Film and TV

Invincible: Animated Series Challenging Our Idea of Superheroes

Exploring what it would be like to be a superhero in real life.
Exploring what it would be like to be a superhero in real life. Screenshot
Invincible is Amazon’s new animated superhero show based on The Walking Dead co-creator Robert Kirkman’s comic book of the same name. Sidestepping the traditional approach, Invincible attempts to portray what superheroes would be like in real life and how terrifying it would be to live in a world where you could run into someone with lasers shooting from their eyes.

Invincible is similar to Amazon’s other superhero series, The Boys, in that it shows off the gruesome realities a world full of superheroes would impose, but Invincible does so from a more personal and familial perspective.

The show follows Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), a high school student and son of the world’s strongest hero Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons), who has finally awakened his latent superpowers and is ready to be a hero like his dad. He begins under his father’s guidance, learning the ins and outs of the job and his abilities, and soon finds out it’s not as easy as his dad makes it look. While Mark is just starting, the world around him is changing, and Omni-Man’s true nature and intentions come into question.

The family sit-downs are as important as the big action sequences. The family aspect is what grounds the crazy world Mark is navigating. Mark has to balance his school life, his romantic interests, his life at home, and his pursuit of being a hero that measures up to his father while learning about an unforgivable and morally gray world.

The world of Invincible takes inspiration from mainstay and iconic heroes. Omni-man is an analog to Superman; Mark is clearly inspired by Spider-Man and other young mouthy quippy heroes. There’s a Justice League-like team as well as a government agency not unlike Shield in Marvel comics. Invincible takes the familiar tropes of these characters and flips them on their head, asking questions like “What if Superman’s intentions weren’t all that noble?”

The voice acting cast of Invincible is stacked with phenomenal performers and award-nominated and winning actors such as the aforementioned Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead, Minari) and J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Spider-Man); but also Sandra Oh (Greys Anatomy, Killing Eve), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Green Book), Walton Goggins (Justified, The Hateful 8), Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and Zazie Beetz (Atlanta, Joker). The cast is ridiculously talented, bringing real life to the animated characters and elevates the drama and humor of the series.

The animation is reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series but with some updated flourishes. The action sequences are impressive, taking influence from Japanese animation in its flair and continuous fluent action. The series is able to convey the physics of the world and just how crazy some of the abilities of the super people we see are.

Fair warning, Invincible is incredibly violent, as is the trend for superhero shows intended for mature audiences like its live-action counterpoint, The Boys. Invincible takes it a step further — since it’s animated — to show some truly gruesome acts of violence. The series shows the horrors and casualties that can result when an impromptu alien invasion happens in the middle of a city. The family atmosphere and seemingly innocent start can definitely catch viewers with no prior knowledge of the source material off guard.

Streaming services and media powers are all jumping on the superhero train. Disney has the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Warner Brothers has the DC universe. The traditional ideas of what superheroes are and what they mean to our culture are the driving force for movies and now even television, with Marvel staking its claim with Wandavision and Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Amazon has now carved out a unique corner in the superhero industrial complex by producing the premier mature and realistic takes on superheroes, first with The Boys and now Invincible.

Invincible is a hit and gaining popularity with every episode. Amazon dropped the first three episodes and has been releasing a new episode of its eight episode first season every Friday which has helped keep the interest and hype around the series going strong. Invincible is worth checking out if you are a fan of the genre and the ability for specific stories to challenge our ideas and norms around how we feel about superheroes.

Invincible is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
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Contributor Jamil David is a native Houstonian and Texas Southern University alumnus. He is interested in TV, sports and pop culture. @JMLJMLD
Contact: Jamil David