by Robert Kirkman (writer), Ryan Ottley (pencils), Cory Walker (pencils & inks), Cliff Rathburn (inks), FCO Plascencia (colors), and Rus Wooton

The Story: Mark tries to put the past behind him as he prepares for the Viltrumite War.

What’s Good: If anything, you have to respect Kirkman for writing this issue.  The entire book’s motivation seems to be to place some of Mark’s moral, ethical, and emotional issues at a more stable position before heading into the Viltrumite War.  Kirkman could’ve very easily just glossed over all of these character points and just left them by the wayside, to be dealt with after the big event.  That he isn’t content to do so is certainly admirable, and really is the sort of ethic that I wish we’d see more of in comics.

So really, that means that, barring one action scene that is a rather cool reunion with some of the wacky tertiary villains we’ve seen in Invincible, we have an issue that is pretty much exclusively devoted to characterization.  A lot of the grey areas surrounding Mark’s current position are temporarily remedied.  All told, we get to see Kirkman’s very likable leading man in close quarters, as we get to see how his mind moves as he attempts to resolve his fears of self.

While Mark’s introspection is the keystone to this month’s issue, Eve and William also have their moments and remain their very likable selves.  I’ve always loved these two simply because Kirkman writes them so naturally, without frills or gimmicks, and yet they never seem bland or indistinct.

What’s Not-so-Good: Kirkman’s opted for a $3.99 double-sized issue here, and I just don’t feel that it’s warranted.  This book just feels too long, and the entire package starts to drag.  There is far, far too much unnecessary exposition and a couple of scenes that feel like the deleted extras you get on a DVD.

I even feel that at some points, Kirkman uses too many words to make fairly simple points, with the excess language limiting the book from being particularly evocative or touching.  The early pages in particular actually look comical because of this.  They are absolutely dominated by what can only be described as a gargantuan onslaught of massive word bubbles.  I felt that as much space on the page was taken up by word bubbles as art.

The back half of the book though, is where the length begins to feel especially aggravating.  It’s clear that this whole section is merely meant as a refresher course.  The thing is, it’s done in the least subtle manner possible with no thought of finesse.  Kirkman makes no attempt to disguise what he’s doing, and as a result, it’s not an engaging read.   At one point, Eve even says “can you just tell me everything – even if you think I already know some of it?”  Ugh.

Art-wise, Ryan Ottley’s work is up to his usual standard.  The bad news is that Cory Walker’s art is, in a word, weak.  Indeed, this may be some of the most unimpressive work he’s ever done.  The level of detail is very poor on Walker’s part and his faces are particularly bad in this regard, amateurish even.  Indeed, Eve’s face in general just feels weird, as she sports an absolutely massive forehead.  The whole thing just feels rushed and very basic and just wholly disappointing.  Between Ottley and Walker’s portions, it’s hard not to feel the quality drop through the floor.

Conclusion: I’m glad Kirkman wrote this issue, but it’s not as engaging as it should be.

Grade: C

-Alex Evans