Step aside, Loki and Gen V – Invincible season 2 part 1 is 2023's unbeatable superhero show

A screenshot of Mark Grayson kneeling against a blood-red sky in Invincible season 2
Invincible season 2 part 1 performs superhero feats on Prime Video. (Image credit: Prime Video)

It’s been a long wait for Invincible season 2 to take flight. Two and a half years after the hit Prime Video show’s first season ended, its sophomore outing is finally ready to power its way onto our screens. Given the shocking storylines, gore-laden action, and emotional gut punches its predecessor delivered, fans are hoping for an even bigger and bolder entry than what came before.

So, has Invincible’s overdue return been worth the wait? Unequivocally yes. Season 2 part 1 – Invincible’s latest entry has a Netflix-style two-part release, with its second half debuting in early 2024 – is an intelligent and imaginative chapter that screams evolution over revolution. It builds on its forebear’s visceral violence, emotional weightiness, and creative universe-building with an expansive and multiversal tale that, supplemented by immediate high-stakes action and drama, cements Invincible as one of the best Prime Video shows around.

Gray(son) skies

Mark Grayson sits as he holds his superhero mask in Invincible season 2

Season 2 part 1 opens with Mark questioning if he'll eventually turn into his father. (Image credit: Prime Video)

Invincible season 2 part 1 begins one month after the cataclysmic battle between the titular character – aka Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) – and his father Nolan (J.K. Simmons), the incredibly powerful Viltrumite known as Omni-Man, in the show’s season 1 finale. Mark has fully recovered from the life-threatening wounds he sustained during their brutal showdown, but the emotional and psychological scars remain. Mark’s trauma is further heightened by the credible fear that, due to his part-Viltrumite genetics, he could become the very thing he now resents: his own dad.

It’s this intergenerational theme that drives Mark’s character arc in season 2’s first half. Traumatized by Nolan’s betrayal and guilt-ridden over his inability to stop his father from killing thousands of innocent people, an emotionally numb and directionless Mark carries out his superhero duties with nihilistic flair; evidently afraid of crossing the imaginary line that could supercharge his transformation into Omni-Man 2.0. 

Angstrom Levy is an unexpectedly sympathetic villain born out of tragic circumstances

It’s a disillusionment-filled plot thread that’s been explored at length in the superhero realm – Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker temporarily giving up his webslinging duties in 2004’s Spider-Man 2, for example. Thanks to co-showrunner Simon Racioppa’s emotive writing, Yeun’s stirringly poignant voicework, and Invincible co-creator Robert Kirkman’s distinctive source material (upon which the series is based), this overused genre cliché still feels fresh.

Mark’s inner conflict and his determination not to become his father is presented in a slightly imbalanced way, mind you. It doesn’t take long for Mark to get back into the superhero groove of saving lives and thwarting villains, albeit on a tight leash held firmly – with good reason, given Omni-Man’s season 1 finale rampage – by Global Defence Agency chief Cecil Stedman (Walton Goggins).  

Omni-Man stops someone from punching him in Invincible season 2

Omni-Man's presence looms large over Mark – and Invincible season 2 in general. (Image credit: Prime Video)

On the one hand, this U-turn makes sense. A show like Invincible can’t afford for its main character to do nothing but mope for multiple episodes. Getting Mark back into the swing of things, then, is a necessity. Equally, it’s a move that satisfyingly lends itself to some tasty tension-laced drama between Mark and Cecil. As season 2 progresses, the duo regularly butts heads over Mark’s decision-making and the crushing responsibility he feels to make amends for his dad’s catastrophic wrongdoings. 

That said, considering the anguish Mark is routinely plagued by, his reintegration into the superhero fold within episode 1’s first 30 minutes is joltingly rapid in its execution. Further exacerbating the issue is Cecil’s persistent insinuation that Mark is and isn’t – depending on the circumstances – acting like Omin-Man. It’s a valid concern to have and one that ties into this season’s primary theme of what defines a superhero. Nonetheless, the spiel quickly becomes tiresome.

Mark prepares to attend college as Debbie says goodbye to him in Invincible season 2

Season 2 devotes enough time to explore Mark and Debbie's familial bond. (Image credit: Prime Video)

Debbie Grayson (Sandra Oh), Mark’s mom and Nolan’s jilted wife, equally struggles to move on from her husband’s treachery. Her inability to deal with her grief is arguably the emotional core of season 2, especially when Nolan’s duplicity seemingly drives a wedge between Debbie and Mark in its early episodes.

