Review: Amazon’s Invincible shows the gritty reality of being a superhero
by Riggs Zyrille Vergara, Publishing Editor
Superhero movie franchises and scripted series are dominating the world of entertainment. It’s no doubt that current media consumers want to give their money to these saviours of the day. The DC Extended Universe has gained $5.6 billion USD in global ticket sales. The X-Men Universe garnered more than $6 billion USD through their 13 films since 2000. But the franchise that put the superhero story in the current forefront is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Their 23 movies produced in just 12 years had amassed over $20 billion USD in the global box office.
From Amazon Prime comes a new player in the superhero game that is taking a somewhat different route when it comes to presenting its superheroes. Invincible is an animated series based on the comic by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman. It explores the life of Mark Grayson, who is the son of this world’s Superman equivalent – Omni-Man. When Mark turned 17, he finally got his own powers which is also the Superman archetype which includes super flight, strength, speed and more. But as Mark learns more about his powers, his father and his world, he soon discovers that his father is not what he ought him to be.
Even if this series has a lot of similarities with a lot of other hero shows, with Mark Grayson being a scrawny teenage Peter Parker who has problems of balancing high school, having powers and dating, Invincible flips the genre on its head when you least expect it.
To fully explain why this superhero show truly shows the dirty truth of being a superhero in an innovative and exciting away, I’d have to give away some plot details. Take this as a warning for spoilers as I continue this review in the next paragraphs. My earnest advice is to watch the show cold without any knowledge of the plot. You will enjoy it a lot more.
When Mark Grayson first joins the Teen Team as Invincible in an alien fight, this is where we see a different side of being a superhero. We see Invincible completely feeling helpless watching all the people being killed left and right. He felt powerless to help any one of them because the swarms of aliens are too overwhelming. He tried to rescue this old woman who was at gunpoint of one of the aliens. He tried flying her to safety but he ended up just getting her body all mangled.
This is one of the ways this series highlights the gritty reality of being a superhero. We’ve been so accustomed to seeing superheroes just save the day and being oblivious to the casualty of every fight that they have. The casualty that we usually see are buildings being crushed. But casualty also means children being left behind, families being broken and bodies being unrecognizably murdered on the streets.
The ultimate shocker of the first episode is of course the fight between Omni-Man and the Guardians of the Globe where Omni-Man just annihilates all of them in a gory blood-filled fashion. This is another aspect where the show truly shines in showing the reality of the superhero world – the intentional gory violence. This kind of animation intensifies the reality that even though this is a superhero world, these lives are still human lives. They are susceptible to hard blows and hits; vulnerable to superhero attacks that the result can just be horrifying.
This puts the viewer in a state where they must understand the gravity of being a superhero; that it’s not all fame and glory but it’s also bearing all that guilt from the lives you failed to save.
Aside from the innovative themes of this show, the all-star voice cast including J.K. Simmons (Omni-Man), Steven Yeun (Mark Grayson), Sandra Oh (Debbie Grayson), Gillian Jacobs (Atom Eve), Mark Hamill (Art Rosenbaum) and more, is enough to make the show exciting for many kinds of viewers. The animation is also something that the show boasts by giving that nostalgic feel of a Saturday morning superhero show in the 90s.
Invincible may present itself as a cookie-cutter teenage superhero show in most of its first episode, but it is way more than that. The gore might take you aback at first, but it will keep you interested enough to root for these complex characters and find the humanity in them through compelling voice-acting and high-stakes fights that just leave you wanting more.