REVIEW: Invincible – Season One (2021)

Omni-Man (left, voiced by J. K. Simmons) and Invincible (right, voiced by Steven Yeun) in “Invincible,” — Photo: Amazon Studios.

Series Created by Robert Kirkman — Available Now On Amazon Prime Video.

It’s always nice to see, when something you’ve loved for years is adapted successfully. Over five years ago, I read the first forty issues, or so, of Robert Kirkman’s Invincible, a superhero comic book series from Image Comics. I loved the comic book series back then, I still do, and I was excited when it was announced to be adapted as both an animated series and a film. That interest reached a fever pitch when the voice cast was announced. Steven Yeun (voicing Mark Grayson, Invincible), J. K. Simmons (voicing Nolan Grayson, Omni-Man), Sandra Oh (voicing Debbie Grayson), and Gillian Jacobs (voicing Atom Eve) voice the most pivotal characters, but it doesn’t stop there. Other great actors such as Seth Rogen, Mahershala Ali, and Walton Goggins all play important characters. Once you actually watch the show, you’ll see exactly why the cast is so star-studded. Because Invincible could be the ‘next big thing.’

Invincible is an animated series about the son of Omni-Man (the world’s most powerful superhero, who is clearly based on Superman), Mark Grayson, who is just starting to get acquainted with his own powers. The story takes place in a world where superheroes are common place. In fact, there are multiple different superhero teams and people even have their favorites. As the son of a superhero, he tries very hard to live up to his father’s status, but it isn’t easy to adapt to the difficulties of heroism and he finds out the hard way.

I think this animated series feels ambitious. This is evident from not just the voice cast but also the length of the episodes. Although the first season only consists of 8 episodes, each episode is approximately 40-45 minutes long. This helps to make the show feel consequential. I have to say that this is probably the most impressed I’ve been by an animated superhero series since Batman: The Animated Series, and if you know the comic books then you also know that Invincible is even more adult-oriented than that iconic Batman series was.

Although the first season of Invincible is, indeed, an often charming coming-of-age superhero origin story about a high school student, every episode is very bloody and features graphic violence. Sometimes the violence is so extreme that it even made me avert my eyes, but I thought that the tonal balance worked, even though one of the episodes uses the tonal shift that sudden graphic violence can result in as a twist to keep potential new fans hooked early on. But, make no mistake, Invincible is as charming and funny as it is hard-hitting and bloody.

Although there are changes here and there, the animated series nevertheless does feel true to the source material, and I loved seeing this story be told in another medium. There are characters that I like in the show more than I originally liked them in the comic books as a direct result of the way the voice actors help to bring the characters to life. I also think that the art style of the animated series is close enough to the art style of the comic book — though much more lively, for obvious reasons — to make it feel true to the source material, even though there are changes to characters and character designs, most of which perhaps even improve upon the source material. However, I have seen some legitimate criticisms about the animation quality, most of which focus on the idea that supposed limitations in budget and/or time sometimes result in reused animations or barely-altered still images that could have used more energy. But, on the whole, this didn’t bother me too much.

This blend of adult-oriented violence and its often charming lead works wonders for Amazon Prime Video’s latest extremely violent superhero television show. It is very refreshing for this story to be told as an ambitious and bold animated series, which is really a superhero cartoon for adults. It is exciting that Kirkman’s comic book has been adapted this well, with this much attention to detail, and with this much talent attached to it, and it makes me very excited for the future seasons, if they can continue to tell the story this well.

A-

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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