Each Saturday, Kevin from @tastienfilm_bad will be recapping the most recent episode(s) of Invincible and giving us insight into the comics on which the show is based.
103: Who You Calling Ugly?
Hoping/Praying that you aren’t getting sick of these recaps already! This is the last of the three that Amazon dropped last Friday. Moving forward you will hear from me more regularly on Saturdays. This episode seems to be a good indication of what the series will look like moving forward. Now that the exposition dump is out of the way, we can spend a bit more time with the team.
What does that look like you say? I think we can expect more focus on character and relationship development like we saw here, plus a mix of long running plotlines (who murdered the Guardians?) and episode specific plots (Doc Seismic in this case, though that’s probably not that last we heard of him) to give the show a sense of pace and outlook. Let’s jump in to the recap.
Recap (Show-Level Spoilers)
We open on a memorial service for the Guardians of the Globe. It’s a preformative affair more for the public’s grief than any of the superheroes that knew the victims. There’s a flyover, and lots of tokens of respect and honor left by the city’s citizens. But it’s quickly on to the second, secret funeral for the families of the late heroes. Invincible adheres to the very firm rule in Hollywood that funerals should be held in the rain. If it isn’t raining at a funeral, how can you show that people are sad? Anway, it’s raining here, and we see that Damien Darkblook is still on the case. He puts the heat on Nolan just a little bit and we see how itchy and uncomfortable all this lying is making him. As Joan Didion once said, “the center will not hold.” Oh yeah, you’re getting Joan Didion references in an Invincible recap. Buckle up. Also at the funeral we see Cecil offer the job of setting up and running the new and (hopefully) improved Guardians of the Globe to Robot. Something he takes with pride and maybe a couple of reservations.
At home, following the funerals we get a scene meant to deepen character more than anything. We see how three different Graysons react to this horrible day. Mark is angry and petulant, Debbie is weary and worn out but trying hard to keep her boys sane, and Nolan is putting in overtime on his denial, offering instead to fly to Italy to pick up some pizza. You can tell he’s hiding something (and you know exactly what it is in this case) and it’s nice to see these secrets play out and warp the family dynamic a little bit. As we pull out from the filial scene we see that the GDA has set up a surveillance house and are holding on to every word that Nolan says.
Mark decides to call up Amber, making good on the phone number she made Todd deliver last ep, and we’re treated to one of the many reasons Steven Yeun is a phenomenal choice for Mark Grayson. His teenage awkwardness shines through and really made me smile. It’s so warm! And nice! And funny! It’s got to be incredibly hard to build chemistry with another actor when you don’t get to be in the same room while you act! Somehow these two pull it off and you end up rooting for the two (mainly Mark as he needs the most help) and hoping they succeed. Clutch for any superhero relationship.
The episode is really focused on relationships, and wants to show us just how those relationships can differ and wither. One of the cleverer moments from the early comics is the threesome that Rex has with Kate and her duplicates. I mean…who wouldn’t try it? (I hope I’m not selling myself out here. This just feels like a once in a lifetime thing you would just HAVE TO try) The big caveat is that Rex is already dating Eve, and it obviously leads to tension when she walks in. The show goes a bit deeper into the aftermath and gives us an extra beat to be with these characters. And see how Rex can be such a total ass without even trying: “They’re not even the real Kate!” is a good line to sum up Mr. Splode’s particular brand of douchery/misogyny.
From there we get one of two superhero-centric scenes. The first involves getting the team together, which is different from getting the band back together. It’s less like the Oceans 11 heist trope and more like a government sanctioned Mortal Kombat situation to determine who is worthy to fill in the roster vacancies. It’s fun and I’ll break down who’s who in a minute, but first I just want to note that a lot of the filler characters in the back are completely new for the show. I wonder if the creative team is worried about wasting a character this early in the show that could be developed into a juicer plotline later down the road. Or if they just wanted some updates for the times. Either way, Invincible has made some stellar IP for itself over the years and I hope we see more of it as time goes on. Let’s break down the fights we get and the new characters we meet.
