Writer: Robert Kirkman
Art: Ryan Ottley, Bill Crabtree (c)
Publisher: Image Comics
Invincible is a refreshingly retro title. There are no fads or gimmicks on show here, and on the whole, this title is immune to the changes that sweep the fickle US superhero genre with disappointing regularity. In many ways, this comic feels like a relic from a time before the Direct Market, before crossovers and absurd plot twists took over from actual storytelling.
Like some mighty bearded necromancer, Robert Kirkman resurrects the soap opera style you just don't see so often in superhero comics nowadays, as characters veer from major storyline to major storyline, either as a result of editorial fiat or incoming/outgoing creative teams wanting to make a splash. Kirkman is fully in control of the pace of the plotting, and while there are superheroics and epic plots aplenty, the writer makes sure that his cast have the time and space to react appropriately and realistically to the events into which they find themselves drawn. It's to Kirkman's considerable credit that such disparate plots as Invincible worrying about his college grades, and his extra-terrestrial friend's attempts to infiltrate an evil galactic empire, mix together so naturally that you can't see the join. If you ever wondered what happened to that essential blend of real life and superheroics that once made Spider-Man so enthralling, it seems that Kirkman has plundered it wholesale, and quite successfully too.
Ryan Ottley matches perfectly with this approach, avoiding superficial trends (Let's make it look “realistic”! Let's make it look like Jim Lee drew it with a broken hand!) to deliver art that's become a unique selling point of the book. Ottley's artwork is big, bold and dynamic, staying just enough on the cartoony side to enable him to sell both the superhero action and scenes of characterisation just as effectively. This issue, the artist seems to be branching out and experimenting a tad, as he seems to be making more use of flat areas of black, and his inking in general takes on a rougher, and not unpleasant, edge. Meanwhile, Bill Crabtree continues to deliver a colouring job that shows that solid blocks of colour can be just as effective in the right hands as more flashy efforts; this understated approach means that Crabtree will probably never win an award for his colouring, but he's nonetheless one of the best in the business.
By today's standards, Invincible is something of an aberration. Its cast members just go about their business, whether it's punching aliens in the head, or going on that tricky first post-separation date, and plots don't fall neatly into six-issue chunks of sweeping hyperbolic nonsense. Instead, everything chugs along nicely, and while that approach might seem sedate and boring, the creators never allow it to become so, ensuring that while they never threaten to engulf the actual storytelling, the high concepts and spectacle inherent to superhero fiction are nonetheless all present and correct. It's rare to see this consistent level of skill and confidence in the genre today, and Invincible shows that there's a place for simple stories done well.
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