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Comparison of Broken April and Invincible

Date: 2023-05-28
Tags:  book-club, comics

This post will be a comparison of Broken April by Ismail Kadare and Invincible by Robert Kirkman. Broken April is about a boy in the Albanian highlands who hasa duty to kill his brother's killer. It's a story about the overbearing prescense of culture and how it impacts daily life. Invincible on the other hand is a comic book about a superhero child that is the son of a universe conquering warrior race. He needs to deal with the fact that his father wants to enslave Earth.

The two stories probably shouldn't be compared but I read them in the same month and they wildly different but have some interesting parallels. It probably says something about my own pattern recognition and something about how general stories really are.

I'll focus on parallel characters but I'm sure some of themes also do cross over.

The first character to look at is Omni-Man and Gjorge's fathers. Both characters are products of their culture. Omni Man, Nolan Grayson, is part of a warrior race that conquers planets and explands the empire. This is something he wants todo and he truly believes in it. Gjorge's father is unnamed but we can call him the family name for now, Berisha. Berisha is a true albanian father and he accepts that his son Gjorge needs to kill his other son's killer. This is demanded bythe Kanun and even though it would result in him losing both his sons and an end to his bloodline he still pushes his son to do it. Both fathers are true believes in their culture and they both seem like loving fathers. The difference arises in that Omni Man rejects his culture and Berisha does not. Berisha does everything his culture demands he makes sure his son does as well. Omni Man however realizes that he loves his son too much and that he has change while on Earth. Heultimately rejects the Viltrumite way and abandons his post and his life. I wonder if Omni Man would have been much more likely to have stayed true to his warrior roots if he landed in Albania in the 1930s. Would he have turned out more like Gjorge's father? He may have as he would have seen humans being compelled by their culture and maybe he would have felt that he needs to stay true to his own warrior race.

The next character to look at is Atom Eve and Diana. Both are the love interest of the respective characters. Mark, Invicinble, has a crush on Atom Eve immediately but he stays away from it because she has a boyfriend. Diana is who Gjorge falls in love with immediately on sight and this lasts throughout the book. Both women are already with someone else when our main character loves them. I'm not sure why this was the case but it is likely coincidence or it says something about how we see women. Both women are also loyal to their current signifcant others, Atom Eve, Eve is truly with Rex Splode and Diana is with Bessian. It isn't until later in the stories that they have to confront their feelings. Diana eventually realizes she wants to see Gjorge and that she does love him, something about his captivates her. Eve has the same issue. Eve ultimate ends up with Mark they have a good relationship throughout the series. Diana and Gjorge never meet even though Gjorge gets bitterly close, he dies without ever talking to her. It is also a cool note to see that both men had previous relationships. Mark had Amber and Gjorge had a sick girl promised to be his wife that had died.

The steward of blood could be mapped to Cecil. Both set the tone of the worlds they are in. The Steward of Blood is the person in charge of keeping track of the blood feuds and the blood debts. He takes his job seriously and he truly believes in what he is doing. He enforces the culture and he feels guilty and pain that his culture is dying out. Gjorge was the only person to commit a murder on March 17th and had he not, this would have been the first time in centuries a day went on without bloodshed. This was something that made the Steward almost cry out and thank Gjorge. Cecil on other head is the head of a shadowy organization that is focused completely on protecting the world. He is a good guy but he does shady things in the name of protecting everyone. He hires killers and does unethical research. He will do anything and everything to keep Earth safe. He sets the tone that dark things may need to be done to keep the peace. This is something that conflicts with Mark's own morals though he switches between the two sides of doing the right thing always and doing the bad thing to get the right outcome. Gjorge doesn't have that conflict, he does what his culture demands even if inside he doesn't believe in everything it says. He does it anyway because society and the world demands it of him.

We get alot of Debbie Grayson, the mother of Invicible. She was duped by Omni Man but she ultimately accepts him back when he returns. She loved Nolan and we see how badly the betrayal affects her. She moves on and dates someone else but she always loved Nolan. We unfortunately don't get any insight into Gjorge's mother. She is mentioned that she is the one to put Gjorge's brother's blood stained shirt on a pole above their house.

Bessian is also a main character in the book Broken April, however I don't think there is an analogue for Bessian. He seems to be the writer's self insert character and he is the one who is romanticizing the Kanun and the blood feuds. He looks on in awe at the death and he truly is a tourist. Invicible does have some self referential bits when Mark buys comics in universe. They make fun of comics and other comics that Robert Kirkman wrote so both writers Kirkman and Kadare wrote themselves into their creations. That probably says something about how everyone wants to be part of their stories.

Now we get to the main characters. Both Mark and Gjorge are characters that have their cultures forced down them. Nolan tells Mark that he wishes he had raised him differently, that he had passed on his Viltrumite culture instead of letting Mark be human. This is ultimately what made Mark into who he was. By being free he didn't need to follow his father's culture. This is the opposite for Gjorge, Gjorge grew up in the culture of the Kanun and so killing his brother's killer was just a fact of life. It was something he had to do. Even though Gjorge didn't want to do it and he would prefered to get out of it, he could not and he never thought he would. Mark could have easily been the same way and we see that proof in alternate universe versions of Mark that grew up differently. The version of Mark we see is actually an anomaly, most Marks apparently end up enslaving Earth and being more Viltrumite than human. I would bet that had Nolan lived in Albania in the 1930s, Earth would have been screwed. Viltrumite culture and Albanian culture may have meshed far more than modern American culture.

I really enjoyed Broken April because of the way that Gjorge accepts his fate. he is just another domino and there is nothing he can do about that. This is very much like hod the gods of Norse Mythology go towards their deaths even though it has already been foretold in Ragnarok. I enjoyed Invincible for the same reason. I loved seeing the culture of a warrior race and Thragg is the person who tries to keep that savagery going. Thragg tries to keep his old ways around. Maybe Thragg is closer to the Steward of the Blood directly. Thragg hates that his way of life is ending and that Nolan has taken over the Viltrumites. Thragg wants to keep the strong is right way of life going and he actually breeds more viltrumites for this purpose.

These characters in both books were written well and you can really get into their motivations and desires. Broken April is a bit harder because it is so short but we can make up own things. It's also strange to see so many parallels in two different books but I think many stories probably have a pattern and these are just human things. We always have a culture that is surronding us and many times it demands things from us that we may not like. Gjorge grapples with it but ultimately he keeps his culture going. Mark on the other hand rebels against his Viltrumite heritage and changes the way the viltrumites think and behave.