Quick note: This book is being printed in English under the new title “Mister Invincible.” See the note at the end of this review for details and a pre-order link.
Invincible is tagged as “The one and only true comic book superhero.”
And when you see the tricks Pascal Jousselin pulls in this book, you’ll agree.
Artist: Pascal Jousselin
Colorist: Laurence Croix
Lettering: Cromatik, Ltd.
Translator: David Bryon
Published by: Dupuis/Europe Comics
Number of Pages: 48
Original Publication: 2017
The French and Superheroes
The French don’t bother with superheroes all that much. Aside from the previously-reviewed here, Superdupont, they don’t bother much with creating their own. They just import ours.
This is fine be me, because it frees them up to do a much wider array of comics, as you can see from the archives of reviews on this site.
“Invincible” is a superhero book. The title character has a yellow costume, a black mask, and a small cape. He fights crime and helps people in his small French town. He has a friend on the police force, and regularly interacts with the mayor, who’s very much a self-interested politician type.
His costume includes his own icon, which are first looks a little like a crossword puzzle grid until you realize it’s a comic book page layout.
Invincible, after all, has the power to jump between panels.
The Meta Powers of Comic Books
Invincible’s power is the ability to use the comic book form to his advantage.
He can move between panels, or pass objects to other panels.
Comics fans who’ve read any kind of “How to Read Comics” book recognize that the gutter area between panels represents the passage of time. This book is the manifestation of what would happen in comic book storytelling if someone broke through time’s fourth wall.
It’s like playing Chutes and Ladders with story telling on a comic book page.
And it works.
Here’s a very simple example of the technique. Invincible in the first tier saves a cat from a tree by reaching down to the closer car in the tree of the second tier of panels, creating a momentary double until time sorts itself out. Click on the image to see it slightly larger.
Invincible is very self-aware and perhaps overly confident. As the book goes on, creator Pascal Jousselin finds progressively more complicated ways to use this trickery to tell his stories, often creating more inadvertent problems along the way. It’s very clever stuff and it will bend your mind occasionally.
The book is mostly one page stories, but there are a few stories that run a few pages. Two of them, as a matter of fact, come with the suggestion that you should read the book in double page spreads. I get the feeling those bits work better in print than side-by-side in a digital comics reader. One has to do with a rip in the page exposing the page underneath. The other one – well, I don’t want to give it away, because they don’t explain it for a few pages, but it’s a good pay-off.
New Comics-Reader Friendly?
I do wonder a bit if the storytelling style won’t throw off people who are new to comics. If they don’t know some basics, will the panel shifting tricks just seem too bizarre or inexplicable to a new reader?
I’m reminded of “Watchmen” in this way. Half the strength of “Watchmen” is in the way it deconstructed all the superhero tropes. It’s still a great story if you don’t know more about the history of superhero comics, but you miss out on a layer of the reading experience.
I bet kids, in particular, of any reading experience will easily grok what’s going on and appreciate what Jousselin is doing, though. Kids have funny ways of figuring things out because they’re not so locked into their own inexperience. Their young minds soak this kind of stuff up…
No One Trick Pony
The panel-shifting is a neat gimmick that would get old after a few pages. Pascal Jousselin keeps thinking about these powers, though, and what they mean. He looks more deeply into the time travel aspects of it, playing off the bewildered expressions of the secondary characters in the stories who can’t see the comics page.
And he doesn’t stop at Invincible’s powers. He thinks just past that to other parts of the comic book construct.
He introduces Twodee (think “2D Man”), who can manipulate objects in the two-dimensional plane comics exist in.
Then he has the angry old man who can control his word balloons to become weapons.
The final long story, featuring a Joker-like villain, has another power that I hinted at a couple sections ago but will not speak more of here. The reveal is too well done. It’s just another great example of Jousselin thinking about the comics format and how he might make it a weapon.
Other Meta-Level Stories
Remember Kevin Smith’s run on “Green Arrow” and the Onomatopeia villain who could use sound effects as weapons?
What about Don Rosa’s “A Matter of Some Gravity” story where half the story happens sideways?
Heck, someone should put together a resource with a list of such stories…. (Don’t give me any more ideas!)
The Uncomfortable American Elephant in the Room
Does Skybound know about this book? The title “Invincible” does carry a little “TM” above and to the right when Robert Kirkman’s property is being used.
Will this book’s most-likely meager sales help it fly under the radar? Is the lowercase-i lettering in the title on purpose to distinguish it from the Skybound title? Will the slight arc on the underside of the lettering get them in more trouble, though?
Will we see lawyers involved and a title change coming?
I hope not. I think the two properties are far enough apart from each other, but they are both superhero comics featuring a lead male character in a yellow costume with a title logo that might raise some eyebrows….
On the bright side, if something does happen, at least we won’t see a large print run of books get shredded. The changes would still be digital. Just swap out some new files and everything is fixed.
Update: Magnetic Press Changes the Name (Mildly)
In June 2020, Magnetic Press published “Mister Invincible,” collecting both albums in the series into one book. And with that small addition of “Mister” to the front of the title, they should be able to slide past the lawyers.
Any fan of the format of comics will enjoy the creative games Jousselin plays with this book. It’s a real mind-bender at times, but it’s fun to see someone play with the format and follow it along, logically, to its greatest extent.
— 2018.083 —