A new Marvel Universe emerged in the aftermath of “Secret Wars,” and with it a new team of powerful defenders stand on guard to protect it from the cosmic menaces and problems that threaten it. Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Spectrum, Blue Marvel and Ms. America Chavez are collectively known as “The Ultimates,” and they’re taking their mandate very seriously. In the first two issues of their All-New, All-Different series by writer Al Ewing and artist Kenneth Rocafort they tackled and appeared to solve a problem that could destroy their planet at any time; the world-devouring entity Galactus.
The Ultimates thwarted the threat by changing Galactus from a devourer of worlds to a life-bringing entity, but in doing so have they upset the Marvel U’s “cosmic balance?” CBR News spoke with Ewing about his inspiration for transforming Galactus and what exactly the character has become following this fundamental change. Ewing also expounds on the next problem the “Ultimates” will tackle — fixing the fractured nature of time in the Marvel Universe, all leading to a cosmic odyssey that takes the team to the world “Outside” of the new MU.
CBR News: Let’s start with the big revelation about what Galactus has become at the end of “Ultimates” #2. What inspired this change and what can you share about his capabilities now?
Al Ewing: The Ultimates were always going to take on Galactus in issue #1 — I figured we kind of had to come in swinging and leave a mark. That said, things really came to a head at one of the retreats — I think it was one of those ideas that comes to you on a long train/plane journey, and it really solidified over my morning coffee, so I ended up walking into the room and pitching it to whoever would listen. What inspired it — a mixture of wanting someone big on or allied with the team — originally, we thought about Odin, but he’s a bit busy — and my usual preoccupations with atonement, redemption, growth and change.
So what can he do now? Well, whereas before he was taking in vast amounts of energy, now he’s putting out vast amounts of energy — pure life energy. He always said he was going to give back more than he took out of the universe — now he’s making good on that, one dead world at a time.
What kind of impact will Galactus’ change have in future issues? If I remember correctly, one of the biggest arguments for allowing Galactus to exist was that he was a force for cosmic balance. Has the cosmic balance been irreparably upset?
It’ll have an impact. We get into the space politics of it first — issue #3 starts with a large alien empire noticing what’s happened. We’ll deal with the more cosmic implications down the line. I will say that I consider Abraxas, a cosmic bad ‘un who popped up when Galactus died once, to be out of the equation — when I re-read the end of that particular story on Marvel Unlimited, it looked like Franklin [Richards] had dealt with him on a fairly permanent basis. Also, Galactus isn’t dead. So I doubt I’ll be bringing him back.
(I’ve never been that sure about the “cosmic balance” anyway, if I’m honest. It feels like ants deciding there must be a very good reason for the anteater to drop by, if only they could figure out what it was. And considering we’re pretty much waiting for Galactus to drop by right now — I live in the North of England and he paid a little visit to my home town this week — pretending that disaster on a planetary scale is necessary for the greater good feels like it might be spreading the wrong message, you know?)
Anyway, we’ll be dealing with some of this stuff down the line, hopefully in a way that satisfies everyone.
At the beginning of issue #2 you employed an interesting recap device in that you had the Ultimates issuing a broadcast to everyone on Earth about what they’re up to. What inspired you to go in this direction? And is this broadcast just a device for readers or does the team plan to keep the general public up to date on their activities? I would imagine that full disclosure might come in handy when it comes to cosmic menaces.
That recap device was all Wil Moss and Chris Robinson, our awesome editing team! And it’s essentially a fairly standard recap page — there’s not much difference between that and, say, giant-head Deadpool or Squirrel Girl’s tweets. It makes things a little more fun and puts an in-universe spin on it all.
I think transparency and full disclosure from the people in power is generally a good thing — maybe not always, but we saw what happened when the super people did this kind of stuff in secret, behind closed doors, not even informing their own families — it didn’t end well. The Ultimates aren’t the Illuminati, and the main thing preventing them becoming that is transparency and accountability. As time goes on, we might tinker with the format of the recaps a bit if we need them to start keeping a secret or two.
