Based on the comics created by Robert Kirkman, Invincible aired on Amazon Prime as a dark horse in a world of Marvel and DC-dominated live action and animated superhero flicks. The story itself appears pedestrian from the start. Seventeen-year-old Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) has recently had his superpowers activated. He is the son of the human, Debbie (Sandra Oh) and Nolan (J.K. Simmons), an alien superhero from Viltrum known on earth as Omni-Man. Mark must find a way to balance teenage demands and responsibilities as he learns to become a superhero under his father’s tutelage. It would seem to be an easy Spiderman-Meets-Superman origin story, but something darker is in the offing. When the Guardians of the Globe, the league of the most powerful super-powered protectors of the planet, are violently murdered, the obvious and strongest protectors of planet earth automatically become Mark and his father. But the dark twist that sustains the freshness of this series is that Mark’s father, Omni-Man, is the murderer of the Guardians of the Globe.
The most endearing factors of Invincible that set it apart from Marvel and DC superhero entries is its indulgence of skin-crawling violence and its celebration of the anti-hero. Nolan/Omni-Man’s love and duty towards his family and the planet leaves one confused about his genuine motivations. He hovers throughout the first season with an ominous mien, obviously the most powerful individual on the planet, yet at the end of our encounter with the truth, it becomes obvious that the hero lives on only by his mercy, a small chink of compassion in his villainous armour. But Invincible won’t score excellent on the motivation test. Omni-Man’s justification for his act is trite and far too common. While there are philosophical intrigues in his argument, it easily falls apart when probed. The strength of Invincible lies in its glorification of violence.
The blood-squirting, bone-crunching, skin-crawling, physics-defying array of violence portrayed throughout Invincible brings a more recent Amazon Prime series, The Boys, to mind. Not once does Invincible shy from the delivery of violence, nor does it remove the audience’s view from it. And with the climb of each new episode, it is as though, we stumble on new ways to end a human life or visit unimaginable bodily harm to a human being. Superheroes do battle in any populated area and the loss of lives is automatically incalculable. People lose their limbs just for being in a battle scene. And sometimes, all that is left of people is an arm or a leg. However, the violence is not limited to humans. The superheroes themselves are regularly beaten to an inch of life. Mark is pulverized on numerous occasions by villains and apparent allies. Eventually, Mark Grayson faces his father in a destructive showdown that leaves both parties wounded incalculably. The violence continues with such perseverance that even the dead rise again only to be beaten to death. A frightening, mind-bending display of violence is what Invincible is, and it knows and completely celebrates this.
The first season has come to a close—a highly recommended opener to what is a fine show right from the pilot. There are ambiguities and narrative strains left to be resolved in subsequent seasons. We know work is underway—two more seasons have been announced. If there is a great time to catch up, it is now. If violence is what you seek, there is only one show to deliver it, its name:
- Every single fight scene.
- Debbie is a strong female character. She handles herself brilliantly in her world of uncertainties.
Invincible is available on Amazon Prime Video.