(This review may contain spoilers for the story content.)
Introduction: For this post, I am writing a review on the first trade paperback for Invincible from the publisher Image Comics. The first trade, Invincible Vol. 1: Family Matters, contains the first four issues of the title. I went into reading this comic for this review without any knowledge of Invincible or its universe. I knew I liked young heroes, and I wanted to branch out to other publishers. So I asked my local comic shop owners for recommendations, and he pointed me to Invincible. The series is headed by Robert Kirkman, co-creator, writer, and letterer; Cory Walker, co-creator and artist; and Bill Crabtree, colorist.
Plot Summary: When the series begins, Mark Grayson is a normal high schooler who lives a normal life. Well, normal except for the fact that his father is Omni-Man, the most respected and seemingly the most powerful superhero in Invincible‘s universe. Omni-Man can fly at incredible speeds and has superhuman strength and durability. In the first issue, though, Mark begins to develop powers of his own, similar to his father’s. With the help of his father, Mark obtains a heroic uniform and practices using his powers and finally makes his debut as a superhero under the moniker of Invincible.
Invincible meets other teen superheroes, the Teen Team, one of whom, Atom Eve (Samantha Eve Wilkins), attends his high school. Invincible and Atom Eve investigate the disappearances of popular problem students from their school. Meanwhile, the Teen Team as a whole (including Invincible) investigates a series of explosions. Ultimately, the group deduces that Mark’s and Eve’s physics teacher has been kidnapping these students and turning them into human bombs. When the teacher activates the bomb he equipped onto himself, Invincible flies him to the arctic so that he can explode without harming others.
Plot Analysis: Kirkman writes a compelling story that touches upon the tropes of the superhero genre and masterfully embraces them while keeping them fresh. We get the origin story, the joining of a group, the meeting a potential love interest, the fighting off of an army from extra-dimensional sources, the betrayal of someone the hero knows and the grand success of the hero’s first adventure. Each time I find myself expecting a trope to play out in one way, Kirkman surprised me with another outcome. When Mark first exhibits his powers, I expected shock or disbelief from him. Instead, Mark’s response was, “Finally!” When Invincible begins interacting with Atom Eve, I thought, “Oh, is this girl being set up to be his love interest?” Then Kirkman has Eve stop Mark and tell him she has a boyfriend. I found that these little moments of defying expectations made for a fun read.
Characterization: In addition, Kirkman brilliantly crafts character dynamics throughout this initial story arc. Within the Grayson house, there is amusing amount of normalcy, wherein both Mark and his mother Deborah do not show much concern when Omni-Man (Nolan Grayson) is engaged in what seems to be deathly combat. To be fair, though, he always succeeds and zooms back home in an instant, just in time for dinner. Despite how regularly these types of events happen, when Omni-Man is off in another dimension for several days, Deborah is on edge but tries uphold that level of normalcy in their home for Mark’s sake. But once he finally returns, she welcomes him home and then has a moment by herself where she lets herself shed a tear of relief. This family dynamic is presented in a simple way but shows a complex underlying set or relationships.
The characters themselves have distinct characteristics that make them three-dimensional. The lead character, Invincible, is a good-natured teenager—a trait that I imagine he likely acquired through his upbringing by such a Boy Scout-like hero. When he stood up for a bullied classmate, I was mentally applauding Mark. Like many teenagers, he stumbles over his words when speaking to the attractive Eve. Invincible simultaneously respects his father and accepts his tutelage and wants to stand out as a hero in his own right. I can respect that goal.
The other supporting cast members possess traits that make them fun. From the Teen Team, Robot had a pseudo-sarcastic, unintentionally (possibly?) condescending personality, as a result of his matter-of-fact nature. I must confess that he reminds a bit of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. I look forward to learning more about the personalities of the other Teen Team members, Rex Splode and Dupli-Kate.
Art: Cory Walker draws characters with strong identifiable designs. I was entertained by how Mark Grayson, himself, noted that he wanted a costume that was iconic—which is something that I imagine artists for superhero comics also aim for. I can appreciate that sort of dramatic irony. When I look at the style for Invincible, the word “cartoony” comes to mind, although I say that with respect. A reason I give that description is because there is not a convoluted amount of detail, and sometimes characters will be given dotted eyes when giving expressions or have a large bead of sweat on their brow. The style helps make the characters expressive, and I really enjoy it. Because the pencils do not have an excessive amount of lines and such, the book uses colors to make the art “pop.” Bill Crabtree did an excellent job doing so.
Final Remarks: I have not previously ventured a great deal into Image Comics, but Invincible has been a really great experience. As you may know, I enjoy the superhero genre, and I especially enjoy the niche of young heroes. While most of my comic readings have been through DC Comics, I have an interest in other publishers. Given all of that, Invincible was the perfect segue into Image Comics for me. The first trade volume has a foreword that explains how addictive Invincible can be, and after reading this introductory storyline, I can concur. I will likely continue reading the series, and I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the superhero genre.
Closing: I know I have said a lot about this story, and I hope you have enjoyed what you have read. If you have any thoughts on the comic or on my review, feel free to comment below. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have an amazing day.