In this column, I feature comic book reviews written by my students at Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford College is a small liberal arts school just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I challenge students to read and interpret comics because I believe sequential art and visual literacy are essential parts of education at any level (see my Manifesto!). I post the best of my students’ reviews in this column. Today, I am proud to present a review by Javier Davis.

Javier Davis is a first-year student at Oxford College and is considering majoring in Business. His home is Atlanta, Georgia, where he enjoys boxing, drawing, and playing piano in his free time. Javier’s favorite writers include Scott McCloud and Jaime Hernandez and Jeff Lemire, and his favorite comic is The Sculptor by Scott McCloud. His other interests include fashion, cooking, and cinema. Javier also enjoys spending time with his friends and family.

Invincible Vol. 1: Family Matters by Robert Kirkman and Cory WalkerInvincible Vol. 1: Family Matters by Robert Kirkman (writer) and Cory Walker (artist)

The first volume of Invincible by Robert Kirkman is a compelling narrative complemented by incredible art by Cory Walker. Invincible Vol. 1: Family Matters is not your average superhero tale. This volume introduces a narrative that blends the trials of teenage life with the colossal responsibilities of a superhero. The story is more than just fights and flashy powers, as it looks into the complexities of identity, coming of age, responsibility, legacy and family dynamics. Robert Kirkman, most known for his work on The Walking Dead, brings a unique depth to this universe, distinct from zombie apocalypses, presenting a world where heroes and superpowers are intertwined with personal growth. Cory Walker’s art complements the storytelling through providing vivid, action-packed visuals that capture the essence of each character and their struggles. Invincible Vol. 1 sets the stage for an expansive series that is both engaging and thought-provoking, urging readers to eagerly anticipate what comes next. I would highly recommend this comic for older teenagers and adults, roughly 16 and up. The comic contains mature themes, including violence, complex moral dilemmas, and occasionally graphic content, which may not be suitable for younger readers.

The protagonists of this comic are the members of the Grayson family, with the narrative focusing mainly on Mark Grayson, who embodies the superhero Invincible. Mark is a high school student grappling with typical teenage dilemmas and the onset of just getting superpowers, which he inherited from his father, Nolan Grayson, also known as Omni-Man. Nolan stands as a keystone of heroism, not only leading and protecting his family but also serving as Earth’s protector. His dual life includes saving the world from extraterrestrial threats and guiding his son in harnessing his new abilities.

Mark’s journey from adolescence to becoming a superhero is central to the narrative, illustrating his struggle with carrying the weight of continuing his father’s legacy and finding his own identity both as a regular teenager as well as a superhero. His mother, Debbie Grayson, is the anchor of the family, providing a non-superpowered, human perspective amidst all of the extraordinary events going on in their lives. While she does not have any powers and is only human, her strength in the comic lies in her emotional resilience and grounding influence on her family. The Grayson household holds its own intricate complexities. Nolan, despite his superhero status, faces daily challenges of balancing his duties to the world and with his own family, often secretive and burdened with the responsibility of protecting Earth from the cosmic dangers that it faces.

The themes of this comic weave through the narrative which add layers of meaning to make it something beyond just a typical superhero story. One of the central themes is legacy and the weight it carries. Mark’s struggle to live up to his father’s legacy as Omni-Man highlights the pressures of family expectations and quest for identity which leads me to the next theme which is coming-of-age. This is depicted through Mark’s evolution from teenager into a superhero. This transition brings numerous challenges, as Mark must navigate the complexities of growing up, including his understanding of his placement in the world, shaping his own morals, and dealing with the responsibilities of his new powers. Similarly, the theme of identity is also crucial, as characters grapple with who they are and who they want to be. Mark’s dual life as a high school student and a superhero forces him to reconcile these identities, reflecting the broader human experience of balancing different aspects of one’s life.

Furthermore, I was very impressed with the artwork in this comic. The art by Cory Walker played such an important role in bringing the narrative to life through its vibrant, colorful, and dynamic style. Walker’s illustrations are characterized by very clean lines and vibrant bold colors and color schemes, which enhance the story by clearly distinguishing characters and being able to convey their emotions and personalities. In addition, I enjoyed the way Walker was able to depict intense, dramatic action sequences and quieter more intimate moments with equal skill, which resonate well with the reader. I found Walker’s art style to be accessible and appealing, with a modern comic book aesthetic that felt fresh yet also very familiar like other comics I’ve read in the past. This accessibility makes the world of Invincible instantly engaging, inviting readers into a visually rich universe that is easy to navigate and enjoy. Moreover, Walker’s panel layouts and use of space effectively gave the story very good pacing, guiding the reader’s eye through the narrative flow and emphasizing key moments in the plot. The action scenes are dynamic and fluid, capturing the intensity and speed of superhero conflicts while maintaining clarity and comprehension, making each battle or flight sequence thrilling to follow. In assessing the art of this comic, it is clear that Walker’s illustrations are integral to the comic’s success. His art not only complements Kirkman’s storytelling but also enriches it, adding visual layers that enhance the reader’s understanding of characters and plot. The artwork’s consistency and quality throughout the volume serve to anchor the reader’s engagement.

In conclusion, this comic was amazing, merging the vibrancy of comic book action with deep narrative complexity and character development. Robert Kirkman’s storytelling ability to tie so many themes into the narrative, combined with Cory Walker’s striking visual artistry, creates a great read. Invincible Vol. 1: Family Matters deserves a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is a must-read for fans of the genre and those looking for a superhero story with substance and heart.


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

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