Robert Kirkman is best known for The Walking Dead series, but he also should be known for writing Invincible. Published in 2003, Invincible was his first original superhero comic.
Marvel might be the most popular comic book universe in terms of movies and animated series. Of course, they’re closely followed by DC. Although, many might claim DC is better. It all depends on your specific taste in comics. Yet there are other superhero universes, too. For example, have you heard of the Image Universe? Invincible takes place there.
After being published in over 144 issues, Invincible eventually managed to get its very own animated series on Amazon Prime Video in 2021. It received critical acclaim for its amazing writing and all-star cast. Let’s dive into the best parts of this story.
**WARNING** There will be spoilers here. We’ll also warn that this story is about as dark as it gets for superheroes.
Who Is Invincible?
Mark Grayson is the son of Nolan and Debbie Grayson, and he lives a pretty decent and well-provided life. However, Mark’s family is not all who they seem to be. Nolan is actually Omni-Man, the most powerful being on the planet. He and the Guardians of the Globe fight against mutants, aliens, and evil superbeings to keep the world safe
Mark lives most of his life looking up to his father. When he was young, Mark also finds out he was half Viltrumite, powerful beings with superhuman abilities that kept the universe safe. Still, he’s never had powers of his own…until his 17th birthday. That day, Mark ends up gaining powers he never thought he’d have.
With the help of his father and some pointers from other smaller superheroes, Mark decides to take up the family business. He plans to become the next defender of Earth. With his costume made and ready for wearing, Mark becomes quite literally “Invincible.”
Not What Invincible Expected
Invincible explores our hero’s life. Mark starts off thinking defending earth will be just like in the comics. Just beat up the bad guys a few times till they give up, get praise, rinse, repeat. Alas, he finds out this is not the case.
For example, during an invasion of aliens called Flaxians, he realizes how people can die so easily. Not even a superhero can keep people from dying all the time.
Even with the help of the Teen Team (a group of teenage superheroes) and his father, Mark starts to second-guess himself. Is he really the right person for the job? This exact question ends up becoming the main focus of the series. Mark struggles to not only balance his personal life with his hero life but also questions if what he’s doing is enough.
Mark’s father constantly pressures him to give up his old life for his new one. It’s not that easy, though. Mark gets together with his girlfriend, Amber, and really wants to have a normal high school life as much as possible. He likes being a teen, and he likes saving the world.
Mark struggles with this conflict because he wants to be a good hero as well as a good friend and boyfriend. He just doesn’t know how to bring both worlds together and make it work.
Invincible’s Side Characters: Not As Small
Earth has many superheroes besides Omni-Man and Invincible. Many of them have their own unique personalities and get character development. Some of the standouts are the Teen Team, a bunch of teenagers who often bicker back and forth at each other. Their personalities all contrast.
Robot is the more logical of the group, while Atom Eve is much more compassionate.
Things get hairy for the Teen Team when Eve’s boyfriend, Rex Splode, ends up cheating on her. From there, Eve decides to go solo and try to save the world in a different way. She ends up becoming Mark’s newest friend and even a mentor in a way. The superhero life can be lonely and doesn’t ensure a happy ending in Invincible.
Hence, her mentorship is pretty important for Mark!
Even non-hero characters like Mark’s mother, Debbie, are pretty interesting in that she’s a normal woman trying to raise a superhero son. Imagine that conflict! Mark’s school friends, William and Amber, also have interesting development and act as something like Mark’s anchor to reality.
Invincible: Bad Guys Have a Heart Too
Aside from the good guys, there are some villains who get some real character arcs too. As it turns out, not everyone that Invincible fights are pure cackling evil. This provides Mark with some interesting internal conflict.
During Mark’s first outing as a hero, he runs into a criminal named Titan. Like many henchman-like characters, Titan does the dirty work for his boss, Machine Head. However, he is only doing it to pay off the debt. Sounds like a typical greedy villain, right? Not so fast.
