Right as superhero media has begun to decay more rapidly than ever due to MCU oversaturization and the last remnants of the DCEU imploding on itself, the living Lex Luthor, Jeff Bezos, and his Prime Video streaming platform have cornered the market on superhero shows of refreshing quality. All that was needed was grounded character writing that branches away from cliched trappings and gallons of over-the-top gore splattering across the screen. There's no better example of this than Robert Kirkman's "Invincible," a surprising entry in action-oriented adult animation that gripped me and just about everyone the moment the pilot ended with J.K Simmons' Omni-Man unleashing a bloodbath against his comrades, the Guardians of the Globe.
Picking up immediately after the events of Season One, Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) and his mother, Debbie (Sandra Oh), face the ramifications post Omni-Man/Nolan's murderous rampage in Chicago. In Nolan's absence, Mark and Debbie begin to drift apart. With no one to talk to about her loneliness and her husband's atrocities, Debbie resorts to drinking. Mark, however, takes up new responsibilities, righting all of Nolan's wrongs in his heroism. At the same time, he still tries to juggle time for his girlfriend Amber (Zazie Beetz), best friend William (Andrew Rannells), and super best friend Eve/Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs) right on the heels of entering college.
Wanting to prove to the world and himself that he's not as ruthless as his father, Mark goes to Global Defense Agency (G.D.A) head Cecil (Walton Goggins) and asks to return to superhero duties under his supervision. Unbeknownst to him, Mark is operating on a short leash, just in case his Viltrumite blood kicks in.
While Cecil tries to manage Mark, he also adds some new additions to his updated Guardians of the Globe roster—Rex Splode (Jason Mantzoukas), Rudy (Ross Marquand), Dupli-Kate (Malese Jow), Monster Girl (Grey Griffin, who also provide voices for five other separate characters, like the character voice acting chameleon she is)—specifically the newly revived The Immortal (Ross Marquand), who becomes the team's leader and new drama stirs between the group.
That's merely scratching the surface of the myriad of open threads in the four-episode first parter—which is the season's most significant detriment. Although it might seem like the show is going in a serialized direction, this first half of Season Two retains the surrealist and graphic tone but is utterly confident in its identity. The first season did a great job in impressive worldbuilding on a global or, I guess, interdimensional scale that balanced when and when not to take itself too seriously. Many loose subplots from Season One fight for more screen time here, resulting in episodic storytelling that needs better structure and momentum. For such a low four-episode count (with the next wave arriving in 2024), early episodes dedicate time to setting up future foes while leaving natural character progression on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, the bigger scale it expands on makes for exciting breakneck pacing—even though it continues its mean game of "let's throw the credits in the middle of the episode" endlessly.
Aside from the dart-throwing storytelling, the character writing and drama shared between whatever sector, hero or villain, is where the series lives up to its name. To its strength, Season Two seriously considers the previous events emotionally affecting the lives of its ensemble and expands on them thoughtfully. Omni-Man's destruction in Chicago broke the world and traumatized his family. It would've been cartoonish, for lack of a better word, if the writers didn't portray the shattering ramifications of it. "Invincible" strays from using its critical national event as a story device. Instead, it's a jumping-off point to explore the surviving Grayson's interpersonal relationship, the difficulties in moving on, and how the superhero world is trying to recover.
Mark has a remarkable character progression through all this. Every superhero has a great case of daddy issues, but after witnessing firsthand superhero corporal punishment, there's no question in Mark's motivation to double down on heroic missions. The angsty paranoia in not wanting to become his father is heavily felt, and the writing provides a meaningful determination for Mark wanting to do right for himself and heal.
That also applies to Debbie, who carries a heavy burden in her attempt to move on after the series of bombshells she experienced. She feels guilt about the widows and widowers Omni-Man made out of the old Guardians of the Globe and a mix of anger and sorrow from being described as "a pet" by a husband she never really knew. Whenever a B or C plot spotlights Debbie, the show's dramatic writing and superhero worldbuilding effectively fit into the show's dark, somber tone. One episode finds her attending a support group meeting for grieving spouses of deceased heroes. Sandra Oh, who can do no wrong, provides a passionate, down-to-earth voice performance.
Speaking of "punch," the gory action sequences are spectacular thanks to the significant upgrades in the series' animation quality. It takes a while before it kicks in, but when it finally does, the action sequences are as glorious as bloody animated violence can be. When focus finally comes into the fray in a Viltrumite way, the series takes serious shape and leaves you wanting far more.
Animation is such a long process and for a show with a massive scope like "Invincible," Season Two's freestyling flow doesn't justify breaking it up in half. Regardless, considering the crazy route its previous season took with its high ambitions and kill count, one can only imagine how big "Invincible" will be in Part Two. This mighty follow-up packs a wallop, proving that "Invincible" is one of the best superhero series on TV.
All four episodes of Season Two, Part One, were screened for review. New episodes of "Invincible" premieres on Prime Video on November 3rd.