PUNY humans, disgusting comic fans and small people of all ages with surprisingly large heads are DOOMED, DOOMED, DOOMED to fall head over heels in love with Invader Zim #1 by Jhonen Vasquez and Aaron Alexovitch.
The first issue is an Irken triumph of epic proportions, and it’s a testament to just how good the original cartoon series (which ran between 2001 and 2003 – God, was it that long ago!?!) was that this feels like a homecoming in more ways than one.
The legions of filthy, revolting meat-bags that lapped up the magnificently twisted series the first time round will no doubt flock to this new comic and be overjoyed to find things in Zim, Dib, and Gaz and Gir’s world as deeply surreal and darkly hilarious as they left it.
With a title perfectly in tune with the humour of the cartoon, “The Returnening” even makes an effort to explain where our favourite Irken invader and his nemesis have been for the last twelve years, weaving an intricately silly web around the idea that Dib has been sat still watching his cameras all this time just waiting for any sign of his other-worldly next-door neighbour, all the time growing SMELLY and feeble (or ‘smeeble’ as Gir delightfully coins it).
Even before that, the distinct voice of the series is present in the recap in the form of a loud-mouthed rant by an overly-enthusiastic super-fan, in whom it’s not hard to see Vasquez poking fun at the rabid fans the characters developed back when the series first grabbed the zeitgeist.
While reading his agitated dialogue, I caught myself imagining it being read in the voice of IGGINS, the obsessive gamer-character Gaz finds herself competing with in her quest to own a Game Slave 2000 in one of the series’ high points. In fact, I heard the voice of the cast in my head throughout as I read this issue, which is a credit to how well preserved the characters are in Vasquez’s mind.
The essence of the series permeates every panel and in a variety of ways, from Gaz’s trademark dry, acerbic wit – aimed here at the spectacular deterioration in her brother’s personal hygiene since beginning his vigil – to Zim’s arrogance and bluster, and all the way through to Gir’s bizarre non-sequiturs, which pepper the pages as they once did on TV.
The central conceit of the original was that Zim was actually utterly incompetent as an invader, and rather than being sent to Earth by his leaders (The Almighty Tallest) to prepare the planet for invasion, he had in fact been effectively exiled to keep him out of the way.
This contrasted neatly with Dib’s own obsessions, his paranoia, and need to find conspiracy everywhere, which in turn validated Zim’s delusions of grandeur, leaving both convinced they were waging an epic battle for the planet Earth. In fact Zim’s schemes rarely presented any real danger, not least because of his utter inability to bring any of them to fruition.
Vasquez hasn’t forgotten what makes his characters work, and so here we find ourselves back in very familiar, very funny territory, watching Zim’s latest plan unravel.
Aaron Alexovitch is the perfect artist for the book, and he nails the look of the characters and the world around them effortlessly. He helps make the comic feel like a direct continuation of the series and giving new life to it on a page.
I laughed out loud a lot reading Invader Zim, and it bought back a lot of happy memories from a cartoon that was taken from us to soon.
But does it make any sense to kids who haven’t seen the cartoon and would they choose it over something like Adventure Time, which might have a little bit more currency on the comic book shop’s shelves given its current standing on TV?
I don’t know the answer, but I hope this book has legs because I like it a lot. Perhaps it’s my duty to sing its praises loud and proud as much as possible, and to find those prized DVDs and share them, along with this first issue, with the filthiest, puniest, large-headed, hideous, inferior, human pig smelly child I can find, ensuring that they like me, and many before me, are DOOMED to be conquered by Zim!