Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

The place to talk about your favorite novels, comic books and web comics.
User avatar
Ares
Site Admin
Posts: 1841
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:40 am

Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by Ares » Sun Oct 08, 2017 7:50 am

With the Invincible comic series ending soon, I'd decided to re-read my old copies and get caught up on the story. I had initially stopped reading around the time Robot took over the Earth and Mark left the planet, feeling as though the hero had just given up on the world and on being a hero. Having read up to the current issue . . . I'm honestly not quite sure how I feel about the series.

For a while, Invincible felt more like old school superheroism than what either Marvel or DC was doing, and the Guardians of the Globe stuff was actually a lot of fun.

But reading the series from start to finish, in a weird way it feels like a microcosm of the comic industry from the Silver Age to the Modern Age, and to me at least comes off as basically one big deconstruction of the superhero genre.

Spoiler Warning for anyone who isn't familiar with the series.

The series starts out in the Silver Age, with Mark discovering his powers, having adventures with the Teen Team, following in the footsteps of his Superman-analog dad, etc. Then like Gwen Stacy getting dropped off of a bridge, we hit the Bronze Age with his dad revealing his true colors, killing off the other heroes and showing that he was here for an invasion. Mark steps up as the new hero of the world, and the series stays Bronze Age until Mark decides that killing is the right solution to his problems, and he goes Dark Age for a bit. To the comics credit, it actually examines the idea of the superhero No Killing code and why sometimes its okay to break it, but why killing as a first resort is wrong.

After the Dark Age / Iron Age we run into . . . whatever the post Mid-90s comics where. That age where we got Kurt Busiek's Avengers and Geoff Johns JSA, an actual return to form of the superhero genre. I think I'll call it the Neo-Bronze Age, since it was basically an attempt to recapture the best of the Bronze Age, which was essentially a lot of the fun of the Silver Age but with less of the silliness. We got the Viltrumite War, heroes having crazy space adventures, an evil empire being reshaped into something good, etc.

And then Invincible starts helping out Dinosaurus, does a lot of morally questionable things, and gets raped. This brings us to what I guess I'd call the Gray Age of comics, basically starting from when Sue Dibny got raped and when the Avengers Disassembled, to the Nu-52. An age of heroes doing morally questionable things, contrasted with genuinely good stories and attempts to get back to the Bronze / Neo-Bronze Age. It's not quite Dark, but it's darker, more violent and more conflicted than ever before. Mark does some morally questionable stuff, gets a lot of people killed, gets raped, but TRIES to still be a hero throughout it all.

At which point Robot takes over and we hit the Modern Age of comics, or the PC Era. Robot takes over the Earth, kills a lot of heroes, and Invincible just sort of . . . quits being a hero. In fact, based on a lot of Mark's dialogue with people like Dinosaurus, Cecil, his dad, Eve and the like, Mark seems to think that being a superhero is kind of pointless and stupid. In fact, most everyone seems to think that Robot taking over the Earth is a GOOD THING and that the world runs better without superheroes.

I'm not sure Kirkman meant for it to read this way, but this really does feel like someone who got into comics as a kid during the last days of the Silver Age, then stuck with the Industry up until the Modern Age, and has finally decided that superheroes are dumb and its time to "grow up". And with the state of the current comics industry, it's hard not to understand that kind of disillusionment.

Overall Invincible was a solid comic series for the most part, it did some interesting things, tried its hand at world building and examining issues, but it also seemed to not know what it wanted to do or be a lot of the time, it relied on a lot of the same jokes, and it really liked to indulge in blood, gore and sex.

Like I said, I doubt very much my above ramblings about comic ages was Kirkman's intention, it was just something that seemed to fall into place on examination.

So what did the rest of you that read the series think about it? I can't be the only one who read it.

Jabroniville
Posts: 8810
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by Jabroniville » Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:49 pm

Oh geez- just saw this one yesterday. I need to check out the non-Sheets forums more :).

I used to LOVE Invincible. The early warnings in the first trades were dead-on- it was the most addictive comic I'd ever read. I blew threw the first 6-8 Trades immediately, as I got into the comic late. I couldn't wait to see what happens next.

