Recently, I had the chance to read two very similar yet different stories. On the surface, the concept is almost the same: A teenager getting super-powers and his exploits/ efforts from then on. But there was a world of difference between them for one of them was created in the US and the other was created in Japan.
Invincible, is a story about Mark Grayson, son of the most powerful superhero of his world: Omni Man (a Superman knockoff). The story starts from Mark acquiring his power one day in his teenage years and deciding to follow on his dad’s footsteps. He soon finds out that his father is an alien belonging to an evil empire who are hell bent on galactic domination and that his father was put on the earth to prepare it for the eventual takeover. His father proposes Mark should join the effort and he refuses it (as is customary of a hero). His father beats him to near death (not so customary of a hero) and leaves the earth. Now Mark has to prepare himself for fighting against the eventual takeover and also have to save it from itself until then.
If by this point you have a nagging suspicion that this story is a mixture of Superman, star wars and several other sci-fi stories thrown in, that is because it actually is. But one cannot actually fault the author for that. What I can fault him for would be the lack of zeal he shows for character development as compared to the sci-fi elements/ shock moments/ brutal fights that are so prevalent in the story. In a way, this is to be expected from a western superhero story. Apart from the hero himself and his father, the rest of the characters have a set role and they do not deviate from it or grow from it. The heroine and hero’s mother character have pretty much the same function. Devoid of their dependency to their husbands, they are nothing exciting or even memorable. Even marginally interesting characters like “I’ll even make a deal with the devil to get what I want” Cecil or Mark’s sociopath half-brother Oliver lack the necessary development and come off as abrupt most of the time.
Another minor gripe is that even though this is from an Independent publishing house (Image comics) as opposed to a big corporate such as DC or Marvel, and despite the fact that the author mocks the corporate comics storytelling, I found that the story had the same problems you might find in any DC/Marvel comics stories in the past two decades or more. Note: The key difference between Corporate owned comics and Independent Comics publishing is that the artists own the rights for the stories in an independent publishing company as opposed to DC/Marvel who only pay the author for the story which they own.
On the other hand, My Hero Academia is a story about Midoriya Izuku, a superhero fanboy who idolizes the greatest superhero of his time, All Might. Midoriya wants to be a superhero himself but unfortunately for him, in a world filled with people with super powers (aka quirks), he cannot as he has no quirks. One day, All Might saves him from a villain and impressed by his bravery, he decides to help Midoriya become a great hero by passing over his power “One for All” to him. All Might reveals to Midoriya that he has been looking for a successor to pass over his power as he was mortally wounded in a battle a few years ago which has severely limited the usage of his power. But this is a double edged sword as Midoriya is not yet ready to wield the “One for All” power yet and has to train his body to withstand the toll it takes. As he is, one punch at full power is all that is necessary to shatter his entire arm. All Might helps him get into the hero training school, UA Academy, where he’ll get the chance to not only train himself to replace All Might but also make friendship that might save his life down the line.
The primary difference between these two stories is the approach they take because of the cultural differences. Where Invincible concentrates on family, sci fi and doing what is right, My Hero Academia strongly concentrates on mentor-ship, finding your own way amongst trouble and friendship. My Hero Academia also benefits from the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously a lot of times and goofs on almost every character thus keeping it light-hearted despite the story and the delicacy of the hero’s power. Coming to which, the delicacy of his super power is another strong point. Even though he has super strength, the hero is not invincible, making him rely more on his brain/ team work/ planning than on his strength to overcome the problems he faces. Most times, this makes for some interesting reading as compared to Invincible, which ends up relying on gore, brutality and shock value in fights. As a result, almost all the support characters are well developed or at the very least interesting even if some are just manga stereotypes.
Invincible also has the fault of relying on the trope of characters being almost beaten to death only to recover later which cheapens the seriousness that a brutal fight can have in a story. Although My Hero Academia has a similar trope (they have to if the hero ends up shattering all his bones in his arm after throwing one powerful punch), they try to use it with caution and after a certain point in the story, try not to rely on it. There are numerous minor details like this that makes My Hero Academia a pleasure to read and Invincible a chore. Last but not least, My Hero Academia is delightfully devoid of any agendas that western comics have been filled with in the recent years. Invincible has its share of force fed agendas that makes it tiring at times to infuriating at the rest.
You might still enjoy Invincible if you are new/unfamiliar with Super hero stories but if you have read your way through countless stories (like I have), My Hero Academia will please you more.
PS: There is also an anime version of My hero Academia that you can check out if you prefer anime to manga. While we are at the subject of Manga, you should also check out Hunter X Hunter, which is the best action manga I’ve read in a long while. It has an anime version too.