Invincible (Season 1): The Superhero Show We Deserve – Amazon Prime Review

A show demonstrates the glory and horror of living in a super world.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) is the son of realtor Debbie Grayson (Sandra Oh) and writer Nolan Grayson (J.K. Simmons). Oh, and Nolan is actually Omni-Man, the world’s greatest superhero. Before his 18th birthday, Mark finally gets his superpowers and adopts the superhero moniker of Invincible. Now armed with flight, superstrength, superspeed, and the ability to make bad jokes mid-fight, Mark tries to live up to his father’s example. He works with the Teen Team, a group comprised of the Robot (Zachary Quinto), Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), Rex Splode (Jason Mantzoukas), and Dupli-Kate (Malese Jow). Shortly after this, the Guardians of the Globe, the most powerful superteam on the planet, are killed, leading the world to need the Teen Team and Invincible to start picking up the slack, as new threats seem to be constantly on the rise. These threats include superpowered mob bosses, invading aliens, reanimated corpses, and the occasional kaiju, leading Invincible to learn how tough this work can be the hard way. Unfortunately, it turns out that the one who killed the Guardians was none other than Omni-Man. Omni-Man’s true mission was to weaken Earth so that his people could take over the planet, leading to a drag-out fight between Mark and his father and ending only when Nolan realizes that he cannot kill his son and flees.

Imagine that your dad is your hero and that he is also trying to kill everyone.

END SUMMARY 

I had already reviewed this show a few episodes in, but I was asked to write another one based on the finale. I will be blunt: This was the most incredibly horrifying episode of a superhero show I’ve seen yet. It almost completely outdid its comic book counterpart and that’s damned impressive. While the comic was brutal to Mark and suggested massive damage to the population, this truly brought the scale of what’s happening to the forefront. Aside from some deliberate horror comics and an issue of Miracle Man in which a psychopath with Superman’s powers is allowed a few hours of free rein on England and kills millions of people in increasingly horrifying ways, this show is about the most accurate and intense portrayal of what it would be like to live near a superhero fight. People are basically china dolls to Invincible and Omni-Man. 

Admittedly, Omni-Man didn’t choke the Thames with bodies.

I have to give it up to both the writers and animators of this episode, because even as action packed as it is, they make sure you feel all of the damage that’s being inflicted. Even when Mark is trying to save someone, Omni-Man makes it clear that he can eradicate buildings with a finger, rendering any of Mark’s efforts moot. At one point he starts shoving Mark THROUGH PEOPLE via a subway train. It’s done so viscerally that the image is still in my mind. This is what it would be like to live in a universe with superpowers: If you don’t have them, you’re basically a bug trying to avoid being squashed.

Mark tries to save a person, and only saves an arm.

On the other hand, we also see superheroes and villains producing technological and physical wonders that would be impossible in the real world. Also, if you are one of those superpeople, or figure out sufficient technological advances, then you get to experience things no other being could relate to. The universe is so much easier to explore than in the real one and so much more reward is right at the tips of our fingers. It’s a world of wonders and opportunities. Just one where the risk of dying is very, very high for things as simple as “walking.”

Even being “The Immortal” doesn’t really help that much.

I really appreciate this show subverting the superhero narrative as hard as it did. While Mark is still a good guy and the kind of person who will try to do the right thing, the show makes it clear that this comes with a massive amount of sacrifice. While Spider-Man became beloved for being a person who gets superpowers and it just makes his life worse, Invincible manages to convey this through how much Mark loses out on for so little a reward. His relationship with his girlfriend suffers, his schoolwork suffers, his relationship with his friends suffers, and even, eventually, his relationship with his family suffers. All in the name of trying to be a superhero. Full points to Steven Yeun for how great he is at conveying Mark’s emotions through voice acting, particularly when he’s trying to reconcile what his father has done before the final battle. 

Also, J.K. Simmons, you are amazing.

Overall, just a fantastic show. Cannot wait for more episodes.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Invincible: A Solid Adaptation of a Great Comic – Amazon Prime Review

The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman’s teen hero comes to the small screen.

SUMMARY

Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) is the son of realtor Debbie Grayson (Sandra Oh) and writer Nolan Grayson (J.K. Simmons). Oh, and Nolan is actually Omni-Man, the world’s greatest superhero. Before his 18th birthday, Mark finally gets his superpowers and adopts the superhero moniker of Invincible. Now armed with flight, superstrength, superspeed, and the ability to make bad jokes mid-fight, Mark tries to live up to his father’s example. He works with the Teen Team, a group comprised of the Robot (Zachary Quinto), Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), Rex Splode (Jason Mantzoukas), and Dupli-Kate (Malese Jow). Shortly after this, the Guardians of the Globe, the most powerful superteam on the planet, are killed, leading the world to need the Teen Team and Invincible to start picking up the slack, as new threats seem to be constantly on the rise.

He doesn’t fly super well, but he tries hard.

END SUMMARY

I loved the Invincible comic, as it was a story in which the main character dealt with real problems, hero problems, and the intersection between what a superhero is supposed to do and what would actually help people. Mark grows a lot over the series in believable ways that sometimes reflect his loss of idealism and often demonstrate that this loss allows him to evolve his sense of right and wrong without being broken by the weight of trying to take on the world’s problems. Also, the writing was pretty funny. Naturally, when I heard it was getting an animated adaptation, I was very excited, but also concerned. Invincible, while it was well-done and liked by many comic fans, didn’t have a lot of mainstream success. Typically, this means two things can happen in an adaptation: Either they’ll change everything (hoping the new version gets more attention) or they’ll just adapt it as closely as possible (since not enough people know what’s going to happen for it to matter). 

The trailers included some iconic comic scenes, making me think the latter.

Fortunately, this show seems to be eschewing both of those and giving a mostly-faithful adaptation with enough differences that comic fans will not be sure where it’s going. The story is mostly the same as the comics, so far, dealing with Mark trying to come to terms with being a superhero and also being a teenager. His insecurities about living up to his father’s example are a bit more exaggerated in the show, but that will likely change a bit during this season. There’s a mystery angle going on in the series that didn’t really happen in the comics and I’m excited to see if they play it out the same.

Whatever gives us more Omni-Man.

The voice cast in this show is as good as it gets, possibly rivaled only by DuckTales (woo-oo). Steven Yeun gives a ton of extra personality to Mark and J.K. Simmons as Superman with a mustache is nothing short of awesome. The supporting cast of the Teen Team has a ton of talent, and their expanded roster includes veteran voice actors Grey Griffin and Khary Payton. Walton Goggins plays the uptight and slightly shady head of the Global Defense Agency, Zazie Beetz plays Mark’s love interest Amber, and there are too many other great cameos and recurring performances to count, including Mahershala Ali, Clancy Brown, and Mark Hamill (Applause). 

Clancy Brown voices a demon detective. Perfect.

Overall, give this show a shot if you like solid superhero stories. I can’t wait for it to keep going.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.