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Cereno Makes Invincible “Rex Splode!”

by  in Comic News Comment
Cereno Makes Invincible “Rex Splode!”
“Invincible Presents: Atom Eve & Rex Splode” #1 on sale in October

Comedian Andy Samberg insists that cool guys don’t look at explosions, but comic book writer Benito Cereno heartily disagrees – especially when it comes to his upcoming Image Comics miniseries, “Invincible Presents: Atom Eve & Rex Splode.”

The writer of “Invincible Presents: Atom Eve” is once again playing in the comic book sandbox created by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker, but this time he’ll have more toys at his disposal beyond Invincible’s lady love. Cereno and artist Nate Bellegarde are focusing their efforts on an origin story for Rex Splode, the pyromania-inclined superhero that often squared off against Mark Grayson in the pages of “Invincible” before his tragic death in “Invincible” #60.

Cereno spoke with CBR News about the upcoming miniseries that not only commemorates the fallen hero, but shows exactly why Rex Splode is one of the hottest characters in the “Invincible” universe.

“Much like the first ‘Atom Eve’ miniseries, this book takes a closer look at the beginnings of an important player in the ‘Invincible’ universe – in this case, Rex Splode,” Cereno told CBR News. “It shows where he comes from, how he gets his powers and abilities and the struggles and triumphs he went through to become the person we meet in the early issues of ‘Invincible.’ Additionally, this story shows the first meeting of Rex and Atom Eve, and how their relationship – both personal and professional – developed.”

The upcoming miniseries picks up about a year after Cereno and Bellegarde’s first foray into the “Invincible” universe, “Invincible Presents: Atom Eve.” The end of that two-issue tale saw Eve revealed as a genetic experiment mandated by the government, and that the parents who raised her were not Eve’s blood relatives. “It’s been about a year since the ending of her own series, so she’s had a little time to process and make peace with her existence and find her own groove as a superhero,” explained the writer. “But at the same time, she’s at a rebellious age and she’s got some pent-up resentment against her adopted parents. Which, you know, is always a good excuse to pick up a dangerous boy…”

Enter Rex Splode, whose superpowers make him the very definition of a dangerous boy. “Part of me wants to say that he’s all surface and that’s why he’s awesome, but that’s unfair,” Cereno said. “Rex is self-centered because that’s the way he had to be. We’ll see from the experiences of his past that if Rex didn’t look out for number one, no one else was going to look out for him. And more than that, he has the ability to make any obstacle that’s ever stood in his way blow up. He’s never had a reason to doubt that he is the baddest man in the whole damn town.

Art from “Invincible Presents: Atom Eve & Rex Splode” #1

“But once you try to socialize, to integrate with your peers, that attitude is maybe not the best to have, because then you’re seen as a jerk, or worse. But honestly, I think Rex’s oblivious self-centeredness is kind of charming. He’s got a certain charm that comes from a cool self-confidence. Sure, he’s impetuous, cocky and reckless, but that’s why everyone wanted to play beach volleyball with Maverick in ‘Top Gun,’ right? The dangerous cool guy, overflowing with bravado and braggadocio – and, you know, he’s a jerk. That’s more fun to write than a flawless, altruistic hero, maybe. I hope it’s more fun to read.”

Not to mention more fun to date, if Eve’s romantic interest in Rex is any indicator. “She’s feeling rebellious, he’s a bad boy, her dad would hate him,” Cereno said of Eve’s interest in Rex. “But she also sees a lot of herself in him, in terms of his background and where he came from. I don’t want to spoil anything, but they have a lot in common. Plus, he’s a green new superhero, so that gives her someone to talk to about that side of her live, but it also gives her a ‘project’ to work on, helping him develop himself into a real hero.”

While this miniseries afforded Cereno the opportunity to wite Rex, he’d already had a good handle on Atom Eve based on the earlier series. In the writer’s mind, it’s nearly impossible not to enjoy writing Eve. “What’s not to like? She’s a super-smart, sassy young lady,” he described. “She’s got moxie and she don’t take no guff. Plus, she’s got a pink cape and that little skirt – it’s like she’s a mathlete and a cheerleader at the same time. She’s every nerd’s ideal girl, and that’s why so many people were mad when she ‘died’ for a few seconds.”

