Last year I had this idea to finally get around to finishing a few longtime comic series I had liked and, for one reason or another, never finished. Sure, I could do that again in 2021, but I had a different idea this time around. I had a large stack of very thick trades, seven or so in all, and I opted for this year to try and read all of them. I showed a picture of the stack to the other Geeks, and the consensus seemed to be start with the Image Comics series Invincible.
Sounds good to me.
Now, to be fair, I actually had read some Invincible trades years ago. I remembered liking them, but I never got past the second or third one for some reason. Something similar happened with writer Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, but when I went back to that with the first of those four massive collections…well, it took me forever to finish the dang thing. Too much of that series felt like it was running in place and not getting very far in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t like the characters all that much, and the book didn’t even divide the collection into individual issues, making it harder to start and stop at various points.
Fortunately, Invincible is the opposite of all those things. The first Compendium collects the first 47 issues plus a couple side stories, all of which are divided up by their original issues with covers. That makes putting the book aside after “a chapter” much easier when I’m not reading endless pages where the characters bemoan their fates over and over again.
It also helps that the tone of Invincible, even when it turns grim, is much lighter than The Walking Dead. Teenage Mark Grayson, in the grand tradition of many teenage superheroes, discovers one day he has superpowers like his father, the Superman-like Omni-Man, and he opts to use them to fight the forces of evil, save lives, and generally help people. Done in full color, the series has a very Silver Age feel to it, but unlike the teen heroes of DC and Marvel, Mark’s actions have long-lasting consequences and his life does not stay static with what Stan Lee once called the “illusion of change”.
That comes clearest early on. Mark was told even as a child his father’s origin story as the designated protector from another world, and how the Viltrumites are a peace-loving race that set out to create a utopia for other worlds. That’s the story Mark heard and it’s one he believes. It also isn’t exactly true, but Mark’s father Nolan is himself a remarkably fluid character that is hard to pin down in many respects.
That sort of character and setting growth sets up a more mature style of storytelling. That doesn’t mean a lot of sex and swearing, but when things do get violent, they can be very violent. Mark’s rougher battles often end with the hero covered in somebody’s blood (sometimes his own), and these moments can be somewhat traumatizing for him. He does seem to bounce back, but arguably this is a series that looks at what it would be like to have the Silver Age hero in a more (though not very) realistic setting.
It also helps that it’s still a somewhat light-hearted series. Yes, it can be very grim, but it rarely is solely grim. An issue spotlighting the various members of the Justice League-like Guardians of the Globe shows most of the heroes engaged in exciting adventures and other big time thrills when they’re summoned to their secret headquarters…except for the fish-man ruler of Atlantis who is simply sitting on a throne in an empty chamber bored out of his mind. A pair of supersmart, superstrong identical beings constantly argue over which one of them is the clone. A hero with the power to shrink his body never gets to show off because the others solve problems before he gets the chance to. True, there are a number of grim moments for these guys as well, but Kirkman does display some humor with what he does.
So, bottom line: this was a fun series that never sat still…kind of the opposite of The Walking Dead which often looked like it wasn’t really going anywhere. I liked this one enough to go out and get the remaining two Compendiums already, so I will finish this one at some point. That said, I will be looking at the other big trades as well this year…and for some reason, that does include another Walking Dead Compendium
I figure I’ll save that for last.
As for Invincible, let’s say 9.5 out of 10 inconvenient government summonses.