Titan isn’t after money for himself, but rather for his daughter and wife who live in really poor conditions. Titan reminds Invincible that not everyone gets the help they need from the heroes that supposedly save the world. This opens Mark’s eyes that there will always be someone who needs help.
Plus, these people might not look like your typical person who needs saving.
Turns out the government gets suspicious when super beings are in the mix of day-to-day life. That’s where Cecil Stedman and the Global Defense Agency come in. They are the ones who keep tabs on all the supernatural and cosmic oddities that go on in and around Earth.
Omni-Man has never been able to get along with them. He’s not a fan of taking orders from Cecil. Since the Global Defense Agency only has authority, not superpowers, there are limits to how much they can enforce their authority.
After the Guardians of the Globe are found dead with only Omni-Man as the sole survivor, Cecil ends up becoming a more frequent character.
He tries his best to not only protect the Guardians, but also the people who the heroes can’t save. Cecil also is determined to get to the bottom of who killed the Guardians. Even though, by his actions, Cecil can’t really be called a “good person,” his motives are in the right place.
He wants to trust Mark to become the hero that the world needs, and bring justice to it all.
Omni-Man Is No Superman
Later in the series, we find out that Omni-Man isn’t exactly the clean-cut hero he’s made himself out to be. He’s kinda the opposite, in fact. Omni-Man is actually rather bloodthirsty and lacks any sort of moral compass. His plans for Mark after Mark gets his powers? Not exactly pure.
Omni-Man turns out to be the killer of the Guardians of the Globe and has been putting this charade of being a great hero in front of everyone. His plans were never to bring peace to Earth, but instead to conquer it. He hopes Mark will join him and bring Earth to the Viltrumite Empire
Omni-Man only played the role of a caring father and a good man to lower everyone’s guard. He sees the human race as inferior and even calls his own wife, Debbie, his pet. As you could imagine, this doesn’t end well for Mark.
A Hero Losing a Final Fight?
Normally you won’t see too many superheroes actually losing a fight in comic series. Toward the end, Invincible takes this exact turn that no one would expect to come into a superhero story. Mark losing to his father is hard to watch, but also important for the story.
At any time, Omni-Man could have killed Mark if he wanted to. During the whole fight, he wants to show Mark how weak humans are. Despite all of the betrayal, Mark refuses to give in. He still cares for his mother, for all of his friends, and is willing to go all out in order to save at least one person.
After the fight, Omni-Man leaves Earth crying. Mark lies in a coma, and when he wakes up, his whole life is upside down. This gives Mark time to really reflect on what kind of person he wants to be.
How Does Invincible Stack Up?
How does Invincible stack up against other superhero deconstructions?
Like most superhero stories, Invincible includes many callbacks to classic DC Comics and Marvel heroes. However, it doesn’t do this in a grim or even unlikable way like The Boys attempted. It may have dark moments with someone dying or even heroes being unlikeable, yet it is never as hopeless as Watchmen.
A key difference is that The Boys feels like it exists to make fun of heroes or to tear the genre down. Hence, it shows them as corporate mascots and cruel people. On the other hand, Invincible maintains the thematic spirit of many a comic book superhero: a teenage boy grows up faster than he anticipated.
Even though Invincible ends on bittersweet notes, nothing appears hopeless.
In DC’s Watchmen, there are a lot of bleak and rather depressing moments that really made superheroes seem like their burdens were simply too great to bear. Woe unto them.
Invincible clings to that bit of hope. Mark recovers from his attack and maintains his desire to save others. The story ends with Mark still hopeful for the future with his friends and even still thinking about finishing high school.
What Is Invincible’s Future?
Invincible has only eight episodes in its first season. The second season of the show came out recently. Much of the cast returned. There are also rumors of a live-action adaptation in the works, reportedly with Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg as the writers.
If some aren’t that patient to wait, the comics are the next best thing. Invincible spans over 144 issues, including crossovers with none other than Marvel.