The superhero genre, while not burnt out, certainly has covered a lot of ground, with Marvel having their own unique brand of long-term, decent but formulaic films, with DC being all over the place in terms of quality, though they generally stick to darker tales. The main issue an outsider has looking to break into this market is that superhero comics are largely a duopoly, with Disney owning pretty much the film rights to all of Marvel except for “The Incredible Hulk” and “Spider-Man”, and Warner Bros. having the live action film rights to DC’s lineup. However, Amazon has found a foothold in the genre by adapting comic books from third-party publishers, such as “The Tick”, “The Boys” and now, Image Comics’ “Invincible.”
“Invincible” follows teenager Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) as the titular superhero Invincible. His dad, Nolan (J.K. Simmons), is Omni-Man, an alien from the planet Viltrumite that is basically this world’s Superman. Omni-Man is married to Mark’s human mother, Debbie (Sandra Oh), and has been on Earth for about 20 years, in which he has helped the head of the Global Defense Agency, Cecil Stedman (Walton Goggins), and this world’s version of the Justice League, the Guardians of the Globe.
Everything changes when Mark gets his powers in Episode 1. Nolan takes greater interest in him, as he tries to teach him about his Viltrumite powers and his culture, but to the audience, it becomes quickly apparent that Omni-Man is not who he seems to be, as Episode 1 concludes with him killing the Guardians of the Globe, which drives the plot for the rest of the season, as Cecil and company investigate the murders along with demon detective Damien Darkblood (Clancy Brown), not wanting to admit that Nolan was the killer, but not seeing any way it couldn’t have been him.
Most of the show is your standard superhero origins affair, with Mark starting out with a homemade suit before getting his own professionally-made one from Art Rosenbaum (Mark Hamill) a superhero tailor and one of Omni-Man’s oldest friends, and he eventually joins a team of teenage superheroes led by Samantha Eve Wilkins/Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), who turns out to be Mark’s classmate and whose power seem to work similarly to a Green Lantern, though instead of green energy, she makes things out of pink energy.
There are so many good characters in this show, with Rudy Connors / Robot (Ross Marquand and Zachary Quinto respectively), the logical leader of the Teen Team and new Guardians of the Globe, and Titan (Mahershala Ali), an enforcer-turned crime boss who can produce a layer of rock over his skin at will, being my favorite secondary hero and villain characters, respectively.
At its core, while Mark has friends, a love interest (a normal girl named Amber Bennett [Zazie Beetz]), and a number of villains-of-the-week to fight, the core, overarching narrative of “Invincible” is between Mark and his father, who has been lying to him about his true intentions on Earth and who he is, which makes it all the more difficult, because no matter how murderous Omni-Man gets or how despicable he truly his, the two still love each other.
** Spoilers beyond here **
To really elaborate on this, and to explain what makes “Invincible” as a show work, we have to talk about the season finale. If you want to read spoilers, I guarantee it will not ruin your enjoyment of the show — I saw clips of the finale days before I binged the show, and part of the shock of the finale is how the show builds up to it over the course of its finale episodes.
In a nutshell, instead of being peaceful protectors helping out where they can, Viltrumites are a race of homicidal colonizers bent on enslaving the galaxy for their own personal gain. Omni-Man tries to explain to Mark in the finale that he lives so long, the 20 years he’s been on Earth have been a speck in his lifecycle, and while he loves his mother, he sees her as a pet. The finale ends with Omni-Man beating Mark until he’s almost dead, in which he realizes he still loves his son, and takes off from Earth and never returns. And the show handles the aftermath of its shocking finale very well, with Debbie leaning on Art, and Mark leaning on his friends as they struggle to process what’s just happened. Mark experiences so much carnage and horror throughout this show that it’ll be interesting how it changes him in Season 2.
Omni-Man is very comparable to Homelander from “The Boys,” a similar evil Superman-like character, though what makes Omni-Man evil is a combination of racism fueled by Viltrum’s practice of eugenics and a toxic colonizer attitude that is similar to white supremacy, whereas Homelander is evil because he was raised in a lab, didn’t have adequate parental figures, and has never had to be held accountable.
In all, “Invincible” has a unique take on the superhero genre, specifically an evil Superman-like character, and as a result, scratches an itch no one else is even attempting to scratch. I wouldn’t call it satire, but I think it does the best job of any piece of media that attempts to answer the question: What if Superman was evil?
“Invincible” Season 1 gets a 9/10