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Invincible #11
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Ryan Ottley

I’m about to do something I never thought I’d do. I’m about to give my second five star rating in less than two weeks, and the same writer did both books.

And I’m not even getting paid to do it.

I feel so dirty.

But, if you haven’t even heard about Invincible, you’ve probably been in a cave for the last few months (albeit a cave without internet… Actually, just about any place without internet, since the book is so hard to find, but I digress). It’s being hailed by many as one of the best superhero comics out there, and, after this issue, it’s vying for the position of THE best superhero comic.

Our story so far -- Mark, having come into his own as a teen superhero, faces the only challenge greater than living up to the example set by his father, Omni-man: dealing with the fact that papa’s really a villain. Of course, readers have wondered about this ever since he murdered the Guardians of the Globe (an ill-disguised Justice League), but issue #11 removes all doubt.

Dad tells Mark where he “really comes from” in almost exactly the same he did when Mark was a child, except that instead of the Viltrum being a high-minded race looking to save worlds, the name of the game is galactic conquest. After culling the weak from their race through years of bloodshed, the Viltrum established an empire, conquering those who surrendered and annihilating those who resisted.

By the time Mark’s father was born, much of the galaxy already belonged to the Viltrum Empire. Dad joined up and rocketed through the ranks, leading armies in the desolation of worlds. However, the Empire’s expansion nearly became the Empire’s collapse. Forces were stretched too thin, and a new plan was devised wherein the highest ranking officers would be sent in alone to retard the development of a planet’s defenses, ensuring it would be ripe for conquest.

And, as we know, Dad got Earth, but he also got daily alien invasions, trans-dimensional disasters, time traveling robot death machines, and even supervillains threatening his assigned territory. Before Pops could even plan the coming invasion, he was working full time just to save the world and somehow slipped into the role of a superhero. Now, however, the charade is over.

Invincible has been a fun read for a while, now. As I mentioned in my The Walking Dead review, Kirkman is definitely the hot commodity in comic writing today, and the dozen books he does every month attest to his nigh-inexhaustible imagination.

But, man, did he just outdo himself!

This story is easily as steeped in superhero lore as Alan Moore’s Supreme, as deftly plotted as Warren Ellis’ The Authority, and as instantly entertaining as Brian Michael Bendis’ Powers. What’s more, it isn’t a damn thing like any one of those books, and THAT’S the genius of it.

Sure, we’ve seen all these elements before:
Superhero father and son? The failed attempts are too numerous to list.
Pop’s really a lone invader from a hostile alien race coming to take over the planet? Dare I invoke Dragonball Z?
The son, being raised on a different world, must fight his father and abandon his heritage? Demons of Apokolips, say it ain’t so!

The magic of Invincible is its seamless blending of ingredients. In its hero, Mark, it finds the appeal of the everyman/trickster hero epitomized by Spider-Man. The denizens of the superhero society are stolen from Watchmen, Avengers, JLA, Powers and just about every other major comic you can imagine.

But, unlike so many books where it’s just a gimmick or a wicked jab at opposing comic companies, Kirkman uses the archetypes of the superhero genre for pure storytelling. When he brings in an Iron Man clone, it’s not to poke fun at Marvel or slack off for a month by copying an old story; he’s pulling from the history of the genre to make something honest and new.

There seems to be a prevalent attitude among comic writers that there are three main archetypes available: Superman, Batman, and Spider-man. Alter the outfit and origin story a little -- BAM! New hero.

And we wonder why superhero comics are dying.

Kirkman’s approach, on the other hand, is just what we need. Is it a superhero story? Yeah. Is it the same superhero story we’ve been fed over and over for the last fifty years? The pieces are the same, but the game is completely different.

Then there’s the fact that Ryan Ottley’s art suits the story like a finely tailored glove. Maybe it helps that I never really went for Cory Walker’s work on the book (I guess it might have felt too European), but Ottley’s style has really grown on me. I still wonder how he managed such a smooth transition from Walker’s designs. When you compare their other work, you see how completely different they can be, but Ottley approached Invincible with no egotism and adapted his style to keep the look of the art consistent.

But I think Ottley’s become more than just a replacement. His tenure as a webcomic artist shows his love of working with faces, and if there’s one thing a title with this much emotion and humor needs, it’s a face artist. But if you also need proof that he can deliver the powerful images the genre demands, look no further than the two-page spread in this month’s issue. Hell, just look at the first page and you know what kind of talent you’re dealing with.

So, as I bring this review to a close, I again must apologize for gushing over Robert Kirkman. If this had been last month’s issue of Invincible, I probably could’ve gotten away with a less embarrassing rating ‘cause, dammit, I’m trying to be a hard ass, here. I expect comics to challenge and entertain and justify the ungodly amount of money we waste on them.

Who’d have thought one guy could surpass my criteria twice in one month?! How can I criticize when they’re so damn good?!

It just isn’t fair! *runs off crying like a little girl*


Jason Schachat

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