REVIEW: ‘Invincible’ is not just about superheroes, but the vulnerability of humanity



Still from “Invincible.”

Amazon Prime has done a great job of premiering shows that make me hate superheroes. 

I am by no means a comic book expert –– I just like movies. I’ve seen all of the Marvel movies plenty of times based on their chronological placements in the universe. Maybe it’s that Marvel is owned by Disney –– the heroes in it are just too good to be true and too happily-ever-after-like.

But I still sort of loved them. Loved –– as in past-tense. After watching “Invincible,” I never hope to coexist with a superhero or people with superpowers, good or bad. 

How can society live peacefully among superheroes who can transform into two-ton monsters, can be billionaires, and can have the power to alter time and dimensions?

In reality, it can’t.

But often superhero movies make it seem as though a world with superheroes coexisting with humans is a world in harmony. “Captain America: Civil War” doesn’t count because in the end, were the Avengers actually held accountable for what they did in Lagos and Sokovia? 

“The Boys” was released in 2019 and after I finished its two seasons, I looked to find a new show with that same specific theme of corrupt, undying superheros, human vulnerability, bloody battles and humor –– it needed to be funny too. 

Amazon Prime Video released “Invincible” on March 25. It’s an adult animated superhero television series based on the Image Comics serials created by Robert Kirkman — it was produced by Kirkman himself, too. 

Kirkman also wrote and created the series “The Walking Dead.” His new project, “Invincible,” has been regarded so highly that it’s already approved for two more seasons. But for now, only season one is available with eight episodes, each between 40 and 50 minutes long. 

“Invincible” is about Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) –– or Invincible as he eponymously goes by. He’s a 17-year-old boy whose father is Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). The series takes viewers through Mark’s process of becoming a superhero, being a high schooler, a boyfriend and a kid who gets his butt kicked a lot. 

Mark was worried at first that he wouldn’t inherit the same powers his dad –– an immortal, unbeatable, world-saving, Viltrumite-born hero –– has. Until minutes later he takes out the trash at work, chucks the bag and it goes into space. 

Eager to fly, save lives, meet other heroes and fight off villains, Mark takes to learning from other powerful beings like members of the Teen Team, his dad and the Global Defense Agency. 

He could’ve learned from others, but that’s an episode one spoiler that no one would expect. 

But his most important mentor is his mom, Debbie (Sandra Oh). Debbie is not a superhero. She is just a woman who happened to marry one and have a kid with him. Outnumbered by two superbeings in her own home, it’s odd to say that she’s the most powerful character in the series. But she is. 

Nolan, or Omni-Man, was born on a planet called Viltrum, a place that breeds powerful beings and superheroes. After inheriting his powers, Mark was also deemed a Viltrumite. 

Debbie is just a regular human. But because of her humanity, she was able to be more of a mentor and light in Mark’s life than his dad was. She expressed the vulnerability of human beings, she showed her immortal husband how life should be lived and ultimately conveyed how living in a world with superheroes isn’t as great as it seems to be. 

Debbie doesn’t take orders from any other superbeings from different planets or from the Global Defense Agency. She’s able to investigate and find answers on her own. She couldn’t care less if her husband is the world’s most powerful being; she is not afraid to forbid him from coming to bed, investigate his affairs and be an accomplished realtor. 

 She is just so humanely human –– her human vulnerability is a weapon that no Viltrumite, no superhero or her husband could ever possess. 

It’s not much of a spoiler because anyone interested in the show can watch the trailer to see just how much superheroes can suck, have hidden agendas and kill innocent people with no regard for humanity. The perveyance of human loss that Mark, his dad and other superheroes intentionally or unintentionally display shows how with any sort of power, there’s the powerless. 

It’s not necessarily a superhero series that depicts superheroes needing to save the lives of human beings and earth, but how the superheroes themselves need saving.  

The mechanical elements of the series aren’t extremely smooth like those of “The Boys.” Often an episode jumps scene to scene, and viewers may ask themselves, “what was the point of that?”

Ultimately the questions get answered throughout an episode or maybe even two or three later. The audience may not even realize the answer to their question was provided until after the fact. 

Hint: The trash Mark launched into space when he discovered his powers eventually comes back, but you won’t know when or where until you watch it. 

The format of the episodes itself is also unconventional. It seems Kirkman didn’t care if the intro of an episode was too long before it displayed the title card. He also didn’t care if the title card interrupted a scene –– the techniques were just very unpredictable. Also, when an episode’s credits come on screen, it doesn’t mean it’s over yet. It’s funny, annoying yet riveting all at once –– the viewer doesn’t know if there is more or what more is to come. 

Some episodes appear at first as bottle episodes, but truthfully almost every single scene is something to retain. Odds are if it’s not relevant at the time, it will be later in some way. There’s still some scenes I haven’t fully found the significance for, but I know they will appear somewhere in season two or three. 

The animation and art is beautiful; Omni-Man has been used commonly as an example of the “animated dads are getting hotter” trope on Twitter. It’s gory and visualisitic but not overwhelmingly so like some have critiqued “The Boys” for being. 

“Invincible” is real in a sense that it shows the reality and danger of what it could be like to live in a world coexisting with superheroes that have unearthed powers. It’s emotional and sincere about human vulnerability. It made me cry, made me laugh and made me scared to live in a world that is so susceptible to the abuse of power and the fear of not being able to control it in any way humanly possible. 

Amazon Prime may have found its calling in producing shows that fit into the anti-superhero genre, but they won’t be able to top this one. It is just truthfully, invincible against all others.