The Viltrumite War was a great peak to the things- it kind of set a new status quo and was a colossal climax. UNFORTUNATELY... Kirkman had this weird tendency to go off on tangents and then never touch on past stuff again. I mean, remember when Amber and William were major parts of the comic? Or Mark's mother struggling with alcoholism? Hell, she never even had a real conversation with Nolan about his betrayal- they just ended up back together! People barely seem to mention that Eve is so obsessively weird about Mark (a future self went crazy after she couldn't have him; she nearly died of anorexia when he disappeared once). And they pass off the "Anissa raped Mark" thing so hurriedly that it's clear they didn't want to dwell on it anymore ("Oh she understands that was wrong now; you've been gone a long time and we all dealt with it").

What I'll give it credit for is that Kirkman is always doing something NEW with it. Mark will get trapped in an alternate reality for a while, or a time-skip will happen, or Robot will TAKE OVER THE WORLD, and Mark will be all "okay, I guess I'll just live in space, then". Even if it isn't good, it's going somewhere I've never seen a comic go before.

Unfortunately, it kind of went off the rails following Robot taking over, as major characters like Cecil died, the brief Guarding the Globe book served no purpose other than to flesh out future victims of Robot's empire, and then Mark basically ran off like a coward who didn't want to deal with his problems.

I'll give it this- it isn't afraid to call out Mark for his stupidity. His selfishness and impulsive behavior are pointed out by various others, including Eve, who finally loses her shit when Mark goes off into ANOTHER fight (against Allen). It's basically a multi-page takedown of how he never thinks things through, behaves like an idiot, and goes off half-cocked. It's quite interesting that a book is so interested in having us believe that the hero is kind of a dolt.

Is it about how "Superheroes Aren't Needed"? I'd say it's more about Kirkman just trying new and different stuff to keep himself occupied and interested in his second-most-popular product, and how his campaign just kind of went off the rails. I'd be almost certain he never has a real plan in place, and kind of just does whatever he thinks of once he sits down to write.

That said... Kirkman ABSOLUTELY shows the era in which he grew up reading comics. His supporting characters shared names with 1990s superheroes, his comic is extraordinarily ultra-violent, people use naughty language and sex-talk. It's kind of this interesting mix of glorifying the "Four-Color Era" of comics, while having the accouterments of Image Comics.

greycrusader
Posts: 223
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 11:25 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by greycrusader » Sun Oct 15, 2017 8:13 pm

I agree with Jab-Invincible is nearly always interesting, even if a specific idea isn't well-conceived, or a story arc isn't executed well. The book respects the genre, but still does a lot of trope-defying, especially with Mark/Invincible making all sorts of terrible choices at time. But as Robert Kirkman's other superhero books fell by the wayside and TWD became a multi-media empire, the book focused more and more on Mark and pushing toward a "Big Finish", either rushing past multiple subplots (Anissa's sexual assault of Mark, Atom Eve's metabolic and psychological disorders-she's been exaggerated hourglass, BBW, AND anorexic at different points, Bulletproof's accidental manslaughter of his parents and subsequent cover-up, etc.) or just forgetting about them entirely. And the whole "Invincible was lost in the timestream for 5 years" bit was just unnecessary and a fairly cheap way to do a time-skip without needing much exposition.

Still, I will be sad to see it go, as the book is rarely a disappointing read-one of the few I buy without worrying I'll get bored by the whole "decompressed" story-telling techniques which are almost required by DC and Marvel due to the reliance on trade sales.

All my best

MacynSnow
Posts: 3048
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2016 2:56 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by MacynSnow » Tue Nov 07, 2017 11:48 pm

Here's my thing on Invincible:no matter how much Rob(Kirkman) will tick you off for ignoring plot threads(he's done it so many times in the Walking Dead that we shouldn't be suprised anymore),but will still give you some of the best moments in whatever he does at the moment (Glen's death in TWD, Mark getting raped in Invincible just to name a few)....

