TV Review: Invincible (Season 1, 2021)

An adult animated superhero series from Robert Kirkman, the mind behind The Walking Dead, the first season of Invincible was released onto Amazon Prime in 2021, and is based on the 2003 comic series of the same name. Soon after his seventeenth birthday, Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) discovers he has superpowers, and begins training to harness his abilities under his father, Nolan (JK Simmons), secretly the all powerful Omni-Man, one of the strongest heroes on the planet. Unfortunately, not all of the superpowered individuals on Earth are on the side of good, and Mark and Nolan are forced into some tough situations.

+ really personal story that you can’t help but get invested in. This is in very large part to the phenomenal voice work by J.K Simmons and Steven Yeun, in particular, though everybody more than pulls their weight. Sandra Oh greatly expands the role of Debbie Grayson, Mark’s mother/Nolan’s wife, and almost acts as a secondary point of view character as we lowly humans watch the superpowered heroes and villains collide
+ the secondary voice cast is full of well known actors: Andrew Rannells is campy but adorable as Mark’s only friend at school, William; Walton Goggins has a slight wheeze to his voice as the mysterious Cecil Steadman, Director of a shady Government organisation helping the superheroes; and Mahershala Ali adds some class to the stone-skinned Titan. Characters voices by Gillian Jacobs, Zazie Beetz, Seth Rogen and long-time personal favourite Clancy Brown have varying degrees of importance, but all impress in equal measure
+ the animation varies in quality, but it gets a pass because it feels intentional. As Mark first becomes Invincible, the animation will remind you of old Saturday morning cartoons, or the more recent Justice League series from Cartoon Network, with contrasting primary colours – Invincible’s suit is classic Wolverine colours: yellow, light blue and black. Once the realities of a world filled with enhanced people with metaphorical shades of grey characters, the animation becomes far more filled with literal shades of red. Muscles bulge, bones snap and organs go flying in various ways that are almost as beautiful as they are extreme
+ similar to Amazon Prime’s other adult comic adaption, The Boys, there is ultra violence here that would realistically occur when these superhumans face anybody not their equal. Anybody who honestly believes that Batman would stand a chance against a Superman out to kill is obviously wrong, and is shown how that might go down in various conflicts across this season
+ as a small side note on the plot, we’ve seen so many variants of “What if Superman was the bad guy?” (The Boys, Brightburn, the Injustice video game series, even a segment in Zack Snyder’s Justice League) that it was a welcome change of pace to instead get “What if Superman had settled down and raised a family?” which is not a unique concept, mind you, but still something less common. There’s a better example for the series as a whole, but I can’t use it for fear of spoilers
+ a few more minor updates from the comics are introduced, such as not using the word ‘gay’ to describe Mark flying around a lot. It’s a welcome change

– a few out of order comic events are re-worked for the TV series. I was confused at first, thinking I must have missed something in the series, and a few of these will need a workaround going forward. I guess I just have to wait and see, but they don’t make or break it overall (compared to some of the changes in The Boys, for example, which make entire impending subplots impossible without major alterations)
– the larger changes to characters’ personalities, who is involved in various events, and the larger out of order moments from comic to screen do bother me, however. Much like my issues with the changes on The Boys, these moments are small when taken in isolation, but the impacts they will have on major moments going forward are concerning

> keep an eye out for the changes in the title screen each episode. You’ll know what I mean

Should you watch this show: I read these comics sometime after the advertisements started appearing in The Walking Dead comics, and was immediately invested. The tonal shift in this first 10-episode run are well earned, and frankly you’d be a fool to pass this up for it simple ‘being a cartoon’, or you not wanting ‘more superhero stories’. I can promise this is more than that.

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