Entertainment

Amazon's Superhero Series 'Invincible' Does Not Mess Around

Beware of its colorful exterior-'Invincible,' from the creator of 'The Walking Dead,' is seriously dark.

Amazon Studios
Amazon Studios
Amazon Studios

While audiences wait for the return of the extremely violent next season of The Boys, Amazon has a new superhero show that’s heavy on gore and family drama. Invincible, the full first season of which drops soon, adapts the popular comic series of the same name by The Walking Dead author Robert Kirkman, which asks: What if Spider-Man came out today, and it was very violent? The result is a fun yet dark show about the cost of being a teenage superhero.

Invincible is not what it seems at first. Its world is cheerful like a classic Marvel comic, and it’s presented in bright and colourful animation by Skybound Entertainment, Kirkman’s production company that works on comics, video games, and TV, but there’s an edge to it that resembles the nihilistic world of The Boys. Steven Yeun voices Mark Grayson, your average teenager. He lives at home with his mom, Debbie (Sandra Oh), and his dad-Nolan, aka Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons), the show’s answer to Superman-spends too much time at his mysterious job to really pay him attention. Mark gets bullied at school, and he’s a fan of superheroes, who are very much real in this world and have¬†comics, video games, you name it, inspired in their name. Invincible even starts out as a typical superhero origin story, with Mark acquiring his powers, which basically make him invincible like his dad, learning from his dad on how to use them, and trying to keep his superhero life separate from his home life. If only it were so easy.

The three episodes available for press do a great job in making Mark feel like a relatable teenage kid who just happens to have superpowers. Like Peter Parker or Billy Batson, Mark struggles to balance his newfound powers with his regular life, like when he has to find excuses to leave a date to go save Mount Rushmore from a crazy scientist. What makes Mark different, however, is that he’s also the son of the most famous and powerful hero on the planet, so he has an added layer of responsibility and pressure to follow in his footsteps and meet impossibly high expectations. Because the first episode spends time showing us how big a fan of superheroes Mark is, we believe his excitement¬†at the idea of going out and fighting bad guys, even if it means he recklessly throws himself head-first into a battle against an army of intergalactic warriors without thinking things through.

What makes Invincible instantly stand out is the way it takes a familiar superhero story¬†heavily inspired by the tone of early Stan Lee/Steve Ditko Spider-Man, while adding a penchant for gore and grim darkness that we’ve grown used to in modern superhero stories that challenge the notion that superheroes are only bright and colorful. (Zack Snyder’s Justice League makes a similar recent case.)¬†When Mark rushes in to fight the aliens, he quickly realizes that even if he can deflect laser beams because of his powers, innocent bystanders aren’t so lucky, and they get instantly eviscerated by an alien warrior trying to kill Mark. Though the show can be interpreted as falling into the same hole as other superhero shows like The Boys or Harley Quinn in how they glorify the violence they’re preaching against, Invincible mostly avoids this by staying focused on Mark’s horrified reactions in discovering that his actions have consequences, and those consequences are far bloodier and permanent than he ever thought they’d be. Sure, heroes are glamorized and the idea of a superhero team sounds great, but the moment the fight begins, the show makes it clear that violence has repercussions. Punching a villain can give them a concussion, throwing a car against them will crush and kill them, and there is no going back.

Where The Boys tears down the idea of superheroes in general, and DC’s animated Harley Quinn series makes fun of the entire concept and knocks its teeth out with a bat, Invincible embraces superheroics, but also grounds them in realism when it comes to the physical consequence of having powers. It’s not too realistic that it takes the fun out of it, but just enough to make you think twice about cheering for The Hulk punching his way through a crowd.

This applies to the animation itself, too. The character designs look just like in the comic, while the static, limited animation resembles other superhero cartoons like¬†Young Justice or the more recent DC animated films. This can feel a bit disappointing when compared to what recent animated shows, like Castlevania or even kid-friendly shows like The Legend of Korra, do with their fluid and dynamic sequences. Still, it’s hard to compare this to Saturday morning cartoons when you see heroes crushed to bits in bloody fashion to remind you that this is a hard R-rated show.

Amazon Studios
Amazon Studios
Amazon Studios

Just like a modern superhero movie, Invincible boasts an impressive cast, which includes voice acting from the aforementioned J.K. Simmons and Sandra Oh, to Mark Hamill and Walton Goggins. In the first three episodes, the standout performance is given by Jason Mantzoukas, who plays a superpowered jerk named Rex Splode.

If you’re tired of superhero movies or shows that promise lasting consequences¬†but end up repeating a bunch of the same beats over and over, Invincible is the show for you. Even in its first three episodes, it’s already clear that Mark’s world has changed forever, and there’s no putting it back the way it was. Despite its colourful exterior, there is a darkness at the core of the show that will only increase as the rest of the episodes play out, and Mark will have a long, hard road ahead if he wants to become a true hero. Just to be perfectly clear, it bears repeating that this being an animated show doesn’t make it kid-friendly, or even a comedy. Invincible is more like the¬†character drama of a CW show, the world-building of the entire MCU, and the violence of The Boys all wrapped up in an hour-long episodes of a superhero teen drama.

Mark’s journey to becoming his own hero is just starting, and even if he goes through the same beats as someone like Peter Parker, the characters, relationships, and mix between cheerful and colourful animation and hyper-violence, make Invincible feel like a familiar yet fresh experience.

While we wait for the next season of The Boys to yell that superheroes are evil and no one should like them, Invincible does a great job arguing that there is room for a show that both embraces what makes superheroes fun, while still showing the repercussions of being able to punch through a steel wall.

Rafael Motamayor is a contributor to Thrillist.

Entertainment

Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef,¬†Cuong Nguyen¬†will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.

Victoria

Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.

Queensland

BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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