Invincible has been many things to many people over the course of 15 years. It has been a coming-of -age story, a family saga, a sci-fi war epic, but, above all else, it has been a superhero comic. In the very first few issues of Invincible, co-creators Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker embraced the tropes of the genre and made them their own. Superpowers, costumes, teams, secret government organizations, all of it was quickly introduced and explored. Soon these integral elements were reshaped and occasionally subverted as the story grew far beyond its original scope. Now 144 issues and various mini-series later, it is time for Kirkman, Walker, and Ryan Ottley to grapple with one last question: What is their legacy?
It is a question that answers itself in the pages of Invincible #144. The notion of legacy has been a fundamental aspect of superhero comics for a very long time. It’s the name of one superhero publisher’s newest initiative, and it defines more than half of the major characters at another. As time moves on, superheroes persist, altered by shifts in culture and values certainly, but they persist nonetheless. This issue frames the story of Mark Grayson and his family in that long view of history. It segments itself into multiple chapters, delineated by art and approach. There is a recap, distinct focuses on the children Terra and Markus, and the redefinition of the Viltrumite Empire, along with a few other brief surprises. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but it’s all very necessary in providing a conclusion to this series.
143 issues of connections with these characters makes it easy to distill each storyline into key elements though. An entire war can be shown in a splash page and two conversations because readers of Invincible understand how these interstellar conflicts function in the series. The important bits are no longer raging action sequences that could fill an issue or delicate back-and-forths that felt every bit as gripping; the important thing here is a sense that life goes on. Perhaps the single boldest choice of Invincible #144 is to fill the future of the world with strife as well as the promise that it will last for a very long time.
While Invincible addressed many of its greatest antagonists in a permanent fashion during “The End of All Things”, it has always been a series that understands there are more problems just around the corner. So that remains true as it treks far into the future, revealing moments of happiness and sorrow. Melodrama does not overtake the series’ regular brand of bombastic, yet decidedly human, drama as creators say goodbye. Both of the series’ artists are given halves of the book in which to emphasize the skills that defined their contributions. Ottley makes final displays of blood and offers the briefest glimpse of one bold new design. Walker spends time exploring space and family. If there is a sense of lingering or sadness, it comes here as readers (and likely Kirkman) recognize it’s the last time they’ll be doing this particular form of exceptional work.
Invincible #144 is far from flawless, just as Invincible was. Narration drags at times and there is stilted dialogue. It speaks to the strength of the series' art and the emotional bonds of its characters that even when these are acutely noticeable, they’re easily ignored. Like many favorite superhero comics, it’s strength lies in its resiliency and boldness, forming an imperfect metaphor between Invincible and its protagonist.
The final issue casts itself far into the future and offers a dream of a thousand adventures that might have been. It’s a promise of a story that never really ends. It’s the seed for imagining favorite characters continuing to exist. Even as Invincible concludes, it embraces the notion of legacy in superhero comics. The creators of the series must move on, but they desire for their vibrant and violent world to continue. So they deliver an issue in which it does just that. It’s a gift to themselves and to readers, a winking goodbye that promises to see you later. The perfect conclusion to a superhero comic is “To Be Continued” and that is exactly what Invincible #144 delivers.
Published by Image Comics
On February 14th
Written by Robert Kirkman
Colors by Nathan Fairbairn