Say the words "Cosmic Cube" to your average person and they'll probably think you're talking about a child's toy from the 1950s. Say those words to a Marvel Comics fan and they'll know you're talking about a device of unbelievable power. For years now, a number of Marvel's deadliest villains have sought out the cube as a means to reshape reality to suit their darkest desires. In the pages of "Ultimate Fantastic Four" #50, on sale today, the Cube makes it's Ultimate Universe debut and plunges the FF into a three way war for control of the fabled device. CBR News spoke with writer Mike Carey about the story.
The Cosmic Cube was first mentioned in the "God War" arc of "Ultimate Fantastic Four," when the ultimate version of Thanos, the all powerful and despotic monarch of the intergalactic Acheron Empire, tried to commission Reed Richards to build him a cube to replace the one he lost. Richards refused and the Fantastic Four were able to escape Thanos's clutches and return to Earth. Back on Earth, Richards worked feverishly on his own Cosmic Cube, which he claimed would be the perfect defense should Thanos choose to attack Earth. But Richards' idea to build the Cube as a defensive measure was not his own; Thanos had used his vast psychic abilities to implant the idea in Richards's subconscious.
For months the teenage Mr. Fantastic toiled away in his lab, creating the very thing he swore to deny Thanos. Then in "Ultimate Fantastic Four" #47, after completing the Cube, Richards awoke from a nightmare where it looked like Thanos whispered a psychic thanks to him for all his efforts. "Reed may or may not have consciously heard Thanos' whisper, but he says to Sue in issue #49 'I wasn't myself. I was controlled by some outside force,'" Carey told CBR News. "So, he at least suspects what's been done to him."
Reed tells the Invisible Girl he hasn't been himself to try and keep her from dumping him. Unfortunately for him, this discussion came as the FF were returning from an adventure in Siberia and right as they realized New York City was under siege by alien invaders. "It's like it never rains, it pours," Carey stated. "Reed can't sort his feelings out about Sue dumping him because this other thing hits right at the same time. This is a really low ebb for him both personally and professionally because he's been Thanos's dupe in all of this."
When the four part "Four Cubed" story line begins in "Ultimate Fantastic Four" #50, Thanos isn't even the immediate threat. "It's not Thanos who's invaded, it's another group of 'good guys,'" Carey explained. "They're another faction who opposes Thanos' goals and they're out to try and preempt the whole awful situation by getting to the cube first."
It's not long, though, before Thanos rears his ugly head and the Fantastic Four have to confront the alien tyrant face-to face, for the first time. "They've only seen him using his powers to possess people," Carey stated. "They've seen the effect he has on people he's touched, but they've only faced the tip of the iceberg. Thanos does have a definite physical presence and a considerable amount of physical power. He's probably one of the scariest and formidable villains I've ever created."
For Thanos, acquiring the Cosmic Cube is just the first step in a larger plan. As "Four Cubed" unfolds, readers will learn more about his plan and his history. "Thanos had the cube before and he lost it in the course of a climactic battle," Carey explained. "We'll revisit those past events and reveal how they played out and ultimately everything is explained and rounded off."
In addition to revisiting past events, "Four Cubed" will also revisit some familiar faces like Thanos's son, the ultimate version of Ronan the Accuser. "We'll see many of the Seed 19 characters again, and Tesseract," Carey said. "A lot of the characters we introduced in the 'God War' arc will be returning in this story."
"Four Cubed" also marks the debut of a new character, the third child of Thanos. "Whereas Ronan and Thanos's other son Gallowglass [who perished in the 'God War' arc] have in different ways bought into the family business, this other child has not," Carey stated. "This other child has taken a different path and comes back into Thanos's life in an unexpected way and at first only interacts with one FF member, the Thing."
To "Fantastic Four" fans, Thanos's third child will seem like a new, yet distinctly familiar character. "As with all the characters I've created in 'Ultimate Fantastic Four,' the child will seem to be a new character at first glance, but there is an equivalent to this character in the Lee-Kirby 'FF' era."
Thanos's machinations and offspring are just a few of the elements of "Four Cubed," a story which Carey promises is bursting with characters, action and ideas. "I've been alternating the big, cosmic, space opera, sci-fi type stories with more earth based stories and this is definitely the former," Carey said. "It's on the same scale as 'God War' and it's huge in scope. There are alien armies and battle fleets and vast powers clashing. And because this is a story that touches everyone on Earth, expect some guest appearances by other Ultimate Heroes as well. It's got everything."
"Four Cubed" marks the debut of new "Ultimate Fantastic Four" artist Tyler Kirkham and Carey couldn't be happier with his work on the story. "He's doing a fantastic job," Carey stated. "I'm really blown away. Just like I did to Pasqual Ferry on 'God War,' I've given Tyler a story with a cast of thousands and new characters and settings popping up on every page. And he rolled with it completely. His art looks terrific."
Carey's also been very pleased with the way 'Ultimate Fantastic Four" colorist Blond has transformed his characters' world from mono-chromatic to full color brilliance. "His work is a real eye-opener," Carey remarked. "The pages coming in have left me stunned and staring at my computer screen. They're very cool."
"The Four Cubed" arc wraps with "Ultimate Fantastic Four" #53. Following that story, Carey has one final tale to tell before he leaves the book and the universe-altering "Ultimatum" story begins. "My last arc is a huge change of pace," he said. "It's about the FF recuperating in some ways from what they've just been through. Inevitably things don't go as smoothly as they might, but it's a story with a lighter tone and a lot of cool character beats in it."