Gateway to Comics

Gateway to Comics: Invincible, Vol 1: Family Matters

Mark Grayson was an ordinary boy until on his seventh birthday his father, Nolan, revealed he was an alien and also Omni-Man, one of Earth’s most powerful superheroes. This meant that one day Mark would develop superpowers of his own and will have to deal with all of responsibilities that come with them. When Mark hits puberty his powers manifest and he teams up with his father, adopting the superhero name Invincible, to protect Earth from danger.

Getting into superhero comics is normally incredible hard because the most well known characters come from Marvel and DC comics. Both companies have a long publishing history so jumping into any ongoing comic book becomes an exercise in catching up on decades of story. There have been reboots of many comic book titles over the years with new first issues to help new readers, but there are now so many of them that it’s still confusing.

You could go right back to the very beginning and read the first ever issue of Captain America or Superman, but I don’t believe they would appeal to a modern audience as comics are a product of the era they’re written in and the stories wouldn’t be as relevant or relatable. It’s not impossible to get into these superhero comics, but if you’ve never read them before then I would recommend recruiting the help of a friend or good comic shop who knows the material and can point you at the right place to start.

An alternative is to read a superhero comic from a different publisher and a title that is not connected to any other comics. Invincible, from Image Comics, is written by Robert Kirkman, the mind behind The Walking Dead comic and TV series.

Invincible shares some common traits with Spider-Man, as both are about a young man who discovers he has abilities that make him more powerful than other people, and both are coming-of-age stories. With Invincible we follow Mark from the very first moment he uses his powers and track how it affects every aspect of his life, from his school, to home life and relationships, to his working life and career prospects. It might sound like a dream come true to find out that one day you will develop superpowers, but there is a lot of baggage that comes with it. Mark must also come to terms with the fact that his father is an alien and he is half alien, but his loyalty to Earth never wavers and he promises to protect it from every threat.

The story begins quite small, as Mark is a teenager and also new to being a superhero, so the villains he battles are not very dangerous. Over time, as Mark grows up, the writer is fully aware that the audience is also aging, so the stories become more adult, the issues the main character has to face more challenging, and the repercussions of his actions more wide-reaching. Kirkman pushes the envelope and puts his character in the middle of difficult situations where there is no reset button or easy choice. Actions have consequences and, unlike some superhero comics, the characters age over time.

Invincible focuses on Mark’s personal life and relationships as much as it does his superheroics and there is always a good balance between the two. Invincible differs from a character like Spider-Man because Mark’s powers are on par with someone like Superman. If one day Mark decided he wanted to rule the entire planet there are very few people who could stop him. The story is very much about what makes him human, what keeps him grounded, and stops him from viewing human being as something beneath him.

I remember when I first started reading Invincible I was struck by how fresh it was. An ongoing superhero comic book with no baggage, no history and a great sense of humour that also pokes fun at some familiar archetypes from time to time. It captures the best parts of many other superhero comics and is always a fun and engaging read for both teens and adults. Invincible started in 2002 and there are now fourteen trade paperbacks available which chronicle the life and ongoing adventures of Mark Grayson.

If you like the sound of Invincible but are in the mood for something much darker and more mature, then I would recommend Irredeemable from Boom! Studios. This series, written by Mark Waid, started in 2009 and the basic premise is what happens when the world’s most powerful superhero turns bad? Something has turned the Plutonian into a mass murderer and he is now responsible for the deaths of millions of people and many of his former teammates. The story initially focuses on unraveling what turned his beliefs upside down and the attempts by former colleagues to stop him. It’s a brutal and very adult comic looking at what it would take to turn someone who was completely selfless into the worst villain in history.

Stephen Aryan is a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction and fantasy. He co-hosts the Comic Book Outsiders podcast and writes fantasy and comic book reviews at Walker of Worlds.


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