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Invincible #14-16
Written by: Robert Kirkman
Illustrated by: Ryan Ottley
Published by Image Comics; $2.95 USD ea.

While he had previous writing credits to his name before this title, it was Invincible that displayed Robert Kirkman’s talents. This was the type of superhero book that had not seen in a long time; free of the irony and angst that make so many "mainstream" superhero comics unreadable. However, in the wake of a recent status quo shake-up, the title has lost its direction and uniqueness.

Mark Grayson is a high school senior who happens to be the son of one of the world’s greatest heroes. He’s inherited the powers, put on a costume, and learned how to be a superhero while trying to live an ordinary life. Now, that life has been shattered and he is struggling to put things back together. However, his is not the only life that has been affected by this tragedy, as we check in with the multitude of characters that have been built up over the last year in the series.

Credit goes to Kirkman for his efforts to keep the title accessible to new readers without using the “Previously in” first page that is used in other comics. However, the drawback is that the book starts feeling exposition-heavy, re-stating the same situation over and over again. What makes it even more frustrating is that it is word for word nearly the exact same dissertation no matter which character is saying it. Kirkman also tries very hard to start moving the title towards a new status quo, and he throws in an impressive number of sub-plots, character developments, and a few good bits of humor to do it. His dialogue remains fresh and distinct for all the characters in the book. However, the glut of characters and sub-plots included in the book at this point slow down the narrative pace, and while some of these vignettes are interesting (Mark’s mother dealing with the loss of her husband), some seem tangential (the Guardians of the Globe sub-plot) or unnecessary (Damien Darkblood’s continuing “investigation”). This scattershot approach to plotting does not help to give any indication where the series is heading.

Ryan Ottley does an excellent job maintaining the style and tone set by original illustrator (and series co-creator) Cory Walker. His depiction of mass battle scenes, like the alien invasions, manages to keep from feeling crowded. His linework is simple but not simplistic, and conveys a surprising amount of emotion and drama.

Invincible remains one of the best superhero comics on the market with clear storytelling and solid art. However, aimlessness has infected the title as of late, and it remains to be seen when (or if) a sense of direction will return to the series. Grade: 3/5

-- Michael Paciocco

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