It's What You Make of It
Invincible: Atom Eve
In the pantheon of "like SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s. but..." media, Image Comics' Invincible stood apart. Yes, it had the idea of, "what if Superman was bad?" that so many other stories have covered, but told its story from an interesting angle: that of the evil alien's son. Mark Greyson is a normal 17-year-old kid that knows his dad is Omniman, and all mark wants is for his powers to show up. But as the story plays out, and Mark does gain his own super powers, we learn that Omniman isn't who he says he is. He's not there to defend the Earth but to act as the first step in an eventual invasion. He's the tip of the spear, if you will, and the rest of his people are soon to follow now that they know Earthlings can have their children and raise them to be super-powered as well.
It's an interesting idea on its own, but what Invincible gets right is that it doesn't bathe in the grim darkness for its main story. It has darkness in it, to be sure, as you would expect in any modern comic, but it coats it in candy-colored brightness. It plays in a neo-Silver Age world with bright, colorful characters who have goofy superhero names, all while they're battling against the forces of evil, on Earth and out in space. They're trying to make a difference as heroes while keeping their inherent goodness as well. I think the comics series is great.
For the TV show, which debuted its first season back in 2021, the show took the first couple of trades of the comic and rushed through the story, trying to end with the climax of Omniman revealing his true intentions. Whether right or wrong to speed through a ton of story that quickly (I dinged the show for it in my review), I can understand the impulse to get to the big reveal by the end of season one. That's the twist that sets the rest of the series in motion. You have to have it. But then the series was basically off for over two years (in part due to COVID, I'm sure), and we're still waiting for the adventures of Mark to pick up and continue.
Thankfully, the comics had a solution to that: a one-shot story focusing on Atom Eve, Mark's eventual best gal and one of the best characters in the comic as well. Loosely based on Invincible Presents: Atom Eve, a two-comic special, "Atom Eve" delves into the backstory for the pink superhero. It gives the series a chance to collect and get the full second season going (which will debut a few months after this special), and it also allows us to explore one of the best characters in the series.
Eve was the product of government experiments led by Dr. Elias Brandyworth. Brandyworth, though, grew to care for Eve's birth mother and when he realized the birth would likely kill the woman and the government would take the baby to make her into a weapon, Brandyworth tried to sneak her out before anyone was any wiser. Sadly the government found out and chased them down. The mother died, but the good doctor was able to swap baby Eve with another newborn that died in childbirth, and a new family was able to take her in, thinking the girl was their own.
Over the years, though, her (adopted) parents begin to suspect that there's something not quite right about Eve. She has peculiar interests, things she likes that no other kid would care about. She spends all day drawing and building weirdly shaped constructs. She loves science but hates all her other subjects. She's "special", but not in a way that will help her advance at a gifted academy. Eve eventually comes to realize it's because she has super-powers, but her father ends up resenting her and her mother simply doesn't understand her. The only thing that gives the young woman joy is to put on a costume so she can fight crime. But her activities draw the attention of the Department of Defense, and once they realize their special little weapon might just be out in the world, and not dead, they send everything they have to catch her.
The Invincible TV series did a good job of adapting the neo-Silver Age aesthetic of the comic to the screen. Produced with original comics creator Robert Kirkman in an advising role, the show is about as close as you can get with a page-the-screen adaptation, barring the speed with which it burned through its opening plotline. That carries over to "Atom Eve", giving us a single, brightly colored dose of superhero action. It feels perfectly in line, artistically, with the comics and TV show, a fantastic single episode that doesn't focus on Mark but instead on Eve. And, man, is her story dark.
Where Mark's story eventually veers towards darkness all because his father is secretly a super-villain, Eve's story starts dark. She's a fugitive, in effect, from the government, their weapon that they want back, and they will kill anyone and everyone they have to in order to get her back. As if that wasn't dark enough, it's eventually revealed that Eve was only the first of many children born from her mother, who may have nearly died but has been a living vegetable ever since. All of the other offspring produced, though, have been more and more mutated, sharing some of Eve's powers but also being deformed in the process. It's sad, for her and for them, and it makes you care about these children that the government thinks of as nothing more than weapons.
Naturally this goes to even darker places as Eve has to fight back against her would-be captors just to free herself and try to save her actual family. It's a lot for one young woman to take. Hell, it's a lot for the viewers to take, as it invokes all kinds of feelings. This is one of the more effective stories in Invincible, and "Atom Eve" doesn't pull any punches. It goes for the throat, and the heart, in telling this sad story of Eve and her family, both adopted and real.
Is "Atom Eve" a necessary story? That question really depends on whether you're a fan of the original comics or not. I am, and I appreciated that the series was willing to take this one-shot and turn it into a special for the series. There's a lot of great material in the comic series, and seeing the show take all these narrative diversions to cover all the material is great. But that, I think, really only applies to fans of the comics, those that want to see everything get adapted.
If you haven't read the comics, though, this does feel like a less essential bit of storytelling. Make no mistake, it's a great episode for sure. But at the same time this episode is a diversion from the main arc of the series. Nothing is said about Omniman or Mark here (we get a flashback to them with a subtle nod as to what's to come, but that's it) and for anyone wanting to know what's next in the main series, this story doesn't give us anything yet. It's there to sate a craving for a little more Invincible but it is also fully disconnected right now, so if you didn't watch it then you aren't missing out on anything (presumably) come next season.
With that said, watch this episode. Atom Eve is great, and his story, while tragic, really is a must watch. It's dark, and sad, and bloody, and a perfect extension of the series for the Invincible faithful. If you liked the first season you should watch this special because it's more of what you enjoyed, with a great character that will become a main star of the series (assuming the show continues to follow the path of the comics).