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INVINCIBLE 1×01 “It’s About Time” Review

Neil calls the first episode of Amazon Prime Video’s INVINCIBLE “the perfect opening gambit” for the series. Read his review…

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Invincible (Amazon Prime Video)

Invincible streams new episodes weekly on Amazon Prime Video. Episodes 1-3 debut on March 26, 2021 with the remaining 5 episodes debuting each Friday through April 30.

Synopsis

When Mark Grayson finally inherits powers from his superhero father, it’s a dream come true. But there’s more to being a hero than just choosing a name and costume.

Review

Superhero origins are rarely depicted like they are in Invincible. Adapted from the Image Comics series by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley, Invincible deconstructs the superhero genre in the same way The Walk Dead does for zombie horror. Expectations are decimated left, right and centre but only after setting up what feels like a familiar story.

“It’s About Time” is a stroke of storytelling genius. Written by Kirkman the episode sets up a very familiar comic book world. It’s populated by heroes who feel only a half-step away from those seen in the pages of DC and Marvel Comics. Powers are straight forward. The battle of good versus evil is equally straight forward. With the basics setup via a battle at the Whitehouse we’re quickly introduced to Mark (Steven Yeun), the son of Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). Omni-Man is this world’s Superman. Instantly the pieces fall in to place.

Mark is on a journey to discovering his heritage and his powers. Fans of the comic will instantly recognise Omni-Man’s backstory. It’s transposed directly from the source material and remains entirely intact. Omni-Man is from the planet Viltrumite, a planet where humanoids have incredible powers. He was sent to Earth to be its protector. On Earth he married Debbie (Sandra Oh) and the two had a son, Mark, who is half-human and half-Viltrumite.

Already the viewer is feeling completely secure with the story. Comfortably familiar and concisely written, the comic translates to the screen brilliantly. In fact for much of the episode I felt like I was watching Young Justice. The show feels, for the most part, pitched not at children but at a tween/teen audience. The action isn’t too violent, the language doesn’t push barriers and the sense of adventure is pitch perfect.

But this is Robert Kirkman and fans of the comic know that something is coming. I’m not going to spoil the last five minutes of the episode but in an instant Invincible shows its true colours. The cliffhanger ending will feel totally out of left field to the uninitiated. But what it does is illustrate that any preconceived ideas about the show are misplaced. It’s original, it’s edgy and it’s not afraid to take risks. It’s also certainly not for children!

Clocking in at over forty-five minutes Invincible is certainly long for an animated series. The plot flows naturally here and hits all the expected beats. There’s high school drama for Mark. A brief flashback to learning his heritage. Most importantly we see the moment his powers first manifest and explore how that impacts his life. There’s serious care and attention to the finer details in the story. Despite having no powers, Mark’s relationship with his mother is integral to the plot. Sandra Oh plays maternal incredibly well which comes as a shock to this Grey’s Anatomy fan. She is clearly his anchor to humanity which will make her important as the plot develops.

How Invincible’s costume is developed is also given a similar level of reverence within the plot. Kirkman’s ideology for approaching story from a human aspect, rather than being lost in the action, remains a major strength in his writing.

The animation style reflect the familiarity of the story. Much like the comic book, Invincible feels perfectly placed in the superhero genre. Visuals are not overly complex. Likewise they’re not too simple to get lost in the fictional world.

Verdict

“It’s About Time” is the perfect opening gambit for Invincible. Lulling the audience in to a false sense of comic book origin security before ripping off the band-aid.

Invincible is produced by Skybound and executive produced by Kirkman, Simon Racioppa, David Alpert (The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead), Catherine Winder (The Angry Birds Movie, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) with Supervising Directors Justin Allen & Chris Copeland (Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man), and Linda Lamontagne serving as casting director.Invincible, Kirkman’s second-longest comic-book series, concluded in February 2018 after a 15-year run.


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