Created by Robert Kirkman, the mind behind “The Walking Dead,” “Invincible” is yet another addition to the ever-growing genre of superhero movies and TV shows. The story employs a not-so novel take on the superhero genre by asking, “What if superheroes … were normal people?”
“Invincible” centers around the trials and tribulations of Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun, “The Walking Dead”), an incredibly fit and attractive but socially incompetent son of a superhero, as he navigates the world of flying monsters, supervillains and the terrifying world of high school. The show borrows from the world of DC Comics, with Grayson’s god-like father “Omni-Man” (J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”) as a direct corollary to Superman and a superhero team called the “Guardians of the Globe” that resembles the Justice League. The resemblance to DC Comics is so uncanny that one might think the show is a satire or parody, but with only three episodes out so far it’s difficult to tell.
“Invincible” marries the fantasy and campiness of “Teen Titans” with the gore and grit of “The Boys,” but it’s unclear what this combination accomplishes. The rules of the world are strange; supervillains appear and disappear whenever they please and have what seem to be nonsensical motivations. For example, Earth is repeatedly attacked by an alien warlord bent on conquering the world, but he only comes with an army of about a hundred-foot soldiers. How does he expect to win? The antics seem similar to that of Saturday morning cartoons, yet they are also violent and brutal.
The show doesn’t shy away from body horror, but with the brightly-colored animation and whimsical scenes, the gore seems jarring and out of place. Watching “Invincible” is like watching a children’s cartoon adaptation of “Saw.” “Invincible” seems to justify complete tonal inconsistency with Omni-Man’s assertion, “Those are the realistic aspects of being a superhero.” But when enemies are named “Doc Seismic” and bad guys wear leotards, just how realistic is the show trying to be?
The slice-of life-aspects of “Invincible” don’t hold much weight either. There’s an extremely predictable love triangle between Grayson, his crush Amber (Zazie Beetz, “Atlanta”) and his superheroine partner Eve (Gillian Jacobs, “Community”). Perhaps because things come so naturally to Grayson, whether it be his powers or his ability to find love interests, nothing from his life feels worth rooting for since the outcome is all but guaranteed.
The only other potentially relatable aspect of the show is Grayson’s relationship with his father, the all-powerful Omni-Man, but even that bond seems rather flat. Grayson mentions explicitly that he’s afraid he won’t fit into his father’s shoes, which feels forced since he’s just as capable as Omni-Man is.
Despite its predictability, there are some very interesting elements of the show that have yet to be explored, mainly focusing on the broader culture surrounding superheroes — specifically Omni-Man. Without revealing too much, Episode One ends with a pretty shocking cliffhanger and leaves the viewer with a lot of questions about Omni-Man and his real intentions. It’s also interesting to see how the U.S. state apparatus uses superheroes for good or for bad. The mystery and social commentary of the show are much, much more interesting than its mundane coming-of-age subplots.
All in all, the episodes of “Invincible” have no reason to be 45 minutes long. In fact, one might say that the episodes shouldn’t even feature Grayson at all, since his scenes are either painfully predictable or incredibly tedious. At the same time, the aspects of the show outside of Grayson are genuinely interesting and well worth the watch. Additionally, with future appearances from Mark Hamill and Seth Rogen, there’s a lot to look forward to in the upcoming episodes.
Perhaps the best piece of advice for watching “Invincible” is to do some editing yourself. Skip all the scenes with Grayson, and you might have a great show on your hands.
Daily Arts Writer Josh Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.