Yeah, you’ve seen this even if you haven’t seen the show. Yes, it has become a meme template. But honestly, Amazon Prime’s “Invincible” is anything but a humorous superhero romp like your average Marvel movie. In fact, the above still takes place in the last episode. It is quite an emotional climax to a very very strong first season, though it has its faults. Superheroes have been all the rage recently. From Marvel movies to Amazon Prime’s “The Boys”, it’s impossible not to be familiar with at least one iteration of the idea. It’s important to note that if you like the violence, moral reversal, and overall theme of “The Boys”, you might also like “Invincible.”
A Real Superhero Story (Amazon Prime’s Invincible)
“Invincible” is not an anti-superhero show like “The Boys.” No, it’s definitely a gray area portrayal of superheroes but it definitely has everything a superhero series needs. From massive well-animated fights to space adventures and even super villains to fights between good heroes and evil villains, it has everything. Now, what sets this apart is the exceptional writing and pacing. Now, Invincible is adapted from Robert Kirkman’s (the author of “The Walking Dead”) comics of the same name. So, naturally, good writing is expected but if you have read the comics, be prepared for major changes in narrative pacing and for some events to hit harder.
It is not a very page-by-page adaptation, but it is definitely a faithful one. The writing, the characters, the interpersonal relationships, the ultra-violence, and all-around heroism in the show is what makes “Invincible” so worth a watch. At times. you wonder how is this not a satire or criticism of superheroes. But by the end, rest assured you’re in for a hell of a hero experience.
Real Relationships in Amazon Prime’s Invincible
What makes Invincible truly fascinating are the real relationships between real characters. And when I say real, I mean the relationships feel real and they’re not some superhero stereotypes. Mark (Invincible) starts off as a happy-go-lucky teenager struggling in school while trying to be a superhero. He quickly learns that reality is very different and being a superhero is not only hard, but it also leaves little of “normal” life to enjoy. Mark has two main relationships besides his best friend William- one with Amber and one with Atom Eve. Through the course of events, we learn how difficult it is to maintain a relationship with a superhero. In fact, Mark and Amber are doomed to fail.
The other important relationship is one Mark has with Atom Eve. Though they don’t amount to more than friends in this season, we can very well understand how superheroes can be with each other more easily. But then again, disappointment is universal in relationships as we see in Atom Eve’s case.
Another extremely important relationship is Nolan (Omni Man) and Mark. Their journey from suburban family to a superhero mentor and student and finally to soldiers on opposing sides is true, for me the highlight of the show. J.K. Simmons does such an amazing job of bringing Omni-man to life that it’s hard to imagine him otherwise now.
The omnipotence of Nolan (pun intended) along with his truly human side is a mishmash of opposites that truly hits its pay-off in the last episode. We are sure from the beginning that Omni Man is the superman and an unbeatable all-powerful hero. But his grappling against his own conscience especially when it comes to being a father or husband is what truly makes us think of him as something more or less than a mustachioed General Zodd.
Real Character Development
The characters in Invincible are never static (except the ones that die). Yes, of course, you still have the stereotypical supervillain and a friendly group of international heroes but they are represented in some really cool ways. Of course, the justice league-ish alliance here, the Guardians are not done extremely well. It is hard to feel anything for them when they show up. Though their deaths are of course shocking because of story reasons, they do not inspire much from the viewer.
This is true for every hero, except Red Rush. In Red Rush, we have the perfect example of a mini character arc. A man who thinks too fast to enjoy life, too fast to enjoy company but yet a very human man trying to have a normal relationship. Yeah, I don’t care about the Immortal or War Woman. But, Red Rush’s death was truly sad. Especially later, when we get to know his wife has become an alcoholic after his death. Every action in Invincible has consequences, and this is the very beginning of that.
It is these mini character arcs that make “Invincible” worth watching right now even before you complete this review. Red Rush is not the only one. Another mini character arc is that of Titan. He is a side character but unlike the comics, Titan here is developed for a pretty extended period of time. We get to see his family, feel how trapped he is by the mob and we also get to see how he reverses his role. We know about him as a man and not just a story element. So when the conclusion comes, it hits that much harder.
