Given the massive success they’ve had with The Boys, it’s no surprise Amazon is going after more uncouth comic book stories to put on their streaming service. Straight-faced sweary supers duking it out in highly bloody fashion have become a standard that audiences acclimatised themselves to very well, thanks to the complex and corrupt adventures of Billy Butcher. Now they’re putting the ‘hard R’ in ‘superhero’ again, only this time in an adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s Invincible. The stark difference between this and The Boys, though, is that the leap from page to screen isn’t that big, staying animated and with all the adult themes intact, right before brutally ripping them apart again.
Using the same model as The Boys did in their sophomore season, Invincible lands with three episodes to give fans and the uninitiated a taste of what’s in store. On the first inspection, things seem relatively tame from the man that gave us The Walking Dead, with the show having all the visual flair of a Saturday morning cartoon and a family-friendly story to boot. Oscar nominee and former Walking Dead alumni Steven Yuen voices mild-mannered teenager Mark Grayson, burdened with all the standard issues of a highschool kid his age, along with a few extras. See, Mark happens to be the son of Earth’s greatest defender Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons) and soon finds himself exhibiting the same powers that set him off to become a hero as well, calling himself Invincible.
Here is where Kirkman’s tale, which series head Jeff Allen impressively adapts, takes turns you’d expect to see in Amazon’s other flagship show. Just as Mark begins to grasp this new world he’s a part of, do events unfold that send him on a grisly and unfiltered trajectory. Legendary heroes don’t necessarily fall, as they are hammered into the tarmac, conspiracies are slowly brought to the surface, and the who’s who of DC knock-offs begins to dwindle as a threat beyond Mark’s comprehension finally makes its move.
Invincible‘s first three episodes are built for bingeing first and telling a story second.
As far as superhero stories go, Invincible is undeniably an epic one, stretching beyond space, time and our own dimension; there’s plenty here for fans of the ever-growing genre to dig in to. The problem is the build-up in doing so. It’s clear that much like Season 2 of The Boys did, Invincible‘s first three episodes are built for bingeing first and telling a story second. This couldn’t be clearer as in the finale of its debut episode, ‘It’s About Time’. Without going into spoilers, an incident occurs mid-credits that comes as a cliffhanger right from leftfield but isn’t as seamless as it wants to be. It’s jarring for the wrong reasons, and for some audience members, the sterling bit of animated spectacle may get the ball rolling, but it may come a bit too late for others that aren’t willing to stick it out for another 40 minutes or so.
Nevertheless, from there, the stage is set in Kirkman’s world, and it feels like one bred from both Rick and Morty and The Boys. Dialogue does feel more or less ripped from comic book pages rather than tweaked for a different medium. Still, it’s sandwiched between eye-watering sequences of gore and violence that are as inventive as they are horrific. Handled in any other way, and it would almost seem farcical if it weren’t for the vocal talents involved. From J.K. Simmons and Sandra Oh to Jason Mantzoukas and Seth Rogen, Steven Yuen’s titular hero is never too far from award-winning names adding gravitas to an eclectic bunch of characters. All of them becoming likeable in their own right and, by doing so, it makes their risk of danger something you’re actually concerned about.
Standout talents towering above the rest so far (and rightfully so) are Simmons and Yuen as father and son. The Oscar-winner and Whiplash star works a treat, bringing a character to life that looks like Ron Swanson came from Krypton. Stoic and, as his hero name suggests, carrying an omnipresence bordering on terrifying, seeing that sit alongside and then eventually clash with Yuen’s plucky good-natured hero makes for an intriguing watch. The only question if this conflict and a few others will be enough to keep the uninitiated invested for five more episodes in the shows 8-episode debut.
Of course, for those already switched onto this already beloved word, time isn’t an issue. As an adaptation being penned by Kirkman himself, it’s an impeccable effort for the book’s fans. However, for those that don’t know their Red Rushes from their Allen the Alien’s, this really needs to pick up its super speed if it’s going to keep outsiders interested. We can only wait and see if it manages when it reverts to a single weekly episode from here on out. Invincible? We’ll see.