In a market increasingly filled with comic book adaptations, there truly is nothing quite like Amazon’s Invincible. Like Robert Kirkman‘s long-running comic book, the turbulent first season of Invincible took unsuspecting audiences by surprise and was almost universally well-received, something that’s just about impossible given the present climate around comic book-based media. Over two and a half years after Season 1’s debut, the first half of Season 2 is set to premiere on Amazon on Friday, November 3rd and the four episodes that comprise it are every bit as riotous, unrestrained and sublime as the hit first season.
While the savage and sanguinary nature of the superhero action depicted in the series attracts the lion’s share of attention, it’s hardly what makes Invincible great. Another Amazon superhero series, The Boys, is equally disruptive in that regard and is even more jarring in its live-action depiction of just how brutal superheroes can be when they unleash the true depths of their powers. Rather what truly sets Invincible apart and keeps it on top through the first four episodes of Season 2 is its ability to make the audience succumb to its pathos. That’s a consequence, of course, of having one of the most sympathetic and relatable main characters in the genre in Mark Grayson. As is the case with Peter Parker–a hero to whom Invincible is often compared and even teamed up with once–there’s as much time spent on Grayson’s everyday dilemmas as there is his time in the suit.
What truly makes it work is the fact that there’s so much overlap between the two. While Season 2 is absolutely loaded (almost bloated) with new plot elements, the first four episodes take place in the wake of Mark’s battle with his father, Nolan, aka Omni-Man. The revelation of Nolan’s true nature took as much, if not more, of a toll on Mark’s life as their fight did on Chicago. The sophomore season tracks Mark as he tries to re-anchor himself in his personal life while being pulled exponentially harder into the void as Earth’s savior that was created by his father’s disappearance. Gone, not forgotten and destined to return, Nolan has a major presence in the second season even before he’s seen on screen.
Further excavation and exploration of just why Invincible continues to work so well when other adaptations often fall short of expectations present an interesting possibility for other studios to consider. While it’s not a perfect one-to-one page-to-screen adaptation of the comics, Amazon’s Invincible is far more direct than any of the recent works presented by the competition. That’s almost certainly a result of having Kirkman, who created the character in 2003 and has curated him now for over two decades, deeply involved in the development of the series. While it’s not a hard and fast rule, nobody loves and understands characters quite like the people who created them. Kirkman’s role in overseeing the translation of the comic into the animated series has ensured that any changes made to the source material are in line with who the characters were intended to be. While it’s a show full of violence, gore and things you may wish you’d never seen, the love and care taken to develop, produce and present Invincible as an animated adventure gush forth in every episode.
If there’s anything to bemoan in the first part of Season 2 it’s that for as wonderful of a job as it does continuing Mark’s story and the story of the stories of the supporting cast, it also feels just a bit too busy. Interestingly enough, it’s Invincible’s coherence to comic book conventions that create that quandary. With plans for a third season already established, some of the screentime in Season 2 is spent introducing characters–I’m looking at you, Angstrom Levy–who played a role in the 144 issues of Kirkman’s comic but don’t really have much of a role in THIS season…at least so far. Truth be told, there’s no mountain to be made out of this molehill and most fans who aren’t familiar with the comics will likely forget about the characters and subplots entirely until they need to Google or rewatch episodes in order to remember.
Every bit as frenetic and enjoyable as its first season, Invincible Season 2 looks to be a can’t-miss/must-see for fans of the genre. From the animation style reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons like Inspector Gadget and Transformers to the inclusion of iconic voice talents such as Mark Hamill and Peter Cullen, ’80s kid Kirkman is having a blast bringing his comic series to the screen and it shows.