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Sunday, June 20, 2021

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Film Fridays: “Invincible”

<p><em>Graphic by Carissa Gurgul</em></p>

Graphic by Carissa Gurgul

Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian. 

A trailer drops, fans react, the show or movie releases and then it fades from our minds. The excitement and anticipation end as the credits roll. We’ve seen all there is to see and know all there is to know. 

Yet, “Invincible,” the newest series from Amazon Prime Video, is anything but forgettable. In an era where superhero content is abundant, “Invincible” is a breath of fresh air in the oftentimes redundant genre.

First appearing as a side character in Image Comics’ Savage Dragon #102, Invincible got his own standalone comic in 2003. Created by Robert Kirkman, who is known for “The Walking Dead,” and artist Cory Walker, the character Invincible isn’t a Superman knockoff. When Kirkman is involved, you know it isn’t going to be a black and white superhero story, especially when considering how deep and brutalizing “The Walking Dead” was.

Following several years of attempting to develop the comics into a live-action film, Amazon acquired the “Invincible” property in 2018 and transitioned the project into an animated show. The first trailer for the show was revealed as the kick-off for the 2020 New York Comic Con, announcing its release in 2021. 

The story follows Mark Grayson, an ordinary teenager aside from one notable exception: his father is the strongest superhero on the planet. After he turns 17, Grayson begins to get powers of his own and is brought under his father’s wing to learn the ropes of being a hero. 

However, this new role proves challenging as Grayson grapples with balancing his normal life with that of Invincible, his alter ego. Additionally, the duality of his human mother and superhero father begins to weigh heavily on the young protagonist. 

My jaw hit the floor at the end of the first episode, and the show has only gotten better. Each episode is a near-perfect balance of exposition, action, consequence and the reality of being a superhero.

Grayson, voiced by Steven Yeun, progresses beautifully as a character throughout the eight-episode season. At first, he thinks the superhero job is nothing more than stopping threats and saving people, but when innocents die in front of Grayson, his entire perception of being a hero is shattered. He witnesses horrific events and grows to loath his role, not wanting to be depended on by others for events he can’t stop. 

But Grayson isn’t alone in his journey. Grayson’s father, Omni-Man -- who is brilliantly voiced by J.K. Simmons -- and his mother, voiced by Sandra Oh, are by his side. The family dynamic in the Grayson household is both comical and wholesome until things begin to unravel.

“Invincible” is one of the only animated superhero shows I can recall that isn’t for children. This show is brutal, intense and very adult in its themes in addition to one of the most disturbing fight scenes I’ve ever seen. Its utter brutality and grim overtones complement the light-hearted and humorous side very well. 

When something “good” happens, something equally sinister is brewing beneath the surface. When one seemingly terrible villain is vanquished, an even more vicious and evil foe appears. 

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But it isn’t the violence or action that draws viewers in, the plot does that excellently. Staying relatively faithful to the original comics aside from some slight deviations, the plot of the first season has an overarching mystery that is slowly and subtly answered. 

The animation also keeps each sequence compelling. Every detail is vividly captured, such as the slightest breeze in Omni-Man’s mustache, the veins popping in an alien’s head or the smallest mannerism of the main characters. These details, however minor, give each character a layer of depth not usually seen in other superhero media. 

The show’s soundtrack is incredible as well, featuring artists such as Vampire Weekend, Cage the Elephant and Bazzi. The song placements all elevated the show and enhanced the given situations.

The cast of “Invincible” is even more impressive. Yeun isn’t the only returning “Walking Dead” cast member. Lauren Cohen, Michael Cudlitz, Lennie James, Ross Marquand and Sonequa Martin-Green all make appearances throughout the show. 

Other notable actors include Mark Hamill, Mahershala Ali, Seth Rogen, Zachary Quinto and Walton Goggins. It is quite the roster of actors and actresses for a comic book adaptation. 

I have to say that Simmons gives one of his best performances as Omni-Man, which is a feat considering the role is only his voice. Omni-Man can best be described as a mixed combination of Simmons’s past performances. The shrewd qualities of J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy and the sadistic temper of “Whiplash” band conductor Terence Fletcher all come out at some point. 

With the final episode of the first season releasing today, there is no reason you shouldn’t watch this show. I cannot recommend “Invincible” enough, as I have looked forward to every new episode. It is, in my opinion, one of the best shows of 2021 and I can’t wait for season two. 

Miles Goldman contributed to the column.

Contact columnist Quinn Humphrey at quinn.humphrey@richmond.edu.

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