Invincible is yet another comic book about superheroes. That it is an independently produced and creator-owned comic book about superheroes does not mean that it is good. Invincible reads like its two creators, Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker, were two comic book fanboys who really wanted to make a superhero comic of their own. But Invincible doesn’t do anything new or groundbreaking for the overtired superhero genre. Maybe it doesn’t have to, but it should at least tell an engaging story.
This is the story of Mark Grayson, whose father Nolan is a superhero named Omni-Man and is a lot like Superman, except with a mustache. Omni-Man is so much like Superman that he even came from an alien planet. Oh yes. And despite Omni-Man not having a secret identity – because he doesn’t, as some superheroes do, wear a mask, or even glasses – the Grayson family lives a middle class lifestyle. Mark’s mother Debbie is boring human and a professional housewife. Her only purpose in the story is to cook.
“Family Matters,” the opening story arc of this comic and the only one I’ll suffer myself to read, deals with Mark realizing that he’s inherited his father’s powers. They’ve begun to manifest themselves now that he’s hit puberty. Cool. This should have made for an engaging if cliche coming of age superhero story. It might, as the title implies, deal with the fallout of his coming of age in the context of his family unit.
But no. None of the characters are fully realized enough for that – in art or characterization. There are no stakes, and none of the characters seem too excited by any of the supernatural things happening to them. When Mark realizes he has super strength, his reaction is, “It’s about time.” When he tells his parents he has superpowers, his mother’s reaction is, “That’s nice. Can you pass the potatoes?”
Characters in these types of stories usually care about the things happening to them. When they don’t care, I don’t care.
Throughout “Family Matters,” Mark – and indeed the entire world in this comic book – seems entirely disinterested in everything. He joins a team of teenage superheroes with about the zeal I approach my morning bowel movement. The world doesn’t seem to mind or notice that there are people in tights flying about; society doesn’t seem to be any different for it. At one point, Mark quits his job at (of course) a hamburger stand and laments at how upset his parents will be. But they’re not. In fact, Omni-Man suggests that very night that Mark should probably quit his job at said hamburg stand, which was a cliche place for a teenager in a story to work anyway.
At one point, Mark actually says, “Dad was sucked into a portal about fifteen minutes ago. I don’t think he’ll be home tonight. It was some aliens we fought earlier today. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
And his mother disinterestedly remarks, “Well, that’s more pork chops for us.”
Maybe this is supposed to be funny. But in any decent story, even if a father figure was literally invincible, his family should at least be mildly concerned when he gets sucked into an alternate dimension by bloodthirsty aliens. They might even try to rescue him. These characters don’t. They don’t care. And because they don’t care, I don’t care.
There’s also some sub-plot about a teacher blowing students up with bomb vests, but I don’t care enough about it to discuss it right now.
Even the art is bad. Cory Walker’s renderings look like the thumbnails of a better artist. His lines are loose and sketchy. He even leaves ink blobs at the end of some of his lines, as if his pen jammed and he didn’t care.
I don’t care either. I won’t be buying another collection of this comic book.
But it’s a shame. Robert Kirkman is capable of telling complex stories with real characters and dramatic stakes. He does this regularly in his zombie comic book The Walking Dead. I don’t know why he thought a pile of ineffectual cliches would suffice here.