Jabroniville
Posts: 8810
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by Jabroniville » Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:02 am

Okay, I'll toss in a running commentary, since I've been re-reading the series to get ready for some Invincible builds:

-The Early Trades are interesting- for the first eight issues, the book functions as more or less a Generic Teen Hero Book. And truthfully it was well-written enough, with an interesting enough world created, that they could have just kept going like that. Some early knock-off characters like The Elephant and The Lizard League spring up. Already the Mauler Twins, Titan and others are set up as total jobbers. A Justice League pastiche team is introduced, given two pages each, and then mercilessly killed- fans would be bugging the creative team for bios on these guys for AGES.

Cory Walker, the original artist, has a quirky style that fit fairly well- good costume design, and he draws Mark's parents pretty well- his mom in particular really pulls off that "attractive, but aged" thing, with a curvy figure, but a lot of wrinkles and some funny expressions. Walker does a few too many "Dots for eyes" looks, which is odd because sometimes the characters DO have regular eyes.

Walker soon proves incapable of handling a monthly grind, and is replaced as of Invincible #8 by Ryan Ottley, who starts out a bit Walker-ish, but very quickly molds it into his own style, and you can start to recognize him, though his style was more clumsy back in the day, with some goofy expressions here and there.

The Early Years provide some interesting things- Invincible & Atom Eve have a friendly partnership going, and of course EVERYONE started shipping them immediately. Mark's best friend William is a big part of the book- essentially appearing in almost all of the "Mark" scenes. Mark's girlfriend Amber pops up, and the fans turned on that character SO fast ("Die For Our Relationship" ain't just a thing for anime-watching nerdy girls, folks!).

Jabroniville
Posts: 8810
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by Jabroniville » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:01 am

Invincible, Trade 5: "I decided to build up Mark's Rogues Gallery!" (jobs out Magmaniac, Magnattack, Blastfurnace & Kursk in seconds)
He has two foes in five trades that can't be one-punched.
And then there's Cecil and his five-page expository infodumps, explaining new status quos. Like, for no reason other than to make the world know everything that went down, the recording of the big fight is leaked. And he does this REPEATEDLY.

Really, the comic is just FULL of infodumps- Nolan explaining the "World Betterment Committee" to his young son. Nolan revealing the TRUTH behind the Viltrumites to Mark. Cecil explaining his purpose to Mark, and his guilt at the revelation that Nolan is evil. Cecil explaining that someone leaked Nolan & Mark's conversation to the public. Nolan explaining his personality to Mark on his new home planet. It's a testament to Ryan Ottley's skill that this remains interesting, as many issues devolve into talking heads, but rather than be Bendis-style (ie. xeroxing pages), the heads are always changing, making different expressions, reacting in unique ways... Ottley does the best with it.

Mark going to his father's new planet and meeting the bug people, then THREE VILTRUMITES SHOWING UP, is one of those huge, game-changing moments that even felt big at the time. Mark, usually so powerful than Earth enemies are jokes, is EASILY defeated, and Omni-Man is crippled fighting them off. Naturally, InfoDump Exposition is the rule.

Jabroniville
Posts: 8810
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by Jabroniville » Fri Jan 19, 2018 7:07 am

Rick Sheridan feels like he's missing for an eternity, even on a quick re-read. William brings it up repeatedly, but Mark is always too busy- then it's dealt with in one issue, and the villain goes unpunished. William actually starts getting worse and worse as a character- like his immaturity and annoying tendencies are ramped up- he used to just be the "Jughead" to Mark's "Archie", but lately he's just been a whiny pest. Mark's attempts at college... feel like they really went nowhere. I think Kirkman just got bored with the idea, or just wanted Mark to live away from his mom for a while, showing him "growing up". Because it seriously almost never appears, and then Mark finally just gives up on it.

Some stuff goes off the rails in a hurry. I find it hilarious that Mark & Amber finally take their relationship to the next level, convess their love for each other... and then he has to bail repeatedly to save the universe, and she's heartbroken. Then after only a couple of trades, they break up having only had a few "moments". And then we only see her one more time. It's very odd.

It's VERY WEIRD reading the early Invincibles, because you see stuff like Amber, Debbie's drinking problem, Art the costume guy, William... and they all just disappear.

Allen the Alien surviving his beating and then immediately powering up past Viltrumite levels is a hilarious All-Pull. You can just feel Kirkman going "Ah shit, I made them too strong for any of the heroes to beat. Time to change it up!"

