This is a series I’ve wanted to touch on since issue #1, but simply haven’t had time.
Truth be told, I was quite skeptical of the project coming in. While I have loved the character of Invincible since I read the first hardcover collection, the idea of exploring the universe to any great extent seemed silly to me. After all, weren’t most of his supporting characters simply knock-offs of Big Two mainstays?
It wasn’t until I really gave the title time to gel that I began to realize exactly how rich a world Kirkman and Co. have crafted over the years. While the early years of the main Invincible title were peopled with characters who were transparent mockeries, as the years progressed it became a place for trying our ideas for characters that might have otherwise seemed ridiculous.
To handle this diverse world, Kirkman chose long-time industry veteran Phil Hester. Hester has worked on many of the highest-profile books for the Big Two, and I worried when it was first announced that we would see the Guardians of the Globe continuing their early trend of aping the Justice League.
This is definitely not the case. Hester takes full advantage of the opportunity to tell stories through fresh eyes, whether those eyes belong to Invincible staple (and ersatz Nick Fury) Cecil Steadman or, in the case of this issue, Chupacabra (who, upon close examination, bears a number of stylistic similarities to preboot Justice League D-lister Aztek).
Explorations of super heroic substance abuse are not a new approach, and have even made their way into the sanitized popcorn versions of characters like Iron Man in the series’s second film.
That said, the journey of Francisco “Chupacabra” Vasquez, as Hester takes him through the process of dealing with his affliction, is a fascinating one. We skip the self-loathing and jump right to Francisco’s efforts to mend fences. Vasquez’ need to complete the 12-step process is the motivating force in this issue, and it is so undeniably human that its almost possible to forget that you’re reading a book about super humans. Except for the giant Slavic metal people, but we’ll get to them later.
It is that humanity that has been the hallmark of Hester’s work on the series. In contrast to some of their mainstream counterparts, none of the characters here seem like cardboard cutouts. The personalities are distinct and realistic, and though there are instances where the dialogue takes on a somewhat bombastic feel, it never seems out of place.
As for the giant metal people mentioned earlier, they provide what is probably the best example in the series to this point that powers do not make heroes. Chupacabra is, for all intents and purposes, a normal person. When he finds himself grossly outmatched, he doesn’t quit and, when all seems lost we are reminded what this book is all about. It’s not about one hero tackling the world’s problems by their lonesome. It’s about the broader world and those who inhabit it. It’s about the B and C-listers and their struggles to be relevant. Most importantly it is about the community that these people have formed, making them all secure in the knowledge that when things get really, really bad, they can get by with a little help from their friends.
Invincible Universe is an unexpected treat. It’s witty, fast-paced and soulful. It adds depth to the world and does so by telling exciting, compact tales of unsung heroes which leave you wanting more than. Don’t be surprised to see sole of these characters go on to bigger things. Hester has proven that they deserve it. Well, some of them…
Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He also hosts the weekly Infinite Crossover podcast in cooperation with Fanboys Inc. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and daytime supporter of all things technical. contact: email@example.com