*MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD*
Is it too late to be talking about Invincible? Yes?
I’m going to do so anyway because I still can’t stop thinking about it, and I’ve already watched the first episode at least three times
introducing indoctrinating different groups of friends to the show. I love this show and I’m a shill for good superhero content, and I’m not ashamed to say it.
If you somehow still haven’t heard of Invincible, either from friends who’ve also become part of its cult or from the deluge of meme formats that have originated from the show, the series is based on the Image Comics story of the same name. It follows Mark Grayson, the 17 year old son of Omni-Man, a Superman-esque figure and Mark’s role model. Mark finally gets his own powers, which are identical in scale to his father’s, and we follow his origin story. This set-up isn’t particularly novel, but the twist at the end of the first episode – which I will leave out since it’s a joy to experience for the first time as a viewer – establishes an air of intrigue that gives the series an insane boost of momentum.
Outside of this major plot point, however, what I really like about Invincible is that it uses the superhero genre to tell what is at its heart a coming of age story about a teen on the verge of adulthood trying to find his place in the world. Yes, there are plenty of teen superhero characters in both Marvel and DC, but I think Invincible struck a chord with me because of how especially relatable its characters are and how personal their stories seem. When I think back on why this might have worked so well for me, I realize that it’s partly because of how well Mark’s new life as his eponymous alter ego, Invincible, is integrated with his old life as a normal high school student. I don’t mean that his character can slip seamlessly from one part of his life to another, but rather that we as the viewers get to know him intimately in both settings. We see the Mark that’s trying to navigate his first relationship and the Mark that’s being coached by his father to master his newfound powers, and that’s special to me because in other forms of superhero media, I feel like I haven’t seen a character’s alter ego and normal life balanced so well. Even with Miles Morales in Into the Spiderverse, which is my favorite portrayal of a teen superhero, we don’t quite get to see Miles in a normal setting because he was immediately thrust into a save-the-world scenario. This balance that’s achieved in Invincible naturally allows for some personal stories and some smaller-scale (but intimate) scenes to really shine.
Here’s an example from the show that I really enjoyed:
In one arc of the show, Titan, a small-time thug and superpowered hired muscle for a corrupt businessman, tries to recruit Mark to help him take down his corrupt boss so that he himself can take his place and work towards a more equitable community. Mark initially refuses, saying that he is meant to combat greater, world-ending threats, but Titan challenges him, essentially asking him who his powers really serve if he can’t help those in his own community who really need it. This arc was powerful to me because although it is relatively low stakes compared to most superhero storylines, it asked a question that few superhero shows or films seem to tackle effectively: who do superheroes really serve, and what’s the most effective way for them to use their powers?
For Mark, these questions not only represent a significant identity crisis (“Who am I as a hero?”), but also a conflict with his father, and this is a deeply personal, coming of age story that I think Invincible does a great job with as well. He views his father as a paragon, the epitome of heroism, yet as the show progresses, he slowly begins to understand that the hero he wants to become might not follow as closely in his father’s footsteps as he’d like to imagine. After pining for powers of his own that he had been fearing he wouldn’t inherit, and having all he needs to be just like his superhero father, Mark finds himself wondering if that’s what he really wants after all. Watching Mark try and find his footing and understand who he is and who his father really is is as addicting as the action scenes, and it really helps Invincible paint itself not just as an action show, but also an incredibly effective drama.
I also like that Invincible dares to ask a question that most superhero media seems to avoid: what if your powers aren’t enough? I feel like a part of the appeal of a teen superhero is that although these characters are going through tough transition periods in their lives, they begin to overcome their struggles and help others with their new powers, therefore finding their identities and gaining self-confidence. These characters are inspiring because it’s easy for us to project ourselves onto them and hope that we, like them, can find something that empowers us to be our best selves. Invincible takes this concept and shatters it. In his universe, Mark is practically Superboy, yet he still can’t win his fights. One of the things you notice right away in Invincible is the gore and just how brutal the show is, and it does not hold back when it comes to showing how much Mark struggles as Invincible. Nothing comes easy for him, and nearly from the beginning, he faces self-doubt about whether he should even continue as a superhero. It’s an incredibly fun (but dark) twist on conventional superhero tropes that I can’t get enough of.
To end off this rant, here’s a random grab bag of things I like about the show because I could go on for much longer and probably shouldn’t:
- Mark and Omni-Man’s father-son moment where they’re playing catch… but throwing the ball around the world because they’re superpowered. The way this moment plays off of a stereotypical father-son scene but pokes fun at it at the same time is just so hilarious to me and always makes me smile.
- The attention to detail in this show!! Things like the title card getting bloodier and bloodier every episode to reflect the building tension make the show feel very tightly choreographed and satisfying to watch.
- Mark and his mother’s relationship. Debbie, voiced by Sandra Oh, makes for a great supporting character that can convincingly hold her own as one of the most influential people in her son’s life despite not having superpowers of her own.
- …and much more
If it’s not clear by this point, I love this show and think that those who haven’t checked it out already should give it a fair chance. Some may gripe at a particular character and some may complain that the show tried to jam too much in eight episodes and therefore underdeveloped some side plots, but Invincible has so much going for it that I think the praise for it is well-deserved. Even for those who might not be into the superhero genre, I would recommend that they check this show out, and for those who want a breath of fresh air from the onslaught of Marvel and DC productions, this might scratch an itch that you didn’t know you had. Invincible receives a very strong 8/10 from me and I’m hoping that future seasons will be just as compelling.