Walking Dead / Invincible

I’m finally caught up to date on The Walking Dead and Invincible, 2 comic series by Robert Kirkman. I love comic books, but I’m way too lazy to go to the comic store every week to pick up single issues, so until I got my iPad, I would have to wait for the books to be bundled into trade paperbacks. I read most of my comics this way, in graphic novel form: 100 Bullets, Sandman, Y, etc. I would preorder them months in advance on Amazon and then they would arrive almost randomly. However, with the Comics app on the iPad, it’s really easy to stay current and so I obsessively check each week for either of these 2 series. Then when they arrive, I queue up the downloads and then anxiously slurp them down as fast as possible. I don’t think this would have worked well for many of the aforementioned series, but for these 2, I can’t wait: they’re that good.

The Walking Dead is a series about zombies and the end of the world and how people deal with it. Some freeze up. Some give up. Some go crazy. I like to say that it’s the most depressing work of fiction I’ve ever read. It’s worse than The Road, because that was pretty short. It’s worse than World War Z because that book was actually the chronicle of a triumph. In Walking Dead, we follow a group of survivors who get into bad circumstances, which get worse, which then get downright painful. The hero is Rick Grimes, but as the series has gone on, survival has taken such a toll on the guy that you sort of wish someone else would step up to be the main. But no one does and you have to watch this noble good hearted fella get beaten down and down until he becomes as bad as the villains around, very few of whom are actually zombies.

So, why do I like wallowing in this post apocalyptic hellhole? Because I can’t stop reading. I can’t wait to find out what’s around the corner. The Walking Dead is so well plotted and the characters are well rounded: it’s like a TV series (and it will be one on AMC this October) where the characters keep finding darker depths in themselves (like Breaking Bad). And those good times, when they come are treasured so much that it really makes me feel much more grateful that I can live in a place with big windows and not worry about roamers crashing through and eating my brains. But back to the depths: there’s a section in book 7 that I had to put down and not look at for a little while. And I’m a desensitized to violence child of the 80s here. Yeesh, I said. Then book 11 came along and I hadn’t seen anything yet.

I’m sort of worried about the TV series: part of the book’s power comes from its stark black and white look and I’m not sure how I’ll be able to adjust to color. But I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Then there’s Kirkman’s superhero book, Invincible. I had heard a lot about this book from other friends who read comics and I picked it up on their recommendation. It’s almost the opposite of Walking Dead: it’s colorful. People succeed. There are heroes to look up to and the villains are even pretty funny at times. Throughout the series we follow Mark Grayson as he learns he has super powers and becomes the character Invincible. His father is also a superhero: Omni-Man. The book starts out with him discovering his powers and then his early career and then it takes a 90 degree turn around book 3 and becomes a much more complex family piece. Mark’s relationship with his father and mother change drastically. He has a girlfriend, then another. He has to deal with his boss, and also figure out whether he should bother with college when he’s got so much else to worry about. Many of these relationships could have felt like they were Spiderman ripoffs, but Kirkman keeps them unique and modern.

Like Walking Dead, Invincible is the sort of series that you need to read issue by issue: it’s plotted really well. The arcs feel epic and they leave Invincible different after every one. The book is also funny: there are crossovers to other Image series and all the other superheroes in the book have funky powers and quirks, or else they’re meant to be one dimensional parodies of classic comic heroes. The art is super detailed and as the series has gone on, the action has gotten incredibly intense (in some ways, even more so than Walking Dead).

To sum up: I love reading these series because things happen: it’s not like other series where the switch reboots at the end of an issue. Every week, stuff happens. Characters get battle scars inside and out that stick with them. Actions have consequences and they resurface all the time. You can’t miss what’s going on and you can’t wait 5 months for a trade paperback. Get on the weekly train; it’s completely worth it.

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