Saturday, July 02, 2005

Panopticomic: Invincible


That basically sums up my opinion of Robert Kirkman up 'til today. The only works I've ever read by him up to this point have been the "Icons of Evil" one-shots from the Masters of the Universe series, which were high on cost and low on every possible facet of writing quality. They stunk out loud. And that was even compared to the regular MOTU series, which was no bastion of wonderful scripting itself (no offense to those involved, but it could have easily been much better, even within the strict guidelines set by Mattel).

So, I chalked up a good deal of the positive press that Kirkman's received over projects like Invincible and half of Marvel's current batch of books to the same type of people who keep Chuck Austen on high-profile titles. Granted, I like the concept of Battle Pope (haven't picked up an issue, but I like the concept), but that wasn't enough to wipe away the sour taste IoE left in my mouth.

But, after years of high praise and a 50% off sale that I couldn't refuse, I picked up the first two volumes of "Invincible," and I'm impressed. Very impressed.

I've read a good deal of classic Spider-Man comics lately, as well as the humongous Barnes and Noble collection of Ultimate Spider-Man issues, and I'm happy to say that Invincible captures that same sort of "teenage superhero vibe," without feeling derivative. Even the obvious Justice League analogues of the Guardians of the Globe feel new and interesting. 'Tis a shame they had to be dispatched so quickly.

Long story short: Mark Grayson, son of the world's leading superhero, Omni-Man, begins developing superpowers, dons a costume, and fights crime.

I absolutely loved Mark's reaction to his first realization of his new power. It's not the outright shock of a young Peter Parker, nor is it the wide-eyed wonder of Clark Kent in "Superman: For All Seasons," it's a typical, calm, arrogant "it's about time."

Besides great little moments like that, Invincible is also one thing that Ultimate Spider-Man is not: fast-paced. I don't envy people who buy USM month by month, because of how little seems to happen in each issue. Read arc by arc, it's pretty quick, but the decompression is clear. Invincible isn't the most compressed comic I've ever read, but that allows it to get in a lot of good characterization that might be missed otherwise.

The art is clean with a style that reminds me a little of the new "The Batman" cartoon series. The art really conveys the story and characterization well, and the character designs are fantastic.

My biggest complaint is how few issues are collected in each volume. The first has four, and I think there were five in the second. The stories are meaty enough to sustain the trades, and the sketches and background info give a nice insight into the series' early stages.

Invincible is what Ultimate Spider-Man wishes it were: an entertaining, fast-paced look at what life is like as a teenage super-hero, with the added twist of Superman-esque cosmic aspects and a legacy of superheroism in the family. I plan on picking up the next volume as soon as I can (i.e., as soon as I make up for spending $70+ at the comic shop this weekend). For those without access to 50% off sales, I recommend getting the new hardcover, which collects the first three volumes.

Rating: 9/10

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