Jabroniville
Posts: 8810
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by Jabroniville » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:20 am

The art actually takes a bit of a dive in the late 40s & early 50s- I think Ottley is just overworked and the inkers are finding their way. And Oliver debuts as "Kid Omni-Man"... and immediately executes the Mauler Twins. Yes, these enemies of Mark since the early days, with their goofy "Who is the original?" concept, and endless schemes in the backgrounds, are ignominiously wiped out as if they never mattered. It's sad on one level, but on the other, they were never MAJOR characters, and not a threat to Mark unless there were dozens of them.

Oliver being potentially evil with his cavalier attitude towards killing, and his open disgust towards humanity, is very interesting. I can see why some people loved him, while others hated him. It really comes out of nowhere, though- he's an adolescent and suddenly he's got a bad attitude. And I forgot all about Debbie getting a new boyfriend, just when Nolan confesses to missing her. Speaking of stories that basically got solved without ever being explained...

Things get REALLY heated in the late-50s, as you see William & Amber go away for good (Amber has a strange one-off where she's punched by her suddenly-angry new boyfriend, then Mark threatens to murder him), and then Angstrom Levy returns for THE INVINCIBLE WAR- an odd one-off in issue #60 that involves sixteen Invincibles from alternate realities coming to Earth and wrecking house, thus "poisoning" the world against our hero. This is a BRUTAL issue, featuring the deaths of millions, dozens of Image heroes in an odd cross-over (Savage Dragon had shown up before, but YOUNGBLOOD? WITCHBLADE?), eight Invincibles dying (mostly off-screen, and to entire super-hero teams, though Pitt gouges the eyes out of one before falling to Earth), and the finale of both Darkwing (takes an Invincible into the Shadow World) and Rex Splode (a suicide attack).

And this IMMEDIATELY leads to Conquest- a short arc featuring the most powerful Viltrumite yet, who engages in some of the bloodiest fighting yet seen in the book, executing Atom Eve in a silly "stunt death" that's undone in the very next issue. To their credit, they do some "slow issues" after this 4-7 issue stretch of non-stop death and fighting. The Eve thing comes off as a pointless shock that ruins a lot of future drama as well- knowing that she can do this with her powers means that she's basically a walking "Dragon Ball"- anything can be undone if she's present. And yes, I still find it funny that Kirkman INSISTS he's never seen Dragon Ball.

Jabroniville
Posts: 8810
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by Jabroniville » Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:59 am

The whole stretch from The Invincible War to The Viltrumite War is probably the high-water mark of the series in terms of writing, art quality and "wow, this is getting BIG". Unfortunately, it peaks so fast here that everything else gets left in its wake- who cares about "stuff on Earth" when you just FLY THROUGH A PLANET? Is any villain scary after Thragg shows that he's mightier than even Conquest was? This is the point where we also learn that Only Viltrumites Matter, as the "Earth Cast" basically disappears, and anyone not named "Allen the Alien" or "Robot" more or less stops mattering.

It's weird- despite the Viltrumite War being the game-changer/biggest event for the series (EASILY its biggest story, actually, now that it's ending), this is also where a lot of my memories of the series kind of peter out. I remember a LOT of the early trades, right down to individual panels and bits of dialogue ("I think I'm finally getting my super-powers." "That's nice. Pass the potatoes, please."). But here? I remember that Thaedus dies, but I have no recollection of how it happened, or when. I remember some Viltrumites flying through Viltrum and destroying it, but not that Tech-Jacket and the Rangar were part of this fight. I barely remember Space Racer ever being a part of this series at all. I don't remember William being revealed as gay before Mark found out. I guess this is very, VERY close to when I began reading the series month-to-month instead of trade-by-trade. Because of that, I think a lot of things just didn't "stick" with me the way they would have otherwise. I think "Trade Waiting" is actually better for my reading comprehension :).

Jabroniville
Posts: 8810
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by Jabroniville » Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:09 am

The Guarding the Globe books were a bit interesting- it's sort of like if The Avengers had a multinational cast, and were the worst super-heroes ever. Like... these guys TRY HARD, but holy crap- they can scarcely go on a single mission without the civilian body count resembling something out of a Dan Snyder movie. Every villain or disaster seems ready to kill THOUSANDS of people. Part of it's the lower Power Levels- Samson, Bulletproof and Brit just can't get it done physically, and Robot's genius seems stunted somehow. The TEAM picking up a body count is pretty bad, too, as so many of the goofily-named side-people drop like flies. But Best Tiger? Best Tiger makes the book.

GTG soon becomes Invincible Universe, which gives us a bit more focus on some of the characters (Kid Thor & Knockout, in particular, got NOTHING before this). We still never saw much of Pegasus, though. Watching the book dance around Kirkman's "Babies" from Invincible was funny, as Robot & Monster Girl kind of had to be glossed over, and Bulletproof goes from "major part of the book" to "just a background guy" because he's suddenly become the new Invincible and Kirkman is going to use him a lot more. Some of the backstory bits were pretty funny, like Kid Thor's Nordic relatives ("You're growing a beard, finally!" "Maybe next year it'll be pubes?"). Of course Best Tiger has an issue where he "kills" the rest of the team as a fake-out for a Mind Controller villain, then removes the villain's powers, because "Name not GOOD Tiger. BEST Tiger." They seriously go so over the top with this guy that he goes past "too silly" and becomes MORE AWESOME again. King Lizard is the villain of the last pair of issues, which is amusing. And in true Invincible villain fashion, he gets multiple issues of build-up, but his threat is neutralized almost instantly. His bomb-themed deathtrap was fairly solid, though, and contains real drama, as this IS the kind of series that would have the heroes screw up and kill millions.

Sadly, IU is cancelled after its twelfth issue (about a two-year run)- they simply announce that "there is some stuff being shaken up in the original title" that necessitates a break for Invincible Universe "for the time being", but of course it never returns. And in a move that pissed off this book's fans (and, well, anyone who bought issues hoping this book would "matter"), they were simply used as disposable nobodies for Robot's takeover of Earth- a handful of characters DIED, and the rest merely jobbed out in seconds and then NEVER DO ANYTHING AGAIN. You like Pegasus, Best Tiger, Brit or Le Bruiser? TOUGH TOENAILS, you'll never see them do anything again! And you like Kid Thor & Knockout? LOLZ.

MacynSnow
Posts: 3048
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2016 2:56 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by MacynSnow » Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:20 pm

This was my only real complaint about Invincible;it trolled the readership on a fairly regular basis. It almost felt like Kirkman was doing this just so he could stop making the book (as it was apparently selling better than his love-child The Walking Dead).......

Jabroniville
Posts: 8810
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by Jabroniville » Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:28 am

MacynSnow wrote:
Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:20 pm
This was my only real complaint about Invincible;it trolled the readership on a fairly regular basis. It almost felt like Kirkman was doing this just so he could stop making the book (as it was apparently selling better than his love-child The Walking Dead).......
Oh yeah? How so? I know fans complained about "Chubby Eve" a lot, and that the gore was promised to not be excessive... then became extra excessive to the point of self-parody almost immediately.

MacynSnow
Posts: 3048
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2016 2:56 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by MacynSnow » Fri Feb 02, 2018 3:27 pm

Look at the selling numbers for both Invincible and The Walking Dead for about the same month.Note how much more Kirkman's hero book was selling than his Horror one....now check 4-5 months later;notice anything wierd?...... ;)

Jabroniville
Posts: 8810
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by Jabroniville » Sat Feb 03, 2018 1:14 am

MacynSnow wrote:
Fri Feb 02, 2018 3:27 pm
Look at the selling numbers for both Invincible and The Walking Dead for about the same month.Note how much more Kirkman's hero book was selling than his Horror one....now check 4-5 months later;notice anything wierd?...... ;)
I thought TWD was one of the biggest sellers in comics. Have any specific examples ofthe trolling or sales?

Shock
Posts: 1290
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:27 pm
Location: Connecticut USA

Re: Robert Kirkman's Invincible - Thoughts?

Post by Shock » Sat Feb 03, 2018 3:00 am

I find it hard to believe a writer would intentionally write one of his books poorly just because he didn't want it to have better sales than another book he was writing. That would take a special kind of mental illness

Post Reply