If season 1 focused on the pulsating, complex dynamic between Mark and his father, season 2 pleasingly trains a lens on how Mark’s relationship with his mom juxtaposes his bond with Nolan. Indeed, as they individually and collectively grapple with Nolan’s unforgivable actions, scenes between the duo are at times dramatically tense, others incredibly moving – full credit to Yeun and Oh for their heartbreakingly potent performances, and Racioppa and his fellow writers for their intuitive penmanship. 

Despite this, Nolan’s desertion of Earth in season 1’s final entry (and the "terrifying" impact it’ll have in season 2 and beyond, according to Kirkman), means his absence is keenly felt here. So, should you be worried about a lack of Nolan-starring scenes in season 2 part 1? I can’t spoil too much, but what I can say is you’ll be pleasantly surprised when (in whatever guise that takes) he shows up.

Leveling up the competition 

Angstrom Levy stands in front of some multiversal portals in Invincible season 2

Angstrom Levy is finally introduced to Invincible's animated adaptation in season 2. (Image credit: Prime Video)

Mark’s emotional struggle to be better than Nolan isn’t the only antagonistic force he faces in Invincible season 2. Whether it’s returning fan-favorite villains in The Mauler Twins or the Atlantis-based Depth Dweller – a sea creature Mark battles in a terrifically designed underwater anime-style mash-up of the Luke Skywalker-Rancor fight from Star Wars Episode VI and the Gandalf-Balrog showdown in The Lord of the Rings – there are plenty of foes to overcome.

Few are as threatening and vengeful, though, as Angstrom Levy (Sterling K. Brown), season 2’s big bad. A humanitarian who, after obtaining portal-based abilities, is able to traverse the multiverse, Levy is a menacing and calculating adversary who becomes one of Mark’s biggest nemeses in the comics. Unsurprisingly, then, his season 2 debut has been keenly awaited by Invincible’s diehard fanbase – and it doesn’t disappoint. 

Invincible season 2 is an intelligent and imaginative chapter that screams evolution over revolution

Fuelled by Brown’s intimidating performance, Levy is an unexpectedly sympathetic villain born out of tragic circumstances who will, to begin with at least, instantly endear him to audiences. His multiverse-traversing powers and initially benevolent nature mean comparisons between Levy and Marvel’s He Who Remains – a Kang the Conqueror variant who appears in Loki and sees himself as an altruistic, multiversal peace-seeking individual – are inevitable. However, given what transpires in Invincible’s source material – plot threads that should be translated from page to screen in part 2 and beyond – it’s arguable that Levy will have a bigger personal impact on Mark than, say, He Who Remains/Kang has on any of the MCU’s superheroes.

The only pity with Levy’s introduction is that exchanges between him and Mark – well, this reality’s version of Levy anyway, but more on Invincible’s multiverse later – are largely absent in part 1. There are spoiler-filled reasons for the scarcity of their interactions, though, so viewers can expect this to be rectified when part 2 arrives.

Thaddeus looks out over a balcony in Invincible season 2

Thaedus is one of season 2's new characters. (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Tantalizing as Levy’s introduction is, the same can’t be said for all of season 2’s new heroes and villains. Of the newcomers, Thaedus (voiced by iconic Transformers voice actor Peter Cullen), a Viltrumite defector who founded the Coalition of Planets in a bid to thwart his race’s tyrannical attempts to rule the universe, is a stoic and gratifyingly subversive addition to the series’ character roster. Shapesmith (Ben Schwartz), a Martian masquerading as human astronaut Rus Livingston, delivers plenty of awkward humor as he naively tries to pass himself off as human.

Others, though, are criminally underused, including new Guardians of the Globe member Bulletproof (Jay Pharoah), Atlantis’ ruler Queen Aquaria (Tatiana Maslany), Coalition of Planets General Telia (also Maslany), and the villainous Lizard League (Maslany again, alongside Jacob Tremblay and Phil LaMarr). In the comics, their roles become increasingly important within Invincible’s sweeping narrative, so fans might have expected the same to hold true in its animated adaptation. Their screen time is, however, on the all-too-brief side. Here's hoping they're given more to do in part 2 and future seasons.

Space to grow 

The Guardians of the Globe prepare to fight the Lizard League in Invincible season 2

Invincible season 2 doesn't do the best job juggling its established supporting cast. (Image credit: Prime Video)

A similar critique can be aimed at the show’s established supporting cast, although Invincible season 2 part 1 allows some to shine and experience more substantial character growth.

