What can push an author to try his hand at telling superhero stories? After almost a hundred years of publishing history, the figure of the heroes in tights has gone through several narrative eras, showing positive and other less appreciable sides. One would think that everything has already been told, but luck has it that there are authors capable of taking an established canon and giving it a new vision. Several authors have passed through this wave of innovators (from Lemire to Hickman), but a strong name is that of Robert Kirkmanwho gave his superhero vision with his own Invincible.
Kirkman it is a name that can easily be associated with the concept of innovation. Universally known for rewriting the zombie tale with his own The Walking Dead, Kirkman he also grappled with the classic of demonic possession with Outcastbut his narrative grit certainly could not resist the fascination of metahumans.
To understand the scope of Invincible we must also understand the philosophy of the publishing house that published the stories, the Image Comics. An editorial reality that was born as a response to the authors’ need to be able to free themselves from certain chains imposed by the editors of the giants of American comics (i.e. Marvel And DC Comics), founded by personalities who in the 90s represented the focus of this narrative and stylistic revolution, led by names such as Liefeld And McFarlane. In short, in a period in which even a legend like Jack Kirby went against the system (for recognition of intellectual property), the young generation of comics was opposed to the expressive narrowness. And the Image Comics it became the refuge from which to lead this revolution, capable of making the publishing house one of the most interesting publishing realities of the last twenty years.
Why is this quick portrait of the Image Comics? Simple: to pay homage to the intelligence of the publishing house in grasping the value of Invincible. To keep up with the most famous superheroes (from Batman to Iron Man), Kirkman he had to find a new way of narrating the superhero canon, carefully choosing which aspects to enhance, creating an innovative narrative that would welcome readers with some familiar feelings.
It is no coincidence that the very first narrative arcs of Invincible are an analysis of the classic superhero story, played on the familiarity of the situations and origins of the characters, borrowed from the ironic key with which the classic critical jokes about famous superheroes are shared with the reader. It is not a question of ridiculing the past, mind you, but they are amusing food for thought on the world of superhumans, the creation of a common ground between narrator and reader who share a passion, an equal relationship in which Kirkman offers to try and offer superhero comics eaters something new. Spoiler alert: the bearded man Robert hit the mark!
The world (indeed, the universe!) Of Invincible revolves around Mark Grayson, son of one of the most powerful superheroes on the planet. Mark knows his father’s real profession, he would like to emulate him but at least at the beginning he is not authorized to follow in his father’s footsteps. After a tragic event involving his family, however, Mark is forced to take on the role of the hero, becoming Invincible. If for the boy it is a question of entering a larger dimension of his existence, for the reader it is the first step of a fascinating journey, made unforgettable by Kirkman’s unbridled genius.
Why read Invincible?
Kirkman captures the best and the worst of the superhero story, takes the salient aspects and adapts them to the contemporary, making his characters incredibly human. The reading of a superhero comic is perfect when the reader is able to glimpse under the mask of the hero human aspects that make them similar, that can make him think ‘That could be me!‘. Kirkman plays very well with this suggestion, enhances the emotions of the characters by adapting elements of common life (acceptance, family relationships, inclusion) to the superhero story, while maintaining that necessary empathic bond between character and reader.
And this is one of the strengths of Invincible. Despite having numerous examples of stories in which the superhero is exalted by his humanity (think of the recent Spider-man: The story of my life), it is difficult to find a constant and never banal emotional synergy like in Invincible. Accomplice, Kirkman’s choice not to make his comic series eternal but to give it a deadline, a decision that while on the one hand regrets the passionate readers, on the other hand has the merit of understanding the risk of running into a potentially repetitive narrative, which has often been obviated elsewhere with forced reboots, rebirths and new beginnings.
Even in this, Invincible wants to mark a break with the classic by presenting itself as a different vision. A new way of understanding superhero comics that does not do without an important aspect: a narrative universe.
Mark Grayson he is not a figure in his own right, but lives and interacts with a universe of incredible characters. Kirkman he chose to include in the life of Invincible side figures who were not mere extras, but who had the strength to be able to experience adventures independently of Grayson. While sharing heroic deeds and knowledge with Invincible, some heroes have been able to carve out a place in the hearts of readers thanks to spin-offs that, starting from the central story of Invincible, have managed to create their own dimension, also showing different themes (such as Wolfmanwhich has a more paranormal edge at the Underworld). In my opinion, such a well-structured and solid result had only been achieved by Pinky with its spin-offs from the world of Hellboy.
A heroic comic does not live by narration alone. Let’s be honest, no matter how compelling a storyline can be, in a superhero story one can expect intense battles and confrontations. In Invincible the fistfights are never trivial, but they stage a not indifferent violence, they are bloody and merciless, without sparing anything to the readers.
Above all thanks to a Ryan Ottley irrepressible, which takes over from the first issues to the first designer of the series, Cory Walker. The handover is painless, it can be seen in some passages, but the expressive linearity of the world of Invincibile is not affected.
But Invinciblewhich looks like ‘the best superhero comics‘, can it really boast this title? The cartoon of Kirkman is certainly one of the best superhero comics, capable of convincingly rewriting the classic narrative context of heroes in tights. To say if it’s the best, you only need to do one thing: read it.
How to read Invincible
In Italy, Invincible was published by saldaPress, a publishing house that has shown to have a particular affinity with the work of Robert Kirkman. After having offered the opportunity, in the past years, to read the adventures of Mark Grayson and his heroic world, following the animated series of Invincible made by Amazon Prime Video, salda Press has decided to re-publish the Kirkman superhero series in one valuable Omnibus edition, with a special nine-volume series that allows you to recover the entire saga of Mark Grayson.
The Omnibus edition conceived by saldaPress for this new edition of Invincible is designed to allow easy reading, thanks to a generously sized format, which allows you to better appreciate the tables of the various artists who have dedicated themselves to the story of the Mark saga Grayson. Divided into nine volumes, this new edition contains the series within precise narrative arcs, an intelligent scan of the saga that lends itself above all to easily welcoming new readers, who can better appreciate not only the evolution of Invincible and of his friends, but also of how Kirkman enjoyed retracing the history of superhero comics, from the first steps of the Golden Age to the most modern influences of contemporary storytellers of the genre.
Invincible Omnibus vol 1 collects the first stories of the character, revealing the origins of Invincible and laying the foundations of his relationship with both his father, the hero Omniman, and projecting the young Mark Grayson into the superhuman community imagined by Kirkman. Within the volume, there are also short stories that introduce some of the secondary figures of Invincible, allowing readers to have a more complete vision of this compelling comic. This first narrative block ends with a cliffhanger that introduces a future villain who will play an important role in the future of Invincible.
Invincible Omnibus vol. 2 focuses more on enhancing the duplicity of a superhero’s life. Mark, despite being part of the government superhero team and currently the most powerful superhero in the world, has not yet found a balance between his daily life and his super responsibilities. In this rich second story arc, Kirkman focuses on the complex dynamics of Mark’s and his girlfriend’s life as a couple, as well as bringing back a central character in the boy’s life: his father. Recreating a life on another planet after leaving Earth, Omniman appears to have changed from what he saw in the first Omnibus, as if he had turned his back on the ferocious Vitrum society and embraced a heroic life. Between revelations and unexpected confessions, with this volume a further step in the emotional growth of Mark Grayson is sanctioned.