The superhero genre has become incredibly saturated over the last few years, so when I heard that Amazon was creating an animated show, directed by Robert Kirkman, and based on the Invincible comic book series, I wasn't very excited. I had very few doubts that it would be less than enjoyable to watch, but I never thought it would be anything special. How wrong was I?
Invincible is a mature take on the world of superheroes. It follows Mark Grayson (the hero known as Invincible), an older teenager who has only just grown into his superpowers, and sees how he manages to cope with not only becoming one of the most capable beings in the entire universe, but how he manages to mesh this with having a normal social and school life. Then, just as Mark is getting to grips with who he has become, the world is thrown into disarray, when it's premier protectors, the Guardians of the Globe are murdered in cold blood. To prevent spoilers, I won't dive into who did the killing, but let's just say it affects Mark's life quite considerably.
The storyline is a pretty run of the mill origin story that sees Mark go through the ringer of discovering his true abilities. As you'd expect, Mark's life is packed with victories and defeats, but the main recurring theme is best described by Rocky Balboa: "It ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward." Mark's story arc does the job, but doesn't really look to deviate from the superhero formula we've come to expect. However, it is elevated by Steven Yeun's charismatic performance, the storylines of those around him, and how they impact his life and the person he is.
Take J.K. Simmons Omni-Man for example, also known as Mark's dad. At first glance, Omni-Man is the gold standard of superheroes in this universe. He's powerful, handsome, collected, seemingly indestructible, a veritable Superman you can say. But, under the surface something twisted and dark drives this character, a very concept that seeps into his personality that is so brilliantly captured by one of the greatest actors of our time, Simmons.
Then to build on that, Invincible serves up an immensely talented and stacked cast that includes Sandra Oh, Zazie Beets, Gillian Jacobs, Zachary Quinto, and Jason Matzoukas, all in major roles, as well as seeing the likes of Seth Rogen, Jon Hamm, Mark Hamill, and Mahershala Ali all popping up in smaller or cameo positions. Needless to say, you get a show that is dripping with charisma, and is much more often than not captivating to watch.
With Invincible also being an animated show, you get exciting and packed action sequences that never cease to let up in its vicious nature. Whereas Marvel animated shows tend to avoid gritty violence, Invincible, alike DC, doesn't hesitate to show you someone getting decapitated or killed in disturbingly creative ways. Then to oppose that, it manages to convey emotion effectively and convincingly, allowing the impressive cast to really shine through in its talent.
You might be thinking this seems pretty great through and through, and in general, Invincible is. But, it isn't without its flaws. This season of the show is split into eight, approximately 45-minute long episodes, where there are frequent occasions when the storyline seems to deviate a little too much. For the most part, it's to set up future plot lines, but at the same time it can be hard to remain engaged in the main overlying story when random arcs are introduced frequently. Take Seth Rogen's Allen the Alien for example. Without diving into spoiler territory, this individual gets around five minutes of actual screen time, has a pretty interesting fight sequence, blurts out a whole list of lore and information, and then proceeds to leave and only return for a very brief few minutes at the end of the season. It can be tough to find encounters like those as more than wasted opportunities.
With all of this being said, Invincible might just be the best piece of superhero TV we have seen since the conclusion of The Boys Season 2. It's exciting, engaging, packed with charisma, and refuses to conform to the standards that have made superheroes an influential part of pop culture. If you're looking for something unique and truly enjoyable to watch, or maybe are just feeling a little underwhelmed by the recent live action Marvel shows, I would, without hesitating, recommend Invincible, as by the end of the first episode, I can almost guarantee you'll be hooked for the rest of the season. Even if the title sequence can be a little jarring.
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