Before the ‘Walking Dead’ creator’s genre-defying superhero comic reaches theaters, here’s what you need to know about the universe it creates.
Robert Kirkman’s Invincible is both a celebration and subversion of its genre — and an exploration of where many superhero titles don’t go. And now, the property is headed to the big screen under the auspices of producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
For the unfamiliar, here’s what you need to know about the Walking Dead creator’s other long-running title.
The series is named for its protagonist, who in his civilian life is a teenager named Mark Grayson. Mark is the son of Omni-Man, a Superman-esque protector of the world who harbors a dark secret: Instead of the beneficial extra-terrestrial explorer that he proclaims himself to be, he’s actually an advance scout for an alien invasion. It takes years for Mark to learn this, and in the meantime, he uses his inherited powers to become a superhero himself, as well as a member of his world’s group of super powered teenagers, the Teen Team.
When Mark learns the truth about his father — unhelpfully, after his father has killed the other members of the planet’s leading superhero team, the Guardians of the Globe — it leads to the two fighting, and Omni-Man eventually fleeing the Earth altogether, distraught at the beating he’d inflicted on his son. But, if it seemed as if that were the end of their relationship (and it did; the series continued for years after that fight, with Invincible building a new life, and a new Guardians of the Globe team, in more traditional superhero adventures), appearances were deceptive: Both Omni-Man and his alien race, the Viltrumites, would return as their plans for Earth became more clear.
Invincible, then, turns out to be one part superhero story, one part alien invasion epic. The Viltrumites’ intend to use humanity as breeding stock to rebuild their dying empire, with Invincible’s very existence proving that humans and Viltrumites can have children together (his mother is human). While their plans are slowly unfolding out in space, Mark finds himself juggling soap operatics and supervillains in a manner familiar to anyone who was raised on Spider-Man comic books of the ’70s through the ’90s … if just a little bit skewed toward funnier, occasionally more violent and definitely more self-aware directions.
It’s an unusual mix, but one that succeeded in large part due to the sincerity of Kirkman’s writing and the momentum provided by artists Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley. In fact, it succeeded so well that, in the 15 years since the character debuted, Invincible has produced a number of spinoff titles, including Guarding the Globe, Invincible Presents: Atom Eve and Rex Splode, and Invincible Universe.
Unlike many superhero stories, however, Invincible isn’t a never-ending battle; last year, Kirkman announced the upcoming end of the series with this year’s 144th issue, noting, “The big Viltrumite epic, which began with Nolan Grayson going to Earth and fathering Mark, and kicked off with their confrontation all those years ago in issue 11… was coming to an end. Everything was converging in this one story, and looking back, I realized I’d been working toward this the whole time.”
Quite how the series will end remains unknown — will the series’ final twist on genre tropes be to deny its hero a happy ending? — but one thing is clear: By the time it’s done, there’ll be an existing framework and plot for a movie franchise that could run for years, if it’s successful enough.