I find myself really wanting to write something about Invincible, but having the misfortune of being really late to the party. At this point, what is there I can possibly add to the conversation that already hasn’t been discussed to death by nerd culture at large?
But this is my blog and there’s no real reason I can’t add my voice to the deafening din of takes and interpretations of the piece. From my personal perspective, the most interesting thing about the show is how it takes a collection of characters that are very obviously paying homage to DC Comic’s Justice League and twisting it into something else.
The biggest twist of which has pretty much been lost on me thanks to Twitter and YouTube pushing all of the most violent clips onto me without giving me any context or reference to where they’re coming from. Now, I could kick up a stink about spoiler culture online and how it ruined pretty much every reveal of the series and the path of the comic right up until the end of its run for me.
But the big irony is that, had I not has all these snippets of the series forced upon me before I’d ever even heard of it, I most likely wouldn’t have gone out and searched the show down at all. The consequence of which being that I came at the series from a totally different direction than most other people were.
I’ll admit, it was the horrible violence that ended up actually attracting me toward the series initially. I guess I’m just that puerile at the end of the day, you show me some people getting torn to shreds in a cartoon and I can’t help but be drawn to it… It’s the beginnings of my relationship with anime all over again.
And almost exactly like anime, it ended up being one of the cases where I came for the action, stayed for the characters. Invincible is a series that picks and choses elements from other media, picking out archetypes and character tropes from parallel franchises and makes the most of the baggage people bring with them to subvert expectation.
On its face, this seems like your standard Superman gone bad storyline. Taking the Kryptonian race of Superman and mixing them with elements of other races, such as the Saiyans of Dragon Ball fame and creating something different, and yet still familiar with the Viltrumites in this series.
However, that’s not really the aspect of the series that drew me in and grabbed my notoriously frayed attention span. The element that really got me was how it presented the world and how they related to the Superheroes around them. In classic western comic books of a certain era, there was always this strangely selective approach to the sheer destructive capabilities of the heroes and their actions on the general public.
These heroes are so powerful and yet generally manage to somehow avoid showing the death and destruction that a battle between a pair of gods would leave in their wake. The thing that came the closest actually addressing this in recent memory for me were the events depicted in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman that followed. But even then, the damage seemed superficial, tastefully kept just off screen.
Invincible goes and does the thing those movies never wanted to do and asked the question “What if being with these powers actually existed in a more realistic world?”. It’s a question that isn’t exactly groundbreaking. I feel like the entire superhero movie genre of early 2000s were doing that very same thing. Toeing the line between the established lore and being utterly terrified of depicting the characters in any faithful way compared to the comic books.
Then we got Kick-Ass in 2010 which also posed a similar question and came much close to doing what Invincible is trying to do here, but still felt a little fantastical in how Dave managed to not die almost right away on his crusade. Mark/Invincible feels like he has a number of clear parallels to Kick-Ass, only with the added benefit of being an actual superhuman with the world’s most powerful superhero as his dad.
Save and Mark are both the same brand of clueless, except the big difference being that while Kick-Ass is clueless on a street level and just how dangerous the criminal element can be, Mark is clueless on a whole ‘nother level, having to worry about interdimensional alien invasions, the collateral damage he could very easily cause and the logistics of actually getting to where he needs to go in order to fight the bad guy.
More than once, knowing his geography turns out to be super important. It’s strange to me that these relatively mundane logistical elements of superheroism ended up being super interesting to me. Explaining how Superman knew where in the world he needed to be at a moment’s notice never occurred to me until now.
In the end, Invincible has a lot going for it. I could go on and talk about the father/son relationship between Mark and Nathan, or how it twists the idea of keeping secret identities from your partners. Maybe I will come back and have some more fully baked thoughts on the series again in the future. But for now I just want to say Invincible is great.
In a time where we are drowning in Superhero/comic book media, Invincible manages to easily carve a slice of the audience out and make itself big and flashy enough to get itself not just a second series, but a third one as well. I’ve heard a lot of people more intelligent than I say that a good piece of media is made up of a ton of great ideas, and that’s sums up Invincible perfectly.
There are so many little twists and new interpretations on the most well worn tropes of the genre that Invincible makes itself difficult to ignore even the most jaded and burnt out consumer of Superhero fiction. If you’ve got access to Amazon Prime, I’d really recommend it.
And now I’ve got that 30 days of Prime, I should probably go out and try to watch the Boys while I’m at it.