Martin Carr reviews Amazon’s new adult animated superhero series Invincible…
The voice cast on this animated adaptation is outstanding. If this was live action rather than pixel and pen line drawings, some cheque books would be swung wide accommodating the cost of catering alone. Co-created by Robert Kirkman, famed for both The Walking Dead and spin-off Fear the Walking Dead, Invincible centres on high schooler Mark Grayson.
Voiced by Steven Yeun, he is typical in every sense, apart from being related to Omni-Man, leader of defence force Guardians of the Globe, a group of super humans charged with defending the inhabitants of Earth against all comers. That Cory Walker, Ryan Ottley and Robert Kirkman ground this story in a recognisable reality adds substance. Outlandish alien invasion forces, high school crushes and domestic squabbles mix with hard R-rated violence without desensitising audiences.
Rival superhero clans jockey for recognition, while glib one liners and sarcastic asides gel seamlessly with other dramatic elements. J.K. Simmons and Sandra Oh bring a believability to their two -dimensional relationship as the Graysons. Comedy is drawn as much from their everyday interactions as anything Nolan does in his role as Omni-Man.
What Invincible manages to do so successfully is keep things relatable, without once seeming to try. There are tongue in cheek moments, there are moments of abject tragedy as well as an overarching organisation looking to lever arch their way in. However, characters feel so well drawn that emotional investment is made easy. Stand outs from the first three episodes include Zachary Quinto as Robot, Zazie Beetz as Amber Bennett and Jason Mantzoukas as Rex Splode. Walton Goggins is also worth a mention as Cecil Stedman, who welds the power of authoritarian intervention when events go South early on.
This murder mystery feels like a Columbo episode in construction, as it back tracks from the point of extreme violence before broadening its character canvas. It normalises the existence of superheroes alongside other entities very quickly providing infinite possibilities going forward. Elements of the animation are heavily influenced by cinema, lending into camera angles and lighting choices. For fans of animated features this will be nothing new, while lifelong followers of Invincible should be appeased.
From the opening episode storytelling is sophisticated, considered and carried through by committed performances. Amazon have clearly given the creators free rein to bring a faithful version to life, which again is reflected in this cast list. Many of the bigger names have minimal screen time, buying in purely on the basis of their respect for its creators. Invincible is not only bold, brash and broad in scope, but has the ability to draw pathos from its smallest moments. Passion for this project will not only prove self-evident to audiences, but may yet spawn a rivalry with another Amazon show currently filming its third season.
Invincible is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from March 26th.