As I mentioned earlier this month, this “By the Book” installment will be very different from any of the other book reviews I have done so far. It will be based on a graphic novel rather than a standard novel. It was a gift I got during the holidays last year (and the closest to a Christmas theme I could do under the circumstances). The book in question is entitled Invincible, a story about a teenager and his slow ascent into super-hero-hood. These two books are anthologies, collecting the first 96 issues of the series.
Those who know me are aware of my long existing fondness for The Walking Dead series (both printed and televised) from Robert Kirkman. I have been following the series from the very beginning, having fallen for Kirkman’s merciless and unforgiving storytelling style. This is when I discovered Kirkman had other series in the works, such as the superhero tale Invincible.
The plotline and characters is what got my attention. The story revolves around Mark Grayson, a normal teenager who discovers at a young age that his father is a world famous super hero. Mark spent most of his life waiting (and hoping) for the day his own super powers would kick in. The series starts at the very moment Mark gets his powers, and becomes a virtual rollercoaster from that point on. Kirkman takes Mark through every possible bad situation you can think of, and then drags his protagonist through the mud for good measure. Mark has to deal with a seemingly endless laundry list of problems; from everyday teenage angst to world conquering alien invasions. The action and drama rarely slow down and just when Mark thinks he can catch his breath, Kirkman tosses him a curveball! Either [SPOILER] dies a gruesome death or [SPOILER] turns traitor! Furthermore, Kirkman hasn’t forgotten the gore fans from the Walking Dead, since some character always seem to find themselves torn to pieces in some violent manner every other issue.
Back of the book 1:
“Collects issues 0-47 of the Eisner award nominated series
plus the Invincible story from the image comics summer special
Mark Grayson is just like most everyone else his age.
He’s a senior at a normal American High school. He has a crappy part time job after school and on weekends. He likes girls quite a bit, but doesn’t quite understand them. He enjoys hanging out with his friends and sleeping late on Saturdays (at least until the good cartoons come on). The only difference between Mark and everyone else his age is that his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, and as of late, he seems to be inheriting his father's powers.
But that’s only the beginning of his problems…”
Back of the book 2:
Collects issues 48-96 of the Eisner award nominated series
plus the Invincible Returns 1 & Astounding Wolf-Man 11
The Best Superhero Comic Book in the Universe!
Ever since Mark Grayson got superpowers, life has never been the same. As Invincible, he’s fought the universe’s most dangerous villains, graduated high school, got a girlfriend (two of them!)... and his father, the world’s greatest superhero Omni-Man, revealed himself to be an alien conqueror bent on taking over Earth. Since then, Invincible’s been working for the Global Defense Agency, fighting their fights and saving the world in their name. Until now.
Invincible can no longer follow their orders unquestioned. Now he finds himself up against the very organization he’s been working for! And war looms on the horizon…”
What I learned:
- Knowing when to pull the plug: One thing that Robert Kirkman is not afraid of, is killing off characters. He has a talent for writing characters the audience love, and for knowing when and how to write them off for the most dramatic impact. Not getting emotionally attached to one's work is a lesson all writers need to learn; be it to kill off a character, rewrite a draft or make major changes to a story.
- Mix matching: Not entirely sure this point was A) intentional on Robert’s part B) just his Walking Dead style bleeding into this series or C) me imagining things. The point is, this series is one of the few occasions I’ve seen superhero stories mixed with gore (an element usually used in horror stories). This fact may just stick out to me since I plan on doing something similar with my book. So having the opportunity of seeing someone else do it well was really interesting.
- Subtle parody: Invincible may touch some serious issues within its storyline, but Kirkman isn’t afraid to include the occasional Easter Egg or jab at other properties. Without revealing too much (for those interested in reading this series), one example is the character “the Elephant”, an obvious parody of Spider-man’s popular villain, “the Rhino”.
Invincible is hands down my current favorite in terms of superhero fiction. I am patiently waiting for the next Compedium to come out sometime in 2017. While I wait, I keep myself busy reading other works from Robert Kirkman, most notably the Walker Dead and Guardians of the Globe. Other titles I’m looking forward to reading as well are Haunt and Wolfman. Visit the links below if you are interested in learning more about:
Author Robert Kirkman; https://imagecomics.com/creators/view/robert-kirkman
Invincible series: https://imagecomics.com/comics/series/invincible-universe
I consider this series to be one of my guilty pleasures, and I'm glad for having had the opportunity to read it. Always looking forward to reading more of Robert Kirkman’s work in the future.
Until next time!