Superhero stories that take the traditionally child-friendly tropes of comic books and twist them into a mature new form are among the most celebrated in the genre. For instance, Watchmen, The Dark Knight and Netflix’s Daredevil. Invincible looks to follow on in their footsteps – and while it would be a tall order to match up to those examples, it isn’t very successful in its own right either.
Invincible follows Clay Chesterton, a life-long devotee of the retired superhero Invincible, as he tries to hunt down his reclusive hero – even at the expense of his own marriage. It’s a great premise, as telling a relationship drama through the lens of superhero fiction is a novel approach to the genre that could produce some terrific results. Unfortunately, for us to get invested in the central relationship we would have to actually care for the couple, and both characters come across as petulant, self-obsessed people that are hard to like.
We might be able to forgive this, though, if the superhero element was well-drawn. Unfortunately, this side of the novel is a let-down as well. Invincible does start off very promising in this regard, as the opening chapter sets up a world in which superheroes have been around for decades but many are now past their prime. Yes, it is a familiar concept – Watchmen again – but it is still a potent one. Sadly, Newey doesn’t do enough to flesh out this world beyond that intriguing introduction.
Newey’s writing style also isn’t as polished as could be. He employs a wandering point-of-view that can be distracting and there’s a little too much reliance on explicit language rather than actual maturity to remind us that this superhero story isn’t for kids. The narration also frequently commits the cardinal sin of telling rather than showing. For instance, when Clay’s wife Beth is introduced we are told that she suffers from post-natal depression in literally the very next sentence.
In Invincible’s defence, Newey’s love for superheroes absolutely shines through and, as we have said, it sports a very promising fresh take on the genre. However, the flaw is in the execution, as the characters, world-building and writing style let it down. It makes for a frustrating read as there is a, well, super book in there somewhere.
INVINCIBLE / AUTHOR: LEE NEWEY / PUBLISHER: SLAVERING DOG PUBLICATIONS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW