You are warned, here be spoilers.
At the heart of Invincible #66, there is an image of terrible sadness and cruel, haunting grandeur. In this issue it’s revealed that the Viltrumite Empire – the evil, violent empire whose expansion is central to the overall story of Invincible – has been the victim of a terrible plague. We get a series of images of this plague making its way through the Viltrumite population, causing mighty Viltrumes to double over, vomiting blood, or fall violently to enemies after the plague leaves them weakened. These images are gruesome, but not half so arresting as what follows: the dumping of countless Viltrumite dead into the cold darkness of space, their number so vast that they form a ring around Viltrum itself.
I say this is “an image” – singular – and it is, but only in the cinematic sense. It’s revealed over the course of five panels, the first being a two-page spread of the bodies being dumped from a huge spaceship; the “camera” “pulls back”, with the bodies growing ever less distinct, until we’re looking at Viltrum – rather Earth-like, from space – with a vast, serene purple ring around it.
The issue has Nolan – Invincible’s father, a traitor Viltrumite – teaming up with Allen the Alien, who helps him make contact with the Coalition of Planets, the Viltrumite Empire’s main opponents. Then he and Allen set off in search of a long-buried weapon, whose location Nolan knows. The issue ends with them discovering – to their peril – that the weapon’s owner isn’t dead.
The issue is fine, though not quite as fun as some of the others in the series. Although there’s a hilarious scene with Nolan, Allen, and Allen’s lover Telia, for the most part it’s downhill after the shot of the ring of the dead around Viltrum.
Cory Walker’s pencils are good, but I’m not convinced the added shading and shaping provided by Dave McCaig’s colours are entirely helpful. These are silly, over-the-top characters with ridiculous visual designs, and when you start to try to depict them in a real, three-dimensional space, the ridiculousness starts to stick out.
Although Invincible still, astonishingly, lacks a formal recap page, this issue might well be a pretty good jump-on point for the series. It reveals who the Viltrumites are, who Nolan is, and introduces a few other players, even if it doesn’t actually depict Invincible himself. It’s a solid issue, if not Kirkman’s best.