Invincible season 1 review (2021)

Invincible may very well be one of the best comic book adaptations I’ve ever seen and it’s only just beginning of its potential. The writing is phenomenal, the characters are developed properly, and the action scenes are insanely gory and entertaining to watch.

So, I’m a bit late to the party. I wholeheartedly wanted to see Invincible back when it first released in April. Of course, life happens and I simply couldn’t get around to it. But, after finding the time and really investing in this series, I saw it in its entirety and I’m so glad I did. I’ve never read the comic book from Robert Kirkman unfortunately, and I think if I did, I would’ve appreciated this adaptation even more than what I already do. Then again, from someone who hasn’t read the comics, I can honestly say it isn’t entirely necessary if you’re looking to enjoy this because not only did I enjoy it, I absolutely loved everything about this first season.

Invincible follows teenager Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), who, to his neighbors and the common folk, he’s part of a normal family consisting of himself, his Mom, Debbie (Sandra Oh), and his Dad, Nolan Grayson (J.K. Simmons). His father just so happens to be the strongest superhero on Earth, Omni-Man, who originates from the planet Viltrum. With Mark being half Viltrumite and half human, he gains powers at 17 years old and must learn to balance being a superhero while also dealing with everything else in his everyday life. In some ways, it takes him to his limits and this new journey he’s on is a journey of self-reflection and figuring out who he really is.

Part of the reason why I wanted to see this series is because it’s a superhero story. I’m a sucker for superhero stories if I’m being honest, especially good ones. When I say “good,” I mean those with great character development, coherent story-telling and progression, and, at least for animated properties, good editing/animation and fighting sequences. Seeing all the buzz about this series and how it checked all of those boxes, it was time to check it out. Amazon seems to be on a roll with superhero content, specifically with The Boys. As fantastic as that series is, I can honestly say Invincible is a better superhero story in many ways, and I feel I was engaged with it a bit more. It’s sort of crazy to say that, considering how much I adore The Boys. But, let me dig deeper into why Invincible is shaping up to be one of the best superhero shows I’ve ever seen.

When you’re introduced to Mark, his friends, his family, and some of the other superheroes that inhabit Earth, you simply think it’s just another superhero story and one you’ve seen before; a typical teenager living with the fact that his Dad is one of the strongest superheroes on Earth while also having to go through things almost every teenager goes through. For example, trying to keep his grades up in school, working a part time job, dealing with bullies, and having a crush on another girl (or boy). These are all things we’ve seen before and things we, as people, have actually experienced at some point in our lives. So, you know, I’m watching all of this and thinking I’ve seen it before. It’s not to say it was starting off boring or uninteresting, but I’m just pointing out the fact that it isn’t doing anything relatively new just yet.

Then, it continues more of the same way when Mark finally obtains his powers, which he inherits from his Dad, Omni-Man. Now, things start to get interesting for him since he needs to learn how to control his powers in order to utilize them to the very best of his ability and be a good superhero, just like his father. The first episode does a phenomenal job at capturing his struggles with this. I’ve seen plenty of superhero origin stories where the person who just received their power struggles to try and master these abilities. However, I’ve never really seen it depicted in this manner. It’s honestly one of the best ways I’ve ever seen this kind of story told. You really, truly feel for Mark and all the struggles he’s going through since something this life changing can’t be as easy as other superhero stories have made it seem. Like everything else, it takes countless hours of practice in order to become comfortable with something entirely new to you. Invincible really shines in this department.

You also get to see the dynamic between him and his father. As you know, his Dad, Omni-Man, is the strongest superhero on Earth, so he has some pretty big shoes to fill. It’s not like he’s making Mark’s life any easier either. He’s pretty hard on him throughout the first season and is always pushing him to his very limit in order to get the best out of him so he can reach his potential as a superhero.

