TV Review: Amazon Studio’s ‘Invincible’

by James Lindorf

The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman will finally see his second most well-known property make the leap from page to television. On March 26th, Amazon Studios will release the first three episodes of the animated teenage superhero tale “Invincible.” For its 15-year publication run (ending in 2018), “Invincible” told the story of Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), a perfectly normal kid who happens to be the son of Nolan Grayson (J.K. Simmons). Better known around the world as Omni-Man, Nolan is this world’s Superman or Thor or any other overpowered flying brick. The story begins with a 17-year-old mark who desperately wants to be like his father but fears he will never have powers. After being in danger for perhaps the first time, Mark’s powers manifest, giving him the ability to fly, super strength, and speed, all topped off by being nearly invulnerable. Making him a real chip off the old brick. Unfortunately for Mark, a superhero’s life may not be as glamorous, clear-cut, or heroic as he imagined. After the initial three-episode release, “Invincible” will enter a weekly release schedule much like last year’s season of “The Boys.”

The 2019 live-action of “The Lion King” may have had the most famous voice cast ever assembled for a single film. “Invincible” rivals that movie, maybe not in name recognition but in pure acting talent it does. The Nolan family alone features Academy Award Nominee Steven Yeun (Minari), Oscar winner J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), and Golden Globe winner Sandra Oh (Killing Eve). Joining the central family is Zachary Quinto as Robot, Khary Payton as Black Samson, Gillian Jacobs as Atom Eve, Andrew Rannells as William Clockwell, Zazie Beetz as Amber Bennett, Mark Hamill as Art, Walton Goggins as Cecil Stedman, Jason Mantzoukas as Rex Splode, Melise as Dupli-Kate, Kevin Michael Richardson as Monster Girl’s monster form and the Mauler Twins, and Grey Griffin as Shrinking Ray and Monster Girl. That isn’t even close to a complete list of the tremendous talent working on breathing life into the show.

Voice acting is only one part of the equation to a great animated show. Another piece of that puzzle is the animation itself. “Invincible” is bloody, bold, and beautifully animated. There is a richness to the image that pulls you in that isn’t present in two-dimensional animation, and it has a seriousness not found in something like “Steven Universe.” The violence and gore may upset the youngest or most sensitive of viewers. Still, the art is stylized enough that most of the audience should be more shocked by the mentality that led to the actions than the various depictions of bodily harm.

The third critical element is the story, and it may be where “Invincible” shines the most. The way the first episode is crafted should hook anyone that gives it a chance. From the endearing family dynamic to the joy when Mark discovers his powers to the dramatic closing minutes, everything works together to bring you back for another episode. That final five minutes set the tone for the series and put the entire season one plot into motion. As Invincible Mark has to kick his training up a level, he will make friends, save lives, and lose others. As a regular high school student, Mark will deal with issues with his parents, being bullied, and getting his first girlfriend.

The ability to blend the suspense, over-the-top violence, and heartwarming moments of love, family, and friendship is what has “Invincible” poised to be the second-best superhero show on TV. The show is perhaps best and most simply described as Sky High, or the lesser-known Zoom meets “The Boys,” the best superhero show on TV. Amazon has a powerful 1-2 punch with “The Boys” and “Invincible “and will dominate the adult end of the superhero universe for years to come.

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