Recently, I revisited the original Invader Zim animated series.
Because Oni Press has just launched a brand new Invader Zim ongoing comic, continuing the cartoon that got cancelled over a decade ago! With a story by Zim creator Jhonen Vasquez and art by Aaron Alexovich, does this comic channel the spirit of the long-dead cartoon it’s intended to resurrect?
Invader Zim #1 (Oni Press)
Oh man, you have no idea.
This introductory issue picks up several years after the end of the cartoon. The Irken Invader Zim has been MIA and Dib, his human nemesis, has spent that time sitting in a chair, watching a security feed, waiting for Zim to come back. But it was all part of Zim’s ingenious scheme to render Dib obese and unable to stop him. And now that Zim is back in action, Dib will have to return to form as fast as possible.
Vasquez revives Zim with an acknowledgment of its prolonged absence, but at the same time it feels like nothing has changed. Dib’s struggle to get in shape is more a gag than a sincere plot dilemma and by the end of this first issue it’s like the cartoon had never been cancelled.
If you’re familiar with the show, then you likely recall that much of its “flavor” was in the odd way the characters would emphasize their speech USUALLY byimplementingfastalking AND YELLING. Somuchawkwardandrandom YELLING!
Well, I can safely say that Vasquez channels that flavor into comic form without missing a beat. And I don’t think it was too tough for him. If you’ve ever read his other comics, like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, then that’s just the way he writes. The opening credits for the issue even include a cast list from the cartoons and the voices sound off in your head intuitively. You can hear the characters talking and the fluid, dynamic artwork from Alexovich makes it feel like the characters are moving across the page.
So basically, you might as well be watching a new episode.
If you recall where the cartoon left off, Dib had just finished repairing an Irken spaceship he had purloined from Tak and the action was about to move into space. This first issue follows up on that unfulfilled plotlinel and we can look forward to seeing where the series might have gone if Nickelodeon hadn’t canned it. So you might as well consider this comic to be “season 3”.
Vasquez includes a few jokes at the expense of his fanbase (who are notoriously toxic). There’s a recap from an Invader Zim fangirl who tries to hijack the comic with her own fanfiction. And the story about how Dib has wasted years of his life waiting for Zim to come back is a not-too-subtle jab at the folks who have spent the last decade pestering Vasquez to revive the show.
Ultimately, the jabs aren’t mean-spirited and it’s sort of a hallmark of Vasquez’s work (Johnny the Homicidal Maniac was filled with prods at his readership).
There are a lot of little jokes in the issue that had me laughing (the talking oven), but there are also those darker elements that permeated the cartoon, offsetting the humor just enough to give it some bite. I mean, Zim holds an alien’s children hostage under threat of death, so if you’re worried that this revival lacks the teeth of the cartoon: don’t be.
Also, if you read my review of the cartoon, you probably recall how much I hated Gaz. To my surprise, they seem to be mellowing her out a bit. She still hates Dib and isn’t exactly nice to him, but also helps him willingly to an extent, showing at least a smidgen of concern for him (something she never did in the show). So that’s already an improvement over the source.
Is It Good?
Invader Zim #1 kicks things off without wasting any time. It looks and sounds and feels just like the cartoon; so much so you might even forget you’re reading a comic. Its funny, weird, random, dark… Everything Invader Zim’s supposed to be. There is absolutely no reason a fan of the cartoon is going to be disappointed.