… the Image Comics series is liable to be ten times better. Here’s why.
Invincible – the Comic Series (144 issues) – 9.5 of 10.
I admit to not being a fan of the Savage Dragon and let that prejudice prevent me from reading more of the superheroic line of Image Comics. Once upon a time, Image Comics were upstarts and I had little respect for them. Even an Answer-Man can be wrong. Mark the day. I shan’t make such an announcement again.
To prepare for the pending arrival of Invincible on Amazon Prime, I found my way back to reading the Invincible series to see if there was something more to its pending arrival than another comic Universe getting a moment in the sun.
I had no idea how wrong I would be.
The series was breathtaking in its ambition, its willingness to make fun of standard comic tropes, the homages it pays to the comic industry and the tongue-in-cheek references to the Big Two. A meta-comic, completely self-contained and self-consciously lauding and mocking everything that makes comics the medium it is.
Make no mistake, this is serious comic business. It might make fun of the industry, it might be over-the-top from time to time, but it is a story about a boy coming of age, and discovering his father is not the man he thought he was. It takes that coming of age story and turns it on its head by making the father a complicated individual, at once murderous and yet conflicted, a man not truly aware of who or what he was capable of.
And a son whose love of that father would put him at odds with the man the entire world admired and would later fear – with good reason.
Invincible is a story about a young man coming into his superhuman potential on a world where superheroes and villains are commonplace and yet still not entirely trusted. Mark Grayson, is the son of Omni-Man, the greatest and most powerful superhero on the planet Earth.
Mark understands his father is an alien who came to Earth to bring the Earth into an alien empire when we are ready to acknowledge our place in the Universe. Mark is eager to discover whether he has the potential to have the same powers as his father and when he learns he will, he discovers the world changed beyond his understanding as being a metahuman adds a complicated layer to his Human relationships from his mother to his life in school.
Mark’s life will grow exponentially more complicated when the world’s premiere superhero team, the Guardians of the Globe are murdered and the world is essentially defenseless. Yes, there are other superheroes but the Guardians were the on-call first-responders when the Global Defense Initiative needs someone to deal with kaiju, alien invaders, crazed meta-beings, interdimensional invaders or any of a dozen other tropes superheroes are forced to deal with.
Their murder was the first step in the recognition Earth was defenseless against the alien menace hiding among them. The alien empire of Viltrum had sent an agent to prepare the world for its arrival. To keep the Earth weak and vulnerable for the day when the alien invaders would come to claim their prize. Said Viltrumite agent was no less than Omni-Man. The only thing between him and world domination was his son, a son he had recently trained to become a superhero, who called himself Invincible.
Against Omni-Man, he was hardly invincible, proving to be no match for his father, who was hundreds of years into his power and experience. Omni-Man, who was practically immortal, having been conquering worlds for hundreds of years and had never been defeated, his son, Invincible never stood a chance.
Yet the Earth survived. Not because of its superhuman protectors, but because of a father’s unexpected love of his family and his conflict with the directives of his planet’s leadership. Omni-Man beats his son near to death and then leaves the Earth expecting never to return.
Yet, this is not the only story in this series. There are dozens of characters and each of them gets a chance to lead the story, their arcs become meaningful and in some cases, troublesome in their own right.
Atom Eve, a reality-manipulator, is a main character whose frustration with the superhero life causes her to leave it in an effort to make a more meaningful relationship with the world and in the use of her powers.
Rex Plode, with the power to charge objects with explosive energy, starts as Eve’s boyfriend but over time, his immaturity will destroy his relationship with her and challenge his ability to remain with his superteam because of his inability to pay attention for more than ten seconds at a time.
The enigmatic Robot is a machine whose humanity is disturbing and will ultimately lead to his attempt at world domination after he is traumatized on a mission.
Allen the Alien, who works as a Champion Evaluation Officer for the Coalition of Planets, is a bright light in the series, his optimism and belief in his mission gives an alternative perspective to the galaxy-spanning drama and we get to watch his evolution as a freelance operative to becoming a titular head of the Coalition of Planets. He remains my favorite character among the aliens in the series.
Except for Thokk, the Battle Beast, a genetically-engineered protector of his planet who was so successful he put himself out of a job. Lacking challenges on his homeworld he goes out into space to find the one thing he was unable to find at home: A good death in battle. I loved watching him at work.
There are dozens of characters in this series both heroes and villains and the writers give us a peek into all of their lives and their motivations, from the murderous to the outright bizarre, they become fully-fledged members of the story, so much so, when some of them are killed, the story changes tone requiring the reader to consider their perspectives.
The biggest concept this series embraces is change. EVERYONE changes and evolves in Invincible, often not for the better. This includes the main character whose evolution is partially based in post-traumatic stress disorder and the incredible evolution he is forced to undergo, and partially due to the need for him to embrace an entire galaxy of options, choices, and problems in less than a decade.
If you are looking for a comic rich in adventure, transformation, superheroic mythologies, aliens, madmen, androids and mayhem, then INVINCIBLE is the comic series for you, with one hundred and forty four issues of madcap adventure with a variety of artists who each bring their own style and texture to the story of Robert Kirkman. This is the same Robert Kirkman responsible for the Walking Dead and a number of other comics from Image and Marvel Comics.
Don’t let the teen hijinks fool you. Invincible is a serious comic space adventure, rich in the tropes and the adventure you expect from a hero whose father pretended to be the world’s greatest hero for twenty years before trying to destroy the very same planet. He was not under mind control. He was, in his own way, trying to save his own species.
He only had to destroy the Earth to do it.
Welcome to Invincible. I hope you survive the experience. Not everyone did…
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.