Robot 6

The Middle Ground #117 | Everybody dies

Robert Kirkman and Image Comics have spent the past week sending out teasers for the upcoming 100th issue of the superhero series Invincible, promoting “The Death Of …” before, today, promising “The Death of Everyone.” Wouldn’t it be great if it actually delivered on that promise?

I’m not saying that in the sense of “I hope everyone dies and then the book ends, ha ha ha,” because — well, I don’t want the book to end. But I do want to see Kirkman and artists follow through on the threat to kill off each and every one of the characters pictured in the teasers, in large part because I want to see what would happen afterward. Would there be a new central cast with little to no connection from what went before? (That’s something I call the Ultimate Spider-Man maneuver. Actually, wasn’t there some “It’s the new Invincible — and he’s black” teaser image a while back? Maybe that was more than Bendis-tweaking after all …) Would there be a book about the lack of Invincible? Would the book just change its name and do something else, instead?

What I like about it is the idea that a creator-owned superhero book is freed of what we generally think of as set-in-stone rules about the genre: that the status will always return to quo eventually, because there are important copyrights and IP concerns to think about, that nothing too big can really happen without some kind of get-out clause because the consistency of the universe has to be considered, and that stories that do attempt some kind of grand scope have to happen across multiple books because, hey, crossovers.

Superhero comics should always — no matter the character, I think — be about imagination and possibilities as much as anything else; it’s one of the reasons why the Lee and Kirby Fantastic Four remains such a touchstone for superhero fans and creators, because it’s a book that was always trying something else, whether it was new characters, new ways of telling stories, new kinds of stories to tell. But, as the genre has gotten older, and gotten more popular, it’s also become more conservative, more concerned with the idea that it has a “legacy” to fulfill and expectations to meet. That’s understandable — especially as the genre has become the cornerstone of not only the comic book medium, but increasingly the summer blockbuster movie and therefore the Hollywood studio system — but at the same time, feels like a loss in some sense. Whatever happened to the idea that anything can happen in the next twenty pages?

That’s what gets me about the Invincible tease. If I’m entirely honest, I think it’s likely a fake-out, and that we’ll be likely to get one death that sticks, as opposed to six (Kirkman’s Invincible trends somewhat conservatively, in terms of storytelling choices; in its own way, it’s as much a victim of nostalgia as anything from Marvel or DC — well, maybe not DC), but just the possibility, the idea that everything really could be up for grabs…? That’s the kind of thing that makes my nerdy heart sing. I want to believe. I really do.



Don’t forget that Kirkman is a fan of Erik Larsen, whose “Savage Dragon” ROUTINELY changes its status quo. If any book should be praised for taking things in a different direction, its that one!

I think it’s a fake out and I get a real tongue in cheek, parody vibe from these teasers. But the fact that it actually COULD happen is one thing that really makes me love Invincible. But as you said, Kirkman isn’t guilt free of falling into some of the same tropes his book often subverts to wonderful effect.

Is it bad that I say these teasers are too…bloody?

So sounds like Kirkman will be introducing a new character called Everyone in the next issue or two and said character is going to de in the 100th issue.

I don’t see where superhero comics have been “conservative” at all. If anything they’re more careless than they have ever been.

Oh, there’s still the feeling that anything can happen alright, but that feeling now is so much less about possibility and storytelling than it is a sense of eye-rolling dread as to what stupidly gratuitous thing creative or editorial will do to your favorite character next.

It’s not “Wait til you see what happens!” It’s more “Don’t get attached.”

It’s depressing that the superhero genre in comics — which has worked so hard to attain a level of maturity and sophistication that it brags about to everyone — has evolved to the point where the only narratively exciting things that can ever happen within them are death or weddings.

Other narrative genres like to employ lots of other exciting things: character growth, new experiences, resolved interpersonal conflicts, self-sacrifice, etc. But not over here in our big-boy comics!

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