Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Invincible.
It’s no secret that everyone loves their Amazon Prime; it’s convenient, affordable, and comes with Amazon’s resident streaming service Prime Video attached. However, the race for quality, original content is led by Netflix and other newer streaming contenders like HBOMax and Disney+ — but that does not mean that Prime Video is giving up.
Prime Video appears to be doubling down on allowing lesser-known comics room to breathe and giving legs to some shows about a darker side of heroism. Following up the success of The Boys seasons one and two, we get a new series — though animated this time — following a similar gritty pseudo-realistic superhero story. Invincible is adapted from the comic of the same name by Robert Kirkman from Image Comics, a publishing company that also features names like Kick-Ass, The Walking Dead, and Spawn, to name a few. If Robert Kirkman sounds familiar, it is because of his other work that gained traction and popularity on AMC, The Walking Dead. However, many fans lost interest in the show as it went further and further from the original source material.
Aside from the handful of minor character design changes to create a more diverse cast for this Invincible adaptation, Amazon seems to be sticking to the source material pretty strongly.
The series itself obviously has potential coming from a comic series of 144 issues, and one that garners rather high acclaim from those who’ve read it. The story is simple at first, yet falls into a somewhat complex — but not unheard of — storyline. The majority of the episodes follow our protagonist, 17-year-old Mark Grayson, as he develops his Superman-esque powers inherited from his father, and tries to balance being a superhero and teenager. The series has a bit of a monster/villain-of-the-week flow, and, with hour-long episodes, it sometimes seems to detract from the fun animation and overall feelings a superhero show might be expected to give us.
One of the big plotlines of the entire first season comes at the end of the first episode: Omni-Man, Mark’s father, kills the Guardians of the Globe — the series’ resident ‘Justice League’ — in a surprise twist ambush that leaves the aforementioned Omni-Man in the hospital. The reason for killing was Omni-Man’s heritage — Viltrumite, an alien race hellbent on conquering planets and making them part of their own empire.
This was the biggest change from the source material that the show seemed to make, as the killing of the Guardians of the Globe did not take place until the tenth issue of the comic series. This change comes as a fun surprise in the ending of the first episode, and a pretty gruesome and intense fight. However, I feel, at times, the story drones on or seems aimless in certain aspects of Omni-Man’s responses to different situations, in which he is revealed to be more and more villainous. Although the other characters figuring out the truth as the show progresses does create some great dramatic tension, the bulk of the show is in the pocket of, at times, overly-gruesome superhero beatdowns.
Once again, the show comes off like a villain-of-the-week kind of situation, with Mark, our protagonist, and the Teen Team, another superhero group featuring Atom Eve and other fun heroes fighting against varying side villains. However, with this being said, after doing some research, I found that another change that had been made was the amount of side villains this early on in the story. In the comics, there were even more side villains, which begs the question: what was the story attempting to accomplish other than proving that real superhero fights would be bloody?
This does not mean that the series is short on positive story beats, as much of the enjoyable parts of the first season come from the intrapersonal developments of our characters who, though are heroes, tend to have their own, very human motives. We get a whole subplot dedicated to a character by the name of Robot, who has a crippled body creating a genetic clone body of another hero in order to live his life outside of respirators. We also get the complex relationships between Mark and his love interest, Amber Bennett, who, even after knowing he was a hero, is upset at his lies and de-prioritization of important cornerstones for their relationship.
Atom Eve gets her own plot as well, focusing on her relationship with her family, who are hesitant for her to be a hero without the Teen Team because “who will protect her?” The best character interactions and development, in my opinion, come from hyper-masculine father Omni-Man and his son, Mark, or Invincible, during their training. Omni-Man often is rough on Mark as they train, which is revealed to be because of his gigantic superiority complex as a Viltrumite. Mark, of course, detests this idea and attempts to fight his father, only for their conflict to end in the losses of at least a couple hundred human lives in order for Omni-Man to prove how weak humans are to Mark, and the eventual, very bloody beat down of Mark at the hands of his father. However, before Omni-Man finishes his son off, he has a moment of pause in which he remembers watching Mark play baseball and at first disliking it, but, as his wife, Debbie Grayson, explains to him the simple joy of the game, he finds himself enthralled. After the very human revelation, Omni-Man flies off the planet crying, sparing his son’s life, leaving us with the undertone of how earth and humankind can change people.
All in all, the show is enjoyable for what it is and definitely laid a lot of plot threads as one or two-episode subplots to be fleshed out as the series continues on. It would also be an absolute disservice not to mention the stellar voice acting we get from Steven Yuen (Mark Grayson), J.K. Simmons (Omni-Man), Gillian Jacobs (Atom Eve), Sandra Oh (Debbie Grayson), and Zazie Beetz (Amber Bennet), and the rest of the talented cast members.
If you aren’t too squeamish and don’t mind the gore of “real superheroes,” then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this show for what it is: a fun comic book adaptation. For comic fans, it follows the story close enough, and, for new fans, it introduces an interesting world that certainly has a fun story to tell as it unfolds. The show was strong in what it did while, at the same time, meandering through some minutes of each hour-long episode — not to say that the show was boring, but it definitely has its lulls. If you are a fan of Invincible or like any of the cast or creators involved, go give it some attention and unwind with a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video