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Invincible Volume 6: A Different World
posted March 9, 2006

Creators: Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, Bill Crabtree
Publishing Information: Image Comics, $14.99
Ordering Numbers: 1582405794 (ISBN)

imageLike the best Marvel comics of the 1960s, Robert Kirkman's superhero comic series Invincible is stronger for its execution than for its concept. Kirkman writes his characters in a straight-forward fashion that connects this book with books from years past and feels more appropriate than any attempt by an older superhero scripter to write dialogue "at age." Ryan Ottley is good with gesture and decent with figures; he smartly drops a lot of panel backgrounds during the talkier scenes in a way that allows Kirkman to squeeze more narrative into a tiny space, making Invincible feel like a relative value when compared to its spreadhappy cousins at Marvel and DC, and allowing the book to feel layered by simply switching POV every now and again. The coloring is bright but slightly off-note, clueing the reader into the story's mood and helping the individual pages to keep a level of attractiveness that might not be allowed if the story were to only reward moving the narrative along. It's not an old-fashioned comic, necessarily, but its virtues are old-fashioned.

Volume 6 of the book reprints of the comics suffers in a couple of ways. First, it's directly tied into the book's central concept, its movie saleable plot, that the teen superhero is the son of a major Superman-style superhero who is exposed as the vanguard of a race of alien conquerors. The lead's reaction to seeing his father again seems honest enough, but when events the reader previously chewed on for weeks between issues are seen in this volume hit one right after another, the Mark character seems much less involved than serenely comic-bookish and in control. Teens get bad scores on mid-terms and contemplate suicide; regaining and losing one's father, gaining a brother, and having someone beat you to near-death on an alien planet...? No one I know is that well-adjusted. Second, a lot of the narrative rhythms are built on reveals that all kind of run into each other once that time between reads is dropped. Overall this book works, but there are some danger signs that Kirkman's humane may end in stories that are thematically necessary but plot problematic.