Invincible season 2, part 1 review: A slow, compelling burn

Invincible season 2
Invincible season 2
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Invincible season 2

Good news: Invincible is finally back. Bad news: Season two is split into two halves, with Prime Video releasing the first four episodes starting November 3, while the back half of the episodes are set to debut next year. Fortunately, Invincible’s new episodes are a thrilling slow burn, and while the latest installments of the animated superhero drama aren’t flawless (and are leisurely paced), they still have plenty of heart and action.

The second season plunges us into the multiverse, currently an overexposed move thanks to Marvel and DC. In Invincible’s case, however, the show takes time to flesh out its gigantic scope, giving audiences only bits and pieces to chew on for now. Series creator Robert Kirkman, who wrote the comics that inspired this adaptation, does a nice job of mapping out the storytelling structure, which allows the characters and their emotional arcs to develop slowly but richly. This is especially important after the brutal cliffhanger in the season-one finale: Nolan Grayson, a.k.a. Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons), beating his teenage son Mark, a.k.a. Invincible (Steven Yeun), to a pulp while murdering thousands of civilians.

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Of course, the show’s crux lies in Mark’s increasingly fractured bond with his father. Mark spent all of season one hoping he would turn into a hero just like Nolan—and now that’s his biggest fear. What if he turns out to be an evil conqueror like the rest of the Viltrumites? The question leads him to make hasty choices, but Invincible reminds us often that he’s just a teen who suffered a major gut punch. His coming-of-age identity crisis fuels the season as he struggles with it, especially once Omni-Man finds his way back into Mark’s life.

The complex Grayson family dynamics shape Invincible and make it grounded, but we’re still talking about all-out animated superhero fare here. So the visuals remain colorfully vivid, as does the action. Mark faces antagonists in the form of the Mauler Twins (Kevin Michael Richardson), but season two also introduces a new Big Bad in Angstrom Levy (Sterling K. Brown). He’s got the power to open portals to different worlds—and thus the multiverse beckons. And Invincible’s writers smartly switch up some of the comics’ stories, so readers can be equally surprised.

The first half of Invincible’s second season hones in on Mark and Debbie as opposed to the rest of the characters. There’s barely any Cecil Stedman (Walton Goggins), and that’s never a good thing, is it? Other heroes get scattered narratives, like Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), who suffers her own unique form of identity crisis when she’s uncertain of how to use her powers for good. That storyline feels lackluster after Atom Eve got her own pretty great special earlier this year. Don’t expect to see much of Teen Team or the new Guardians of the Globe in these episodes, either.

Instead, the show introduces several new voice actors, including Tatiana Maslany, Ben Schwartz, and Rhea Seehorn. They sadly don’t get the space to evolve their performance or personalities here—but there are just enough nuggets to set up meatier storylines in season two’s back half. That said, look out for a beautifully executed Allen the Alien (Seth Rogen) subplot in episode three.

But the thrills are still there. Invincible, as always, makes fantastic use of its animation. Take, for example, that big fight scene in episode four that feels like pages of a comic book coming spectacularly to life, with spikes of pink and purple hues. And while these episodes feel noticeably unhurried, it’s nevertheless impressively meditative, preparing us for the next giant step in Invincible’s future.

Invincible season 2 premieres November 3 on Prime Video

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