A month or so ago, Robert Kirkman’s fan favourite comic Invincible quietly made its way into our streaming screens. Eight episodes since, it has become a sleeper hit on Amazon Prime Video. The show, much like The Boys on the same platform, aims to subvert the conventional superhero narrative. With its frantic and bloody finale now up for streaming, Invincible makes The Boys look PG-13. Invincible is clearly the interpretation of the superhero mythos, that Zack Snyder might have wanted to bring on to the big screen.
As an animated show Invincible is sometimes a victim of its patchy animation – but the animated format also allows it to take the violent, visual, and narrative liberties that even unlimited studio budgets can’t. The show lists one of its executive producers as Seth Rogen, who did the Preacher show as well – and is written by the comic book’s original creator Robert Kirkman. Therefore, being faithful to the source material is not much of an issue here.
Invincible’s first season contains its story to Volume 1 of the comic. It follows the story of teenager Mark Grayson, son of Earth’s greatest superhero Omni Man, discovering his powers and figuring what to do with them under his father’s tutelage. But Omni Man isn’t the only superhero on this Earth – much like Marvel and DC comic universes, there are multiple superheroes, team-ups and heroic shenanigans.
Until of course this universe’s version of the Justice League/Avengers, named Guardians of the Globe – are brutally executed – and Omni Man is the sole survivor. Without spoiling it further for those who haven’t started watching the show – what follows is a multi-layered tale of murders, secret government agencies, alien invasions, love, trust, responsibility, consciousness and immortality. All of this, while the titular hero Invincible (Mark) comes to terms with his place in the world.
The show’s plot deviates at certain points from the original comic, which some would term necessary for an on-screen run. The show benefits from them for the most part. Invincible’s A-list voice cast of Steven Yeun, Sandra Oh, J K Simmons, Zazie Beets and Zachary Quinto bring their characters to life with ease and the necessary gravitas as well.
Where Invincible also stands out, is in its imaginativeness, its pacing, its humour and frankly, the quieter moments. The show is at its best narratively when it is taking a pause – before super punching you into a giant space rock of relentless blood and gore. As the show progresses, you get the feeling that humans are cattle feed to the demi-gods; and that surprisingly, drives those human stories, those high school segues, those narrative pauses…home.
Let’s take the finale – there is a moment with a subway train that is brutal to watch. As a reviewer with a relatively high threshold for superhero blood and gore, I found that moment ‘tough’. As the scenario escalates exponentially, we cut to a quiet father-son moment from Mark’s childhood – and that makes what comes next significantly more resonant.
Of course, Invincible has its weaknesses as well. Changes to Cecile’s core character may not necessarily resonate that well with comic fans. The animation itself, like I mentioned before isn’t something to write home about in general, when compared to some of its streaming peers. The running ‘Invincible’ title gag seemed a bit forced too. But as a package, it transcends these weaknesses to deliver what is arguably one of the best ‘Original-to-Streaming’ superhero shows out there.
If you are from the The Boys, or The Umbrella Academy school of anti-hero shows, you will find yourself exponentially rewarded with the time invested.
Your move, Jupiter’s Legacy.