The superhero genre of storytelling and the comic-book literary medium, in general, have always benefited from animated adaptations as compared to other visual media forms. Be it ahead-of-its-time content like “The Fleischer Superman Movies” (1941–1943), genre-revolutionizing like “Batman: The Animated Series” (1992), or a visual masterpiece like “Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse” (2018), the animation medium has always managed to bring out the best and most faithful adaptations of costumed-superbeings. Aside from numerous adaptations by the two big franchises, lesser-known comic-book franchises like Dark Horse and Image Comics have tried their hand at animated superhero media over the years. Among those, Image Comics’ “Invincible” animated series, which premiered on Amazon Prime Video, has proven to be an amazing addition and gained a massive following since its release. We will discuss the plot progression of its first season, what makes the series great, and explain the ending in a general overview.
Source Material And Plot Progression: What Happens In ‘Invincible’ Season 1?
Created by prominent Image Comics writer Robert Kirkman and artist Cory Walker, Image Comics’ “Invincible” was first published on January 22nd, 2003, and ended its run on February 14th, 2018, with the storyline expanding through 144 issues. “Invincible” presents itself primarily as a deconstruction of traditional superheroism in a graphically violent way. The series liberally draws allusions from both DC and Marvel characters and integrates them in a somewhat subverted way.
Robert Kirkman previously created the comic series “The Walking Dead” for Image Comics, which was adapted into the successful live-action series of the same name on AMC. He also served the roles of executive producer and writer for the series and, therefore, is no stranger to adapting his comic-book content into different media forms. Along with his company Skybound Entertainment, he signed a deal with Amazon to produce an animated adaptation of “Invincible,” and the first season was released on March 25th, 2021, consisting of eight episodes. The animated series followed the comics storyline closely and took a few creative liberties to make the content more inclusive.
“Invincible” starts as a coming-of-age story for Mark Grayson, who later takes on the titular moniker. The son of Nolan Grayson, aka Omni-Man, the best and strongest superhero on the planet Earth, Mark is a regular high schooler who looks up to his father and is burdened with the usual teenage struggles. Omni-man is initially presented as an all-powerful Superman-like figure, albeit a bit more stoic. Thanks to his father’s superhuman physiology, Mark gains similar powers and learns from Nolan how to better control them. We are introduced to the peacekeeping superteam, Guardians of the Globe, a Justice League pastiche. The vibrant colour palette and simple line-drawn animation lull the audience into the assumption that the series is going to be an optimistic, lighthearted teenage superhero drama, but it soon proves to be anything but that since the series turns out to be fraught with twists and tragedies. At the end of the first episode, we find Omni-man brutally murdering the entire Guardians team for unknown reasons.
Mark joins Teen Team (sort of an amalgamation of a teenage superhero team between Teen Titans and Young Avengers) and defends Earth from invading alien species of Flaxans. A returning invasion by the Flaxans forces Nolan to join the battle. Omni-Man takes the battle to Flaxan’s dimension and decimates the planet along with almost the entirety of its population. Cecil Stedman, the head of the Global Defence Agency in charge of overseeing the security and actions of superheroes, puts a demonic detective named Damien Darkblood into the murder investigation, who quickly deduces Omni-man as the culprit. Darkblood shares his suspicions with Nolan’s wife, Debbie Grayson, who discovers Nolan’s bloodied super suit days later. She takes the suit to costume maker Art Rosenbaum, who confirms her suspicions silently.
Nolan becomes aware of the suspicion and that his family has been put under surveillance by the GDA. Cecil uses all the resources from his arsenal to stop Omni-man but fails. Finally, Nolan confronts his son, Mark, who is unaware of all of this and becomes visibly confused at the murderous rampage of his father. Nolan reveals his true identity as an enforcer of Viltrum, a planet where a ruthless code of eugenics is followed, which demands the survival of the strongest. This resulted in a super-powered, nearly invulnerable breed of Viltrumites of limited numbers, who were instructed to infiltrate foreign planets to conquer them later to create an intergalactic empire. Nolan tries to convince Mark to join him but fails to do so. Mark tries to stop Nolan, and a vicious fight ensues between them, which results in massive destruction and the loss of thousands of civilian lives. Severely injured and almost on the verge of death, Mark reminds his father of humanity’s worth and that he still has not given up on him. A remorseful, grief-stricken Nolan gains conscience and is horrified at his actions. Out of guilt and pain, he flies off of Earth, teary-eyed.
