Writer Al Ewing and artist Kenneth Rocafort opened the current “Ultimates” series by having their team fundamentally transform the new Marvel Universe. But by changing the world devouring entity known as Galactus into a being capable of bringing life to dead worlds, they’ve scratched the surface of a cosmic conspiracy.
Galactus’ transformation has led him discover that someone — or something — has shackled Eternity, the cosmic embodiment of life in the Marvel Multiverse. Now, the former Eater of Worlds has embarked on a quest to get some answers and free Eternity, an investigation he’s running solo because his allies in the Ultimates have their hands full with a multitude of other crises stemming from the events in “Civil War II.”
When Marvel Comics’ latest event crashes into the Ultimates’ world, the team will have to cope with the ideological schism rocking the Marvel Universe while also confronting the latest scheme of the Mad Titan, Thanos. And then there’s the pending catastrophic arrival of a mysterious extra-dimensional visitor.
Ewing recently opened up to CBR News about the cosmic epic he’s weaving through all three of his Marvel titles — “Ultimates,” “New Avengers” and “Contest of Champions.” The writer also discusses his take on Thanos, and the mystery of the Macronaut, a character he first began hinting at in his “Mighty Avengers” run.
CBR News: It feels like the remnants of old universes and rebirths of new ones is a big theme running through your Marvel books. In “New Avengers” we met a survivor of one of the old universes, in “Contest of Champions” you’re directly addressing what happened to the remnants of the old Marvel Universe, and the big story in “Ultimates” is how the old cosmic order feels about the new “Earth Prime” Marvel Universe and why its embodiment, Eternity, is in chains.
Al Ewing: There is an end goal to all this stuff — whether it’ll all play out as I envision it right now is in the lap of the gods, but I’ve at least got a vague plan. The next stage of this particular jigsaw puzzle is probably coming in “New Avengers,” during the upcoming crossover with “Civil War II,” as the Maker, head of the W.H.I.S.P.E.R. organization that’s been causing trouble on and off for our heroes, reveals his “ultimate” scheme. That said: as always, if I’m doing my job right, you only have to read one book to get the idea of what’s going on. If you like my stuff, I’d hope you’d read more, but it shouldn’t be essential.
The reveal of Eternity in chains and Galactus’ talk with the Molecule Man in “Ultimates” #6 begs the question of when we’ll see Reed Richards and his family, who were last seen helping shape the new Marvel Multiverse at the end of “Secret Wars.” Are you interested in checking in with Reed, Sue, and their children?
Well, I’m not saying if someone asked me to pitch the return of Reed Richards I wouldn’t have ideas. But we’ve got [the Ultimate Universe’s] Reed in the mix already, and I’m not 100% certain we really need another one just yet. Maybe sometime after all this has blown over we’ll get back to what the FF are up to, but for the time being, I think they’re probably out of the picture.
You seem to really enjoy writing Galactus in his new role of cosmic
detective. What inspired you to cast him in this role, and how closely will you be following his story over the next few months?
We’ll keep checking in. In the immediate term, we’re paying close attention to the main team as they navigate the thorny issues of “Civil War II,” but we’re not about to lose sight on the bigger picture.
As for why Galactus is investigating — well, he’s really the only one in the book big enough, and it’d be a terrible shame to go to all the trouble of turning him into a force for good and then not give him something good to do. In a cosmos that’s lined up against him, his success or failure in this quest might be what determines whether he stays gold or goes back to his old ways.
Your main cast has returned from their voyage “outside” with Blue Marvel’s old enemy, Anti-Man. What’s it like bouncing Connor Sims off of your cast? What kind of role will he play in the book moving forward?
When I brought Conner Sims back, I didn’t want him to be just a bad guy. He’s someone who gained power in the same accident as Adam Brashear — arguably greater power than Adam’s, in fact. But that power sent him off the rails in a big way — his human personality just wasn’t equipped to deal with it. Does that make him a villain, or a victim of forces beyond his control? And if he is the victim of his own power, does that make him any less dangerous? Either way, he deserves a day in court — I’m not a big believer in the super-trope of locking the baddies away without trial, or toilets — and that’s what the Ultimates are getting him ready for.
