After a fantastic return to his cult-favorite animation last month, Jhonen Vasquez is back again to round out this story and continue the adventures of Dib, Zim, and all that weirdness what’s up there in space.
The strange but hilarious acknowledgements of the series’ cancelation that defined the opening issue are largely put behind us this month and, somehow, it’s almost as if the show never left the air. At times that’s actually a little bit too much the case and certain jokes lose something in the translation to sequential image. Every here and there you can sense the missing reaction shot or might need to reread a line to catch the intended inflection. Nonetheless it’s rather remarkable how many of the jokes retain all or most of their humor, even without the benefits of movement or sound. These characters are familiar enough to hear through the pages and, while some might chalk it up to routine, this issue is all to happy to prove that Vasquez can not only still write these characters truthfully, but can easily do so in new situations, adding to the series instead of just digging up its corpse.
One particularly adept modernization is the case of GIR. GIR was a perennial favorite, loved by fans and creators alike, even if segments of both communities were occasionally put off by the sad, insane little robot’s runaway hype machine. Unsurprisingly, Vasquez seems to be placing special attention on not only replicating GIR’s success, but doing so in a way that breaks free of some of his old schtick. Still unstoppably excited, much of GIR’s comedy comes from the particular way of speaking he employs, frequently dropping words to great effect. It’s a joke that Zim employed here and there back in the day, but the benefit of a lengthy cancellation is being able to reap the fruit of it planted now that those jokes have ripened into timeliness.
Even GIR can’t compete with the breakout star of the issue however, as Dib’s interactions with Tak’s ship are, by far the funniest moments of the issue. The disdain in the ship’s voice is just so palpable and all the better if you imagine it with Olivia d’Abo’s posh frustration. Hot Topic moneymaker as it was, Zim is ultimately a sci-fi series and it’s quite good at leveraging the weird concepts surrounding technology, consciousness and more to comedic effect. Where else are you going to find statements like, “I hate that your butt is touching me” without irony or predictability?
The issue’s running gag concerns intergalactic road-side attractions, which is a funny enough concept, but this is probably where the issue falls flattest. The personalities Dib encounters are cute but not funny enough to carry a scene. There aren’t many of them, but they outstay their welcome by just a bit and feel a little too similar in how they interact with Dib. There’s also montage page depicting several attractions, but I was surprised to find that these quick panels didn’t carry much of a punch. Still the idea is hardly a flop. Viewed on its own, the flashback to Zim’s visit to the Universe’s Largest Ball of Shmoop is pretty darn funny and, for some reason, I can’t help but laugh at its accompanying ‘roadsign’ proudly declareing “IT’S KIND OF SENTIENT!”.
The eventual reveal of Zim’s plans for the Gargantis Array is clever and certainly nails the requisite tone, but the issue’s resolution is a little bit rushed. I don’t think anyone expected a traditional heroic victory for Dib, but the abruptness of how things actually play out is odd. While it makes a surprising amount of sense, the ending isn’t as satisfying or outright funny as you might expect.
The art continues to beautifully replicate the feel of the television series. You won’t find too much new in the style of the art, however, the layouts and use of the comics form definitely bring something new and exciting to Zim. You won’t find any overused 2×3 grids here or, in fact, any basic grid layouts. While there’s never truly enough space to replicate the freedoms of animation, Invader Zim is an impressively cinematic book and one that manages to avoid the clichés of widescreen comics.
It’s a big help that Zim’s reactions are so distinct. There are a lot of really funny conversations in this issue and, for many books, that can lead to great dialogue but unmemorable art. Thankfully, that’s very much not the case as Aaron Alexovich leaves no panel asking for character. One thing that is interesting is that the lines look very much smoother compared to last issue. The result is something more familiar but less daring. I imagine there will be those who prefer one look and those that prefer the other, but I would be happy to see the other version return, as it was another way that the opening issue successfully adapted to the new medium.
Invader Zim #2 remains an incredibly honest revival of a beloved property and an absolute gift to fans. Even so, this isn’t the essential read its predecessor was and the jokes are more hit and miss this month. The art remains a particularly lovely and faithful representation of the cult classic’s aesthetic and, while you can feel how much this script wants to be animated, the storytelling is very strong. Though it’s merely average compared to the series’ incredible opening salvo, Invader Zim #2 encourages my belief that this may well be one of the best comic revivals I’ve ever seen.