From the solicits it looks like the Ultimate’s next destination is a place called “Outside.” What can you tell us about this realm and the Ultimates’ mission there?
It’s not really a realm — it’s outside all realms. Beyond everything — beyond limbo, beyond the Neutral Zone, beyond even Eternity’s influence. Right out into the absolute nothing. The Ultimates are heading out there because time is broken — or at least clearly badly dented — and they want to take a look at the damage, and they can’t really do that from the inside. You can’t fix a car while you’re in it — you’ve got to get out and take a look under the hood. By taking this difficult, dangerous journey to the very outside of everything, the team are hoping to get a fresh perspective on what’s wrong with spacetime and, maybe, take some steps to correct the problems.
Considering this is uncharted territory, who or what will the Ultimates encounter Outside? Can we expect all-new adversaries, or might there be a familiar foe waiting in the wings?
Well, right now, Kenneth’s drawing the journey out there, and during the course of that we do get some obstacles, in the form of a bad guy fans of these characters — Adam [Blue Marvel] in particular — will have seen before. I’m not going to spoil who it is here — #3 will be out soon enough — but I will say that it’s a character people might not have expected to come back, and they definitely won’t be expecting what we do with them. But we will be getting some interesting insights into Adam’s past, and it’s all connected with the eventual cosmic revelation this story is bringing in.
It seems that a mission like this could lead to confrontations with some horrific and sanity bending forces, which of course makes me think of the cosmic horror work of H.P. Lovecraft. Thematically, will you be dealing with anything along those lines in this arc?
There’ll definitely be something horrific and sanity bending, but will the Ultimates get to see all of it? They’re going beyond the influence of Eternity — are there things the personification of all that is doesn’t want sentient life to know about? Why would a conceptual being like that have secrets? Is it knowledge he’s protecting from us — or is he protecting us from the knowledge? And how is Galactus involved in all this? Who says this isn’t the Marvel age of asking questions instead of actually answering any of them, True Believer?
[Laughs] What can you tell us about the work Kenneth Rocafort is doing in designing the “Outside” and its inhabitants? Based on both his published work and daily sketches, he seems to enjoy world building and strange alien landscapes and beings.
Kenneth is absolutely fantastic. I can’t sing his praises highly enough — he’s the soul of this book, and my main inspiration to push in the directions I’m pushing in right now. That’s the reality of the artist/writer partnership — the style informs so much of the writing, it’d have grown into a completely different book, tonally and very probably plot-wise too, if we had a different artist on it. Anyway, Kenneth’s
warming up right now with the Neutral Zone, which is full of the kind of strange beasties he does seem to love drawing. I do like throwing strange landscapes and aliens at him, but I also enjoy his takes on established stuff — there’s a classic Dave Cockrum costume he does a wonderful job with at the start of #3. (Which is probably a clue as to which space empire notices the new Galactus first.)
Finally, the first issue of this new arc hits on January 13, the same day “Secret Wars” #9 is scheduled to be released. In the past two issues you’ve hinted that there are some larger mysteries still to uncover about how the Marvel Universe was reborn. Should readers who are following both “Ultimates” and “Secret Wars” read issue #9, first? And will there be some referral back to how “Secret Wars” ended in “Ultimates” #3 for those just following the “Ultimates?”
I think you can read it in any order you’d like — the last issue of “Secret Wars” is a treat to read, and once it’s out in the world everyone will hopefully have a clearer idea of how everything bolts together, or at least a starting point to form that idea. In that regard, we’re all finding out how things work together — part of the point of a book like “Ultimates” is to seek out and explore these new possibilities. For example, the “cosmic balance” we mentioned earlier might no longer apply — it’s a new cosmos. New game, new rules, new maps. Galactus was only the start of it.
I’d like to finish off with a big thank you to everyone who bought the book, and in particular those people going online and saying how much they liked it. Word of mouth matters a lot on any title, and while “Ultimates” has the advantage of being deeply tied into things — how deeply will become apparent, true believer — it’s always good to hear people enjoy your stuff. So thanks, Ulti-Mates!
“The Ultimates” #3 goes on sale Jan. 13 from Marvel Comics.