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Graphic Novel Review: Invincible: Perfect Strangers by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree

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After a gentle beginning in the first two Invincible graphic novels, Robert Kirkman changes everything young Mark Grayson knows about himself and his world. When his father, the world’s most powerful superhero, is revealed to be an alien invasion force of one, Mark’s world crumbles.

I’d been enjoying the series through the first couple graphic novels, though the stunner of when Omni-Man (Mark’s dad) flew in and laid waste to the Guardians of the Globe seriously rocked me. I just didn’t see it coming. There was no foreshadowing and no clue. I’m sure that was set up that way, so the reader could echo the same sense of betrayal Mark went through.

His dad seemed like such a guy’s guy. Then, when he turned, the guy was like the Terminator on steroids. Before he finds out the truth, Mark is already dealing with a lot. Night patrols are eating up his time and his energy. Classes that he used to cruise through are now teetering toward the brink of chaos.

The fight scenes were really well done, and you can feel Mark’s anguish as he watches his father reveal the real truth to him. I kept waiting for a shape-shifting alien to pop out and yell, “Gotcha!” Or to find out that Omni-Man was under the spell of some magical villain or a rock from his home planet.

What Kirkman really does, though, is set up the ultimate breakdown in father/son relationships. Anyone that’s ever struggled to understand his dad is going to find something that echoes in the story. The dialogue between them at the end, when each of them tries desperately to reach the other and change the other’s perspective is awesome. Even more indicative of Kirkman’s keen insight as a writer is how Mark’s mom actually creates the biggest separation between them.

Ryan Ottely and Bill Crabtree’s art remains fantastic and delivers a lot of visual punch to this emotional story. The panels are broken down for maximum effect, and the bright colors really pop. There’s still that cartoony feel to everything that makes the book all the more endearing.

Although not everyone I know understands the love I have for comics, it’s stories like this that keep me coming back.

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