stuff?  And it’s all completely, deadly serious, with everyone scowling a lot to emphasize this.  Again, in standard McFarlane form, the book tries to shock us in ways that are purely juvenile.  A priest visiting a prostitute? Castration?  Mass-graves?  Characters named “Kilgore?”  Seriously?

The problem though, is that with Kirkman writing the dialogue and the Invincible art-team at work here, you can’t help but read this book, laden with such “darkness,” and find yourself expecting humor, perhaps parody even.  Then you realize that this isn’t witty self-satire, and there are neither jokes nor smiles in sight.    It really is taking itself completely seriously.  At this point, confusion sets in.

The book feels all the more scattered due to its being unable to limit itself to being recycled goods out of one genre.  Daniel’s scenes, with mandatory rainy funeral and mockery of Catholic confession in tow, feel like clichéd contemporary noir.  Meanwhile, Kurt’s scenes feel like your bog standard action movie/comic, with guns blazing and grenades blasting.  Not content to be one uninspired retread of a genre, this issue goes for two.

Finally, I don’t feel that Kirkman has given me a reason to give a damn about either character.  Kirkman seems so bent on making Daniel into a jackass that he’s succeeded too much; this isn’t a character I want to read, let alone support as a protagonist.  Meanwhile, Kurt is incredibly bland, having yet to show any remarkable character save for that clichéd “crisis of conscience.”

Conclusion: The relationship and interactions between the two brothers may save this book, but I’m not sure, given that most of these flaws are at fundamental, conceptual, and creative levels.

Grade: D

-Alex Evans