Invincible #49

March 22nd, 2008 by

Invincible #49Poor kid.

Mark, aka Invincible, is taking us through the process of growing out of adolescence and into an adult. That involves pain, confusion, and most of all, disillusionment. Mark is a good kid at heart; a year ago he unabashedly loved his mom, idolized his superhero dad, and was thrilled to experiment with his nascent inherited powers. The beginning of his story involved the crushing discovery that his dad, the most powerful and beloved superhero on the planet, was actually a bad guy, an alien sent to spy on and ultimately conquer the weak human race. Mark was rocked by this his betrayal, and knew that he was hopelessly outmatched, but he did what he believed to be right; he fought his dad. The fight left Mark very hurt, but not quite dead. His father had left the planet and he found himself having to explain to his mom and to the world his reasons for driving off their protector. When everyone learned the truth, he was supported as a new hero by the public, but his mom was devastated, sinking into depression and drinking. Mark lost the care and protection of both parents, and gained the weight of the world’s protection. He didn’t quite lose his faith in humanity, he clung to his black and white notions of right and wrong.

Since then, Mark has realized that he has a lot to learn about girls, and about living with a higher purpose/ obsession without being a jerk to those close to him.

He hasn’t been entirely on his own. He has been working for Cecil, a man in charge of a secret government organization. Cecil swooped in to protect Mark’s identity and public image as well as his mom’s safety, when his dad’s true motives were revealed. Cecil gave Mark a focus for his powers and a renewed belief that he was doing good things. He would call Mark away from his regular life at all hours and give a specific location, enabling Mark to show up in the nick of time to serve and protect innocent people around the world.

Spoiler warning:

In issue 49, it is time for the next big disillusionment in Mark’s young life. Most of the world’s superheroes are captured by one of Mark’s enemies, and their attempts to escape and fight back are repeatedly thwarted. All hope was not lost, but nothing had worked yet, when they are saved by a group of bad guys. Mark discovers that Cecil is willing to do whatever it takes to “protect his country”, including employing psychopathic killers, supervillians who had been defeated by Invincible, and then taken into secret custody to continue their work. Mark, realizing how few questions he had asked in the past, again does what he thinks is right, and confronts Cecil personally. Unsurprisingly, Cecil turns on Mark, luring him to vulnerable ground and having him surrounded by killer corpse robots.

I think that Mark and Cecil represent two extremes, neither of which are viable in the long term. Mark believes that everything can be boiled down to clear right and wrong decisions. He is willing to sacrifice his father to maintain that belief, that inner direction and purpose. This unwavering clarity seems to be a hallmark of childhood as well as a callout to early superheros, who were symbols rather than fleshed-out characters. That faith is tough to maintain into adulthood, when life experience provides evidence that things are not so clearcut. Cecil lives at the other extreme; he believes that no right and wrong choices really exist, his focus is on his mission, and with enough power, he can pursue that vision without being hampered by anyone else’s interpretation. Cecil sees himself as the sole arbiter of his own rightness, and everyone else as incapable of much more than following orders, or at least following their own inclinations with nudges in the right direction to fit into his bigger picture.

Mark doesn’t feel ready to live in a world with shifting moral ground, but I think that has to be the next step in his development. In my opinion, this would be a boring book if he simply found a way to defeat Cecil without questioning himself. Yes, obviously Cecil is a bad guy with few redeeming features who should not have limitless power, but what would Mark do differently in his shoes? If he stuck to his childhood code, would the world suffer? Does he need to compromise himself, or to hand over the dirty work to someone else, in order to protect the planet when conventional means fail? I hope that this will be explored in the upcoming milestone of issue 50.

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