I was debating which series to focus on this time around, coming very close to choosing something to do with a lantern. I had also spent the week rereading some older Invincible issues, and despite already knowing what happens I was surprised at just how incredibly enjoyable Robert Kirkman’s take on Superman was. Or rather, a take on his son.
I also remember how this series started off rather slowly. A skewed take on the DC universe, what with Omni-Man being a super strong alien from another planet who’s also a member of The Guardians of the Globe (ie. The Justice League). In fact, I had come perilously close to dismissing the series altogether during those early days. Sure, it was enjoyable seeing how Mark Grayson dealt with his father being the most powerful being in the world, as well as his own burgeoning superpowers, but it didn’t really have any substance. It was like a slightly better version of the CW’s Smallville, only with a more likable lead character and a really cool world of superheroes. Fun to read, but completely vapid.
Then something happened.
Kirkman, still a relative unknown at the time, decided to throw convention right out the door and had (uh, spoilers) the seemingly heroic Omni-Man tear apart The Guardians and reveal his true intentions – he was never sent on a peaceful mission, but rather one of conquest. In the process, the Viltrumites also became some of the most frightening villains in any medium. The slow burning build-up now seemed absolutely integral to get this point across. It smacks the reader square in the gut when it happens (visual pun definitely intended).
It changed the series around entirely, upping the ante and raising the stakes. What was once a predictable comic veered sharply into unpredictability. You simply had no idea what kind of fucked up stuff Kirkman was going to throw at the reader next. And the incredible part about it all is, is that the series doesn’t lose its focus. It’s still Mark Grayson’s story.
He’s a kid trying to come to terms about his twisted heritage and tries his best to do right by the Earth. He has to handle the fact that his father suddenly became the biggest threat to the planet and that his race will inevitably come to claim yet another planet. He’s also a teenager, so there’s a healthy dose of school related romancing going around, but its never thrown in your face and is generally handled briskly because kids flirting is not what people are coming into this series for. The fun is still there, with little touches like meeting a superhero tailor to get his Invincible suit made or going to the future, but the overarching storylines are kept taute and fast paced.
Kirkman populates Mark’s world with characters you actually care about. There’s Atom Eve, Mark’s girlfriend and occasional superhero partner. She’s like that super powered girl next door you always dreamed of having. There’s Cecil Stedman, the Nick Fury/Lex Luthor of the universe. The Immortal, the unkillable member of the Guardians of the Globe who dies a whole lot of times. The Mauler Twins, with neither knowing which one is the clone. Oliver Grayson, Mark’s alien half brother who sometimes goes just a bit too far. Allen the Alien, possibly the universe’s great hope against the Viltrumite empire. There are a bunch more, and you even get the occasional guess star from other Image comics like Savage Dragon or Witchblade.
Also, if you’ve been paying attention to the images, Kirkman also ramps up the gore by a factor of forty billion. Up until this point, the series had violence, sure, but it was well within the limits of a mainstream series. This is in no small part to the series switching artist’s from co-creator Cory Walker in the first seven issues to the incredible Ryan Ottley from issue eight onwards. Walker is a fine artist, but Ottley brings a kinetic, blood-drenched energy to the series that immediately makes you stare in awe at the gorific detail of the battles, and the expressiveness of the characters in the quieter moments. He doesn’t do ultra-realism, or even realism, but a hyperstylized quasi-toony that’s simply a sight to behold. Ottley is every bit as important to Invincible‘s success (relative to other independent books) as Kirkman.
It’s debatable which Kirkman book is better, this or Walking Dead, but I say – who gives a flying fuck? They’re both incredible in their own ways and they’re the type of serialized storytelling that you won’t find in 99% of mainstream comics. That’s an advantage of having a creator owned series or two. Pick this book up if you’re at all interested in superhero comics, or even if you like good serialized storytelling in a gorgeous and outrageously violent way.
Currently at issue #61, it is quite a journey to be caught up, but trades collecting up to issue 53 are available.