- Atom Eve vs The Hunk
- The Hunk is our first “made specifically for the Amazon series” character and he seems to be your typical muscle bound bro brawler. Really he just exists to get beat up by Eve. Moving on.
- Shrinking Rae vs. Man Kong
- The show does a fun gender flip here from Shrinking Ray to Shrinking Rae. Man Kong seems to be the dollar store version of Gorilla Grodd. Take your pick as to who Rae is based on (Ant Man, Atom, The Wasp) In the comics there is a lot of imposter syndrome to work through and I bet we see that played out with this team as well. The shoes they have to fill are clown sized.
- Black Samson vs. Throwbolt
- Black Samson is voiced by Khary Payton, who also did the voice work for Cyborg in a few Teen Titans animated shows. In the comics and the show Samson is your “garden variety cape.” You know the guys that are just…like…strong and fast and good at punching and semi invulnerable? Like a Superman ripoff of sorts. His life was spared since he lost his powers and spent the night of the murders trying to find a suit that could replicate them for him. Throwbolt was created for the show.
- Monster Girl (vs. Rex Splode)
- Monster Girl is one of my favorite Invincible heroes. She, for me, encapsulates the greatness of the show’s pastiche. It makes these winking references to characters you know and love, but sometimes imbues them with a much fuller, more interesting backstory and drive. Here we learn that Monster Girl is like The Hulk in that her power is all about transforming into a beast. But instead of Gamma Rays mishap, they go the curse route here. That adds a wrinkle to the rules where she de-ages a little bit every time she transforms. If she continues transforming at this rate she’ll have to change her name again, this time to Monster Fetus. It’s a really smart addition from the comics that gives the reader a little something extra to think about every time it’s transformin’ time. We also see the dynamic of Robot and Monster Girl. The comics (SPOILER) pulls off them being in a relationship eventually. They had to do some incredible mental gymnastics to get there, but somehow, some way, they do. I hope the show achieves the same.
- Monster Girl and Shrinking Rae are both voiced by voice acting vet Grey Griffin. She’s done…everything.
Eve, Rae, Samson, Monster Girl, plus Dupli-Kate round out our new Guardians lineup. It feels a bit more like Teen Titans Plus, however, as it’s mostly the old team with three new faces. Mark stays on in a role similar to the one his dad held with the OG Guardians. Consultant, helper, not officially on the team. That works well as there are lots of plates Mark’s character has to keep spinning throughout the plot, tying him down to one team officially could just slow down his character development.
On to the date! Mark has a hard time not being a total dork, but the show does something awesome where it recognizes that “geeks” and “nerds” are not what they used to be.No longer the social pariahs of yesteryear, geek fandom culture has permeated the zeitgeist and is almost the new normal for many. Reading comics isn’t an instant excuse for why you can’t get a girlfriend anymore and Invincible does a great job of proving that.
Also, we gotta talk about the comic he references: Underwater Welder. As a comics fan, I have been loving the renaissance of the M(and D)CU, but have felt like we were still missing out on some things. Mainly interesting, dark, or just plain different indie books from publishers like Image or Dark Horse. Writer/Artists like Jeff Lemire should be reaping the benefits of this new age, but we’re still waiting for that shoe to drop. Check out Underwater Welder if you love psychological dramas/mysteries. Then go back and read everything else Lemire has done, starting with Sweet Tooth. You can thank me later!
The date gets interrupted as dates with superheroes tend to do (by a villain’s grand plan) and we’re treated to Mark’s first mission under the new roles and responsibilities of the Guardians. He and Eve fly out to South Dakota to take on a villain-of-the-week type, Doc Seismic. Doc’s your standard mad scientist (thought to be driven insane by his concussion causing gauntlets…err bracelets…I mean bracers? That part is up for debate) and he is hell bent on subjugating you, me, and everyone we know.
