Review – Invincible: Family Matters
Written by: Robert Kirkman
Art by: Cory Walker
Lettered by: Robert Kirkman
Colors by: Bill Crabtree
Release Date: December 12, 2006
Soon to be adapted into an animated series by Amazon Prime, Invincible was an ongoing superhero comic from Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker, published by Image Comics. Kirkman, more known for Walking Dead, actually started Invincible shortly before Walking Dead in 2003. The series ended its 144 issue run in 2017, wrapping up most of the main stories. The series follows our hero, Mark Grayson, the son of the powerful Omni-Man. When we meet Mark he’s an average teen, except his dad’s a superhero and he’s waiting on powers of his own.
Family Matters is the first 6 issues of the run. Like many Image books, Invincible has been collected in smaller paperbacks, larger hardcovers, or the giant compendiums. The series is particularly well suited for the 6 issue format though because each volume feels like an episode of a great serialized story. I’ve read the entire story, multiple times, but we’re only looking at the first 6 issues collected in Family Matters. Still, Future Kenny will pop in to give a small review in the context of the larger run, because it’s a run worth reading.
Family Matters lays the groundwork for the universe as we are introduced to the Grayson family and their supporting cast. From the start, it’s good superhero fodder. There’s dashes of sci-fi, a lived-in-world where superpowers are normalized, and an origin story that is unique while still feeling familiar. Our creators do a great job at making super-heroics and comic book tropes feel normal in this world. Even as Omni-Man dashes back to the dinner table after being kidnapped to an alternate dimension, there’s no hysterics about how crazy that may seem. The book is about the ordinary lives of super people.
The characters are the best part of these issues. The Graysons are a lovable family. Omni-Man is a solid combination of Superman and a tv dad. Mark feels like a pretty average teenager and his origin feels organic and fun. He’s a less overwhelmed Peter Parker. Deborah is written as a mom that worries and cares about her family but has lived in a world of super heroics for years and isn’t shaken by it. Most of the supporting characters in friends or other teammates stand out as memorable when another writer might have used shells to move the plot along. The cast feels so varied and authentic, that they just inherently make the world feel more interesting.
All that said, this first run just feels like pretty standard super hero fare. It’s a solid pilot. There’s a few small villains, taken down with minor struggles. It’s even an above average superhero book. There’s a few moments that stand out, like the folks from another dimension, but the book sort of tells its slice-of-life story and leaves. The world is interesting and the characters are charming, but nothing particularly bombastic or remarkable happens. It shares that in common with another Kirkman project, where the Walking Dead lulls you into false security before taking off. However, it is the pilot for a larger series so it works in that regard.
The art in these issues is colorful, with an almost pastel or watercolor feature about it. It also feels anime inspired, at times, with some of the simpler designs and the less-than-realistic take on faces in some panels. These first issues of Invincible thread a needle between anime and traditional cartoon, so it adds to the excitement that it’s being adapted into a cartoon now. Cory Walker’s work here feels like a style that will lend itself well to animation.
Through the book the character designs are clever and really stand out as unique. When I say the designs feel very Image-y, it’s a compliment. The action feels real and the layouts are easy to follow. Cory is able to take the more pedestrian moments and lay them out in clever ways to just feel normal. The use of repeat panels or similar panels says almost as much as the dialogue at times. It makes the lives of these characters feel more normal, as they sit around the table like us non-super folks.
Review – Invincible: Family Matters continues below
In itself, Invincible Volume 1 is a fun read. It’s a new world of characters that are satisfying to explore and learn about. Kirkman hints at a broader universe throughout the book, but it’s a great origin story for a newly developed teenage superhero. The future seems bright for our teen lead and his family. It’s hard to judge by itself though, when even its creator knew it was the start of something much bigger. While the book is better as a jumping off point for an incredible series, you could read this on its own and still be satisfied with the read.
In the overall context of the 144 issue run, Family Matters is perhaps the least exciting. This is true of a lot of pilots, of course. It’s slower in pacing and smaller in scope than the future of the series by far. This is likely by design, as a slow build to lure you in. You may finish these issues feeling like you’ve read another solid Image superhero book, not realizing the groundwork that has been laid. If you’ve ever seen art from the future of the series, you might even be surprised at how tame the story seems. Kirkman is good at surprises, and giving you unique twists you didn’t know you wanted. Future Kenny says it would be a mistake for you to stop reading this series here.
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