Of this contingent, certain Guardians of the Globe members are the biggest beneficiaries. Rex Splode (Jason Mantzoukas) shows signs of maturing beyond the wisecracking playboy he presents himself as, such as during a civilized heart-to-heart with Dupli-Kate (Malese Jow) that's as dramatically animated as it is heart-rending. The first signs of a burgeoning romance between Amanda/Monster Girl (Grey Griffin) and Rudy (Ross Marquand), the latter struggling with being more human and less robotic, is a similarly positioned coming-of-age subplot.

Atom-Eve uses her powers to fix a building in Invincible season 2

Atom-Eve's story in season 2 part 1 feels like a retread of her standalone special. (Image credit: Prime Video)

One character whose season 2 arc needs further refinement, however, is Atom-Eve (Gillian Jacobs). The matter-manipulating superhero got her own beautifully realized prequel special in July, which extensively explored her backstory and laid the groundwork for her personal plot in Invincible’s sophomore season. Unfortunately, her season 2 arc isn’t as strong as it could be. Yes, there are noteworthy and impactful aspects to it – her gradual alienation from her friends, for example – but her character growth is stunted by repetitive plot points (largely centered around her frosty relationship with her parents) comprehensively covered in season 1 and her standalone episode.

Mark’s inner conflict and determination not to become his father is presented in a slightly imbalanced way

In sharp contrast, Allen the Alien (Seth Rogen) receives an Atom-Eve-special-like origins tale that fills in the blanks of the fan-favorite character’s history and the Unopans, the alien species he belongs to. Again, I can’t say much because of spoilers, but it’s a fascinating and vital mini TV special built into season 2’s third episode that, alongside the Coalition of Planets, Atlantis, and other new important organizations and locations, expands upon Invincible’s impressively creative universe building.

In fact, Invincible season 2 part 1 finds great success in fleshing out its mythos and introducing its own take on the multiversal concept in weirdly wonderful ways. 

Allen smiles as he flies through space in Invincible season 2

Fan-favorite character Allen the Alien gets more screen time this time around. (Image credit: Prime Video)

Like the comics, Levy’s introduction is the gateway for the TV adaptation to explore the latter. True to Invincible’s penchant for subversive storytelling, there’s a sequence very early on that, based on season 1's ending, will throw unsuspecting viewers for a loop. As for the former, the new worlds and characters, coupled with season 2 picking up unresolved plot threads from season 1 – like Shapesmith and his ties to the unfinished Sequids storyline – ensure Invincible is brimming with wildly original, fun-filled, and foreboding narratives.

For anyone concerned that season 2 might be lacking in the comedy stakes, don’t be. Invincible’s latest chapter is as self-deprecating and intelligently amusing as season 1, even if it belatedly rediscovers its funny bone. Whether it’s Mark’s lighthearted naivety, the hilariously meta voiceover work in episode 3, or its satirizing of the superhero genre in a manner reminiscent of The Boys, season 2 part 1 cuts through its more serious storylines with light and punchy moments with pleasing regularity.

My verdict

Invincible season 2 part 1 is it’s a delightful improvement on what preceded it. Invincible season 1 was no slouch, with bundles of shock value, buckets of ultraviolence, and fulfillingly heartfelt stories. But the fact Invincible’s latest installment takes everything great about its predecessor and dials everything up to 11 – its crazier elements, animation glow-up, explosive and barbaric action, and dense drama – speaks to how accomplished it is. 

Season 2 part 1 doesn’t always land the telling emotional blow – its mid-season finale wasn't as shockingly impactful as season 1’s first and last episodes, in my view, and its stacked cast means some characters are sidelined by events elsewhere.

When it sticks the superhero landing (and it does more often than it doesn’t), though, Invincible season 2 is a stupendous follow-up that isn’t interested in just delivering another broadstroke superhero show. It takes compelling and unpredictable risks that pay off in spades, and it’s easy to forget that the TV adaptation hasn’t even scratched the surface of its wildly ambitious story. Step aside, The Boys, The Umbrella Academy, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and DC Extended Universe (DCEU)’s lineup of superhero series – there’s a new unbeatable kid in town, and its name is Invincible.

Invincible season 2 premieres on Prime Video on Friday, November 3. New episodes air weekly until the mid-season finale on Friday, November 24, with season 2 part 2 airing sometime in early 2024.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

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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