Flicks With Dan – If you can ignore the gore, ‘Invincible’ is worth a watchSteven Yeun plays Mark Grayson / Invincible. Photo provided by Amazon Studios.
This review will contain spoilers for “Invincible.” The show is available on Amazon Prime.
“Invincible” is one of several dark superhero TV shows populating streaming services these days. Amazon previously found success with another dystopian hero show called “The Boys” and HBO found success with “The Watchmen,” both comic book adaptations. Netflix, not to be outdone on the bad good guy premise, released “Jupiter’s Legacy” this year.
I will admit to two things up front.
I love old superhero cartoons, specifically the DC animated stuff like “Batman the Animated Series” (BTAS) and “Justice League.”
I’m also not a huge fan of gore. Sometimes gore is an occupational hazard of being a reporter. Sometimes it’s something I have to look past if I want to keep going with a particular movie or TV series. I did somehow make it through all eight seasons of “Game of Thrones,” but my threshold for it is lower than the general public’s.
“Invincible” unnerved me in ways “Game of Thrones” and “The Boys” didn’t. Its friendly aesthetic wouldn’t be out of place in the DC Universe animated shows. But underneath, there’s a creeping dread. The show drips with malaise. Even without being explicitly told, you know something is wrong in this show’s universe.
Each episode starts with an advisory that the flashing lights in the series could induce epileptic seizures. Never saw that on BTAS. The season begins with a quiet conversation between two security guards at the White House talking about their family life, and there’s enough detail there that you actually care about these characters. You think for a moment the show might be about them.
The show constantly and deliberately fleshes out ancillary and seemingly insignificant characters. The show purposefully reminds us that the casualties of its carnage are not expendable.
The security guards’ conversation is interrupted by two giant, blue bulletproof clones – the Mauler Twins — attacking the White House with the objective of shattering the illusion of the president’s safety. Shattering illusions will become a recurring theme throughout this series: the illusions of a perfect family, the illusions of youth, the illusions of control.
As fate would have it, the Guardians of the Globe – a parody of the “Justice League” – show up in the nick of time to spare the innocent lives (including the president’s) and save the day. The only clue that something is not quite right is when the Guardians speedster, the Red Rush, causes motion sickness in the people he’s trying to save. This will the last time “Invincible” makes the unglamorous side of superhero life easy for you. If you want to watch the rest of this thing, you better buckle up.
Following the big fight that kicks off the series, the show switches to the perspective of Mark Grayson, the son of the most powerful superhero on Earth, “Omni-Man” who is also a member of the Guardians. Grayson, being the son of Omni-Man who is a member of a race of powerful aliens called Viltrumites, is supposed to get his powers when he hits puberty, but is a late-bloomer.
When his powers finally kick in, everything changes. Omni-Man mentors his son, who takes Invicible as his superhero alias, but is somewhat wary of him as well for reasons that don’t become apparent until later.
The very first episode ends with Omni-Man luring the Guardians of the Globe back to their headquarters, where he savagely murders them all before collapsing himself due to the injuries he received during the fight.
The audience’s knowledge that Omni-Man is a piece of crap is the overarching conflict of the series. There are subplots, like the new teenage superheroes tapped to replace the Guardians. But you spend most of the series wondering when Mark will finally discover the truth about his father.
And he does. And it does not go well.
This series has a lot going for it. The voice cast is loaded with talent. A few names I’ll mention: Steven Yeun plays Mark Grayson and Sandra Oh and J.K. Simmons play Debbie Grayson and Nolan Grayson / Omni-Man. Other cast members of note include Zachary Quinto (Robot), Mark Hamill (Art Rosebaum), Jon Hamm (Steve), Seth Rogen (Allen the Alien), Michael Dorn (Battle Beast) and Justin Roiland (Doug Cheston).
The soundtrack is also banging, as the kids say. I’ve recently returned to the gym and this soundtrack is on my playlist. “Run the Jewels” makes several appearances. It gets me pumped up and makes me want to re-watch the show.
I probably will. It’s good. I’m giving it a B+, and the only thing keeping it from an A is there are a lot of characters and it’s hard to follow their stories at times. I fully expect the next season to have a bit more focus now that Mark has come to terms with his father’s treachery and his own powers and responsibilities and the other characters have been well established.
The series is a fun ride for comic book fans even if the gore could potentially be a turnoff for more casual viewers. If you’re squeamish like me, I’d encourage you to try and grit your way through. You’ll be glad you did.
Dan Whisenhunt is the editor and publisher of Decaturish.com.
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