Invincible season 2 review: Shaky start but worth the wait
It's been a long wait for Invincible fans - but season 2 is almost here.
Thankfully, the excellent standalone Atom Eve episode, which debuted earlier in July, helped tide us over after that incredible cliffhanger.
For a seemingly run of the mill animated superhero outing which hit all of the well-worn coming-of-age story beats, Invincible ended with an extremely shocking reveal and an ultra-violent climax which rivalled the streaming service's other flagship series, The Boys.
And yet, the deeply emotional tale at the heart of the galactic narrative helped carve its own corner of the crowded superhero scene.
Thankfully, the second instalment hits just as hard as the first, with a greater emphasis on the lingering threat from the tyrannical and all conquering Viltrumite empire and their intergalactic conflict with the Coalition of Planets.
Season 2 plunges viewers right back into the blood-drenched action, as high school senior and titular hero Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) and his mother Debbie (Sandra Oh) attempt to deal with the fallout of betrayal from Mark’s father, Nolan (JK Simmons), aka Omni-Man, and the destructive path he left in his wake in the battle with his son.
The second instalment is definitively Mark’s story, delving into the psyche of the heartbroken teen as he questions his legacy and faces the fear of becoming his father.
As Cecil quite rightly tells Mark, "You went through an emotional tumble dryer and I need to know whether your head has stopped spinning."
Throughout the season, he repeatedly tells himself and others he isn’t his father, and yet events in these episodes tease a potential darker path for the teen.
Kirkman also cleverly sets up major new antagonist Angstrom Levy (Sterling K Brown), a key player whose tragic downfall is tied directly with Mark and his attempts to make amends for his indirect onslaught in Chicago.
Levy, a brilliant scientist, brings the concept of the multiverse to the Invincible world due to his portal jumping powers. While we’ve experienced plenty of multiversal shenanigans recently in both Marvel and DC outings, Kirkman somehow utilises this device in a refreshing way.
The show does take its time to get going, with slower pacing and a more chaotic narrative bogged down by the sheer amount of new characters introduced to the already enormous ensemble.
There’s certainly plenty of juggling taking place - along with a conflicting tone between the dramatic weight and wise cracking comedy - unfortunately detracting from the intriguing overarching narrative.
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Along with Mark graduating, moving to university and taking things to the next level with his girlfriend Amber (Zazie Beetz), there’s plenty of shifting dynamics and blossoming relationships within the new look Guardians of the Globe, along with greater character development for Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs).
Debbie is also afforded more focus than her comic book counterpart as she grapples with Nolan’s actions.
However, the season hits its stride in the later episodes, especially when fan favourite Allen the Alien (Seth Rogen) returns in his Allen-centric tale This Missive, This Machination!, pulling directly from Invincible volume 1 issue #23.
This intergalactic outing will certainly delight fans of the comic book, setting things up for the thrilling and epic events to come. There’s also plenty of twists and turns, new revelations and bonkers additions to the rogue gallery to look forward to.
Meanwhile, the hand-drawn 2D animation from Wind Sun Sky Entertainment continues to balance nostalgic charm with blood-drenched and bone-breaking smackdowns, pushing the boundaries with the ultraviolence. Following that train collision in season one’s climactic all-out physical assault, there are plenty more superhero showdowns to revel in.
The animation shines when bringing the many alternate realms, alien planets and conflicts to life, helping to keep the show distinctive in the current superhero-saturated landscape.
Highlights include a fun trip underwater with an incredibly cute creature which rivals Star Trek: Lower Deck’s Moopsy, visits to thrilling new planets and an amusing encounter with Seance Dog all to look forward to.
The signature title cards also make a fun return with a brand new look, swapping the increasingly bloodstained yellow text on the light blue for a black on darker blue background, hinting at the introduction of Mark’s second costume.
Allen the Alien is even afforded his own unique title card, complete with an introduction by an amusing golden-age inspired narrator voiceover from Paul F Tompkins.
Furthermore, the second season continues the on point musical accompaniments with key dramatic moments perfectly soundtracked to Radiohead’s Karma Police, Leonard Cohen’s Avalanche and Blondshell’s Olympus.
Following a shaky start, Invincible season 2 quickly finds its footing balancing poignant character-centric storytelling with a greater focus on the all-encompassing threat of the intergalactic planetary conquerors, the Viltrumites.
Buckle up for more brutal showdowns, outlandish aliens and an incredibly complicated family dynamic!
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