Amazon’s ‘Invincible’ Does Realism Right
Atticus Leeds – Layout Editor
Invincible is an adult animated superhero series based on the comic book series created for Image Comics by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley. Its first season is currently hosted on Amazon Prime, and it is renewed for a second and third season.
The series stars the voice talents of Steven Yuen as Mark Grayson / Invincible (the titular protagonist), J.K. Simmons as his father, Nolan Grayson / Omni-Man and Sandra Oh as his mother, Debbie Grayson. I will do my best to avoid story spoilers in the following review, but since subverting expectations is at the show’s core, some hidden essentials will be revealed here.
The universe of Invincible is quickly set up as one very similar to the DC Universe’s Justice League, featuring a team of superheroes, the Guardians of the Globe, each of them loosely based on original Justice League characters, who work together to cleanly foil the plot of the Mauler Twins, two blue-skinned clones (wonderfully voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, these two are some of my favorites) who appear to be garden variety supervillains.
The episode continues, showing Mark’s relationship with both of his parents: his father, Nolan, known as Omni-Man, an alien from the planet Viltrum, and the show’s equivalent of Superman, and his mother, Debbie, who is a normal human.
Being half-viltrumite and half-human, Mark develops superpowers of his own and goes out for training with his father; there is a bit of low-key drama between Mark and his parents, but nothing out of place for a coming-of-age story. The episode runs with this facade until the very end, where the show reveals its true brutal and gritty tone with the plot’s actual inciting incident and completely recontextualizes certain things earlier in the episode.
This show has a lot of blood and gore, as well as death scenes that are quite disturbing. If these are things that you can’t handle, then Invincible is probably not going to be your cup of tea.
However, there is far more to this series than its brutality. It develops a complex and lovable roster of characters, a thrilling conspiracy and a large universe of aliens, government secrets, magic and strange tech that is kept just mysterious enough to make you wonder.
One thing that I enjoy about the show is that, while it deals in plenty of ethical complexity, it never surrenders the line between hero and villain; it does not present us a universe without hope and those who are willing to do what’s right. I also think it does a good job at keeping its deaths just rare enough to avoid an emotional disconnect from the audience and create a real impact when a death does happen.
Invincible lets you care about its characters but does not bludgeon you over the head for it. On a technical note, I’ll be brief. The animation is good, though it doesn’t go much beyond the style expected of a western superhero animation, the writing is generally top notch and the voice cast does a great job, featuring veterans and newcomers alike.
One of my personal critiques of the series is that the stock ‘redshirt’ characters without powers, such as nameless agents and soldiers, are too willing to engage threats in close combat that they should know they have no hope of hindering, let alone defeating.
It seems like these highly trained individuals are throwing their lives away for no reason, and the show does this to up the brutality at the expense of our ability to suspend disbelief. If one of Invincible’ s purposes is to present a more realistic superhero universe, it needs to remember that more realism and more brutality are not necessarily the same thing.
All in all, Invincible was a delight to watch. I had trouble putting it down while I was watching, and it gave me a ton to think about after it was over. If you enjoy gritty and complex superhero stories and aren’t bothered by some of the show’s brutal elements, Invincible is something you should definitely check out.