At the start of Amazon Prime’s animated show Invincible, Mark Grayson, a half-Korean-American and half-extraterrestrial-species guy, appears to be your typical 17-year-old superhero who’s unlocked a sudden myriad of powers and becomes too optimistic about his ability to make the world a better place. But by the end of season one, he’s endured more traumatic horrors than the average seventeen-year-old and his identity as the son of Omni-Man, Earth’s most powerful superhero, has burdened him with more guilt than he ever expected.
The first season of Invincible was a brilliant, gory subversion of the Superman trope with a compelling cast of characters and stellar performances from Steven Yeun as Mark Grayson, J. K. Simmons as Omni-Man and Sandra Oh as Mark’s mom, Debbie Grayson. Its faults mainly lay in the subpar animation throughout the bulk of the episodes, excluding the pilot and finale, but this is forgivable as the most critical twists in the narrative were established in the first and last episodes of the season anyway.
Regardless of the mediocre animation quality, the first season of Invincible is a must-watch for anyone interested in seeing the superhero genre explored through a more interpersonal lens, while also demonstrating the reality that people with extreme power have the ability to commit the most violence.
Narratively, Mark is now a jaded 18-year-old struggling with survivor’s guilt and grappling with the aftermath of a violent confrontation with his genocidal superhero father, Omni-Man, who caused brutal devastation and killed thousands. The only reason why Omni-Man abandons Earth, the planet he was assigned to conquer, is because he couldn’t go through with killing his son, but Mark is still left behind to cope with almost being beaten to death by his own father. Still holding onto some of his altruistic views, he mostly grieves the civilian lives that were lost because of his inability to stop his dad, rather than his loss of a father figure. Meanwhile, his mother, Debbie, grieves a man who never truly existed.
In season two, the animation quality has significantly ramped up. There was a sizable two-year gap
between the conclusion of season one and the start of season two, but it’s clear that time was spent fine-tuning new character designs, improving backgrounds and making movement smoother. Mark is much more visibly expressive as all the characters have gotten more shading and lines incorporated into their features, and having more perspectives in the fight scenes fully immerses the viewers in the action of the show. These design choices have made season two a better visual experience than the first.
The star-studded cast continues to impress and gives depth to each character they voice. Oh as Debbie was a standout performance. Her role in this season is more profound than in the first as she contemplates whether or not the last 20 years of her life with her husband were all a lie and she also begins to re-evaluate her identity as a wife and mother.
Yeun also gives a great performance, conveying the proper amount of stress and weariness that Mark has developed as a result of an all-consuming fear of becoming like his father.
After being beaten nearly to death by his father at the end of season one, the new episodes accurately depict the realistic responses that Mark would have after going through such a distressing event. He has flashbacks to the acts of cruelty his father enacted, and he begins to doubt his own abilities to be a good person. He wonders if he can continue to be an adequate superhero for Earth in the wake of his father’s departure.
It’s refreshing to see the psychological pains that weigh down a protagonist displayed in a genre not known for acknowledging the trauma that its characters go through. While less shocking than the first season, the first four episodes of season two of Invincible are still subversive enough that its place in the superhero genre is uniquely interesting.
Even though half of Mark’s lineage comes from a line of ruthless super-beings who act without morals, he understands that his efforts to be different from his father can be successful. He recognizes that his identity is more than just one man’s son. This realization is vital as Mark continues to stray away from his father’s legacy to shape himself into someone he wants to be.
While he has started healing from his dad’s actions, he’s only truly begun the long process. Even so, the progress he has made is authentic. It’s difficult to change for the better, and it requires an even stronger will to strive to improve in the face of adversity. The first part of season two of Invincible accurately depicts the hurdles of trying to be a better person in a universe filled with barbarity.