You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

‘Invincible’ on Amazon Prime Video is 2021's best superhero show. Because it's not by Marvel.

SF Gate logo SF Gate 5/1/2021 Dan Gentile

Invincible is a word that gets tossed around a lot with superheroes, but there’s almost always a catch. The Man of Steel has his kryptonite, Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit is near indestructible but his heart is not, and Deadpool’s jokes are certainly far from bulletproof. 

In Amazon Prime’s new animated superhero show “Invincible,” the adjective is adopted as a moniker by Mark Grayson (voiced by Steven Yeun of "Minari"), as his powers begin to bloom in high school. The son of also-invincible superhero Omni-Man, Grayson has no physical weakness, except for the age-old trope of an inability to show up on time for dates with his girlfriend. When the world’s marquee team of heroes known as the Guardians of the Globe are mysteriously murdered, Invincible is forced to tackle enemies beyond his pay grade, while a new team of Guardians grapples with internal squabbles and the question of who killed their predecessors.

“Invincible” definitely has more blood, sex and cursing than your average neighborhood Spider-Man. It’s essentially an animated cousin of Amazon’s satire “The Boys,” but still far classier than gross-out adult cartoons like “Big Mouth” or “Hoops.” This show is more akin to a grown-up version of the original “X-Men” animated series from the '90s. It’s created for adults, but still has a child-like streak that’s been missing in comic franchises that have transformed into glossy cinematic universes.  


Video: Without Remorse - Official Trailer Prime Video (Newsweek)

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

As superheroes have taken over entertainment in the past decade, it’s almost impossible not to know the starting line-up of the Justice League. Although some true believers might know Rex Splode and Doc Seismic, most people won't, because “Invincible” is based on characters created by Image Comics, the third-largest publisher behind Marvel and DC. The company was founded by a rogue’s gallery of former Marvel comic artists, the most well-known name being Todd McFarlane, who worked on “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Spawn.”

So if you’re not an Image reader, you are in for a surprise just about every five minutes. Although the show does explore the back stories of a few characters, what makes “Invincible” so enjoyable to watch is that it has mastered the art of showing-not-telling. Battles are typically massive Royal Rumble-style affairs where dozens of heroes take turns flexing their powers. You don’t need to know their weaknesses or catchphrases, just that a litigation-worthy resemblance to the Hulk just crushed a Martian, then morphed into an adolescent girl named … Monster Girl. Sometimes you just want to watch a machine-headed villain (named Machine Head) run a criminal empire by predicting the future, with no backstory required. 

And it’s even more fun to watch thanks to the voice talent, which includes a long list of celebs like Sandra Oh, J.K. Simmons, Mark Hamill, Mahershala Ali, Jon Hamm, Seth Rogen and Reginald VelJohnson.

Every episode ends with a surprise reveal or role reversal of hero to villain, so forgive the light plot details. But “Invincible” is basically everything I’ve been wanting from a superhero story recently. Marvel may be virtuosic at bending every genre to the will of their intellectual property, but it’s at the expense of the playfulness that their empire was built upon.

“Invincible” brings me back to the feeling of seeing the Horsemen of Apocalypse stroll into the “X-Men” animated series for the first time and wonder what powers they have under their belts, a sense of delight at learning the boundlessness and boundaries of costumed heroes, even if they do turn out to be invincible.

AdChoices

MORE FROM SF Gate

AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon