Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Chicago Comic Book Collection

I thought I might do some overviews of the comics I purchased at the Chicago Comic Con this year. To start with: Invincible: The Ultimate Collection, vol. 2

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Invincible is about a teenager, Mark Grayson, whose father is an alien come to Earth and also the superhero Omniman. In volume 1 of the series we see Mark finally develop his father's powers of flight, near-invulnerability, and super-strength. Mark adopts the identity of Invincible and sets out to fight crime and defend the Earth against monsters, supervillains, alien invasions, mad scientists and destroying robots.

With this new world Mark suddenly must struggle to balance his home life, school work, friendships and the crush he is harboring on his classmate Amber. He also must consider his future as the end of high school approaches and college life looms.

Just when it seems he might be getting things together, though, Mark discovers that his father is not the man he thought he was. A battle ensues and Mark is badly beaten while his father flees.

With volume two we see Mark continue to struggle with balancing his superhero life with his ordinary one -- now made more difficult since he has taken up his father's place as a quasi-government agent. He also must deal with a new relationship with his mother as she, too, deals with the fallout from learning that her husband and the father of her child was not what she thought. Mark's relationship with Amber also progresses, he makes new enemies and new allies, those around him also change and grow and he leaves high school and heads for college.

Why You Should Be Reading This: First, writer Robert Kirkman has a real ear for dialogue. His teenagers actually sound pretty spot-on for teenagers and he also has a knack for balancing the superhero slug-fests with the personal character growth within the story. All of his characters grow, change and progress -- even the minor ones -- and he has an uncanny ability to drop in quick character moments which advance the story and the characters with only a few panels and without feeling like it's been put in place with a crowbar.

And that's another reason to like the series -- things change. People change, things change, events have an impact on the characters and the changes stick. If you're sick of seeing the usual superhero circular logic (for example, Batman is a loner... until he gets a bunch of sidekicks. Then someone comes along and decides Batman needs to be a loner again so he kicks out all of the sidekicks... and then someone comes along and brings the sidekicks back... lather, rise, repeat) then this is the title for you.

Also, serious stuff happens. Sure, there are jokes and there are funny moments to lighten the mood but there is also some serious blood, guts and violence but all of it is never treated lightly. The violence has consequences and people are changed by it.

Finally, there is Ryan Ottley's art. He manages to produce a really clean look for all the characters that is grounded but not 'realistic' or gritty. It's like looking at some of the best Disney animated stuff and it's absolutely perfect for a comic book.

So, Invincible -- it's for people who actually don't mind if their superheroes age and change and grow.

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