May 18 2009

A Writer’s Guide to Invincible’s Flaws

I’ve read the first thirty issues or so of Invincible.  A lot of it is awesome and a lot of it is an absolute trainwreck.  Here’s what I think went wrong.  (I’ve detailed its positives here).


Especially by issue 20, the story felt like it had ADD. The story flits around a lot; a character might be introduced for a few pages in issue 15 and he might make his next appearance a few issues later and actually matter a few issues after that.  This storytelling style is often effective, but it can get grating.  Let me demonstrate that by doing this review as a random series of paragraphs.  Take that, transitions!


For the first few issues, the art was noticeably bad. The good news is that it improves.  The bad news is… well, see for yourself.


The protagonist suffers from severe Mary Sue problems. Let’s ignore that he’s easily the most powerful being in the world–after all, we could probably say the same for Superman.  What really annoys me about Mark/Invincible is how much the story bends over backwards to avoid holding him accountable for his actions.

  • He has a hissy-fit with his boss and quits in issue 3.  His next thought is that “Dad’s going to kill me.”  He sees his father in the next panel and claims that work is going well.  In the very next panel, his father asks him if he’d be OK with quitting his job so that he can have more time for superheroics.  Lucky break!
  • Mark fights on behalf of another student in issue 1 and the principal shrugs it off.  “You’re a good kid, Mark.”  In issue 14, the principal gets really angry with another character that was attacked by a gang of kids.  I bet he wishes he got the Mark treatment.
  • GIRLFRIEND:  “I was completely out of line.   You had every right to be pissed.”  Issue 14.  Darn, I wish I got the Mark treatment.
  • GIRLFRIEND, whining:  “It’s been weeks since I was at your house.”  MARK:  “Feeling happy after everything that happened with my family just didn’t feel right.”  GIRLFRIEND:  “Oh, Mark.  I’m sorry.  You’ve been through so much, and now this.  I’m such an idiot.”


Other characters keep complimenting him. But he rarely does anything impressive.  He’s just superstrong, and not nearly as clever as his teammates.

  • “You’re a good kid, Mark.”  Issue 1.
  • “From all indications, you’re not doing too bad.  Especially for being as new to this as you are.”  Issue 3.
  • “Damn, son.  I’m impressed.”  Issue 5.
  • Onlookers break into applause.  Issue 10.
  • “You did the right thing, son.”  Issue 15.
  • “You did well, kid, as usual.”  Issue 21.
  • He gets his own parade.
  • “You did good, kid.”  Issue 31.
  • “I remember when we met.  You were so unsure of yourself then.  You’ve come a long way.”  Issue 41.
  • “That was some impressive work back there, kid.  Not just with the Martian ships, either.”  Issue 41.
  • “You did a remarkable job out here, son.  You’ve really proven yourself.”  Issue 41.
  • “You did some impressive work today.”  Issue 44.  Even his enemies are spellbound by his impressiveness!


Everyone that opposes or disagrees with Mark is meant to seem nasty, paranoid and/or hysterical. This is another sign that he is a Mary Sue.

  • In a drunken rage, his mother blames him for a very difficult situation with his father.  There is no remotely logical way to blame this situation on Mark, and it is hard to dispute that the family is better with the father out of the picture.  This scene reads like bad fan-fiction.
  • Mark quit his job because his manager said (correctly) that he wasn’t concentrating enough.  The manager shows up later just to show how nasty he is.  “I’ll show you a confrontation!”
  • Mark automatically fails a class because he missed 80% of the classes.  That’s pretty reasonable, right?  (At Notre Dame, most courses automatically fail students that miss 20% or more).  Mark gets really annoyed with the professor.  WTF? If you missed 80% of a professor’s classes without explaining why, of course he’s going to fail you.  That’s not the professor being nasty–that’s just Mark being a dumb brat.  Mark doesn’t even try to concoct an explanation, even though he has a government handler that can forge documents.  (Maybe Mark’s National Guard unit got called up when the aliens invaded 🙂 ).


The pacing occasionally gets awkward when it tries to mix dialogue and action. Mixing an info-dump with a chase scene is questionable.

From Invincible #1

Seriously… Who robs a joint in a suit and tie?


There’s a fair bit of creepiness. Horny twenty-somethings in twelve year-old bodies… Eww.  I could also have done without the aliens Frenching each other.

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “A Writer’s Guide to Invincible’s Flaws”

  1. Benon 19 May 2009 at 12:10 am

    Haha! You’re right.

