For thirteen years, Robert Kirkman’s Invincible has brought us the adventures of the eponymous hero and has shined a unique light on the superhero genre. Following the trials and tribulations of Mark Grayson, the venerable series comes to an end with next year’s issue #144, the culmination of the “End of All Things” storyline. It’s hard to encapsulate exactly all that has come and gone during the book’s run, but before we go in to the top four reasons we’re going to miss this amazing piece of comics history, and fiction as a whole, you should know that there are SPOILERS AHEAD.
So let’s get started.
Love Letter to a Simpler Age…
Kirkman and his collaborators, co-creator Cory Walker from issues #1-7 and artist Ryan Ottley from issue #8 onward, have made it their mission to make Invincible a tribute to all the things that make the comic book medium great. Alien Invasions? Check. Megalomaniacal villains bent on destruction? OH YEAH. Time displacement, evil dopplegangers, and the like? You betcha. Clever and occasionally groan-worthy puns in character names? We’re looking at YOU Rex-Splode and Dupli-Kate! Mark Grayson is at times Peter Parker and a hundred other archetypal heroes, but never to the point of flat-out imitation. We’ve got our Justice League and Teen Titan stand-ins, sure, but the series has always been a pastiche that felt familiar yet wholly new at the same time.
…With all the modern bells and whistles.
Speaking of making the genre feel new, while the series might outwardly have all the trappings of silver- and bronze-age classics of days gone by, it is rife with subtle character development, universe building, and more than a touch of moral ambiguity. It does what the best stories in the Ultimate Marvel Universe did; it brings us enough out of our world to know we’re on an adventure, yet leaves us grounded enough to believe that it might just be plausible for these stories to happen close to home.
Characters die, the status quo regularly and permanently changes, and our heroes loyalties are routinely challenged. From early on in the series we know that Mark’s father, Omni-Man, is the vanguard of an alien race bent on the conquest of Earth. How Mark deals with this wrinkle alone has fed the series for dozens of issues, to say nothing about his trying to fit in to a universe so much larger than himself and the human consequences of superhuman actions. His relationship with Eve (AKA Atom Eve) takes us across the spectrum from teammate to girlfriend, wife to… well, I’ll let you find out that one, always feels real and nuanced. For as colorful as the world of Invincible appears, there are many shades of grey.
Yin to The Walking Dead‘s Yang.
It is very hard to have a conversation about Kirkman’s work in comics without discussing the *OTHER* one he also spearheads. The juggernaut zombie-apocalypse franchise is without question a revolutionary a horror title, and it speaks to the author’s versatility that he can move back and forth between universes so fluidly. While there is a darkness that crops up occasionally in Invincible–and no small amount of gore–it is far from the gut-punch its black and white undead cousin delivers.
Mark Grayson is no Rick Grimes, and while friends may fall and heroes get hurt, at the end of the day, there is that iconic sense of optimism that has long been such a mainstay of the superhero comic genre. Sadly, one of the most major differences between the franchises is that while TWD shows no signs of stopping in any media, the prospect of a TV show or movie based on Invincible is currently dubious at best.
A Consistent Voice and Team
It’s exceedingly rare in this day and age to have such a long run of a single title with the original creative team intact, and with the exception of artist Cory Walker departing the series early on in the run, it’s been the same two creatives bringing us issue after issue since the early 2000’s. There are very few comics that come to mind that have had such an extended collaboration, though Eric Larson’s Savage Dragon is a notable exception (he’s written AND drawn ever issue since 1993!), and James Robinson’s work largely with Tony Harris on Starman in the 1990’s also stands out. It takes as special kind of relationship to create consistently good work, and there is little doubt that they can bring the long-running adventure in for a landing.
It seems odd to suggest picking up a series just as it’s about to end, but Invincible is without question a title that any true comics fan must have on their shelf. Your local comic shop has any number of collections and single issues, and of course it’s available on Comixology. Also, if you catch up now? You can sunset it with the die-hards who have been there since issue #1.
Some stories are just too good to live. Tell us what your favorite cancelled or out-of-print series is in the comments below!
Photo Credits: Image Comics/Skybound