The fight is a fun one and sets up the vibe of Invincible nicely. The characters feel like modern updates of old standbys and the juxtapositions that come from that combo can be really fun. For instance, here Doc is pretty much your standard crazy scientist, but he’s not exactly spitting lies either. He shrieks about how Mt. Rushmore is a testament to the blood and racism that followed our founding fathers. He even mentions how the Native Americans of the area (mainly the Sioux in this case) didn’t want this monument at all! It reminded me a little bit of Christopher Nolan’s version of Bane who spends most of the movie saying things I absolutely agree with, and definitely saw Batman in a different light (mainly as a protector of the 1%) afterwards. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get super political here. It’s just nice to see the “bad guys” get to make good points is all! Invincible laughs at your black and white worldview and gives you story after story of grey morality and messy decisions. We also get a hilarious conversation about superhero one-liners and just how hard they are to pull off. (They all sound bad) Good scene! And makes me excited for the smaller, more episodically-contained, stories that they’ll be able to do. Bodes well for the series in my opinion.
That nuance within the characters is one of the reasons I loved the comic so much. Nobody is ghoulishly evil but everyone, even people like Rex Splode, demonstrate that they’re working on something. Sure, some may be further along than others, but you can’t really write anyone off based on their first impression alone.
The show also treats Eve with a bit more respect in how she reacts to things. In the comics, especially early in the series, she can be written off as a little “boy crazy” but here on the show she shows that she can contain multitudes of pain and sadness without really lashing out at others because of it. After the Doc Seismic fight she sees Mark and Amber making out in his room (Amber waited an hour+ for Mark, she wants him for sure, you don’t wait in a stranger’s bed alone for an hour and NOT want to make out) and says “good for you” as opposed to crying and flying away in the comics. Nuance and fully realized characters are what push a show’s story beyond the surface level drama. It’s this stuff here that keeps you invested.
The stinger, the scene that gets you go “oooh” and tune in next week, is a cool prison break for The Mauler Twins. It rocks for the following reasons: A) We see the deranged relationship of The Mauler Clones. Neither knows for sure which is the prime (if either) so they carry a bloody sibling rivalry through everything they do. By using his clone as a human shield, we see just how far they’re willing to go to prove they’re #1. B) Fans of the comic will notice a certain inmate looked super familiar…more on that in a second. C) It’s set to a Run The Jewels and Danger Mouse (ft. Big Boi) song. Cannot lose there. I’m wearing a RTJ shirt as I write this and can verify that they make any prison escape seem ten times more badass. D) Comes with a solid reveal that Robot was behind it. But why? Looks like we will have to come back to find out. If you want to know before then, I suggest reading the comics.
Finally, the post credit scene brings us back to Damien Darkblood as he brings the investigation to the Grayson household. He interrogates Debbie a lil bit, trying to see what Nolan has told her (if anything). She definitely doesn’t fully trust Nolan at this point. But can’t be sure as to why. Good dilemma! I’ll keep watching! Hope you do too!
Stray Thoughts & Theories (POTENTIAL FUTURE SPOILERS MAYBE IDK)
- Not too many thoughts that couldn’t make it into the main recap! I love the way the series is folding in multiple arcs and beats to a more efficient presentation. It feels streamlined but not exactly rushed.
- I hope that these episodes let us gestate a little bit more moving forward, and that they slow down the worldbuilding just a smidge. I don’t need them to do a bottle episode next or anything, I just think we’ve gotten three straight episodes with a lot of introductions. I want them to start playing with the toys now…
- Yeah, that was definitely Multi-Paul in the end (Dupli-Kate’s more sinister brother with the same powers) Wonder how they will work him into the plot!
- Yo, Mr. Krabs private detective show when??
- This series is setting up so many exciting plots. Thumbs up Kirkman and co! Keep it up!