When I saw the "Invincible Universe" logo on the cover of this book, hovering above an array of costumed characters drawn by Todd Nauck, I thought this was an anthology book, or maybe a sourcebook or some other similarly encyclopedic collection of character biographies, snappy poses and keen artwork. Imagine my surprise to discover that what was actually inside the cover of "Invincible Universe" #1 was a ground-laying story from Phil Hester with solid art from Nauck.
Although he's on the cover and the first page, there is surprisingly little Invincible contained on the pages of this comic book as the story takes a decidedly different path from "Invincible" #100. Invincible flies off-panel on the second page and from there, "Invincible Universe" #1 is a Cecil Stedman-centric story. With the aftermath of Dinosaurus' attack having claimed eight hundred thousand lives and counting, the world is in need of some guidance and Hester's guided walk with Cecil Stedman and his new aide, Edelman, defines the scope of destruction and the actions being taken to make reparations and reduce the growing casualty totals. Through that lens, readers see Wolf-Man, the Guardians of the Globe and Kid Thor among many, many other characters Robert Kirkman and collaborators have added to the world -- er, universe -- around Invincible.
Many of these characters are ideal for Todd Nauck as his style invigorates them with animated potential. The artist delivers wonderful storytelling through his panel compositions and brings a masterful level of acting through his characters' expressions and body language. Nauck even manages to make the deceptively middle-aged Stedman vivacious and energetic and even brings some energy to Mr. Liu, who arrives in this issue seeking help from his one-time foe. Nauck is credited for pencils and inks in this issue and he clearly is inking on paper, with his distinctive, coloring-book friendly outlines and busy details throughout "Invincible Universe" #1.
As I've said in previous reviews around the Invincible-related corners of the comic book world, I'm not the most well-informed reader of Robert Kirkman's second-most-famous creation. Some of the concepts have caught my eye in the past and there is simply no denying the results of Kirkman's exemplary imagination. In this case, I'm glad Invincible's presence is marginalized. I'm sure his influence will be apparent and he undoubtedly make some appearances, but with many of these characters, filtered through the work of Hester and Nauck, I'll be able to learn about them as they grow to fill pages devoted to them and their adventures rather than their contributions to Invincible's adventures. Good story, strong art, ample story potential, "Invincible Universe" #1 is a very good start to something that just might be great.