INVINCIBLE: The Best Superhero Show You Aren’t Watching
by Jack Sellers
In the modern movie and tv landscape, superheroes have dominated for the past several years. Despite loving superheroes as much as I do, it can feel like it’s the only thing to watch and it can get a little tiring. So, it might sound surprising that I’m recommending yet another superhero show for you to watch, but Invincible is a breath of fresh air in the superhero market. I must warn right off the bat that no matter how deceiving its animation and art style are, this is a show for adults. Heed that 18+ warning.
From its earliest moments, Invincible proves itself to be something entirely different than any other piece of superhero media out there right now. The first episode begins first with a conversation between two White House security guards as they discuss family and their individual approaches to work-life balance. An unconventional start to a superhero story, yes, but soon enough The Guardians of The Globe show up to defeat a pair of identical supervillains known as the Mauler Twins. Even this isn’t the introduction to any of our main characters. The Guardians of The Globe are a Justice League analogue that inform the audience how this world views superheroes. This is a world that has grown comfortable with the idea of superheroes, and unlike Amazon Prime’s other superhero venture, The Boys based on the comic written by Garth Ennis, these superheroes aren’t horrible monsters of people. This takes a far more fantastical approach to superhero storytelling akin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but has the weight and freedom of more grounded and mature storytelling. When all seems lost for the Guardians of The Globe, the superhero Omni-Man arrives just in the nick of time. Omni-Man is the first of the main cast that is introduced, and serves as our introduction to the true main character, his son Mark Grayson.
Mark is your average 17 year old high school student, except for the fact that his dad is the world’s greatest superhero, and as is evident through his dialogue, he’s waiting for his super powers to manifest. This is a great time to mention this show’s star-studded voice cast. Steven Yuen stars as the titular Invincible, J.K. Simmons as Omni-Man, Sandra Oh as Mark’s mom Debbie, and Gillian Jacobs, Jason Manzoukas, Seth Rogan, Mark Hamil, and Walton Goggins all feature as returning characters as well and that’s barely scratching the surface. The rest of this episode follows Mark as his super powers manifest and his dad helps him learn to become a superhero. This first episode has a relatively slow pace but this allows for the audience to really get to know the large cast of characters and the complexities of this world.
Earlier I mentioned this show having a more grounded feel to it. This comes through the show’s portrayal of action and violence. In the second episode when aliens from another dimension invade earth, they don’t just arrive and start fighting the superheroes, instead they attack civilians and with the freedom of this show’s rating the aliens truly terrorize the city. This is part of what separates this show from the other superhero movies and shows out there, but again unlike The Boys, this show doesn’t make things overly bleak or depressing. Mark’s optimism and youthful personality keeps the show entertaining and fun, but the more intense and serious aspects ground the show and separate it from the rest.
As someone who has read the comic that inspired this show, one of the greatest pieces of praise I can give is that it is improving and making up for the mistakes that the comic made. Retrospect has allowed the creators of this show to improve the pacing of the show and cut out storylines that didn’t work. One of the greatest examples of this is the character of William. Mark’s best friend in the comic is revealed to be gay later on in the comic’s run, but before that there is a love triangle between him, Mark, and the character Eve which isn’t handled with the greatest elegance seeing as it was 2002. In the show, William is written as gay from the start and it allows him to be a far better developed and better characterized. This is just a part of the correction that this show makes from its source material.
Invincible is something that is really special and it’s really refreshing to see an adult animated show go beyond the usual Family Guy sitcom route. This show is an opportunity for so many great stories and I for one am totally hooked. This is a superhero show for adults that doesn’t outright disown the idea of superheroics out of the gate like The Boys, but it’s not restricted to a cinematic universe like the MCU or DCEU, allowing it to carve a totally new path and be something truly unique and special. I can’t wait to see where this series goes and I highly recommend that you check it out. If nothing else make sure you stay all the way through the first episode.