It’s a tale as old as time: a young teenager discovers that he’s developed incredible abilities and he takes it upon himself to become a costumed crusader against the forces of evil. Except with Amazon’s Invincible, Mark Grayson is burdened with living up to the legacy of his father, Omni-Man, and the growing expectations that those around him have of who (and what) he’s supposed to be. And if you’re a fan of the Image Comics series from Robert Kirkman, you’re definitely not going to be disappointed with how it brings Grayson, Omni-Man and all the other heroes to life.
Audiences have seen a slew of superhero origin stories in the last 21 years, and thankfully, Invincible doesn’t spend too long establishing Mark Grayson and what makes him so unique in this tale. Invincible quickly cements the idea that this is a world which is already used to Dark Knights and Men of Steel hurtling around the globe engaging in destructive battles for the good of mankind. It also has real heart, which bursts through in the well-written characters as they deal with all-too-familiar problems of balancing high-school, a love life, and the occasional super-powered beat-down. However, this isn’t Spider-Man.
Since most animated superhero shows are often aimed at a younger audience, you’d be forgiven for thinking Amazon’s Invincible would be kid-friendly or at the very least toned down from the comics… but that is most definitely not the case. The series is visceral and savage when it needs to be, but it does so to ground superheroes in a realistic setting — the violence has lasting effects on these heroes and the world around them. In truth, the show’s narrative revolves around the consequences of superheroism rather than raising these heroes up as the best of us. There’s a moment very early on in Mark’s adventures where he realizes that this isn’t a game, the stakes are real, and this isn’t a comic book. And in a bizarrely refreshing way, he freezes in the face of danger. He’s not the perfect superhero and he makes mistakes in the heat of action.
Oh, and did we mention he’s voiced by the incomparable Steven Yeun? Yes, yes, Glenn from The Walking Dead, but he has also appeared in other exceptional films like Okja and Burning, while his heartfelt performance in 2020’s Minari rightfully earned him an Academy Award nomination. His voice work here is second to none, perfectly ensuring that Mark Grayson’s enthusiasm explodes through the screen. Yeun works closely with J.K. Simmons in the series (who voices the globally revered Omni-Man) and their dynamic has so many fascinating layers that only get more complex as Invincible flawlessly keeps the audience on their toes.
Mark’s life only gets more complicated as he meets new heroes – including Gillian Jacobs’ pitch perfect Atom Eve, and he realizes that he’s still a rookie at the whole costumed crusader game. Invincible creator Robert Kirkman’s witty, insightful writing translates impeccably into the Amazon series, which deconstructs the superhero genre as much as it raises it up. But overall, Invincible is so much fun. The sheer joy that radiates from Mark when he finally discovers his powers is a joy to watch and reminds us that not all heroes have to be broody and feeling the after-effects of a decades-long war on crime.
If you enjoyed the satirical likes of The Boys or Kick-Ass, then you’ll definitely appreciate Invincible‘s mature tone. It’s intelligently funny while boasting a story which quickly reminds the audience why we all like superheroes in the first place. The violence might be a little too shocking for some, but for those that don’t mind guts and gore alongside their superheroics, it’s unmissable TV.
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