INVINCIBLE Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Alexander Wallace is invincible.
Admit it, dear reader: the chances are you found out about Invincible from internet memes. That’s not a bad thing; internet memes have been instrumental in getting lesser known things to a broader audience, and on occasion forward a good cause (like the Ice Bucket Challenge a few years back). It’s certainly how I found out about the series; a brightly animated deconstruction of the superhero media that we hold dear, and gleefully so. I, for one, loved it.

What really strikes me about the world of Invincible is how very much it is like the worlds of Marvel or DC comics. It is set in a vibrant metropolis that is beset on all sides by a bewildering variety of supernatural beings, both magical and technological. It gives a golden age feel to the whole enterprise, which makes the subversions of beloved tropes all the more shocking.

And the deconstructions are aplenty. My favorite episode of the entire series is one that directly addresses the notion that superheroes inherently preserve the status quo. It also provides a visual subversion in how bloody it is; the violence in many scenes literally made my jaw drop. There have been adult superhero films and television shows, but what makes the violence in Invincible stand out to me is how the show is brightly animated, not unlike a Saturday morning cartoon. The ‘childish’ format (as unfair as it is to say) makes the gore all the more striking, especially in a scene involving a train.
Another avenue of deconstruction is with the teenaged main character, Mark Grayson, voiced by Steven Yeun. On the surface, he appears to be a half-Korean Peter Parker who has to balance his superheroics with his school life. The school life portrayed is more accurate than many I’ve seen in the media of high school in the twenty-first century; there’s an overwhelming quality to it that media set earlier doesn’t have, but felt true to me as a high school graduate in 2015. It also doesn’t go nearly so convenient as Peter Parker’s juggling does, for there is substantially more turbulence involved; this also applies to other teenage superheroes who figure into the story. The teenage drama is a significant part of the plot, which I wasn’t a huge fan of but other people may be fine with; I’ll chalk this up to personal taste.

The standout character in the show is easily Norman Grayson, alias Omni-Man, voiced by J. K. Simmons. Simmons brings to Omni-Man a swagger that can be alternately sympathetically paternal or deeply sinister, and makes it all the more impressive in how close those two are to each other. Omni-Man is the superhero as we fear it would be: confident in his abilities and used to his status to the point his view of the rest of humanity is warped. I have seen the appeal of Superman argued to be a portrayal of a world where power is used for good; Omni-Man takes a more realistic approach to power by having power used for power’s sake.
The sum total of all the deconstructions of Invincible is an interrogation of the role of the super-powered human in broader society. By their very nature, a superhero is above the average human. Invincible, like some other works (among them The Boys), asks what is the price of having a superpowered aristocracy over a modern industrial society, and whether it is worth paying.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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