Robert Kirkman has been writing an extraordinary series for more than six years that I had never picked up an issue of until recently.
In the span of a few days, I tore through all six over-sized hardcover editions, a soft-cover trade and near a dozen single issues in preparation of issue #100 of Invincible out on January 30th. One hundred issues is no small achievement for a creator owned series, though Kirkman is no stranger to ongoing success (see the incredibly popular Walking Dead comic and AMC TV show if you weren't already a fan). It's been an all-out hype-fest with the slogan "Everybody Dies" used in all the promotional material for issue #100. The lead-up story does not disappoint, though the slogan didn't quite mean what I thought it would. You’ll have to give it a read to find out what I’m talking about.
“One of the most original forays into the capes genre”Invincible is lauded as one of the most original forays into the capes genre in years and rightfully so. Though many characters are based on familiar archetypes-- with some at the start of the series so obviously ripped off, I'm not sure how they managed to avoid a lawsuit-- the Invincible cast goes beyond two dimensional Rock'em Sock'em heroes and villains. There's depth to the people and plot in the Invincible world, and they don't shy away from exploring matters of the heart or what it truly means to be a hero. If you step back and consider what other writers are doing with some of the big two publisher's characters in the past five years, you can see just how non-traditional some comic book stories have become overall. It really is a great time to be a comic reader and Invincible manages to tread new ground in this modern comic world without feeling clichéd or restrained. There's love, loss, redemption and realistic, ever-changing characters and interpersonal relationships throughout the series. The people you meet in the first issue are still familiar today, but they're not the same. Even though other books may have been published for longer, that doesn't necessarily mean the characters within them have grown over time. If they did, that growth may be wiped out in the next company wide reboot. Invincible is a series you can grow with, consistently written and drawn by the same core group since the beginning.
Did I lose your interest with all that talk of personal growth and romantic entanglements? Don't worry, this book is also one of the most gruesomely violent titles I've read. It's not gratuitously gory though; every brutal fight has a purpose and a cost. Ok, there may be a few panels for the sheer love of the fight but those are few and far between. Invincible may be the lead character’s name and his defining trait but that doesn't mean other people fare so well. Death is always on the table and the series opens with a shocking slaughter of several characters you assumed were untouchable. Good guys don't die in most comic books but Invincible does not play by the same rules. The cast of good guys may change over time and they may not even be people you care about, but every time they go into battle, you can't help feeling apprehensive because you know not all of them may survive. As in Kirkman's The Walking Dead, there's a feeling that "no one is safe", which is part of what makes this book so great. Some heroes may be near indestructible but there's a limit to everyone's power and when it's reached in a battle, there's rarely a Deus Ex Machina that steps in to save the day. People die and in horrible ways. Pretty often, too.
Somehow all this death makes you care more about central characters like Mark (Invincible), Eve (Atom Eve) or Allan the Alien (who's easily my favourite). They're affected by what they deal with on a daily basis and as the readers share their experiences with them, there's a sense of growing together. Having the same creative team throughout certainly helps readers connect and become loyal to the series. With Kirkman at the helm and Ryan Ottley/Cory Walker alternating penciling/inking duties throughout the entire run of the series, this book is a rarity in an industry where creators and artists are reshuffled seemingly at random sometimes. Ottley and Walker are doing a spectacular job of the art, their styles complementing each others’ while still getting better and better in every issue. Their art is quintessential superhero goodness; iconic covers, dynamic action sequences and clean, colourful heroes. It's a distinctive look that seems unsuited to the amount of gore the book can contain but if anything, just amplifies the emotional reaction to the violence.
It's an achievement for a creator owned series to reach its 100th issue--though Kirkman can now boast two of them--and if Invincible has ever faltered during its run, it's picked up the pieces and continued doing exciting things without missing a beat. Even after reading the entire series in such a short span of time, I can't really guess where issue #100 will take us but I know it will be good. What are you waiting for?