Except for Invincible, Omni Man, and Atom Eve, the teen team is a big focus in this show. The transformation of the teen team takes some time and some characters are really not well explained or likable. Nonetheless, it is an interesting group of heroes like The Teen Titans of DC but with more relatable and real-world problems and needs. Though some parts of the teen team are interesting, the writing here does fall short a little and feels rushed. The relationship between Robot and Monster Girl is interesting. It is also a pretty cool twist when he obtains a real human body, but for some reason, it does not hit as hard. It feels a little abrupt and too sometimes a bit too predictable. But, truth be told it is still enjoyable.
A father, a warrior and a husband
Of course, the highlight of the show is the relationship between Invincible and Omni Man. What starts out as a suburban American family, slowly spirals into an epic power struggle. Yes, definitely Mark is in his early years so it is more of a one-sided thing, but the relationship is still complex and layered. The character of Debbie, Nolan’s wife is also a big highlight with her taking an active role in uncovering many of the suspicions she has about Nolan. As stated before, Invincible may be the name of the show, but no character is more impressive than Omni Man himself.
From a being with very human feelings, a human husband to a heartless conqueror who won’t hesitate to kill his own son, his range is amazing. Truly, if you’re looking for a more believable version of an evil Superman, which is not just a supposition, here’s your guy. In the end, the true multidimensionality of his character is what really ties the story together and makes the end of his character arc hit so hard and remain in memory.
Bloody Battles (Amazon Prime’s Invincible)
Now Invincible isn’t just about character relationships or character arcs, it is also about ultraviolence. The amount of blood and gore here would make most B movies shy. When we see superhero movies or cartoons (especially cartoons), we expect some massive battles. Invincible delivers tenfold. The beginning has conventional hero fights but it is the ending scene of Episode 1 that really delivers an impact. Omni man vs Guardian is one of the best fights I’ve seen in this kind of animation far surpassing any DC or Marvel animation. It is brutal, high-stakes and something you won’t forget soon because it changes the whole tone of the story.
Another great fight highlight is Omni Man Vs The Flaxxan empire which results in the destruction of a whole planet. That probably says everything about what to expect from this show. Like the fight versus the guardian was rich in story and stakes were high, this fight is more about Omni Man rampaging unhindered on a massive scale. This also the first hint we get of Omni Man’s ultimate objective.
So, needless to elaborate, the fights are incredible.
The real failing of this show is in the character of Mark’s friend William. In the books, William takes some time to come out of the closet, while in the series he is openly Gay and really embraces his sexuality. Neither of these is a bad narrative choice, but the way William is represented, his stereotypical characterization is bordering on the offensive. He does little more than act as an accessory, a shoulder to cry on, and sometimes annoying. In fact, the show never truly elaborates upon his sufferings, and his feelings. Honestly, a terribly written character and really “Hollywood” in representational quality.
Another issue is the pace of the writing. In general, there is a pretty fast-pace and good continuity to the story. However, some events are clearly more important than others. While some moments are important to the story, they are not as enjoyable as others especially when it ends on such a spectacular note. The teen team characters are not all well done, especially Rexxplode whose motivations are unclear, and other heroes like Duplikate you won’t remember or remember for wrong reasons. Monster girl and Robot are really interesting and it leaves me curious for the next season. However, Robot’s character development and character arc were way too rushed. In Invincible, you get the feeling some characters are just there to pad out the narrative and that’s not really good.
The Grand Finale of Amazon Prime’s Invincible
Yes, it lacks in parts. Yes, sometimes it is unevenly paced. But, is it truly a show worth watching? I would definitely recommend Invincible to any superhero enthusiast or even someone who likes animation. It is a promising show, with an amazing finale in season One that just ties everything up so well but leaves enough questions for us to want more. It pulls out all guns when the finale hits, and when “Invincible” is firing on all cylinders it definitely is a spectacle to be seen.
Further Reading: https://www.cinemamonogatari.com/anime/