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Invincible: Family Matters

If you've read some of my previous reviews, you might have noticed that I tend to say that I still love the superhero genre in comics, and yet of my last twenty reviews, five were actually from the genre that comprises the majority of product in the comic book industry. On the one hand, this is great because it shows that comics have grown and branched out into other realms of fiction. On the other hand, it shows that I may be neglecting what got me into comics in the first place: superheroes.

But it's hard to stay with the superhero genre a lot of the time. Part of it is from the "it's been done to death" attitude that plagues many a fanperson. I mean, how many times can we hear the story of Captain Mighty-Pants' origin without it getting old: how he was found in an alien space craft, then his parents were murdered, after he was bitten by a radioactive pair of corduroys, and vowed to keep the world safe from dryer-heated zippers and Baby Gap?

It's hard to read (and probably write) a straight superhero tale without getting too boring or repetitive. I tend to gravitate toward books that include superheroics, but don't feature them at the center of the story, books like Powers, Planetary, and Astro City. Even Daredevil has taken on a more "crime drama" slant to it than "superhero."

So when I cam across Invincible: Family Matters, I was surprised to find a good, straightforward tale about a superhero in the beginning of his career.

Mark Grayson is in high school, and thanks to his father Omni-Man, Defender of Democracy, Mark is finally coming into the super powers that he was more than likely to have start showing up. He can fly, he's super-strong, and there's always his titular invincibility to help him in a fight, as he decides to enter into the family business and become a superhero.

Maybe the reason I love this book is the novel (depending on your point of view) approach to the "coming of age" story that has become a comic book mainstay since the days of Spider-Man-in-high-school. Robert Kirkman manages to write an origin without a hook: there's no guilt over the loss of a parent or the death of a loved one, there's no great responsibility to the service of justice, nor is there some conspiracy or lurking evil behind the scenes that's just waiting to pop out and rattle our protagonist.

Mark has superpowers. His father is a superhero. It's been expected since birth that he would get powers one day, and his parents are not surprised, upset, overly concerned about the danger it poses to Mark, or any other stereotypical reaction a set of parents from the superhero genre would have. The normality of the situation (filtered through the eyes of the Graysons) is just so refreshing to see. Mark becomes a superhero because really, what else would you do with powers if a superhero dad and an accepting, loving mother raised you?

The family dynamic in the book is strong, but it doesn't overpower the adventure aspect, merely complementing it here and there. The scenes with Mark's mom are always interesting and it really demonstrates the strength of her character, to live and love two superheroes and still be a great mom.

The artwork is top-notch. Corey Walker pencils and self-inks and I've rarely seen an artist capture the iconic nature of superheroes so well. His lines are perfectly clean, and he matches the light-hearted tone of the book by not overdoing the inks.

In fact, the lack of dense inks plays incredibly well with the Bill Crabtree's colors. The color is vibrant and really brings alive the characters and settings in the book, and it greatly reminds me of the excellent work of Jeremy Cox on Leave It To Chance.

The book is a fun read that manages to be new, and almost free from cliché. The sketch gallery in the back is good and gives the reader some insight to Walker and Kirkman's original designs, and the introduction by Kurt Busiek simply adds more to an already great book. And it's not breaking the bank at $12.95 either.

Buy it and remember what got you into comics in the first place (I guarantee you it probably wasn't Scott Morse or Crumb that caught your eye at twelve or thirteen….well, maybe Crumb).

Robert Sparling

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