"'Invincible' fills in the gap for an adult take on the Saturday morning cartoon format". twitter.com/mpmadnesspod

As far as most people are concerned, Amazon Prime has two shows truly worth watching on it: Good Omens and The Boys. And, it seems with the release of Invincible, they know it too. One of the great appeals of The Boys TV show is how it satirises the MCU’s interconnected, live-action superhero world, and much like how the comic book of The Boys deconstructs the multiple runs, plot lines and series in the medium of print, Invincible fills in the gap for an adult take on the Saturday morning cartoon format — but how does it stack up?

“The meshing between the grittiness and cliche is, for the most part, excellent”

Well, I’ll not beat around the bush. Invincible is pretty good. The cast is pretty star-studded, with the likes of Steven Yuen, J.K. Simmons and Sandra Oh as central cast members and Mark Hamill, Seth Rogen and Zachary Quinto in supporting roles, and they all do a good job at walking the line between fitting that cartoon-aesthetic stereotype and being an actual character. This sense of nostalgia — the episodic, villain-of-the-week, power-learning episodes — is truly the core of the series — at least, at first. When it’s setting up future villains, playing within the format, it’s a joy to watch, helped of course by just how likeable Steven Yuen is in the show. The meshing between the grittiness and cliche is, for the most part, excellent here. Yes, the format means individually weaker episodes feel the worse for it —episode six stands out for me here — but in many ways, it’s a highly watchable Saturday-morning cartoon for adults.

"This sense of nostalgia... is truly the core of the series". twitter.com/stephsketches

While avoiding spoilers, it’s hard to talk about Invincible without addressing the elephant in the room, namely the sudden change in tone towards the end of episode one. This is the point where the show goes from the sort of thing to air on CITV on a Saturday to Amazon Prime 18+ rated, and is the source of both the best and worst parts of the show. On one hand, the grittiness gives rise to some of the show’s best moments, especially the battles from episode three onwards, representing very well that “serial for adults” idea the show is reaching for. On the other, while the first use of this clash is perfectly jarring, snapping your attention onto the show, later uses sometimes fail to make enough of a distinction between the cartoonish and the violent elements in the same way this scene does; the violence is quickly blended into the cartoon aesthetic, reducing its impact as a result. While this isn’t always a problem, by the final episode, some of the most violent scenes fail to have the brutality, scope or sense of horror the earlier ones do — the two sides reconcile with one another, but lose their edge in the process. In a sense, the show feels like it is setting up a deconstruction of the comic book cartoon genre in the opening episode, but instead slowly establishes a highly typical one — if far more adult. The violence becomes a part of the show’s conventional format rather than a way of separating it from reality — by no means a bad thing, simply a direction the show implies but never follows through on.

“...the violence is quickly blended into the cartoon aesthetic, reducing its impact as a result.”

Animation-wise the show hones in on the 2D cartoon-aesthetic with ease, matching its inspirations perfectly in the lighter moments, but amping up the shadows and shading when required to do so. Invincible is quite effective at using these tricks — early on, it’s made clear that Omni-Man can essentially ‘push off the air’ in order to fly, meaning his movements are almost entirely weightless, which in turn, when he needs to show more powerful movements, is subtly swapped out for the Cavill-sequel Superman shockwaves as he flies — you almost don’t notice it, but depending on the tone of the scene, the characters move more passively, floating away quickly, or powerfully, bursting off the ground with a shockwave around them. Again, like the merging of tones, sometimes the weight of the battles can feel too light, but for the most part it fits exactly what the show is going for.


Mountain View

#850029 Review Take 2: Zack Snyder's Justice League

In the end, Invincible is a good watch, but only if you’d be interested in what I’ve described. Sure, the execution isn’t flawless, but in terms of what it’s trying to do, it really is a Saturday morning cartoon for adults. I’m almost tempted to say it would work better if it were a 15 rating, placing it alongside Deadpool rather than The Boys — but I won’t. Really, it’s an effective nostalgia-piece if you want to see what The Boys would be like as a cartoon — to compare the two beyond the concept might be reductive to both, ignoring what makes each one enjoyable. I’d like more introspection in the show — the disconnect invites it — but that’s not what this show is. And for what it is, Invincible is good fun.