Invincible: Atom Eve Review – A Welcome Surprise

The unexpected Invincible special starring Atom Eve is a reminder of why we can't wait for season 2.

Invincible: Atom Eve Special
Photo: Amazon Studios

This Invincible: Atom Eve review contains spoilers.

Robert Kirkman, creator of the Invincible comic and its TV counterpart, knows as well as anyone that the wait for season 2 has been a tough one for fans. That’s why during his San Diego Comic-Con appearance, Kirkman announced not only the release date for the long-awaited second season of the Prime Video animated series (Nov. 3) but also another unexpected treat: one-off special about the character Atom Eve that was to be released that very night on July 21.

In speaking to Den of Geek in our SDCC studio before the official announcement (more to come on that interview later), Kirkman explained the reasoning behind the surprise special.

“It was really important to us because November 3 is still a long way away. It was really exciting for us to come into Comic-Con and say ‘not only are we giving you a date, we’re also giving you an absolutely awesome piece of entertainment right away.'”

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Invincible: Atom Eve is an appetizer – an amuse-bouche, if you will – for the season 2 to come. It’s also quite good! This nearly hour-long special is both a perfect reintroduction to the world of Invincible and a satisfying deep dive into a character who hasn’t quite had her moment to shine in the TV series yet.

Eve’s lack of narrative attention thus far has been understandable as much of the excitement in Invincible season 1 surrounded lead character Mark Grayson a.k.a. Invincible (Steven Yeun) and his secretly evil Viltrumite father Nolan Grayson a.k.a. Omin-Man (J.K. Simmons). That’s bound to happen when the artists at Wind Sun Sky Entertainment lovingly animate a father holding his son’s face against a rushing train until it’s little more than bloody goo.

As fans of the comic know, however, Invincible is at times as much Samantha Eve Wilkins a.k.a. Atom Eve’s story as it is Mark’s. In fact, Atom Eve cosplays at Kirkman’s SDCC panel appeared to outnumber Invincible cosplays as though fans could anticipate the unexpected good news to come. Still, Invincible: Atom Eve contains as many surprises for Invincible die hards as it does neophytes. This mostly close-ended adventure adapts much of Eve’s backstory from the comics while updating even more for television.

Turns out that the young woman who would one day be known as Atom Eve (voiced by Gillian Jacobs in the main series but not here) began life as a cruel government experiment. Mad scientist Dr. Brandyworth (voiced by uber character actor Stephen Root) was charged by his federal superiors (including a character played by the dearly departed Lance Reddick in one of his final voice acting roles) with creating a human mega weapon. After getting to know the poor homeless woman who would undergo the dangerous superheroic pregnancy, Brandyworth came to love her and her unborn child. When Eve’s mother seemingly dies in childbirth, Brandyworth drops her off in an empty crib where another grieving family will raise her as their own. Unfortunately, Eve’s new parents are more of the Dursley variety than the Pharaoh’s daughter and she leads a sad, lonely childhood, constantly bullied for her intellect.

One of the best features of Prime Video’s Invincible adaptation thus far has been the show’s appreciation for the violent physics of superhero melees. Every punch thrown by Mark, Nolan, and their super-powered peers audibly crunches bones or leads to veritable fire hoses of blood. In addition to making things visually interesting it also just rings more true that a world inhabited by superheroes would be littered with broken teeth, snapped tendons, and shredded tissue. Invincible: Atom Eve continues the series’ respect for physics and even extends it to other scientific areas like chemistry.

Eve’s powers in season 1, which generally seemed to involve manipulating matter and creating Susan Storm-like energy shields, are expounded upon in bespoke detail here. We see how a young Eve (voiced by Aria Kane and then Jazlyn Ione) goes from being able to identify the very atoms around her to one day actually altering and wielding them. It’s all depicted logically enough that by the time Eve engages with in a climactic battle with her poorly fabricated mutant siblings, known as Phases 1, 2 and 3, viewers are able to keep up with all the action and in some cases anticipate Eve’s best moves before she executes them.

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This sequence brings an anime energy to Eve’s Green Lantern-style powers that elevates it right to the top of the series’ best action scenes, below only Mark and Nolan’s bone-and-soul-crushing duel. Invincible is an intelligent comic book property filled with equal parts criticism of and reverence for superhero myth. The climax of Invincible: Atom Eve is the best version of that thematic tightrope as it conjures up the child-like sensation of smashing action figures together and going “PKSSHHHHGHSHSHHSH” that only great pulpy superhero storytelling can, while still generating pity for Eve’s fallen brothers.

And in terms of filling out the Invincible mythos, Atom Eve gets non-comic readers further up to date than their comic-reading counterparts were at this point in the tale (which remains around issue 13 of the 144-issue comic). We won’t spoil exactly what the reveal is, but there is an important bit of information regarding Eve’s powerset that you’ll want to keep in mind for later … much later.

“(Eve’s) story in the special is absolutely essential to the future of Invincible,” Kirkman says. “Multiple seasons of from there will be things happening that harken back to this special. It’s a huge part of the overall Invincible story.”

Additionally, the special’s Mark-centric post-credit scene is both a delight and a significant teaser for seasons yet to come. In an alternate universe (of soon there will soon be many), we could see Mark pulling off the Duct Tape Man branding. The subsequent close-in on his father’s face that reflects disappointment, then rage, then … something else … is marvelous.

During the Invincible SDCC panel and again in Den of Geek‘s studio, Kirkman expressed that he viewed the TV series as a “second draft” of the comic, giving the storytellers another chance to change what didn’t work perfectly, highlight what did, and make all manner of other necessary tweaks. Based on Invincible: Atom Eve, that second draft likely won’t require a third.

Invincible: Atom Eve is available to stream on Prime Video now. Invincible season 2 will premiere on Nov. 3.

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4 out of 5