Indeed, Eve did appear to die at the hands of the vicious Conquest at the end of “Invincible” #63 – but in the subsequent issue, she was able to lift certain mental blocks in order to recreate her body and survive the incident. The idea of Eve’s government-imposed limitations was set up in Cereno’s earlier miniseries, but he had no idea that such a payoff would occur in the proper “Invincible” series.

“When I wrote that part of the ‘Eve’ series, I didn’t know it was going to come up like that so much later. I have no idea, honestly, what kind of dividends story-wise this miniseries might pay later,” Cereno admitted. “That’s completely up to Robert, I think.”

Art from “Invincible Presents: Atom Eve & Rex Splode” #1

As the creator and writer of “Invincible,” Robert Kirkman, unsurprisingly, has some vested interest in the “Invincible Presents” stories told by Cereno and Bellegarde. “Robert has a very clear idea of what he wants for his books and his characters from a story perspective as well as a character and tonal perspective,” Cereno said. “He keeps a close eye on every step of the process, from when we first start talking out a story at Steak ‘n’ Shake or an Indian restaurant through the issue breakdowns to the page breakdowns to the dialogue and everything. These are his babies, and he’s a concerned parent. [‘Invincible’ co-creator Cory Walker] gets approval on most things as well, especially the Eve stuff, because I think he was the major contributor in her creation – but he doesn’t look over the page breakdowns or anything, as far as I know. Normally, Cory would also be the point man for designing new characters, but I’m pretty sure most of the folks in this series were either already established or designed by Nate.”

Nate Bellegarde is Cereno’s collaborator on both the previous and upcoming “Invincible Presents” miniseries, but their partnership dates back much further. “Nate and I have been making comics together for something like seven years now, so we kind of ‘get’ each other,” Cereno said. “It’s easy to write for him, because I know he’ll understand what I mean and I know what he’s capable of. I can get away with writing panel descriptions like ‘Establishing shot, Tokyo airport: screw you, Google it.’ We have very similar sensibilities when it comes to creating comics and the same kind of sense of humor, which helps to achieve something of a singularity of vision, I guess. Plus, he’s timid and easy to boss around.”

The frequent collaborators have more than their shared “Invincible” work under their belt – in October, Cereno and Bellegarde will debut “Hector Plasm Totentatz,” their second one-shot from Image Comics, and they even have a few new projects that they aren’t quite ready to talk about. But as much as he enjoys creator-owned work, Cereno has a soft spot for writing within the “Invincible” universe. “Doing your own stuff is the best for sure, but there’s something satisfying about taking part of something you love and kind of making it your own,” the writer said. “You can step back and say, ‘Hey, this is a thing people care about and I made part of it.’ That’s pretty cool, I guess. Plus, it can be something of a relief to look at a property where a lot of the pieces are already in place and you just have to move them around a bit to get the result you want, rather than having to make everything up from scratch.”

Art from “Invincible Presents: Atom Eve & Rex Splode” #1

Cereno said that while there aren’t current plans for another “Invincible Presents,” there are plenty of other Kirkman-created characters he’d like to take a crack at, such as Brit, Wolf-Man and Damien Darkblood. “The latter two especially, because of my weird obsession with monsters and the supernatural,” he explained. “And Brit, because he’s the coolest. I mean, Brit is the coolest, right? He’s kind of cooler than Invincible. There’s something appealing and tempting about a character with total invulnerability – you could just do anything to that guy. You’d have to keep topping yourself and that’s a cool challenge. I mean, in his first appearance, the guy straps a nuclear bomb to his chest and explodes it… and you have to go up from there!”

For now, Cereno’s use of Kirkman-centric explosions remains relegated to “Invincible Presents: Atom Eve & Rex Splode,” so the writer made sure to take advantage of Rex’s power set. “I haven’t counted to know for sure, but I feel pretty confident that over the course of three issues, there are at least one hundred explosions,” he said. “I felt for a book about Rex Splode, I couldn’t possibly over do it with the explosions. So, there’s that.”

“Invincible Presents: Atom Eve & Rex Splode” #1 debuts on October 21 from Image Comics. For further work from Cereno and Bellegarde, pick up the “Hector Plasm: Totentatz” one-shot on October 14, also from Image.

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