For his part, Conner’s eager for rehabilitation. But considering he’s the only
being apart from Galactus with an inkling of what’s really going on, he might not get his wish.
In “The Ultimates” #7 you set up your “Civil War II” tie-in by bringing Thanos into the Ultimates’ orbit. What’s it like returning to the Mad Titan?
I only got to give Thanos a couple of evil speeches last time I wrote him, back in the “Infinity” crossover, so it’s fun to get more time with him. Obviously, it’s difficult to write Thanos without feeling the eyes of Starlin on you, but I hope I’ve done the Mad Titan some justice while writing him my own way. The most important thing about him is that he’s not stupid. He can be taken by surprise, but he adapts to his circumstances — whatever situation he’s in, he remains laser-focused on his final goal. He may be a little more violent in my hands than previously portrayed, but it’s a tool, nothing more. When he lowers himself to the use of force, it’s quick and terrible and frightening. But we’ll also see his cunning, his sinister powers of persuasion, his knowledge of cosmic forces. If I do my job right, he’ll be terrifying — let’s hope I’m up to it.
One member of your cast, Captain Marvel, will of course have a clearly defined role in “Civil War II’s” conflict, but how easy will it be for the rest of your cast to choose sides?
The nice thing about the moral dilemma this time around is that there’s more than two sides. For instance, Adam is firmly in favor of using the power of prediction to stop disasters before they happen, but if things start to stray into areas that might contravene people’s human rights, we can expect him to speak up. Similarly, T’Challa may be in favor of predictive pro-activity in principle, but in practice he might see flaws in the process that benefit one country over another, and so on.
This isn’t as simple as, “either you’re obeying Law X or defying it” — there are so many different facets of the argument to explore that it’s entirely possible the Ultimates will split five ways, not just two. And will they be able to come back from something like that?
Your “Civil War II” story will finally fully introduce a character you hinted at back during your “Mighty Avengers” run: the Macronaut.
He’ll likely have a new name in the comic itself, but the concept is essentially the same: this is a visitor from a higher order of reality, a vast macro-space or over-space where vast giants hang out. The trouble is, these guys need their own dimensional plane — if they came into our universe, their sheer mass and gravity could rip worlds apart — it’d be like bringing a second moon down to Earth. One of these people has been trying to make landfall on Earth for decades. Is it an attempt at conquest? Or worse, trying to eradicate pests in the same way we destroy 99% of all known germs in a toilet bowl? Whatever his goal is, this cosmic overbeing can’t be good news.
Kenneth Rocafort has shown how fantastic he handles cosmic action, and issue #6 featured another great artist who’s got a knack for weird, reality-bending tales, Christian Ward. Is Kenneth returning for issue #7?
Obviously, Kenneth and Christian are titans in their field, but we should take a moment to mention Dan Brown, our color artist, who never fails to amaze, and Joe Sabino, our lettering guru, who unfailingly guides the eye through the cosmic vistas on display. As for the visuals — Kenneth is indeed back on #7, although that hopefully doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of Christian.
There’s a great scene coming up with Thanos that I enjoyed, and his version of the Shi’ar is really terrific to me — he took the personalities I gave them at the plot stage and really made them live and breathe, which helps at the dialogue stage. When you’ve got an artist like that in your corner as a writer, it really helps you be better.
Finally, can you offer up any larger hints about the action and adventures the Ultimates will become embroiled in during your “Civil War II” story? Is this more of a big action story? A more character driven story? A cosmic mystery? Or bits of all three?
A little of all three! If I had to pick one, it’d be the character beats — the action beats inform those, but they’re what drives things forward. How people react to the dilemma at hand and what they do as a result is the core of any story, but this one especially. Although having said that, the cosmic side isn’t exactly absent — Thanos has one eye in that direction, and we’ll be seeing what his larger goal in the revitalized Marvel Universe is.
I’ll finish up by saying a big thank you to our readers — the Ulti-Mates — who’ve taken this book’s unique style to heart and made it one of the most talked-about cape comics out at the moment. It’s very gratifying to read our mail and see how many people are enjoying the book — so please, keep the letters pouring in and we’ll keep on charting our own strange course along the vast cosmic fjords of the Marvel Multiverse! Until Thanos irons the creases out of his chin — Excelsior!
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