Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Invincible, Animated on Amazon

You might think Ironman’s longtime association with the superlative “Invincible” would preclude other superheroes from using it, but you can’t trademark a commonly used word. Besides, Mark Grayson and his super alter-ego were published by Image Comics, independent of the Marvel Universe. “Invincible” seemed like a good name to him when he received his powers, but his early outings as costumed superhero suggest he is anything but in creators Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Cory Walker’s Invincible, the new animated series based on their popular comic book, which premieres this Friday on Amazon Prime.

Most kids idolize the Avengers-like Guardians of the Globe, but Mark Grayson is a bigger fan of their independent ally, Omni-Man, because that is his dad. He currently goes by the alias Nolan Grayson, but Omni-Man is an alien from the world of Viltrumite. Mark is a late-bloomer, whose powers just kicked in, but he seems to be able to fly as well as take and give super beat-downs. He is not quite Ralph Hinkley, but he is still a little unsteady when exercising his powers.

Unfortunately, Mark, a.k.a. Invincible, is about to be thrown into the deep end when a huge franchise-shaking event sidelines the Guardians and his father. At least the Teen Team is willing to temporarily team-up with him, especially Atom Eve, who in her civilian life, happens to attend Grayson’s high school, as the popular Samantha Eve Wilkins.

Based on the three episodes Amazon supplied to reviewers, it is pretty clear why
Invincible has been one of Image’s marquee titles. It clearly tweaks the tropes of superhero comics just enough to be subversive, while staying true to the conventions that attract fans to the genre in the first place. Invincible is likely to be compared to The Boys, because it also features incidents of shockingly graphic violence. However, Invincible has none of its Amazon stablemate’s jaded cynicism. In fact, Mark Grayson is more closely akin to vintage Peter Parker, in the way he struggles to balance his teen angst with superhero responsibilities.

The colorful and dynamic animation also hits the right notes. Arguably, it is two or three degrees superior to the quality of old school Saturday morning superhero cartoons, but not so far-removed fans won’t get a nostalgic fix from it. Kirkman, Ottley, Walker, and co-writer Simon Racioppa tell a good story and fill it with intriguing fantastical characters. The big-name voice cast mostly does them justice, especially J.K. Simmons, who dips into his snarky
Whiplash and authoritative Farmers Insurance bags for the commanding tones of Omni-Man (and Nolan Grayson).

Freshly Oscar-nominated Steven Yeun nicely expresses Mark Grayson’s innocence and enthusiasm, while Sandra Oh provides a welcome voice of reason his average mortal mother, Debbie Grayson. Yet, perhaps the best vocal-match is the deep baritone of genre fave Clancy Brown as Damien Darkblood, the demon detective.

is incalculably more fun to watch than The Boys. It has energy and attitude, but it still has respect and affection for super-heroics, rather than trying to undermine the concept. Highly recommended (so far), Invincible starts streaming this Friday (3/26), on Amazon Prime.