Superheroes, Schoolwork, Scandal, and Skirmishes

Invincible leaps over your tall expectations in a single bound

Casey Choung

At some point, everyone has fantasized about what they would do with superpowers. Maybe invisibility to avoid social confrontations, or flight to travel anywhere in the world. But as everyone knows, with great power comes great responsibility. So, would you spend your time helping others and saving the world if you got powers? Superhero movies often idealize the life of a superhero, neglecting all the damage and unforeseen consequences. To be honest, sometimes it may not pay off to be all-mighty and…

Amazon’s Invincible is an eight-episode animated series set in a universe where aliens, dragons, deep sea creatures and super villains threaten the world, and superheroes rise up to oppose them. The protagonist, Mark Grayson, is a high school student who is the son of Omni-Man, the shining beacon of humanity, the perfect superhero. Mark finds himself waiting for his own superpowers to kick in, and the story begins when he does. Mark quickly finds himself in over his head, juggling his schoolwork, superhero career, and romantic relationship. The story also develops the world of superheroes, how they function within society and the government, with each other, and with their adversaries.

The animated series follows at the heels of Amazon’s other noteworthy superhero series The Boys, opting to embrace brutality instead of whimsicality. Invincible adopts more mature themes that contrast the kid-friendly expectations of a cartoon, creating a jarring experience. 

The show indulges in the usual superhero shenanigans. The superhero names and abilities are corny and punny, like the dude whose name is Rexplode and throws things that… explode. However, that’s not the only focus of the show. It’s not all about throwing villains into buildings or shooting lasers everywhere—even though it does look really cool. At its core, Invincible is a drama. All of the characters are simplistic but have nuances that get the audience invested in their motivations and relationships. For instance, the first villains introduced are these two built bald blue aliens that bust into the White House like any other comic book villain, but when they pop back up on screen they’re delightfully anticipating the arrival of their chicken pot pie. Many of the characters in Invincible at first appear to be tired tropes, but later prove to be nuanced and refined versions of their tropes. Characters are morally ambiguous, dispelling the idealized nature of superhero flicks. The characters are realistic. 

The show is based on the comic series written by Robert Kirkman, so its characters and story have already been well developed. However, all of the elements brought in by Amazon’s TV adaptation are on point. The music is catchy, and it always seems to match the story’s diverse situations. The absence of music is also appropriately used, giving some key fights a graphic and gritty feel. The animation is executed very well, save a few CGI crowd scenes, and particularly excels in depicting gore. There is something morbidly satisfying about seeing a cartoon character’s eyes gush out of their sockets, or seeing a character’s brains splattered across the floor. It’s so unexpected, playing to the audience’s more carnal desires. It’s horrific, but one can’t help but watch. The cast is rather star-studded, which is surprising given Invincible is a cartoon series on Amazon Prime. Steven Yeun does a great job capturing Mark’s awkward social interactions. J.K. Simmons shines in his “dad talks” and intimidating superhero dialogues. Regardless, all of the actors turn in a great performance. All of the characters come to life, and almost all of them have some very humorous moments.

Invincible is perfect for a high school audience. Unlike other teen superhero media, Invincible accurately portrays the highly insecure, socially awkward, hormone-driven world of a high school kid. Take, for example, his encounter with a bully. Normally, the nerdy protagonist gains powers and rises up to the bully. But no, in the real world that never happens, and in this case our protagonist Mark gets smashed in the face and kneed in the stomach when he stands up to the meathead Todd. Speaking of Mark’s mishaps, him getting beaten up is a recurring event, and rather ironic considering he calls himself Invincible. Nonetheless, his regular smackdowns highlight the constant blunders and mistakes people make as they grow into adulthood. Mark’s situation is far from idealized, which makes it more relatable to the audience. 

The series is only eight episodes, and each episode is roughly forty minutes long. Not a lot of content if you really blaze through it. Fortunately, this is a show based on a comic, which goes beyond what is shown in the series. So, if you cannot wait for the second season, you can read through the comic books. But if you really appreciate the animation, voice acting, and soundtrack, resist the temptation to read ahead, and get hyped for the second season of Invincible.