Invincible is an 8-part animated superhero show based on a *long-running comic series by Robert Kirkman, famed for creating The Walking Dead—and if that doesn’t give you a big enough clue, I’m going to say this flat out: this is not one to plop your kids in front of while you sit on a Zoom call or potter round the house. But you though? You should totally watch it. It’s all kinds of awesome.
Invincible tells the story of Mark Grayson, a young man whose perceptions of the world – and of his heritage – are about to be shaken to the core. He is the son of Omni-Man, the most powerful superhero on the planet. Mark’s idealistic, smart, enthusiastic, and a little bit out of his depth. He struggles with girls, his father is stand-offish, and the school bully likes to push him around. When his powers finally kick in, it’s a game-changer, but his problems are only just beginning.
In terms of its set-up, Invincible is something of a companion piece to **The Boys in terms of the ultraviolence on display though – crucially – it’s not as cynical. As the series progresses, Mark’s expectations are crushed by experience, his idealism is rocked by the brutality around him and he has to make the fundamental choice to either accept the world as it is, or help change it for the better. (As do we all.)
The show looks amazing. It’s as close as I’ve ever seen to a direct translation of comic-book artwork to the screen, with none of the awkward style-shifts we see in live-action movies, filtered for realist tastes. Its visual design may be bright and breezy, but – like our hero – it functions to bring sharp contrast to the horrors of the world we’re watching: a world where where everyday people can be crushed by supes as easily (and carelessly) as ants in the melee.
The voice acting is top-notch, but the heart of the show belongs to the Grayson family: Mark (Steven Yeun), who is earnest and endearing; Debbie (Sandra Oh), who is by turns encouraging, stern, and haunted; and Nolan (J.K. Simmons), who can turn from reassuring warmth and sincerity to cold, brittle and distanced in the blink of an eye. The relationship between Mark and his mother is particularly affecting, and I felt it was to the writer’s credit that she is given equal dramatic weight to Omni-Man both in family dynamic and as role model.
Oh hey, and the ensemble cast they’ve assembled is pretty incredible too, coming as they do from such cultural monoliths as Die Hard, Gladiator, Hamilton, Highlander, Justice League, Luke Cage, Mad Men, Star Trek, Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Walking Dead.
What blew me away more than anything though, was the writing. Kirkman knocks it out of the park, delivering sharp characters – each of whom come complete with the weight of history – and plot threads that play with (and cleverly subvert) our expectations, keeping us constantly off-balance. I’m being careful not to drop any spoilers in this review because this is one narrative that really benefits from our innocence when it comes to superheroics, a willingness to just let the story unfold around us.
I haven’t read the comics (yet), so I can’t compare the two with any credibility, but – given the sheer expense of animation and the precarious nature of television these days – my guess it they’ll be bringing a tighter focus to the animated saga. Whatever their play, it bodes well that Kirkman is acting as executive producer (as well as writing key episodes). Not only can he keep his eye on the ball, he can bring his considerable creative energies and intimate knowledge of the world and his characters to bear for the ultimate adaptation.
The show does everything I could have wanted and more.
*Invincible, by Robert Kirkman for Image Comics. It ran to 144 issues / 25 trade paperbacks, stretching from 2003-2018.
**The Boys was another comic-book series. It was written by Garth Ennis, ran from 2006-2020, and made a successful transition to live-action television in 2019, starring Karl Urban and Jack Quaid. Both The Boys and Invincible are available to watch on Amazon Prime at time of writing.
If you enjoyed this Review, watch out for more on the 2nd week of each month. I’ll be tackling games, comics, books, films… Whatever the last thing was that I finished and felt like sharing with you. I am also joining the Gingernuts of Horror review team, so look out for me there, too.
Prefer to read about my Business Journey, or pick up some Writing/Editorial Tips? Come back on the 3rd week of every month.
I’m reserving the 4th week each month for my hobby, the Audio Productions I’ve been doing of late.
The 5th week (when there is one), is a mixed bag.
When we slip over to the 1st week each month, I tend to talk about Personal stuff e.g. my life, my thoughts, mental or physical health.
That’s about it for now. Catch you next week.