The Walking Dead creator, Robert Kirkman, ended his superhero story, Invincible, in 2017 after 144 issues. As Invincible gathered massive critical and consumer acclaim and as superhero properties have become ubiquitous, a movie or series seemed overdue. But animated projects take longer. It’s the nature of the beast. It takes a few seconds to film a tiny bit but hours to animate that well. It is also the nature of the beast that some things are worth the wait.
Executive producer Seth Rogen also lends his voice to a cast that is dizzying in its scope. In addition to Steven Yuen as the eponymous hero, the cast includes no less than half a dozen other Walking Dead alum. Voice acting royalty like Kevin Michael Richardson (Lilo & Stitch), Grey Griffin (DeLisle) (Avatar: The Last Airbender), Clancy Brown (Highlander), and Mark Hamill (Star Wars) share the mic booth with Emmy, Tony, and Oscar winners.
This is the story of Mark Grayson (Steven Yuen, Minari) and his typical/atypical coming-of-age. Mark is a good kid with a few friends, a part-time job, a bit of a crush on one of his classmates (voiced by Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz,) a bully problem, and loving parents in a stable home life. Stable isn’t the same as “normal,” though. His mom (Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh) is a realtor, but his dad (JK Simmons completing the trifecta of Marvel, DC, and Image roles) is Omni-Man, an alien from another galaxy and the most powerful superhero on Earth. Mark has had the knowledge and anticipation since he was 8-years-old that he, too, would develop superpowers someday.
Once Mark first gains his powers, he’s mature in their use and focused on their development. The school bully beats on him until exhaustion with no reaction. His mother has to scold him for practicing flight until it affects his sleep patterns. He has to have a heart-to-heart with his father about property damage and self-awareness. Once he starts to gain confidence and proficiency, he chooses a costume and the name “Invincible” and starts learning the trade. He copes with success and failure and even makes friends in the superhero community… a community with a lot more going on than anyone suspects.
As you might imagine, Robert Kirkman does not do kiddie fare. Throughout Invincible’s 14-year run, Mark Grayson, like Spider-man before him, became the hero that readers grew up with and alongside as his aging in real-time allowed him to face adulthood and adult situations. We should be prepared for this as the series progresses but also confident that they will be handled well.
Also “adult” is the realistic but graphic depictions of violence and trauma. My long-suffering wife isn’t a big animation fan but was thoroughly endeared by the first episode. She is also a 20-year veteran of emergency services who has literally held people’s insides with her hands and [partial spoiler] audibly gasped multiple times during a particular point in the story. She told me that she was not expecting anything like that.
But she also told me that she was good for more episodes.