So much so, you start believing Mark is just a terrible superhero at some point because of all the bad luck he’s having and the mistakes he’s making. Sometimes, the outcomes are fatal, and it’s pretty devastating to watch what happens because of his screw ups. Of course, it isn’t intentional and you can obviously tell it’s taking a massive toll on him since his motives are genuinely good. Then again, it doesn’t always translate into something good. The first couple of episodes really do grab at the viewer and make you care for Mark and his current struggles.

Back to the point of the “same old origin story,” things truly take a turn at the end of the pilot. I won’t spoil it since it’s probably the biggest plot detail in the entire first season and literally changes absolutely everything about the show, including what’s going to happen, and how you’ll feel about a certain character. It’s incredibly shocking to see what happens so early on and how it’ll effect every other storyline being told moving forward. Again, I won’t be digging much into obvious spoilers about the story. Just experience it for yourselves and I promise you, it’ll be more than worth it.

Besides Mark, the show is stacked with properly developed characters who feel important in one way or another. Everyone has a role to play and they never feel wasted or useless. Obviously, there’s Omni-Man, who’s simply intimidating just looking at him. He’s obviously inspired by other superheroes, most notably Superman, and in some ways, he resembles him. For example, the figure, the red cape, his powers (super strength, speed, flight, near invulnerability), and so on. Confidence seems to ooze off him in every scene, but I guess that comes with the territory since there’s no one who can do a damn thing to hurt him long term (or at least not yet).

There’s Debbie, who isn’t a superhero, but sort of feels like one because of how she interacts with Mark and Nolan. She’s the voice of reason and is always giving wise advice while also keeping them in check. The Mom really is the strongest person in the family in more ways than one and it’s funny to see how she’s able to not be intimidated by two very strong superheroes knowing full well there isn’t anything she can do to hurt them. Once again, a great character.

As for the other characters, there are plenty of them. To reiterate, they’re all pretty likable, but the ones, other than the ones already mentioned, that stand out are Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), William (Andrew Rannells), Cecil (Walton Goggins), Robot (Ross Marquand and Zachary Quinto), and Amber (Zazie Beetz). I’m also interested to see more of Damien Darkblood (Clancy Brown) in the future. His character is shrouded in mystery and there’s definitely more to him than what’s revealed in the show. One detail I really find, in a way, wholesome, is how creator Robert Kirkman got some of The Walking Dead cast members involved in this project to lend their voices to these characters. Other than the ones already mentioned, such as Yeun and Marquand, there’s also Khary Payton, Lauren Cohen, Sonequa Martin-Green, Chad Coleman, Michael Cudlitz, and Lennie James. It’s a nice little reunion and it pays homage to one of his previous works. Plus, the voice acting is outstanding, especially from J.K. Simmons, who is the obvious standout here. Then again, his voice is simply epic, so it’s not entirely surprising either.

If there was one gripe, and an overwhelmingly small one at that, it’s the animation. It isn’t bad by any means. In fact, it’s quite good. But, I think the show could’ve definitely benefitted from a different kind of animation style. In some ways, it sometimes feels a bit dated. But, as already stated, it’s still great, especially when the fighting sequences are going down. This series is insanely brutal and very gory. It’s a lot bloodier than I expected and incredibly graphic. It may not be for children, which is unfortunate. For everyone else though, you’ll get pure awesomeness out of these action scenes since each one is unique in its own way, delivering exhilarating entertainment from the very start. It’s some of the best action sequences I’ve seen in any animated superhero show and that’s saying quite a bit. Just be prepared for the brutality.

It’s very rare that I’m so high on a show after just one season. I can’t think of another series I’m looking forward to seeing more of than Invincible. Sure, I think it would benefit from a different, more improved animation/art style. However, what it currently has is still pleasing to the eye, and every other fantastic detail only enhances the overall viewing experience. I’m telling you, if you haven’t seen the first season, please do. It’s some of the very best superhero content I’ve seen in 2021 and it’s only going to get better from here on out. The first season alone is full of shocking revelations, immersive story-telling, great and properly developed characters backed up by stellar voice acting, and some eye-popping, surprisingly devastating action scenes. Go see it!

Score: A


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