“Invincible” aired its first three episodes on Amazon Prime on March 27, but it had a history before hitting the streaming service. “Invincible” began as a comic book in 2003, written by Robert Kirkman with art by Ryan Ottley. Following the comic’s conclusion in 2018, Kirkman and Ottley co-created the animated adaptation of their work.
“Invincible” follows 17-year-old Mark Grayson, played by Steven Yeun, who inherits his abilities from his father Omni-Man, played by J.K. Simmons. With his newly acquired abilities, Mark is determined to follow in his father’s footsteps as Earth’s greatest superhero, while still keeping his normal teenage life.
The characters around him represent that conflict Mark faces. His draw toward heroism is nurtured by his father Omni-Man and the Teen Team: Robot (Zachery Quinto), Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), Rex Splode (Jason Mantzoukas) and Dupli-Kate (Melise). His mother, Debbie Grayson (Sandra Oh), and his love interest, Amber Benett (Zazie Beetz), both represent his normal human life that he was raised in.
The seaon’s overall tone is both dark and funny, with the opposing tones balancing each other in order to produce the biggest impact. The show’s tone shifts from Mark awkwardly asking a girl out to having to suit up and fight an alien voiced by Seth Rogan. Then, he and the audience are suddenly thrown into a gorey bloodbath of citizens getting mangled and blown to bloody mushy bits by alien invaders. Unlike most shows, “Invincible” uses gore as a tool as opposed to a cheap shock factor. One of the first major gore scenes is when Mark gets into his first fight as Invincible, which is treated as a serious thing. The audience and him are in shock of how traumatizing and real being a hero can be; the heroic battle music suddenly fades as he witnesses his first deaths; the only sounds that remain are the background noise of the battle and Mark’s panicking thoughts.
The only cons for the season would be problems that aren’t exclusive to just “Invincible,” but rather with the superhero genre itself. There are characters that don’t bother hiding their identities as superheroes, like Atom Eve or Omni-Man, yet never get spotted in their civilian lives. Despite establishing that their real identities are supposed to be a secret, they are seen using their abilities, like flight, in the open while in civilian identities. The audience is supposed to believe that somehow no one is supposed to know or recognize who the heroes are. In episode two, they try to explain it away with a throwaway line where Atom Eve is talking to Mark while they both learn who the other is as civilians. She says, “It’s a psychology thing. If you don’t expect to see a superhero in your school, you don’t see one.”
The other main issue is William (Andrew Ranells), Mark’s best friend who is stifled in the stereotypical gay best friend trope. He doesn’t have much of a personality other than being the guy whose life revolves around helping Mark get a girlfriend, making sarcastic quippy comments and being gay. However, the show doesn’t subject its minority characters into their respective stereotypes, like Dupli-Kate and Black Samson (Khary Payton); it simply doesn’t give its characters much of a personality. Based on the first season, the writers failed with William’s character as he is the only known queer chracter on “Invincible,” and despite having some time focused on him, his character still couldn’t be expanded upon.
“Invincible” is a welcomed addition to the gritty superhero genre that has spiked in recent years. The violence and gore of the show never come across as excessive, but rather help elevate the show as it compliments the storytelling. The writing is amazing despite queer characters being relegated to two dimensional stereotypes. “Invincible” offers plenty for fans to watch and enjoy and will have audiences counting down the days for its confirmed second and third season on Amazon Prime.
Verdict: “Invincible” succeeds in balancing dark themes, gore and humor in a way that many shows have not managed to achieve. Just prepare yourself to eye roll through tropes.