Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Comic Book Wednesday: Well, now I want a chair made out of plastique.

Deadpool #4. by Daniel Way and Carlos Baberi & Paco Medina. The Internet has not been kind to Way's work on Wolverine: Origins, largely because it hasn't been very good. But his Deadpool series, suprisingly, is--if not very good, then good, at least. In this first issue after the starting arc, the wise-cracking, mentally-ill mercenary Deadpool sits at home in his chair made out of plastic explosives, and plans his next job. Which just happens to be fighting zombies. Way's Deadpool isn't perfect--multiple voices in his head, hallucinations, and moral righteousness strike a mercenary that's a little too crazy and a little too heroic--it's good enough that at least you can recognize him. Sadly, the same can't be said for the art. Call it a pet peeve, but Deadpool is supposed to be heavily disfigured. The faint scars we see hear don't cover it. Overall, a slightly better than average issue, if a bit drawn-out.

Invincible is a series published by Image, written by Robert Kirkman, and (usually) drawn by Ryan Ottley. It follows the life of its titular character, Mark Grayson. At the start of the series, he's the teenaged son of Omni-Man, the world's greatest superhero, and at our first glimpse, his inherited powers have just kicked in for the first time. What powers are those? Your basic Superman set: super-strength, flight, and invulnerability. From there, the series follows Mark as he grows up, heads to college, and learns the superhero trade. There's some fairly major plot twists that I don't want to give away, (do NOT start this series with a volume that comes after number 3) but I will say that the attention Kirkman gives to Mark and his supporting cast--especially his mother--goes above and beyond nearly any superhero comic I can name.
The usual comparison for Invincible is that he's a modern-day Spider-Man, and I can certainly see the similarities. Mark goes through the same process of growing into his role, and growing up in general. But I think that this comparison does an injustice to the nature of the series. Mark is not Peter Parker; there's no shy awkward phase to overcome, and he's not the wise-cracking jokester. Most of all, Mark's powers guide the series in a different direction. If Spider-Man can be summed up by the maxim "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility," then the theme of Invincible goes one step further--"Power Corrupts." This difference presents itself in many ways-- first, there's the graphic violence, which is the only thing holding the book back from a full recommendation among the younger set. This isn't a comic book series where death is taken lightly; people are killed, and killed brutally. The kind of power Invincible yields has consequences. And given the level of power, it's only natural that the title keeps returning the nature of corruption. Spinning webs is one thing, but when you're that much better than the average human, what is there to keep your humanity? Given the nature of mainstream comics, it's an issue that can't really be fully explored (not if the characters are to remain marketable), so it's nice to see it addressed here.
And it's certainly not something you're going to find in Spider-Man.
So it's a testament to to Kirkman that even while the characters around Invincible succumb, his own struggle manages to feel real and important. Mark starts with a sort of naivety, and even after he goes through a half dozen different hells, he still stays a decent (and equally important, believable) guy.
Admittedly, this comic doesn't have Fables' cast of thousands, or Scott Pilgrim's sheer insanity, or Yorrick's quest for self (although the last one comes closest). But it's a good story, and at issue 54, it's not over yet.

Later Days.

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