Invader Zim Season One
For a blood-thirsty alien invader, Zim seems to scream… a
lot. But I suppose that’s understandable when your plans for domination
are constantly being derailed by both the kid across the street and your
inept robot sidekick, you’re petrified of germs and your skin burns on
contact with processed meat.
Invader Zim is the brainchild of Jhonen Vasquez, an
award-winning artist and writer of alternative comics. That comic-book
lineage comes through clear in the way Zim looks: the show is depicted
in bright, bold colours, with highly caricatured inhabitants. The art is
a blend of 2D and cel shading (which is used to great effect during the
many action sequences).
Zim is a member of the Irken race, whose goal it is to
bring every known world into their empire by means of conquest. After
being exiled for botching an attack in the past, Zim now returns and
demands to be assigned a planet as part of a new wave of invasions. His
superiors decide to send him far out of harm’s way, to Earth.
Undeterred by this seemingly pitiful use of his
conquering skills, Zim sets up his base and begins the process of
blending in to his new and strange environment. Along for the ride is
Gir, the reject robot who seems more interested in sampling the local
delights of fast food, plush toys and television than his mission of
Over the course of the series, Zim is confronted with a
slew of challenges relating to school life: How to cope with
parent-teacher night, his apparent lack of friends, and his constant
running battle with arch-nemesis Dib, who is determined to unmask Zim as
the little green man that he so obviously is.
The show’s writing ranges from sardonic dark humour to
pure ridiculousness. As an example of the latter, in one episode Zim is
afflicted with a giant pimple, caused by his proximity to greasy food.
When he finds out that the pimple has hypnotic powers, he dresses it up
as a doll, names it ‘Pustulio’ and sets about mesmerizing the rest of
the school. It looks like the creative team behind Zim were given a
mandate by Nickelodeon to let their imaginations run rampant; there are
some stupidly funny moments.
For me the highlight would have to be the voice acting,
which is full of colour. Zim’s manic enthusiasm for destruction, his
grand posturing and his deliciously over the top speeches never get old.
And neither does Gir, the binge-eating robot with a two-second attention
span. Gir’s dialogue is the funniest of the lot, because you know that
absolutely anything could come out of his mouth.
It’s not all brilliant, though. The first season consists
of 36 episodes, and you would expect there to be some flat spots. Some
of the jokes fly off into the stratosphere or make you cringe, and some
episodes feel a lot like extra padding.
It has to be said that this is the darkest G-rated
feature I’ve seen for quite a while, both thematically and visually.
While he has his endearing moments, Zim is generally a cold-hearted and
despicable protagonist. In one episode he alters schoolboy Dib’s past,
bit by bit, disabling him further each time. When he finally thinks he’s
killed Dib he marches off to gloat, and it’s hard for us to empathise
with him from then on. On the other hand the show’s human characters are
usually depicted as being slow, droopy and unimaginative, and you feel
like they deserve whatever vile fate Zim has in store for them.
In Invader Zim you’ll find all the insanity, dark humour
and alien action you could ever need, condensed into ten-minute bursts
of mayhem. The thought of Gir beat-boxing over the school PA system
still makes me smile, and probably will do for quite some time.