Friday, August 25, 2006

Invincible #1

Invincible #1, Image Comics (from the Ultimate Collection compilation)
writer: Robert Kirkman
artist: Cory Walker

I spent more quality time at the library today, this time with the Invincible hardcover that dominated a shelf space suitable for three or four lesser graphic novels. I had to see what all the fuss was about, both in its size and the rave reviews I've read of the series. I was impressed as much as I wasn't. Before you call me a son of a hero-turned-alien-dictator, let me explain.

First of all, the last time I read an offering at the library, I scribbed the comic's credits so I can list them in my heading, as I've done from day one. This time, I figured I'd be able to dig 'em up in the Internet, as Invincible has become a premiere book for Image's new all-genre . . . well, image. Sure, Kirkman, Walker, and his artisitic successor Ryan Ottley were often credited for their work; the letterer (probably Kirkman himself, but nevertheless) and the colorist were both no where to be found. Of course, I spent mere minutes scrolling through Google results, clicking on the occassionally promising link, and if I had spent a few more minutes I'm sure I would've been successful, but alas, misson incomplete. In this creator's rights driven age of give-me-credit-or-else, why aren't the colorists and letterers getting their due in print? Sometimes poor quality in either department can break a book; other times, either element can save an issue. They are artists, too, and their work should be critiqued. I'm not going to analyze them this time, but you catch my drift. Letters tell the story, and colors wrap the gift. Without them, comics would be glorified coloring books.

Furthermore, my Internet search tainted my review, because my impression of Invincible hinged on its similaries with Ultimate Spider-man, another acclaimed series I intentionally avoided, albeit for different reasons. I wasn't the only one to realize this. I mean, lanky high schooler gets super-powers, gets in trouble beating up the school bully, and wise-cracks his way through muggings and bank robberies? Classic Spider-man. In the first issue, Invincible does have a relatively happy home life, unlike young Spidey's ongoing strife with girls and the ever ill Aunt May, but his bliss was nearly contagious if not consequential to the formulaic structure of the story.

Therein lies my problem with Invincible #1. I know future issues expose his father as an uber-villain, establishing a melodramatic subplot that has made the series the darling of Oedipal complexes everywhere (sans the mother-lust, I think), but in this issue, the kid's too darn happy. He gets his powers, and he mutters, "Finally," as if his father's abilities inevitably entitled him to super-skills. Further, seemingly hours later, he's on the street knocking bad guys around, in what Kirkman could've only described as "garb from the clearance section at Home Depot." Mom and Dad have no problem with their son's recklessness, with willingness to put himself in harm's way when there's no proof that his abilities are permenent or as limitless as his father's? He's half human, too, isn't he? Without these basic conflicts coming into play, Invincible #1 makes for a boring read. I only enjoyed the tale as a superhero romp because I knew (through on-line press, mostly) of the drastic domestic dispute in his future.

The formula is the same, and I know so because I've written it myself: introduce character in action, flashback to origin sequence, introduce supporting characters in stride, one page at a time, then return to introductory moment to resolve conflict. Established the status quo for a dozen issues or so, then take the story in a "bold new direction." Been there, done that. Apparently, even Invincible isn't impervious to this structure. Still, again like Ultimate Spider-man, the series is a success. Perhaps superhero fans simply needed a fresh start. Maybe a few issues into the series, I'll get it. As is, I'm ready for another revamp.

Is Formulaic a good name for a superhero?

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