The entertainment industry’s obsession with the multiverse isn’t new. For decades, Marvel and DC have utilized the scientific concept to tell contemporary stories and introduce new characters to their fans. Serialized TV shows, including iconic sci-fi series Doctor Who, and legendary franchises like Star Trek have also flirted with the notion of parallel universes.
It’s thanks to Marvel and DC's soon-to-be-defunct cinematic juggernauts, though, that multiverse-centric stories have become a cultural phenomenon. Now, studios seek out opportunities to tell multi-reality narratives, with many believing audiences will simply lap it up. Given the wildly inconsistent nature of said stories, however, viewers are already growing tired of the generic multiverse tales being pumped out.
To that end, Invincible season 2, which arrives on November 3, aims to deliver a bold, fresh take on such narratives. The hugely popular Prime Video series wants to revolutionize the multiversal landscape with a wildly ambitious story that, in co-creator Robert Kirkman’s mind, will make viewers reconsider the notion of multiverse fatigue, particularly in the superhero genre.
“It’s different from what most superhero movies and shows are doing,” he tells TechRadar. “We’ve taken a different approach that doesn’t rely on fanservice and spectacle, which I think most people use the multiverse for. It’s not an ‘anything goes’ or ‘anything to bring the cool toys together’ approach.”
Diving into new dimensions
Invincible season 2 part 1 – this season has been split in two, which “wasn’t the original plan", co-showrunner Simon Racioppa exclusively reveals – takes place one month after Invincible’s season 1 finale.
Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), aka the titular Invincible, and his mom, Debbie (Sandra Oh), are struggling to move on after being betrayed by father and husband Nolan Grayson (J.K. Simmons), aka the all-powerful Viltrumite known as Omni-Man. Mark also wrestles with the very credible threat that he could become as brutally authoritarian as his dad. After all, Nolan’s sole aim was to infiltrate Earth, produce part-Viltrumite offspring like Mark, and then convince his children to help the Viltrum empire conquer the planet to grow their universe-spanning kingdom.
Season 2’s first four episodes largely revolve around this plot thread, but it doesn’t forego the opportunity to introduce Invincible’s new heroes and villains, nor neglect to lay the groundwork for future storylines. Indeed, through new big bad Angstrom Levy (Sterling K. Brown), Invincible’s sophomore season also introduces the franchise’s own take on the multiverse, which is explored extensively in Invincible’s 144-issue run.
Understandably, Kirkman, Racioppa, and the show’s chief creative team are wary of revealing too much, too soon about Invincible’s twist on the multiversal concept. Long-time fans will know what lies in store, but general audiences are unaware of how mind-boggling and wildly creative it gets. Spoiling anything ahead of time would be to the detriment of one of the best Prime Video shows’ overarching narrative. Kirkman, though, believes that Invincible’s character-driven approach to the multiverse sets it apart from what audiences have become accustomed to.
“Our use of the multiverse is always about character,” he muses. “We examine Mark’s character and personality, and give audiences and him glimpses of what could have been if different things had or hadn’t occurred. In that respect, I think it’s more like [2023 Best Picture Oscar winner] Everything Everywhere All at Once, where it shows you the different paths someone might have taken. What we’re doing is very different and it’s also a lot more grounded. It’s weird to describe a multiverse story as being ‘down to earth’, but it’s a more practical exploration.”
Fighting for family
A key part of that “down to earth” perspective is, as Kirkman alludes to, Invincible’s proclivity for genuine character growth. As we noted in our Invincible season 2 part 1 review, the series’ latest entry doesn’t always land the emotional blow, nor does it devote enough time to individual character arcs or the relationships between its expansive cast.
When season 2 finds a pleasing equilibrium between these elements, though, it really shines. Outside of Mark’s personal development, it’s most noticeable in his relationship with Debbie. The pair were most affected by Nolan’s treachery in the season 1 finale and, with Nolan abandoning his family after almost killing Mark, it’ll take time for the psychological and emotional scars to heal.
Equally, Nolan’s desertion of his post – Kirkman teases Nolan’s desertion will have “terrifying” consequences for Earth – means Mark is his world’s first line of defense against intergalactic threats. This colossal additional responsibility for Mark, coupled with the trauma born out of his cataclysmic showdown with Nolan and Debbie’s own grief over her husband’s deception, challenges their mother-son bond like never before.
“Mark was betrayed and almost beaten to death by his father,” Racioppa says. “But Debbie has been married to Nolan for twenty years. She had a longer relationship with him and, in a lot of ways, I think that wife-husband bond is as strong as a father-son one. The goal is to make all of our characters as fully realized as possible, so it would be a dereliction of duty if we didn’t explore Debbie’s perspective and what she’s going through.
“Equally, Nolan is gone, so what happens to the family he’s left behind? What would Debbie and Mark’s relationship be like after those awful events? What trauma are they individually and collectively going through, and how do they deal with it? We’ll examine that throughout season 2.”
Invigorating the Invincible franchise
Invincible’s comic book series, which Amazon’s animated adaptation is based on, only celebrated its 20th anniversary in January. However, seismic shifts in the entertainment industry – particularly concerning LGBTQ+ representation and gender equality – means some Invincible storylines and character stereotypes are considered archaic. Fans, then, can expect creative revisions in Invincible season 2.
Like its forebear, though, the show’s second outing doesn’t make wholesale changes to the primary plot and its colorful cast of characters. As Racioppa reveals, season 2 is as faithful to its source material as the first season. Instead, viewers can expect the odd character arc tweak, as well as new supplementary material that augments what occurs in the comics.
“We definitely wanted to spend more time with Nolan and Debbie,” Racioppa teases. “We vastly expand on Debbie’s story, and we show you a bit more of Nolan after he leaves the planet than the comic books do, so we explore their stories further. We also open up the space between [comic book] panels to show some of the story from other characters’ perspectives, which isn’t on the pages.”
As for the wider Invincible brand, Kirkman has ambitions to expand its universe (or should that be multiverse?) outside of the show’s third season, which was announced alongside season 2 in May 2021. In July, Invincible: Atom Eve – a TV special that focused on the matter-manipulating superhero’s origins – was shadow-dropped on Prime Video, earning critical and commercial acclaim in the process.
Invincible Presents: Atom Eve, an action-adventure visual novel-style video game starring the same character, is also set to arrive on November 14. Throw Omni-Man’s upcoming appearance in Mortal Kombat 1 – he’ll be the first playable DLC character in NetherRealm Studios’ R-rated beat ‘em up game – and the long-gestating live-action Invincible movie into the mix, and there’ll be plenty more for Invincible fans to enjoy soon. That could also include Invincible season 4 but Amazon hasn’t secretly greenlit it yet.
“There are lots of characters that we’d love to expand upon like we did with Invincible: Atom Eve,” Kirkman says about future TV specials. “It’s really a matter of timing, budget, and fitting them into the schedule, which is difficult. So who knows what the future holds as far as expanding Invincible into more video games and things like that, but what I will say is there’s plenty on the horizon that hasn’t been announced yet.”
With big plans afoot to build a multimedia franchise, Invincible is here to stay – and the multiverse better be prepared for its hugely ambitious, potentially all-conquering plan. Marvel and DC, take note.
Invincible season 2 part 1 launches on Prime Video on November 3. New episodes air weekly until the mid-season finale on November 24, with part 2 slated for early 2024.
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As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.
An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.
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