Fans of Robert Kirkman and Corey Walker's comic book series Invincible have been waiting a long time for the Amazon Studios animated series' debut, with the series having first been announced in 2018, with that wait almost being over. The animated Invincible is set to debut on March 26th, yet while the series holds a great deal of charm for patient long-time fans of the comics, for those new to the story of Mark Grayson/Invincible, it's a fun but not exactly super adventure.
The series starts where the comics do, with Mark Grayson's (Steven Yeun) origin, getting his powers, and starting his training with his father, Nolan Grayson/Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). One of the things the series does exceptionally well -- at least in the first three episodes that were provided for review -- is that it very faithfully adapts the comics while also expanding upon the story and images on the page in a way that only animation can. There's a great bit of delight in seeing some of Mark's training and early attempts at heroics actually come to life. The soundtrack in the three episodes is also pretty great and fitting, particularly in a scene between Invincible and Atom Eve.
However, how it comes to life feels a bit dated. Invincible looks and feels very much like it's stuck in the early 2000s -- the comic debuted in 2003 -- with animation that is very much a cross between mid-to-late 1990s superhero cartoons and anime. It's not bad, but it definitely has a slightly low-budget and almost nostalgic feel. By itself, that wouldn't be much of an issue, but the series also leans in hard to some rather dated and cliche dialogue. The voice cast here is outstanding -- Sandra Oh as Debbie Grayson is fantastic, in particular, as is Simmons -- but they aren't given much to work with here at all.
There's also the matter of the story's pacing and structure. The first episode specifically is slow to take off, and about the time that it does, it shifts, jarringly so, into the conflict of the story. No spoilers here, for those who are unfamiliar with Invincible, but suffice it to say Omni-Man isn't quite as heroic as he seems, something that Invincible has to come to terms with. Those narrative shifts continue throughout. Also jarring is just how violent and bloody the series is, but also how superfluous that blood and violence actually are. Yes, it's a series marketed as an adult animated superhero show, so some of this is to be expected, but the blood is so over the top that it adds nothing to the story.
Invincible is okay. As a piece of early 2000s nostalgia (or even as something intended to evoke nostalgia for that time period), it's fun enough, but it's something that hasn't aged especially well and dumping buckets of animated blood on it only exacerbates the dated nature of things. Invincible fans will be entertained, but newcomers might have a steeper climb to reach that point. Any of the nuance the book held for the characters -- many of which are straight-up pastiche or parody of DC and Marvel heroes -- is lost in animated translation. It's just too dated, too cliche, and almost a bit too earnest to stand out in an entertainment landscape already packed with superhero entertainment.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Invincible premieres Friday, March 26th with new episodes available each Friday following.