Sunday Slugfest: Invincible #48

A comic review article by: Keith Dallas, Kelvin Green, Jason Sacks
Steven Bari

Plot: From his prison cell, the elderly and rather laughable Doctor Seismic engulfs the superhero world with giant bugs. Can Invincible save the globe and its mightiest heroes from evil three miles below the surface of the earth?

Comment: No. But Invincible #48 is the beginning of a storyline that will culminate in issue #50, so cut the guy some slack. He may defeat Seismic after all, get the girl, and become the darling of the superhero community. From the evil doctor’s preface of doom to the fist- bleeding cliffhanger, Invincible is a terrific action drama.

Kirkman essentially pulls every superhero that Image has to offer into the fray. He does each of the characters justice, though, reflecting not only their personality but also their weight in the story. Bolt remarks to Kid Thor as they slug and slam nasty bug monsters: “Work the night shift with me! You know you could use the extra bucks! Great Idea!” The wit and color of Kirkman’s characterizations opens the story up and gives it gravitas. If he had stayed at home, Bolt wouldn’t have been defeated and dragged down to Seismic’s subterranean lair.

When Invincible finally appears, he tries to reconcile the conflict—but not the one you think. He hovers above the beautiful Atom Eve, who specifically flew around the world to avoid him. But when Mark is called into duty, Eve joins him. Their relationship is complex, without any allusion as to what they are actually fighting about. Yet the tension is sexy and gripping, putting even more at stake. Will these two patch up before it’s too late?

Well, you’ll have to read the book and look at Ottley and Crabtree’s amazing art. Every slug, punch, and wallop is just as clear and poignant as the subtle sneers, maniacal laughs, and tender caresses. When Savage Dragon punches a giant worm, you watch the beast undulate. When the Guardians of the Globe maneuver into action, you can follow their stratagem. When Mark tries to apologize to Eve, you see the painful feelings rising up inside of them. The art is articulates Kirkman’s world stunningly.

Although this is the first issue Invincible I’ve read, I not only love it, but also know its characters without being told a lot about them. That’s not just talent, that’s what every comic book creator wants from his or her book. So c’mon, get to know Invincible better.

Final Word: BUY! BUY! BUY!

Kelvin Green

Invincible has often been characterised as a "retro" title, and I think the reason for this is Robert Kirkman's approach to plotting superhero stories, as he embraces the ongoing soap-opera feel that has largely been abandoned in these days of short-stay creative teams and storylines designed to fit oh-so-neatly into trade collections. Kirkman's inherently stable position as creator as well as writer means that he is not constrained to this arbitrary arc structure and can develop stories at his own pace; sometimes this can lead to a lack of focus as the comic is devoted to the development of multiple subplots, and while Kirkman is very good at juggling those plotlines, I do wonder how easily new readers can get to grips with what's going on in the average issue.

This issue is a bit different, as while Kirkman spends a few pages on a couple of his main subplots, there remains a distinct focus on the main story. Again, Kirkman balances those plots well, and the brief glimpses we see of those ongoing threads are filled out sufficiently for casual readers to pick up what's relevant. Meanwhile, the main story begins and comes to a satsfying cliffhanger in this one issue, so there's a definite self-contained feel to the comic which should please both newcomers and veterans alike.

Even when the title loses its storytelling focus, it remains an enjoyable read, as Kirkman always turns in a witty and engaging script, and that's also true here. There's one moment where the writer loses his rhythm and dumps a couple of big fat expositionary word balloons into the middle of an otherwise natural scene, but given the pace of the issue, and how much Kirkman packs in, that's an acceptable slip-up. I should also mention the comic's use of narrative captions; some other writers and publishers drop them completely, or see them as a necessary evil, or try to use them in a "humorous" fashion only to end up looking like cack-handed amateurs, but again Kirkman embraces their use. The opening montage featuring various denizens of the Image superhero universe in deadly battle is made just that little bit more fun by Kirkman's irreverant use of captions; this is by no means a comedy title, but there's still an unambiguous sense of enthusiasm in Kirkman's scripting, a clear salute to the inherent fun of the setting, and a rejection of the po-faced "we're doing art" faux seriousness that seems to have infected the genre elsewhere.

This sense of fun is carried through into the art; Where other artists strive for "realism" by smudging everything or drowning their figures in obsessive crosshatching, Ryan Ottley displays a more simplistic, almost clear-line, style. Ottley's artwork is bold and dynamic, and his storytelling is full of life and movement, but his aptitude for body language and facial expressions means that the quieter character moments also work well. Bill Crabtree's vivid colouring is similarly free of ill-advised murkiness, and his collaboration with Ottley brings the larger-than-life superheroics to life. It's also pleasing to see this art team tackle some of Image's other characters for a change, particularly their bright and bold approach to the Savage Dragon.

Invincible is not a flashy title, nor is it particularly ground-breaking one. What it is, is a well-judged celebration of what makes, or perhaps made, superhero comics so much fun to read, put together with obvious enthusiasm by a creative team that clearly love what they're doing. So many superhero titles today are tiring in their absurd grittiness and misjudged grabs at realism; by contrast, Invincible is a very welcome jolt of genuine gusto, and I love it.

Jason Sacks:

How many times have we comic readers seen a villain scream and rant about seeking revenge on the heroes who sent him to jail? It’s happened countless times, but each and every time it ends up the same: the heroes beat the villain, he goes back to jail, and the cycle begins again. But what if the heroes can’t win? What if the villain can’t be defeated? This issue begins with Doc Seismic screaming for revenge, but by the end of the issue, it looks like he actually might get it.

If only all super-hero comics were this good. Invincible #48 is a pure, all-out action issue, packed with super-hero battles and high drama. This issue is the perfect kickoff to the grand celebration in issue #50, as Invincible and friends such as Atom Eve, Savage Dragon, and the characters from Dynamo 13 find themselves in pitched battle with the minions of Doc Seismic. The minions somehow manage to kick the butts of each and every hero they fight. As Doc rants to about two dozen hostage super-heroes, “I knew that some of you would be caught off guard – but, really, this step of the plan was only meant to thin you out! I didn’t expect to get all of you!!”

What’s most cool about all of this is that as readers we know that Robert Kirkman just might allow some heroes to die in this story. He’s killed beloved characters before, so we just don’t know how this story might go. The threat seems huge; will the mortality match? And, based on the scene on the final page, could even our hero, Mark, be in trouble?

This series never disappoints. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Community Discussion