‘Invincible’ Season 1: Ending Explained
“Invincible” wraps themes of identity, humanity, absolute power, and morality in its basic plotline, setting up the conflict between father and son. Omni-man, being a near-immortal, superhumanly endowed alien, is above all human considerations. His assurance of longevity and powers has detached him from the rest of the populace so much that he considers humanity as puny, insignificant beings and his wife a pet. But then again, the series also does not portray him as a cold-blooded killer as it is implied that years of life on Earth have softened him up, and he regrets the actions he has to undertake as a Viltrumite soldier. In the end, in the guise of convincing his son to join his cause, it seems it’s he who needs convincing regarding the justifiability of his actions. Therefore, even after all the lies and beatings, when he understands that his son Mark has not given up on him, it truly breaks Nolan. Love and compassion have awakened humanity in the most vicious of creatures, like humans, and Omni-man is no exception. And what makes Mark invincible is his humanity and relatability.
The series examines the concept of identity with the leader of the teen team character, Robot, and with the Mauler twins; coincidentally, both of these parties benefit from each other’s help. Initially, Robot seems to be another asympathetic, hyper-logical, genius individual, far removed from humanity. But after he develops feelings for his teammate, Monster Girl, he is concerned about his appearance as part of his identity. He feels neither his robotic form nor the shrunken abomination of a human form is fit to appear if he wants to confess his feelings to the person he loves. We see him getting help from the Mauler twins to create a clone of another teammate (Rex Splode) and channel his consciousness into the new body. Not even going into the severe ethical part of stealing a teammate’s DNA and cloning, the fact that he considered striking a deal with the Mauler twins tells much about his desperation regarding identity. On the other hand, the Mauler twins are entangled in an identity crisis of their own. They have been cloned to resurrection and died so frequently that they no longer recognize the original self, or there might be no original self remaining anymore after all.
The series rolls out several subplots along with the main one, and neither of the subplots hampers the flow at all. In fact, in some ways, they constitute the strongest aspects of the series. Mark’s mother, Debbie, is given a strong arc in season one, in contrast to the comics, where she was initially passive. Her investigation and suspicion lead to the ultimate reveal and Nolan’s breaking point. She also keeps Mark grounded when he feels like being too much of a hotshot after gaining powers. Again, it’s Debbie’s memories and words that remind Nolan to grow some conscience and stop his rampage. Mark’s girlfriend Amber is given an active voice in criticizing Mark’s selfish or untrustworthy nature. We also find her to be a productive member of society, as she helps her community by running a soup kitchen in her spare time. Another villain, Titan, makes Mark aware of the ground reality. As a POC in an impoverished community, he was forced into his situation.
The unchecked brutality of “Invincible” may remind viewers of the live-action series “The Boys,” which is also produced by Amazon Prime Studio. But while the latter might sometimes use it as a cheap sensation and revel in cynicism, the brutality of “Invincible” is grounded in proper motives. Be it Battle-Beast’s brutality to find his equal or Viltrumite’s brutality stemming from a eugenics-hardened psyche, none of it is used merely to sell the show. It also heightens the stakes as our protagonist gets continual reminders about choices and consequences. On the one hand, it highlights the insignificance of human lives, a perspective to which Omni-man adheres; on the other hand, it weighs on the value of human lives and the code protectors adhere to, something Mark learns along the way. The series boasts a plethora of characters, but it never feels crowded, and each of the characters is given proper treatment and nuance to make their impact meaningful. For example, unlike comics, the Guardians of the Globe’s individual heroes are given enough backstory to make readers feel for them, and this makes their sudden death even more emphatic.
Lastly, an ensemble of exceptionally star-studded voice actors does justice to the characters. J K Simmons, as the initially stoic, distant, and later unhinged, emotional Omni-man, delivered one of his best voice-acting performances. Steven Yeun reflected the youthful enthusiasm and emotional turbulence of Mark Grayson perfectly. Sandra Oh’s powerful performance as Debbie Grayson packs a punch. Jon Hamm, Seth Rogen (co-producer of the series), Zazie Beetz, Mark Hamill, Ezra Miller, Mahershala Ali, and Djimon Hounsou are some of the other actors who were assigned to voice acting. A nifty little touch was added by the studio using the title cards, as it keeps getting bloodier with each episode.
What To Expect In ‘Invincible’ Season 2?
Amazon Prime’s track record of putting some trust in its content and the immense popularity the series has garnered has ensured renewal up to season three. In the first season’s finale, we find a conflicted Omni-man flying away from the Earth out of guilt, thereby abandoning his post as a Viltrumite infiltrator. Allen, the alien, has already warned Mark about the possibility of a full-scale Viltrumite invasion. Last season showed a Martian entering Earth by using disguise, and Flaxans are already plotting revenge against the Earth. Kirkman himself has teased the appearance of Angstrom Levy, a long-time opposition of Mark, in season two. The first season depicted the story of the comic series’ first twenty issues; similar progression is expected in upcoming seasons.