Invincible #81A comic review article by: Shawn Hill
So, the Viltrumite war is over, with none of those rat bastards currently in evidence. All the bloody carnage and apocalypse scenarios and incredible cost of human life and damage to Mark's body are healed or being repaired, and despite all that excitement, the book is even better for it.
You wouldn't think Mark's down time would be as interesting as the biggest problems he's ever coped with, but Kirkman surprises here. Back in the "real world" of Earth, Mark still has a plethora of situations with which to deal. There's the fact that Las Vegas just disappeared, in some sort of non-radioactive explosion. There's the difficulty he and Eve (her powers are in a way even more impressive than his, as she's a matter manipulator to his indestructibility) are having a hard time getting their superhero business off the ground.
There's the ongoing threat posed by his would-be "boss," Cecil, who has a hard time taking Mark's refusal to be his "200th superhero on the payroll" at face value. There are loyalties and resentments from the superteams Mark has fought with and occasionally against, especially from the volatile Powerplex, who feels Mark killed his entire family. In another book, Powerplex would be Invincible's main super-villain, cut and dried.
And there's the larger question of how all his power keeps causing so much damage even in his most important victories. That's a lot, and Kirkman makes sure we get to see Mark deal with (or realize, or ponder, or worry about) all of it. Eve witnesses his struggles, too, but seems to see her role more as a support system for him, fighting his doubts and of course fighting at his side on the battlefield.
The issue with Powerplex is one of interpretation; rather than fighting with him when engaged (mostly because 'plex is one of those kinetic energy types who just gets stronger when you hit him); he takes each blow and tries to explain what really happened. You could see Mark's position as a rationalization. Or you could see Powerplex's one as a hysterical overreaction born out of trauma. That the struggle is ultimately one of words, knowledge and education is how Mark is more human than Viltrumite, and how this book reveals its atypical agenda.
The real core issue Kirkman is taking on here is whether shiny spandex is the way to go about battling the evils of the world. We've all read numerous comics with different answers to that question: The Boys, The Authority, the later issues of Miracleman, the Order, even the Initiative. But in each of those tales, the new supposedly improved structure was imposed from above. This is a rare case where we're seeing one hero, on grass roots level, try to face the big issues nearly all by himself. The most fun aspect of this book is the sense that, even eighty issues in, Kirkman still has a lot left to say with these characters.