"Invincible" creators Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker recently reunited for a two issue arc focusing on Allen the Alien and Invincible's father, Nolan, as they traveled through space searching for weapons to neutralize the fledgling Viltrumite Empire, a species of super-strong aliens with an eye towards universal domination. But when Kirkman brings the story back to Earth in issue #68, readers will notice that "everything is different" - or, at least, several changes have been made to Invincible and the world surrounding him. CBR News spoke with Kirkman about some of these changes and what the future holds for Mark as the popular Image Comics series moves towards the long-awaited Viltrumite War.
In "Invincible" #68, several months have elapsed since a string of traumatic events surrounding Mark Grayson and the people of Earth. "Enough time has passed for Invincible and the rest of the world's superheroes to clean up after the Invincible War, where Angstrom Levy led an army of alternate universe Invincibles onto Earth and did his best to destroy the planet," Kirkman told CBR. "There was a lot of destruction, and while they tried to clean it up, Conquest attacked and caused even more destruction. By the time we left the series in issue #65, the world was kind of in shambles, and then we spent issues #66 and #67 in space. When we return to Earth in #68, we're kind of wrapping up the clean-up process and getting things back to normal. A lot of time has passed, so there are a few differences and some new things going on."
One of those new things comes in the form of Mark's appearance. While still in his familiar black-and-blue costume, Mark is also sporting what appear to be robotic limbs - but don't expect that look to last for long. "That's just the remnants of him recovering from his battle with Conquest," explained Kirkman. "It's not a permanent thing at all. I'm not really giving him robot legs and arms, but I thought it'd be a fun 'Oh my gosh, what's happened?' kind of thing. As you can see if anybody follows solicitations, he doesn't have those on the cover of issue #69."
But a costume change is nonetheless on the horizon, robotic limbs or no. "Invincible Returns" #1, a special issue featuring covers from David Finch, Darwyn Cooke and Erik Larsen, sees Mark returning to his original uniform. While the reasons behind the outfit change are currently unclear, Kirkman promised that the issue "has a lot of big stuff going on, and one of those big changes will be Mark finally deciding to change back into his old costume colors."
Beyond physical appearances, Mark will also undergo some more personal changes, specifically regarding his relationship with Atom Eve, who nearly died at the hands of Conquest several issues ago. "Atom Eve and Mark's relationship has grown a little closer in the time that's passed," said Kirkman. "When we return back to the series, he'll be having dinner with her parents for the first time. That's one of the things we're doing in 'Invincible' #68."
Romance isn't necessarily the first thing on Mark's mind, however. The fallout from his battle with Conquest and the alternate universe Invincibles has taken Invincible down a grimmer path. "Aside from having to fight Conquest, and the Invincible War, and all the different things he's had to deal with - Atom Eve seemingly dying, then not being dead - aside from all that, he's also been cleaning up the world over the course of these two issues where we were in outer space," said the writer. "He's been picking up dead bodies and moving rubble and has had a hard time. It's definitely a dark period in his life, and we'll explore that more as we move forward.
"Also, it was revealed in issue #65 that Mark ain't gonna take no shit anymore," added Kirkman. "He's decided that he'll totally kill a villain if he has to. If he deems that the guy is going to keep coming after him, and if the threat of innocents dying is there, then he's kind of moved on and evolved his practices. Moving forward, we'll see Mark get down to business more."
One of the villains that Mark might test his new business practices against is Dinosaurus, the hulking humanoid dinosaur seen on the cover of "Invincible" #68. "We'll learn who he is in [the issue] but I thought that would make for a cool cover," said Kirkman of Dinosaurus' origins. "I hate to admit it, but my son actually named Dinosaurus. We were playing with dinosaurs in the house and I said, 'My dinosaur's name is Phillip, what's your dinosaur's name?' And he said, 'My dinosaur's name is Brontosaurus,' because he was a brontosaurus. So I said, 'No, no, no... my dinosaur is a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but his name is Phillip. So your dinosaur is a brontosaurus, but he also has a name. What's his name?' And he goes, 'Eh... Dinosaurus!' I immediately went online to check and see if anybody's used that before.
"He isn't like a Conquest and won't be [in 'Invincible'] for 30 issues or something like that," he continued of the new bad guy. "But we killed the Mauler Twins, and I want more recurring villains in the series. Moving forward, we'll see more of that."
Additionally, members of Mark's own family will be undergoing changes of their own. Specifically, readers will notice important differences in Mark's brother, the son of Nolan and an alien mother. "As we know, Kid Omni-Man - Oliver, Mark's little brother - ages at an enhanced rate, so we'll mainly see a lot of differences in him," said Kirkman. "Oliver will be growing, maturing and learning more about Earth's culture and learning more from Mark as we go on. He'll be an evolving character, just like a kid growing up turns into a different character. We'll be seeing that at an accelerated rate, so there will be a lot of differences in him."
Perhaps the most significant change in store for "Invincible" is the impending Viltrumite War, a battle that fans of the series have anticipated for quite some time. "The Viltrumite War actually sort of starts in issue #71, so we're right here on the cusp. There are a lot of big things about to happen in 'Invincible.' Issues #66 and #67 set up a lot of that, so the issues coming out now are building up to the big Viltrumite War," said Kirkman. "I'm thrilled. This is something that we've been hinting at and working towards in the series since the beginning, so it's going to be cool to finally do a big Viltrumite story, because they've been in the series since the beginning and we've only seen one or two of them at a time. Now we'll see them in larger groups - not too large, since there aren't a lot of them left -Â but there's going to be a lot of cool space battle stuff, so I'm excited."
One thing that fans shouldn't expect to change, however, is the ongoing status of "Invincible." According to Kirkman, the climactic battle between Mark Grayson and the Viltrumites is hardly the end of "Invincible" as a series. "The Viltrumite War is only the beginning," he teased. "I don't want to give people the impression that because I'm finally getting to the Viltrumite War I'll start winding down the series. That's definitely not the case. I have way cool things planned for after the Viltrumite War that I'm excited to get to, so this will really just set the stage for the next 200 years of 'Invincible' comic books."
"Invincible" #68 hits comic book stores on November 18, 2009 courtesy of Image Comics.