    I think you could also say it suffers because it seems to bring in ‘guest characters’ for no real reason, and drawing on the Image Universe list of characters is never going to bring interesting characters into those kinds of stories.

    Another drawback, especially later on is the gratuitous gore in some of the fight scenes. I think that’s because of Kirkman’s fascination with zombies, but I don’t think it’s needed here.

    BTW, I love the Invincible comics, but they aren’t perfect. Good, shiny fun.

  2. B. Macon 19 May 2009 at 3:47 am

    I agree with you about the crossovers. They feel gratuitous both from a storytelling perspective and an economic perspective. Marvel puts Wolverine on everyone’s cover because he sells.

    I’m torn about the bloodshed. On the one hand, I think that blood underscores the brutal elements of the plot, and of the Vitrusian empire particularly. That said, sometimes the gore gets creepy. Characters lose eyes so often that I have a tally going. (So far I’m up to 4).

    There’s a lot I really like about Invincible. In fact, so much that I felt I needed to do a separate article to fit it all. More on that later. 😉

  3. Benon 20 May 2009 at 4:27 am

    Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.

  4. Stefan the Exploding Manon 20 May 2009 at 5:48 am

    I’m thrilled that you’re reviewing Invincible, because I love it. I never noticed Invincible’s Mary Sue-ish tendencies before this, but they seem a lot clearer now. Also, Robert Kirkman’s characters tend to be very talky. Not as talky as anyone written by Brian Bendis, but still sometimes distractingly verbose.

    Can’t wait for the “good” review.

  5. B. Macon 20 May 2009 at 6:06 am

    I agree that there’s a lot of talking, but I regarded that as more of a plus than a minus. I think the talking was the only reason I made it past issue 2. The art was pretty bad, the action was banal, the characters sounded mostly boring, and the backstory– or what we had been told about the backstory, in any case– was hopelessly trite. Thankfully, the story made remarkable improvements on all of those fronts.

    For example, here’s the cover for Invincible #1. It’s a kind of boring angle, nothing is happening, and the quality of the art is distinctly subpar. There’s no personality.

    Here’s the cover for #56. Much, much better. The pose is interesting, the shading and anatomy are solid and removing the image of Invincible from the upper-left hand corner was a good call. This has much more emotional impact and says something about the character. I’m not a fan of his ripped muscles, but I can live with it.

  6. Stefan the Exploding Manon 20 May 2009 at 6:49 am

    Yes, I think the change of artist with issue 7 was a good choice all around. Incidentally, seven is my favourite issue of the series. Say what you like about the amount of supporting characters, but I find myself caring about each and every one of them.

  7. Benon 20 May 2009 at 3:01 pm

    I think the supporting characters are great too, even the villains who appear for a single issue (or single page – single frame – sometimes). I just don’t really like the walk-ins of other Image characters for no real reason.

  8. Ragged Boyon 22 May 2009 at 7:45 am

    Is Invincible a younger Superman?

    I remember watching the motion-comic of issue#1 of Invincible, it was okay. The only thing I remeber is that he was trying to find a superhero outfit and his dad fought a dragon in Asia.

  9. Maxon 21 Jul 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I haven’t read any invincible, but after reading this i really dislike the main character

  10. B. McKenzieon 21 Jul 2012 at 4:19 pm

    I think the main character could definitely have been pushed harder than he was early on. However, I’d still recommend checking out the series–overall, it’s generally very well-written.

  11. carloson 28 Jul 2013 at 9:40 am

    look at Chris Giarrusso’s take on the cover for #1. It’s chibi, and you’ll probably want to buy it instead (though it is misleading about content unless you read the disclaimer on his website)

  12. Albrechton 03 Jun 2020 at 9:07 am

    I thought it was fairly innocent wish-fulfillment at first with some commentary on fascist expansionism in the form of the betraying superfigure and his people.

    But then I started seeing some stuff I really didn’t like and it kept getting worse.

    Considering the Robert Kirkman’s other predilections, the optics got really bad by the time Mark gets back from space. Especially the stuff with Mark’s replacement on Earth murdering his own folks. That whole bit’s utterly unnecessary and the build up makes no sense. I had been increasingly questioning whether my delight at the shocking betrayal in the initial storyline, and with Black Samson’s badly-motivated murder arc and the reverse rape scene and the growing libertarian creepiness, I was done with the series. I’m done with Kirkman period.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply