INVINCIBLE (2021) Season 1, Episode 1 - 3
Invincible is a superhero delight, whether or not you’re familiar with its rich source material. Smashing onto Amazon Prime with three 45-minute episodes, the decisions made to adapt the comic’s earlier adventure to better fit the pacing of television will put all viewers at ease. It doesn’t force you to watch three episodes to earn your trust; the first episode is all you need to know whether or not it’s up your alley.
Based on the comic series of the same name that ran from 2003-2018, Invincible follows the story of seventeen year old Mark Grayson, who is the son of Omni-Man (this world’s version of Superman). On this fateful day, Mark finally inherits his father’s powers and strives to be a hero just like him, but soon discovers that the origin of his powers may not be as heroic as he thought.
Invincible was created and written by Robert Kirkman (creator/writer of The Walking Dead) for the entirety of its 144-isssue run, illustrated by Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley. Robert Kirkman serves as an executive producer on the show, working very closely to bring Mark Grayson’s heroic journey as Invincible to life, and Cory Walker provides the new character designs for the show. So for those worried about whether or not the show would “ruin” Invincible, have no fear, as the heart, central themes, and main story beats are still here, but with a little remix to keep us on our toes. It’s not one-to-one, and the third episode doesn’t end on the stinger I was hoping for, but it’s still a genuinely good start for a promising series and those unfamiliar with the source material will still understand everything going on.
The reason I wanted to bring up that little discussion on the adaptation (outside of me being a big fan of the comic (seriously, it’s so good)) is to help put this show into perspective a little bit. Invincible the comic was a miracle in the independent comic scene with the fact that it sold well enough to have a full 144-issue run. It’s nowhere near as mainstream like Spider-Man or The Flash or even Green Lantern. The fact that Invincible the show exists the way it does as a 45-minute animated show is almost a miracle even by American TV animation standards.
So when you watch the pilot, I suggest giving some of the barely passable animation a pass. None of it is poor (It’s better than CW/DC’s Vixen), but there are moments in the pilot where there were clearly some budget workarounds. However, the show knows what moments in particular it should be well-animated and delivers in spades. The general animation in the second and third episodes are significantly better in quality, so I can assure you it does get better.
In terms of writing, this feels like the kind of tone the CW/DC shows try to achieve: A legitimate TV drama with superhero action. One thing I loved about the comic was the strong sense of dramatic conflict in every scene and this show understands the need for dramatic conflict as well. There’s always something happening to someone, never a dull moment even when there aren’t any punches being thrown as Mark Grayson tries to figure out what it means to be a hero. Combine this with the talented, diverse, and well-matched voice cast of Steven Yuen (Asian-American superhero!), Sandra Oh, J.K. Simmons, Zazie Beetz, Jason Mantzoukas, and many many more, the strong drama layered with the strong performances will easily keep you interested.
I want to gush about this more, but, alas, that would require spoilers. However, I do highly recommend this show to superhero fans who want that Saturday-morning fun with R-rated violence and the occasional swearing (Not for kids, in case you were fooled by the art style). The performances, action, sound design, even music hit all the right beats for me as a fan of the comic, and the small changes it’s bringing to the table are welcomed.
Just watch the first episode to the end and see if it’s your thing. I, for one, can’t wait to rewatch all three.
(W/ ZERO SPOILERS)
THREE EPISODES IN
If you’re interested in my spoiler-free thoughts on the comic, you can listen to my half-hour podcast Committed Critics right HERE!
Or, if you’ve already read the comic or want to spoil things for yourself, we also have a spoiler-filled episode HERE!