Originally, Invincible just seemed like Robert Kirkman’s “superhero book” where he was most likely just going to run off the standard “teen with super powers, trials and tribulations” stories we all grew up with reading Marvel Comics in the 80s and 90s. A funny thing happened on the way to the end of the first storyarc, though, and Kirkman played his hand: he was going to spin the types of superhero tales we were used to but he was going to constantly remind us that there were stakes in this universe. Good guys could go evil and kill other good guys brutally. The helpful authority figures could be malevolent. Costumes could be changed and be permanent. Love interests could gain weight and keep the pounds on. It was slightly refreshing to have a comic with capes and cowls and superpowers become something you the reader couldn’t predict the outcome of and genuinely be surprised by every month. The only thing holding the book back to me has always been the pretty stale and stark art and consistently…Kirkman writing.
I’m not a Robert Kirkman fan. What I mean by that is that more often than not I find that he is a writer who works within his own head and is writing as if everyone is speaking in his own words. This isn’t an uncommon problem among comicbook writers and some have made a name for themselves by having it down to such a charming voice that we don’t really care that the characters all sound the same. Kirkman, though, has been working with the same voice since Tech Jacket and will work with the same voice when Walking Dead #200 comes out. That pretty much leaves his comics to survive on art and the merits of their concepts. Thank god for Invincible and all the characters operating in the Invincible Universe then.
Invincible Universe actually started out as a Guarding the Globe (Kirkman’s Avengers/Justice League team) title, launched a few months back. Probably due to some business factor, the title has since been relaunched yet still following the same characters, storylines, and subplots as the previous title. Solidly written by the always trustworthy Phil Hester who, as both a writer and an artist, understands the sequential storytelling ebbs and flows required for a superhero book to visually work. Art duties, though, is where this book truly shines: Todd Nauck on pencils is enough for me just to skim this book regardless of the story.
Nauck has become something of an underappreciated treasure in comics along with any of his contemporaries that can be classified (by management that seems to be quite forgetful) as “cartoony” or “fun” artists. God forbid comics are fun and energetic instead of dark and brooding. Nauck’s most notable work of record has been his almost perfect run on Young Justice with Peter David in the “pre-52” before the Teen Titans reboot. Since then he’s worked on his own comic, the excellent Wildguard about reality television and superheroes, and done handfuls of all-ages books and pinups. With Incredible Universe, though, Nauck is given the chance to get back to what he excels at: dynamic, vibrant, fun characters in exciting action and battles to save the world.
Unfortunately, there are some issues with the book. Because it leaps straight from the pages of the previous Guarding the Globe title and the ongoing mega storylines in the main Invincible title, the first issue leaps right into the action and by the second issue, there’s an incredible amount going on. If there was ever a cast in need of the old sourcebooks companies used to publish with their main books, this one could use it. Not only is the main Invincible storyline not really touched upon, how it has affected the massive Guardians team and why all of the members are assembled under one roof is never outlined in true detail, just exposition. There’s two ways this ends up being a knock against the title instead of just one: if you’ve been following the Guardians title and had it shift into this one, your characters and subplots have up and shifted drastically and with no warning but are still hovering in the background to be picked up soon. If you’re just picking the title up because you saw an ad in the back of the big Invincible mega storyline then there are a grip of characters here with very little introduction or exposition.
I’ll read almost anything Todd Nauck draws and I’m a casual fan of the Invincible characters due to a nostalgia for the classic comics of my youth. Throw in the fact that literally anything can happen in these books, I’m fine being a subscriber. I will say that if you’re going to start off a new series, no matter what, try to make the first arc accessible.