Axel-In-Charge: New X-Men Editorial Era, Garth Ennis' Marvel Return
Here’s another awesome entry from Ian Astheimer! Serving up Ian 3:15!
It’s time to give props to what’s probably the best comic book in the universe. (Archive.)
In 2003, Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker dared to ask: “What if Superman had a kid? And, what if that kid developed superpowers when he hit seventeen? And, what if he decided to become a hero in his own right?”
The answer was Invincible. And, for the first year of publication, the book seemed poised to be the new millennium’s answer to the Lee/Ditko Spider-Man. Mark Grayson was your typical high school senior…who happened to have secret superpowers. He had a crummy job at the Burger Mart. He had girl troubles. He had a good natured best friend. He had to make important decisions about what clothes to wear (while fighting crime). He partook of extracurricular activities (like joining the Teen Team). He had missing classmates. He faced off against a guy who enjoyed strapping bombs to himself and others. He fought space aliens. He visited colleges. He got ambushed by reanimated corpse soldiers. Good times.
And, then came the twist: Omni-Man, the world’s premiere hero and Mark’s book-writing father, was actually an agent of the Viltrumite empire, sent to Earth to prepare it for conquering. Cue brutal battles and vivid violence.
No one saw the betrayal coming, and the universe actually was shaken to its core. No hyperbole necessary. Real change. Real drama. Real emotions. Real reactions.
The masses mourned. The heroes regrouped. Invincible questioned his heritage and his future. And, Mark’s mom — poor Debbie — hit the bottle. Hard.
Paradigms shifted, and the book only managed to get better. Mark joined the government and partnered with the new Guardians of the Globe. He graduated high school. He started college. He tussled with yet more reanimated soldiers. He reunited with his father on a distant planet — and met his step-brother. His relationship troubles came to a head. He faced off against the big-brained, dimension-hopping Angstrom Levy. And killed the villain. He ventured fifteen years into the future, came to grips with murder, and found love. He led the charge against a martian armada of face-huggers. He got a hero’s welcome on Earth, only to find out a rag-tag group of Guardians was severely compromised during a battle with the Lizard League. And, he came to a crossroads: stay in college, which he’s flunking, or become a full-time hero?
Luckily, Mark’s got his friends to lean on, and they happen to be one of the best supporting casts in comics. There’s Atom Eve, Invincible’s longtime crush; when she’s not saving the world, she’s offering aid to Africa. She used to date the coolest name in comics, Rex Splode, who’s a bit of a dick and can blow up inorganic material with a touch; he lost a hand in the Lizard League battle and got shot in the head — but survived! He cheated on Eve with Dupli-Kate, who, as her name suggests, can multiply. She left Rex for The Immortal, who is super strong and can fly and cannot die; you might know him better as…Abraham Lincoln! Honest. He replaced Robot as the leader of the Guardians of the Globe. Robot wasn’t actually a highly functioning, artificial intellectual construct; rather, he was the public front for a disfigured genius, kept alive in a tank of, uh, life-preserving liquid. Robot cloned himself a new human body, with a sample of Rex’s DNA, to get closer to Monster Girl, who had the misfortune of being cursed by a witch after getting caught canoodling. She can transform into a hulking beast, but, every time she does, her normal form de-ages. She’s currently trapped in the body of a twelve year-old, despite being twenty-nine. She drinks. She smokes. She kicks a lot of ass. The new Guardians of the Globe are reason alone to buy this book!
But, there’s also Allen the Alien, who works for the Coalition of Planets, traveling across the universe to test the champions of each planet to ensure they’re up to the task of defending their homeworlds. He’s incredibly emotive, despite having just the one eye, and kind. He’s so well liked that Kirkman and Ottley devoted an entire issue to his exploits. Of course, he got literally torn apart in that issue, but he got better. Much better, actually. He’s now one of the strongest individuals in the universe. And, he’s about to infiltrate the Viltrumite empire, after throwing a fight to get aboard a space cruiser.
Kirkman’s pacing is flawless, his characterization is sharp, and his dialogue is winning. Walker’s clear, open art proved perfect for capturing the subtleties of conversation and the impact of action. Ryan Ottley, who took over the art chores with #8, is equally adept at sly humor, quiet moments, and in-your-face violence. Bill Crabtree’s flat-and-shade coloring technique brilliantly meshes with the clean lines of the art. And, the lettering — first done by Kirkman himself and later taken over by Rus Wooton — is superb, often merging with panel borders and gutters to free up even more room for the fantastic art. Plus, the sound effects are bold and bad ass.
What’s not to like?
For more about Invincible, hit the official site or the unofficial one. Or, check out The Official Handbook of the Invincible Universe, a two volume set lovingly put together by Dusty Abell and a whole slew of talented artists and writers. If all else fails, ask Kirkman a question on his messageboard.
You can also get in on the ground floor of the book, thanks to Newsarama’s free daily dose.
If you can’t wait for the series to be serialized, grab a trade — or eight. Each one’s named after a classic sitcom. Or, you could nab the three hardcover collections.
You won’t be disappointed. If you like good stuff.
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