May 20 2009
Invincible is an ambitious and wildly uneven superhero series. A lot of it is awful and a lot of it is incredible. If you’re interested in what went horribly wrong, please see this separate review.
The plotting is generally quite good. The plot progresses in a natural and even way, which is almost unheard-of for an ongoing series. Most ongoing series pace themselves something like this: plot point! Filler arc! Filler arc! Plot point!
There is filler material, but it’s generally well-integrated with the recurring threads. Although characters are interrupted frequently by random events, it rarely feels like a “creature of the week.”
The plot is planned carefully. Something will be hinted at 10 or 15 issues before it’s actually the center of attention. That makes the plot feel more coherent. Additionally, the plot very rarely hinges on stupidity. (With one main exception: when someone murders the Immortal, he doesn’t think to separate the body parts so that he can’t come back to life).
Many of the side-characters are excellent, but mainly the aliens. Allen, Shapeshift, the Mauler Twins, and (recently) Mark’s father are probably the standouts. The humans are regrettably lackluster, particularly the main cast. Except for his sense of humor, I can’t think of any reason I’d rather read about Invincible than any other superhero. He is a horrible Mary Sue and otherwise forgettable. The only two humans that I’d actually want to read about are the government agents, mainly Cecil and Donald. Unfortunately, the writer ruined Cecil (more on that next) and I think Donald got killed by the Lizard League.
Until issue #45 or so, Invincible had a fairly interesting and complex take on the US government’s role in a superhero story. But then Cecil became a cartoonish caricature that cheerfully hired supervillains. This is mitigated by the fact that an extremely dangerous alien fleet will arrive within 100 years. It’s still kind of an idiotic move because there are so many better alternatives–for example, maybe Invincible could donate gametes so that he will have adequate backup when the empire shows up?
Except for Gigantic, this is one of the only comic book series I’ve ever read that has likable aliens. I attribute this to the writer’s sense of humor and his approach to exotic civilizations. The end result is that the nonhumans tend to be likable and interesting, and that their plots create interesting and fresh situations for the humans. For example, when Atlantis’ king dies, Atlantlean law requires that he be replaced by his killer. That creates a tricky problem for Mark that cannot be resolved with violence.
Even the villainous aliens have some depth. The dystopian take on Krypton is particularly effective.
The action is not very good, but it’s an effective complement to the comedy (which is). But the writer has gotten better at weaving dialogue with action. In the early issues, characters would deliver painful paragraphs of exposition as they engaged in a chase scene. That’s unrealistic and jarring in an intense action sequence.
The dialogue is generally very well-executed. Good thing, too, because there is a ton of it.