‘Invincible’ review: Superhero mayhem at its finest

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Amazon Prime’s adult animation saga makes for exhilarating, if bone-squelching violent viewing, and promises an even better second season to come

At first glance Invincible and Zero (on Netflix), despite being superhero origin stories, do not share much in common. Zero is the tale of a black Italian boy in a poor neighbourhood of Milan discovering the telling superpower of invisibility. Invincible, on the other hand, seems to be a standard-issue superhero origin tale. Based on Robert Kirkman’s eponymous comics, Invincible is an adult animated series set in the USA, where all superheroes seem to congregate. The show tells the story of Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) who gets his superpowers at 17, and along with it, a great deal of problems as well.

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Just as you settle to what you think is a time-worn tale of a youngster meeting his destiny, getting the girl, saving the world from a colourful villain, and being the all-round good guy, the rug is pulled from under your feet as heroes turn villains and vice versa. Also, like Zero apart from saving the world, Mark has to deal with family, friends, classes, bullies, and relationship worries.

Mark’s father, Nolan, (J. K. Simmons) is a super-being from the planet of Viltrum. His superhero alter ego, Omni-Man, goes about saving the world from all manner of scary threats including krakens and dragons—it is fun the way these weird, wonderful creatures seem to co-exist matter of factly with regular humans. He marries Debbie (Sandra Oh) a realtor who is well-nigh unflappable, despite living among superheroes.

Once Mark’s superpowers kick in, Nolan wants to teach him all it takes to be a superhero and the tough choices he has to make. Mark also has to decide when is the right time to tell his girlfriend Amber (Zazie Beetz) of his superhero alter-ego and needs to be there for his best friend and confidant, William (Andrew Rannells). More than his father, it is Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), another teenage super heroine, who is able to help Mark handle his superpowers.

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Invincible

  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 8
  • Duration: 42 to 49 minutes
  • Creator: Robert Kirkman
  • Starring: Steven Yeun, Sandra Oh, J. K. Simmons, Zachary Quinto, Gillian Jacobs, Malese Jow, Walton Goggins, Jason Mantzoukas, Seth Rogen, Mahershala Ali, Mark Hamill, Clancy Brown, Jon Hamm, Djimon Hounsou
  • Storyline: 17-year-old Mark Grayson is just like every other guy his age — except his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, Omni-Man. As Mark develops powers of his own, he discovers his father’s legacy may not be as heroic as it seems

When the Guardians of the Globe, a team of superheroes, are massacred, a new one is set up led by Robot (Zachary Quinto), from the former Teen Team (a young superhero team). Other Guardians include the irrepressible Rex Splode (Jason Mantzoukas), the replicating Dupli-Kate (Malese Jow), Grey Griffin as Shrinking Rae and Monster Girl and Black Samson (Khary Payton), one of the original team.

The villains are suitably colourful from mad scientists Doc Seismic (Chris Diamantopoulos) and D.A. Sinclair (Ezra Miller) to Titan (Mahershala Ali) who starts off as Machine Head’s (Jeffrey Donovan) enforcer but takes over from his boss to help the disadvantaged people ignored by the high flying superheroes. The Global Defense Agency headed by Cecil (Walton Goggins) with Donald (Chris Diamantopoulos) runs the superheroes and also help heal them. Cecil hires the demon detective Damien Darkblood (Clancy Brown) to find out who killed the guardians—so Sam Spade!

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Invincible also features Mark Hamill as Art Rosenbaum (tailor and confidant to the superheroes), Jon Hamm as a secret service agent, Djimon Hounsou as The Martian Emperor and Seth Rogen as Allen the Alien, who reminds one of Bowerick Wowbagger from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy even as he has been mistakenly visiting earth for 15 years.

The animation is striking, and the action is exhilarating if bone-squelching violent—but we are used to our superheroes spilling blood, crushing skulls, ripping spines and popping eyes, thanks to The Boys. Amidst the brilliant pops of colour, wide vistas, imperious mountain peaks, bubbling lava, desolate space and larger-than-life villains and heroes, there are also the very personal stories of a marriage breaking up, the bond between father and son, young love and the search for identity. And then there is foot-tapping music to boot — can’t wait for season 2!

Invincible is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video

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