Warning: I’m going to be writing about INVINCIBLE, the animated super hero show on Amazon Prime, so consider this your SPOILER WARNING. As I write this, only four episodes have been released, but by the time this article is published, the fifth episode should be available. Mostly I’ll be writing about the first episode, but information from later episodes might be mentioned. Also, I have the benefit of having read some of the comic books upon which the show is based, so I have some possible knowledge of future events in the story. Not that the show is exactly following the comic books because there have been some changes, but for the most part the show is sticking with the plot and most of the characters from the comics.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, if you’re still with me and want to know more about the INVINCIBLE show, it’s the story of teenager Mark Grayson, the son of the world’s most powerful super hero, Omni-Man (clearly a stand-in for Superman). At the start of the show Mark does not have any super powers, but soon enough he gains such powers, being nearly as strong as his famous father. Of course Mark has to follow in the old man’s footsteps, so he takes the name Invincible, gets a costume, and heads to the skies to bring justice to the world. Along the way Mark has to face alien invasions, super villains galore, and high school. Yes, high school. Mark is still a student. And then there are the young ladies in his life. Yes, Mark is still an adolescent and has to face many of the woes most of us had to deal with at that age.
All of this might sound somewhat familiar as teenage super heroes are nothing new, originally Spider-Man probably being the most well known of this type of character. But one of the things that makes INVINCIBLE different from its predecessors is adult content. No, I’m not talking porn, so get your mind out of the gutter. INVINCIBLE has its share of mature language and violence, including some gore. Few punches are pulled here. For instance, when aliens invade, they kill people and often somewhat gruesomely. Now this isn’t THE BOYS, so don’t expect a bloodbath or complete carnage, but still, there’s more than a little violence here. The innocent suffer and even super heroes are not safe from death, let alone mutilation.
In fact, it is the death of some of the super heroes in INVINCIBLE which I want to focus on, specifically the murders of the Guardians of the Globe (sort of this world’s version of the Justice League or maybe The Avengers). The Guardians show up front and center in the first episode of INVINCIBLE, but then they are slaughtered at the very end of that episode. Yep, the world’s most powerful heroes are not only stomped flat right at the beginning of the story, but they are beyond decimated, in some cases torn limb from limb with skulls crushed.
What super villain could be powerful enough to do this? None. At least none shown. It’s not a super villain who performs this vile task. It is none other than Omni-Man himself. The world’s most powerful super hero, a figure known throughout the globe and loved by millions, goes on a rampage and slaughters the Guardians of the Globe.
Such murders cannot be kept a secret from the public, let alone the governments of the world, but Omni-Man is able to provide something of an alibi for himself. Okay, maybe not an alibi exactly, but he is able to make himself appear innocent of this awful crime.
The question then lingers: Why would Omni-Man do this?
No answer is provided. At least not yet. Having read some of the comics, I’ve a pretty good idea of why this has happened, but I won’t spoil it here. Let’s just say an answer will likely be made clear eventually, I’m guessing at the end of the first season if the story line continues at the pace it has.
Also, besides Omni-Man’s popularity, other than the scene of carnage he is shown to be a good family man, a good husband and father, who is near constantly going out of his way to save humanity from one danger or another. He shows something of compassion, of the heroic. More than that, however, at least for this story, is the fact that the main character, Mark Grayson, actually loves his father. It’s not only apparent, it’s understandable considering how great a father Omni-Man seems to be.
Which makes his attack on the Guardians all that more heartbreaking.
But why tell this story? Why take the epitome of super heroes and make him into not only a villain, but one willing to perform an atrocity. It seems somewhat counter intuitive. It even can seem destructive from a storytelling point of view. For that matter, it’s downright unheroic. Are the creators of this tale trying to show us that not all heroes are really heroes? That our heroes are not worth the attention we pay to them? Are they trying to deconstruct the super hero genre in particular and heroism in general?
I think not.
Keep in mind, the main character in this tale is not Omni-Man. It’s Mark Grayson, aka. Invincible. This story is mostly told from Mark’s point of view and is about him. He is the protagonist here.
And it is Invincible, Mark Grayson, who truly gets to shine.
It is Invincible who gets to show us that no matter how bad things get, no matter who betrays us, that an individual can still be a hero. The tale isn’t all that different from the basics of the original STAR WARS trilogy, at least early on. Omni-Man might have fallen to the dark side for reasons to be revealed later, but his son does not. Mark might or might not be able to redeem his father, but he can keep on being the best hero he can be without allowing the darkness of the world to drag him down to its level.
Heroes, especially the fictional variety, are here to set examples to the rest of us on how to act, how to be good. It’s that simple. Real-world heroes can do the same, but often that is not their goal, at least initially. But whatever type of hero, they are here to show us the way, to guide us.
That does not include trying to force others to do what one believes is right or by trying to force the world to be a better place. That is not the job of heroes, and is in its own way quite unethical. As I mentioned above, heroes are to set examples. That does not mean they are to force a morality upon us. They can try to coerce up to a certain point, admittedly, but to strong arm humanity into a particular way of thinking is not the action of the truly heroic.
Which is why Invincible is ultimately a better hero than Omni-Man, and perhaps a better hero than most if not all the other super heroes in his universe.