The arrival of the first half of the second season of Invincible is worth the wait. After two years, the adult animated superhero series returns on Prime Video with a newfound swagger. Like its superpowered protagonist, Mark (the consistently remarkable Steven Yeun), the second season sheds its awkward teen phase and transforms into something more refined. The series still has a few kinks to work out as it continues to overload its episodes, which clocks in at 45 minutes each, with too many characters and storylines.
However, Season 2 is a vast improvement thanks partly to its high production values and, most notably, its exploration of how one man’s monstrous deeds can create a devastating domino effect. If anything, the new season proves that quality matters more than quantity.
In the previous season of Invincible, Mark discovers that his father, the world’s greatest alien superhero, Omni-Man, aka Nolan (J.K. Simmons), is a monster. Instead of coming to Earth to protect it from threats big and small, Nolan’s mission is to help his people, the imperialists known as the Viltrumites, to colonize it. Although Mark stops the hero-turned-colonizer from delivering mass mayhem on his home planet, his father’s actions come with a high cost. In the second season, Mark attempts to pick up the pieces of his shattered life while, at the same time, cleaning up the mess Omni-Man made before leaving Earth. Although many people are grateful that Mark prevented a worldwide catastrophe, others believe he will betray them like Omni-Man.
Mark is not the only young adult going through major growing pains. The new iteration of The Guardians of the Globe, think Justice League but run by the United States government, struggles to gel as a group, so Cecil (Walton Goggins), the director of a secret organization that monitors threats against Earth, hires a pair of experienced superheroes to get the group in shape. Though Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), an extremely powerful teenager, emancipates herself from The Guardians and her parents, she slowly realizes she cannot save everyone alone. Meanwhile, Mark’s mother, Debbie (Sandra Oh), tries to keep it together after the fallout from her 20-year marriage with Omni-Man.
If there is one thing Invincible Season 2 excels at, it is its depiction of how imperialism, and its play cousin colonization, can create long-lasting damage. The adult animated series explores this theme through Mark’s toxic relationship with his father. As a half-alien superpowered teen, Mark may be the only person capable of stopping Omni-Man, and by extension, the Viltrumites, from evading his home. Yet, folks like Cecil and the multi-generation old superhero The Immortal (Ross Marquand) distrust Mark because he is Omni-man’s son. To a certain extent, the anger, resentment, and wariness some characters feel towards Mark makes sense, as many lost loved ones in Season 1. Still, it is a tragedy that they are misdirecting their rage at a biracial Asian-American instead of at his white supremacist father.
Despite the unfortunate turn in events, the writers nicely capture Mark’s growth as a superhero in Invincible Season 2. The young man is more confident, can survive brutal battles against villains like the dastardly but brilliant Mauler Twins (Kevin Michael Richardson), and is even honest with his girlfriend Amber (Zazie Beetz) about his extracurricular activities. Nevertheless, like many adolescents his age, he still has much to learn. Mark may have good intentions, but the kindhearted dolt continues to make rash decisions that cause more harm than good. Take, for example, Mark’s abrupt exit to outer space in the third episode. Instead of taking a beat like Cecil suggests, the young man takes off after an alien pleads with him to save their people from annihilation. Tragically, for Mark, his actions put him in a dire situation.
As much as it is entertaining to watch Mark face his dilemmas head-on, this season of Invincible has the potential to overwhelm its audiences with an abundance of storylines and characters. The adult animated series does a remarkable job creating engaging side characters, like the Mauler Twins, but it may benefit the viewers more if the writers focus on a few core cast members. For instance, the interpersonal conflicts and romantic dalliances within the new iteration of The Guardians have merit since this story arc emphasizes the series theme that heroes are just like us normies. However, some storylines do not get enough screen time, such as this season’s new big bad, Angstrom (Sterling K. Brown), a scientist who can travel between multiverses.
Thankfully, the second season of Invincible makes up for its lengthy runtime with high production values. The adult animated series is flexing its budget this season as it threads well-known songs, such as “Karma Police” by Radiohead and “Olympus” by Blondshell, throughout its beautifully crafted animated sequences. Speaking of the excellent animation, the production companies behind the show’s Saturday morning cartoons-inspired designs and animations are from Skybound North and various international houses, including Maven Image Platform Studios in South Korea. Thanks to this collaboration, the attention to detail, from the superhero costumes to the backgrounds, is lightyears ahead of its adult animation counterparts.
Waiting for your favorite television show to return with a new season is difficult, especially if it takes two years. However, one can easily argue that the first half of the second season of Invincible is worth it. With its high production values and excellent depiction of heady social issues through the lens of a broken father/son relationship, you do not want to miss this skillfully crafted adult animated series.
New episodes of Invincible drop every Friday on Prime Video.
Featured image courtesy of Prime Video