Before comic book writer Robert Kirkman became a superstar with The Walking Dead, there was Invincible.
New to the comic book scene and trying to create a new superhero universe for publisher Image Comics, Kirkman and artist Corey Walker introduced the world to the Grayson family: father Noah, an alien who became the world’s greatest hero, Omni-Man; his human wife, Debbie; and their teenage son Mark, who was just starting to develop his powers and would become the hero known as Invincible. The main series ran for 144 issues from January 2003 until its finale hit comic book shops in 2018.
I came to the series a little late, buying up collected editions – most of which were named for hit television sitcoms – as the series was coming to a close, but I had heard a lot about the series. Once I started reading it, I didn’t want to stop, and I burned through digital copies of the collections really fast.
Kirkman’s The Walking Dead – both the comic book and the hit AMC television series – is where most of the praise for the writer comes from, but it never held my attention the way that Invincible did. As excited as I was to hear about AMC’s The Walking Dead back in 2010, I was even more excited to hear that Amazon Prime was adapting Invincible for an animated series. The first three episodes were released two weeks ago, with the fourth of eight (hopefully) first season episodes coming out last Friday. Almost immediately after the first three episodes made their debut, I had friends sending me messages, asking me if I had watched Invincible and lavishing the series with praise.
Once I finally had the catch to binge through the first four episodes this past week (I have a lot going on right now), it was clear that Invincible was going to live up to the hype – both from my friends and the expectations I had for the show.
WARNING – Some spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched yet.
Invincible is a coming of age story, with the main focus on Mark Grayson – the titular Invincible – and his father, Omni-Man and how Mark wants to live up to what he believes is his father’s legacy as the planet’s greatest hero. But as is made evident very early in the first season, there’s a lot Mark doesn’t know about his father. There’s a lot Mark’s mother doesn’t know about her own husband. When Omni-Man murders the members of the Guardians of the Globe – the Earth’s pre-eminent superteam – he sets off the series’ true chain of events, more so even than Mark discovering his powers had emerged. At least, it did in the comics.
But Omni-Man’s betrayal in the comics didn’t come as soon as it did in Amazon Prime animated series. This isn’t a panel-to-screen adaptation of the comic book. With more than 15 years between the debut of the comic book and the animated series, Kirkman had the opportunity to make some changes to the pacing of the story. After all, a second season is never guaranteed – much like an ongoing comic book series for Invincible was never guaranteed to go as long as it did. Getting to the heart of the story right in the first episode allows Omni-Man’s betrayal – and what will surely be an emotional eventual reveal – breath.
The changes to the early parts of the narrative really do help the story, as Mark learns how to use his powers and meets other heroes including Atom Eve, a girl who also happens to go to his high school. As a new generation of heroes rises up to replace the fallen Guardians of the Globe, Mark has to decide what his place in the world is. He wants to be a hero, but he also wants a normal life as a teenager, and the two are difficult to balance when everyone has their own hidden agenda.
Using the same animation house that does the DC Animated films, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about in the show’s visual presentation. The character designs look great, the action scenes are amazing and, man, there’s a ton of blood and guts flying around. It looks as though the comic book leapt out from the panels to the screen. Enhancing the visual presentation is the all-star voice cast that Invincible has assembled. Joining Stephen Yeun’s lead as Mark Grayson is quite possibly the greatest voice cast I’ve ever heard. With Gillian Jacobs (Britta from COMMUNITY) as Atom Eve and the always amazing JK Simmons as Omni-Man, Invincible sounds just as good as it looks.
We have four more episodes in this debut season, and I hope that Amazon Prime announces a second season soon. Invincible deserves a long run – just like it’s comic book counterpart.