Phil Hester’s Invincible Universe has been one of my favorite sleeper-hit series to come out in the last several years because it does exactly what it sets out to: it tells stories about the Invincible Universe that don’t often, or hardly ever, involve the titular character. Not only does this give the character a well-established supporting cast to bounce off of, but allows both titles to feel much, much larger than they would on their own. This issue brings us the marriage of Knockout and Kid Thor told through the framing device of Brandon Barker trying to convince his surly boss M. Martin Matheson why he should be paid for his photos of the wedding for the tabloid HEROWIRE (you know that all sounds somehow familiar…). We get cuts back and forth, but we also see some stellar pathos in the form of Chupacabra’s fight with his alcoholism at a wedding with an open bar. This has been a constant source of development for the hero and was beginning to run the risk of being overused or becoming his sole defining characteristic, but the way it’s handled here actually gives it far, far more leeway to keep coming back. MEAN-meanwhile, Kid Thor’s little brothers (“little” meaning age, not stature) show up and, of course, a brawl breaks out over some thing or other, resulting in the obligatory Comic Book Wedding Brawl, though this one has SOME novelty in that a villain isn’t directly involved. The resolution of which is also played for some pretty great laughs. There's also a legitimately great conversation between the bride and one of the groomsmen about how the happy couple wound up together.
Todd Nauck’s art is, as it always is, sharp and cartoonish and JUST over-the-top enough without losing the emotional punch of a given moment. The action isn’t terribly fluid, but since it’s covering a macro rather than micro level, it doesn’t really need to be, particularly with the story partially being told through a pictorial. The colors by relative newcomer Andy Troy continues his excellent transition from Gabe Eltaeb’s colors and they are bright, vibrant and bring a ton of character to the panels, in darkness or in light, whether tragedy or comedy.
The comedy and tragedy I mentioned above? There’s a certain amount of emotional whiplash associated with the transitions between them. We go from some very slapstick, lighthearted fun to some extremely dour, depressing situations with next-to-no transitions and the framing device, as much fun as I had with it, doesn’t help matters as it’s a tertiary storyline that keeps cutting in that only explains a third of the story.
Invincible Universe remains a delight, and though fans of Invincible will likely get the most out of it, I actually recommend it to anyone looking for an offbeat superhero comic, and also as a way to get in deeper to a pair of the best series on the shelf. The writing and the art are both a treat great and the flaws are a cinch to overlook in the face of such consistently good storytelling.