Robert Kirkman’s “Invincible” is a Stellar, if Flawed, Superhero Epic

Full Disclosure: Amazon Studios gave us access to the first three episodes of “Invincible.” Please read with discretion.

I missed the boat when Invincible had its run in Image Comics, and I regret it, especially as a fan of “The Walking Dead.” Robert Kirkman is one of the group of Image comics heavyweights who manages to offer up his own superhero tale, but it’s given a massive twist that’s both bold and insanely violent. Taking the animated route this time out, producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg help realize Kirkman’s epic “Invincible” for the small screen, sticking true to many of the comics original storylines, and unfolding what is a unique, exciting, albeit imperfect at times, saga.

Based on popular the Skybound/Image comic of the same name by Kirkman, Cory Walker, and Ryan Ottley, Invincible centers on seventeen-year-old Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), a teen whose father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). As Mark develops powers of his own, he discovers that his father’s legacy may not be as heroic as it seems. We’ve reached the peak of superhero entertainment where now creators are deconstructing superhero lore and mythology. Very adamant about delivering something other than the typical superhero yarn, Robert Kirkman’s “Invincible” is very much an epic action tale in the vein of Amazon’s hit series “The Boys.”

It’s darkly comedic, gritty, epic, and steps back to take a look at the concept of the superhero. What begins as modern superhero action transforms in to Justice League by way of Ralph Bakshi—in a rather mind blowing manner. Every single frame of this beautifully animated series is just down right stupendous, and the animation flourishes from battles with aliens to the moment a head explodes right in front of our eyes. It’s hard to put a finger on, but the big turn of events in episode two includes a subtle but noticeable change in tone, to where there’s so much less pussyfooting around the darker corners of being a superhero. Robert Kirkman manages to flesh out a very unique and entertaining universe where villains repeatedly try to conquer our planet, superheroes consistently come to the rescue, and morality is presented in very bold shades of grey.

Superheroes are in constant demand, and it soon becomes a case of why they’re in such demand and what happens when they’re no longer needed. “Invincible” is a surefire superhero series that will whet the appetites of content starved fanatics, but it’s also a murder mystery, and a drama. It presents to us events that unfold in shocking fashion, all the while following Mark, a protagonist who begins to discover interesting corners of his own personality. Mark is a fascinating hero, someone who is so absolutely unsure about what he has to offer the world, and that comes at the expense of human lives. It doesn’t help that he’s entrenched in a whole other backdrop that promises to suck him in, just as he’s finding his footing as a masked avenger.

The writers take their time, slowly peeling away at layers of the more intricate superhero interplay and relationships, building on something that’s complex and blood soaked. I genuinely am compelled by the mystery unfolding and, as someone that never read the comics I think we’re headed in to some surprises. That said, three episodes in, the narrative is pretty much all over the place, and sometimes jumps back and forth between sub-plots so rapid fire, diverting from the more interesting dynamics. In either case, I can see “Invincible” becoming a runaway hit, especially with the pedigree of cast that’s featured. Along with JK Simmons and Steven Yeun offering excellent performances, there’s also Sandra Oh, Seth Rogen, Gillian Jacobs, Zazie Beetz, Mark Hamill, Walton Goggins, Jason Mantzoukas, and Mae Whitman (and more!), respectively.

“Invincible” is definitely a fantastic adaptation that features the best of what Robert Kirkman is known for and wisely brings it to fans in (quite amazing) animated form. If you’re craving “The Boys,” this will most definitely feed the appetite.

Premiering Exclusively on Amazon Prime Video March 26th.