Streamer: Amazon Prime Video
Length: 8 x episodes (42-48 minutes each)
Subverting superhero tropes and imagery is nothing new, artists have been doing it since Keith Richards lobbed about in short pants, bumming ciggies off dinosaurs. Alan Moore most famously deconstructed the genre with Watchmen back in 1986 and since then it’s been on for young and old.
Movies like Mystery Men, Unbreakable, Super, Kick-Ass, Brightburn and more recently TV gear like The Boys on Amazon Prime and The Umbrella Academy on Netflix have all had a bash at it.
Well, now it’s time for the animated show, Invincible, to give it a red hot go and the result is engaging albeit not exactly stunningly original.
Invincible is the story of Mark Grayson aka Invincible (Steven Yeun), the teenage son of Nolan Grayson aka Omni-Man (JK Simmons), who is basically Superman with a silver fox makeover.
Mark lives in the long shadow of his father, but everything changes when his own powers begin to manifest and life suddenly becomes a lot more complicated. Particularly when The Guardians of the Globe - a superhero team who bear a striking resemblance to the Justice League - are brutally murdered.
And the killer could just be someone very close to Mark.
Tonally speaking, Invincible is a weird one. The first episode feels like a pretty standard, if unusually star-studded, teenage superhero yarn replete with bullies, high school crushes and adolescent angst.
And then, at around the three quarter mark, a graphic murder sequence occurs that earns every damn bit of the show’s R-rating, showcasing a grisly tableau that’d make the likes of Quentin Tarantino say, “Crikey boys, steady on. That’s a bit much!”
This excess of gore probably shouldn’t be a surprise, since Invincible is based on a comic by Robert Kirkman, the bloke responsible for the splatterific The Walking Dead, but it’s certainly an eye opener (and an eye gouger!).
That being said, the plot itself isn’t exactly revolutionary. Yes, the identity of the killer is a surprise, and a great twist, but the rest of the show is surprisingly traditional, showcasing story arcs even casual comic book fans will have seen dozens of times before.
Where Invincible excels, however, is in the voice acting and the animation. The already impressive duo of Yeun and Simmons are bolstered by Sandra Oh, Zachary Quinto, Gillian Jacobs, Jason Mantzoukas, Walton Goggins, Seth Rogen and Mark-flippin’-Hamill!
The animation too, while looking rather generic in still images, moves with a fluid grace we don’t see much in modern animation and is perfect for the material.
At times, it feels like Invincible is the result of Amazon Prime just hurling handfuls of cash at quality actors and animators, to bolster a decent but unremarkable narrative. And the odd clash of tones does give the viewer the impression they’re watching the world’s most violent Saturday morning cartoon.
Still, “the world’s most violent Saturday morning cartoon” is a pretty appealing pitch, and the fast-paced, slick and moreish episodes are certainly engaging, lightly subversive superhero entertainment.
Beautifully voiced, well-animated and brimming with twists and shocking gore, Invincible is a B-grade story embiggened by A-list talent and production values. And taken as such? It can be a lot of fun.
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