For those of you who don’t know, Invincible is an animated, adult superhero series that follows a high schooler named Mark Grayson as he adapts to his newfound powers and the world of superheroes around him. While that sounds cliche and familiar to any fans of the genre, the series and the comics it’s based on play with all the tropes and expectations of the genre to create something entirely new and fresh. This series is nothing like anything out there on TV right now.
As a massive fan of the comics it’s based upon, I was extremely excited for Invincible, and I had extremely high expectations. After watching the finale, I can confidently say that those high expectations were met and, on occasion, exceeded.
The series is a treat for anyone who loves the superhero genre. It has great action, characters, humor and possibly the best cast of any TV show I’ve ever seen. It stars Steven Yeun, Sandra Oh, J.K. Simmons, Seth Rogen, Mark Hamill, Zachary Quinto, Mahershala Ali and many other recognizable voices from Hollywood and other animated series. All of them deliver top-notch performances, especially Yeun and Simmons. They play Mark and Nolan Grayson, respectively, bringing two of my favorite comic book characters to life.
If you have any interest in the series after reading this so far, I recommend you stop and go watch the first episode. If it seems too slow or familiar, wait until the end. You’ll be hooked.
The rest of this review will contain spoilers for the entirety of season one of Invincible. I highly recommend watching all eight episodes before reading the rest of this review.
Episodes one, two and three of the series: “It’s About Time,” “Here Goes Nothing” and “Who You Calling Ugly?” are about as perfect a beginning the series could hope for. It starts out like an episode of a Justice League series and then introduces its main characters in a way where the audience understands who everyone is and what their purposes are without somehow overwhelming them. Then all hell breaks loose; many characters die, and there’s one sole survivor, the villain of the entire season: Omni-Man. The show then introduces the Teen Team, again somehow not overwhelming the audience with so many heroes, villains and everything in between. It’s a masterclass in both storytelling and character writing.
Episodes four and six are the monster-of-the-week storytelling found in a lot of other shows, especially animated superhero shows. While these episodes aren’t amazing, they’re serviceable, introducing important plot details or characters for later and pushing along the narrative to the next great episodes, in this case being episodes five, seven and eight. These episodes feel like fillers and slow the pace of the series considerably. That doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily bad. They’re just weak links in a very strong first outing.
Episode five, “That Actually Hurt,” is a showcase of the series’ casting department, with Ali taking center stage as the character Titan, alongside Invincible himself. This episode contains a lot of character details for Titan that just aren’t there in the comics; it makes him a much more interesting and relatable character. It has an amazing action scene at the end that has bloody repercussions for the rest of the season. It’s also a showcase of just how vincible the title character actually is.
Episodes seven and eight, “We Need to Talk” and “Where I Really Come From,” combine to be what is quite possibly the best hour-and-a-half of TV I’ve seen in years. In most shows, episode seven would’ve been the finale; it’s full of spectacle and great character moments. What’s even crazier is that it’s just an appetizer for the actual finale. Episode eight is one of the best season finales I’ve ever seen. It gives you many of the answers you’ve been waiting for and some extremely brutal, intense and emotional moments.
The final scene shared between Mark and Nolan is simultaneously grisly and beautiful, matching and possibly surpassing its comic counterpart. The finale also properly sets up the next season’s threats and villains as well as leaves a lot out of their teases that are sure to surprise non-comic readers. There’s a lot to be excited about in the future of this series which, thankfully, has been renewed for two more seasons.
If you can’t get enough of this story, its characters or just can’t wait for another season, I highly recommend reading the comic it’s based on. This season covers just the first 15 issues (give or take a few) of a 144-issue epic, which scales up considerably from the first season of the TV show.