The Invicible Ed is a book that it’s hard not to like… but I managed it anyway. Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t dislike it, but despite its strengths, I was disappointed by it.
Ryan Woodward, who wrote and did most of the art work, is unquestionably a very talented artist. And he’s versatile, able to work in a subtle, well-rendered realistic tone, and in a manic Saturday-morning-cartoons by-way-of-Kirby style.
But for some reason he mixes the styles in this story, doing the first two chapters of the book in the cartoon style (the first chapter sharply inked and flatly colored, the second more sketchy and painted-look coloring), the third chapter in a more naturalistic line work and pastel coloring, and the fourth chapter is drawn by another artist in an intermediate manga-influenced style, with Woodward coloring it. I don’t get it. The tone of each chapter isn’t that distinct from the others, calling for a different look, and the switch for chapter three was so different in look that I kept getting hung up on why? Especially when it changed back (or nearly so) in mid-scene for chapter four. And what’s with the change to translucent word balloons for chapter two, or the change of font for the second half of the story? All this technique gets in the way of the story rather than supporting it.
Ed, Edd, Eddy, and… Edward?
Which brings me to Woodward’s storytelling. Most of the time I could follow what was going on, but there were points where I had to stop and piece the action together. Nothing serious, just typical amateur stumbles. More serious was the awkwardness of script itself, trying to set up gags that didn’t quite work, some seriously stilted dialogue between a doctor and a… nurse?… hospital administrator? (the doc addresses her by her first name, but neglects to give the reader any clue who she is), or failing to explain how we get from the climax to the epilogue.
My biggest disappointment was that Woodward only touched on the unique super-powers situation he set up, with the title character receiving only the power of invincibility (but not the imperviousness to pain that you’d want to go with that), and his nemesis receiving the rest. It was never really clear what “the rest” were (surprising me when he apparently uses super speed to get somewhere ahead of Ed), nor was it clear what powers Ed’s alien mentor had (surprising me when they failed to include invulnerability and when they did include an unexpected deus-ex-machina ability). The division of powers was an interesting idea… so use it!
I’m tempted to compare this to an early Image book, with the story acting merely to show off the artist’s work, but that wouldn’t be fair. Woodward’s clearly a better illustrator than Liefeld or MacFarlane, and also a better writer than that. But it does seem more of an illustration-driven book with a story that could have benefitted from a more skilled co-writer.