Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Story Arc Review: Invincible vol. 1 - Family Matters

Collecting issues 1-4 of the series Invincible, volume 1, "Family Matters," chronicles the story of how teenage high-school student Mark Grayson starts learning to use his super-powers.  Grayson is the son of Omni-Man. One day, as takes the trash out, Mark tosses the garbage bag so far that it practically goes into orbit.  Now, he realizes, he's starting to have super-powers.  Eventually Mark discovers that he has other powers, including flight and invulnerability.  His father takes him to get a costume, and Mark takes the name "Invincible." Shortly after getting his powers and costume, Mark goes out flying at night, and stumbles upon a villain named Mauler who is stealing video game processors.  As Invincible and Mauler fight, a group of teenage superheroes -- the Teen Team -- shows up, including Robot, Atom Eve, Rex Splode, and Dupli-Kate.. They help Mark collar Mauler.  Eve, it turns out, is one of Mark's class-mates, and they recognize each other the next day.  She invites him to join the teens as they go on their next assignment -- they follow Mauler to his hide-out and capture him and his brother.

Back at school, Eve and Mark learn that several kids have gone missing.  Meanwhile, Omni-Man takes Invincible out for a "team-up," and starts teaching him what it means to be a superhero.  Eventually, the two get involved in an alien invasion. They defeat the aliens and close their inter-dimensional portal. Then on the way home, they find one of the missing kids at the mall, strapped to a bomb.  Omni-Man throws the kid out of the mall so that when he explodes, no one else dies, but then another portal opens and the aliens capture him and take him away. As the story arc concludes, Robot uses his detective abilities to track down who has been setting the bombs -- it turns out to be Mr. Hiles, the physics teacher.  Invincible and Atom Eve go to confront him, and he admits his guilt. He explains that his son was bullied into committing suicide by one of the popular kids, so now he is killing off the popular kids in revenge.  He also has a bomb strapped to his own chest, set to go off.  Invincible grabs him and takes him to Antarctica, so no one is hurt when he blows up.

This was a fun story arc about a new and interesting superhero.  I enjoyed Kirkman's take on how a kid with new super-powers would react to them, and I thought the other teen heroes were fun to read about, although very little is shown of Rex or Kate.  The characters are likable and Kirkman definitely made me cheer them on.

One flaw in this series, however, is the dialogue, which is frequently either stilted, or contains gobs of unnecessary words that do nothing to move the story forward.  For example, it's not uncommon in this arc to see several panels where all the characters do is speak inanities such as, "Hey, how are you?" "Fine, and you?" "Can't complain."  Although this certainly is how real people talk, it's a waste of space to portray these lines of dialogue in such fine detail. Such dialogue neither reveals character nor advances the plot, and really ought to have been pruned during editing.

I thought the artwork was decent, though minimalist.  I tend to like more detailed character figures and backgrounds than artist Cory Walker provides.  However, the line work is pretty good, given that it's fairly spartan.  The action scenes and the quiet moments are drawn equally well, and what Walker's drawing lacks in detail, it makes up for in very good action poses and character positions.

Overall, I thought this was a fairly good story arc.  The characters are new and interesting, and Kirkman clearly has some fun mildly satirizing the superhero conventions while, in a general way, following them rather closely.  He's definitely decided to present a good-vs-evil approach here, Silver Age style, rather than the more recent "shades of gray" style many superhero books go in for these days, and I appreciate it (since I like the good-vs-evil approach better).  The dialogue could certainly use some improvement, but it was strong enough in most spots to make up for the awkward moments.  In the end, this arc was good enough to make me want to buy the next one, and that's about all one can ask of a comic-book story.

My score: 8/10

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