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Ewing’s Ultimates Embark on Cosmic Quest to Liberate Eternity

by  in Comic News Comment
Ewing’s Ultimates Embark on Cosmic Quest to Liberate Eternity

In the aftermath of 2015’s “Secret Wars,” several Marvel heroes joined forces to create The Ultimates, a team tasked with solving the larger cosmic problems of the Marvel Universe. During their time together, team members Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Spectrum, Blue Marvel and America Chavez did some important work, including transforming Galactus from a planet devouring entity to a life bringing one. But thanks to the predictive justice conflict of “Civil War II,” the team disbanded before they could tackle the Multiverse’s most pressing mystery: who chained Eternity, the cosmic embodiment of life in the Marvel Universe life? And how do you free such a being?

That mystery was introduced in writer Al Ewing’s recently concluded “Ultimates” run. Now, he’ll bring the conflicted team back together to tackle that cosmic conundrum head on in “Ultimates²” a new ongoing series featuring art by Travel Foreman. It won’t be easy, though; complicating their cosmic quest are the teams’ various interpersonal conflicts and a U.S. Government-led team of heroes that should be familiar to fans of Marvel’s New Universe line of books.

RELATED: Assembling America’s Mightiest Heroes for the “U.S.Avengers” with Al Ewing

CBR News spoke with Ewing about the book’s central cosmic mystery, his inspiration for the U.S. Government’s Troubleshooters team that features Marvel Universe incarnations of classic New Universe characters, and what role Galactus will play in “Ultimates².”

CBR News: In your recently concluded volume of “Ultimates,” you introduced the cosmic mystery of who has shackled Eternity and what that means for the Marvel Universe. Since its introduction, though, the mystery has been part of the background. With the launch of “Ultimates²” will this mystery step into the foreground of the book? What can you tell us about the inspiration for this story line?

Al Ewing: It was one of those golden ideas that comes to you in the shower, or doing the washing up – just an image that immediately pops into the head and lodges there. Eternity in chains! Who could do that? Who, in the Marvel cosmology, was big enough? Having just very recently redefined Galactus as a force of life and hope, I was keen to give him something important to do beyond just terraforming planets, and this is where the story ended up going.

This is going to be taking center stage – every single issue of “Ultimates²” is going to be dealing with these cosmic-scale issues in some way. That won’t overshadow the human-level intrigue, though – there’s plenty of that.

Artist Travel Foreman has tackled both large scale and street-level stories for both Marvel and DC, most recently “Civil War II: Spider-Man.” What do you enjoy most about Travel’s style?


Some of Trevor Foreman’s character sketches for “Ultimates2”

With Travel, I’m at that stage of working with someone where I start noticing how many more cool things they do than I noticed at first. Little things like angles of approach, panel layout, the way he deals with the kind of strange psychedelia I tend to throw into early scripts… all this is going into the central processor, and it’ll hopefully make future issues I write more suited to his style. But right now, his work is phenomenal -readers are in for a supreme visual treat. There’s something fascinating about the angles, the composition of panels, even… his characters are gorgeous, but something in it gives me that kind of thrill of the uncanny that I get from old sci-fi novel covers. Which is a huge compliment, if you know me.

This most recent volume of the Ultimates ended with the team split up. We saw Carol’s perspective on the group’s dissolution, and it appears that there’s some bad blood there between her and T’Challa. Can you talk about how he views things? Do any other team members harbor grudges or bad feelings against their former comrades as the series comes to an end?

T’Challa gives us some additional motives in issue #1 of “Ultimates²,” letting us in a little deeper on his viewpoint. Essentially, he has a clear idea of what the Ultimates are and what they’re for, which conflicted with Carol’s – the old problem of a team with no leaders who all believe, in their heart, that they’re the leader. T’Challa and Carol are at cross purposes as things start out about everything, even whether the Ultimates can or should continue in its present form, and we’ll be seeing how they reconcile that.

As for the rest of the team – we saw Carol and America sort their differences out, and that’ll be important moving forward as America takes a bigger and more vital role in things.

Another obstacle to the Ultimates reuniting is, of course, the Troubleshooters, who were introduced in the final pages “Ultimates” #12. These characters were quite familiar to fans of Marvel’s “New Universe” line of books. What can you tell us about them? And what inspired their creation/resurrection?

Vogt and the Troubleshooters are all Marvel Universe iterations of New Universe characters. Marvel heroes, like Tony Stark, have versions of themselves across the various dimensions – we saw a Tony Stark in “NewUniversal,” for example – and, as we’ve seen the Marvel Universe’s version of Star Brand, it only makes sense that there are other versions of the characters we know and love waiting out there. So Jim Tensen is a different character from any Tensens we’ve seen previously – he’s a kind of reversal of previous ways of looking at Tensen, in ways that will become apparent. Anyone expecting any of these people to act exactly the same as their other-dimensional counterparts will be disappointed.

As you mentioned, commanding the Troubleshooters is NSA operative, Philip Nelson Vogt, the Man in the Shadows. Can you talk about his agenda or motivations?

Vogt is closer to the Philip L. Voight of “NewUniversal” than the Philip Nolan Voigt of the New Universe – he’s a human being trying to make sense of a world of superhumans. Although Vogt has never, to my knowledge, shot a baby, which probably makes him the least evil of the various Voigts. It wasn’t that interesting to me to make him an out-and-out, mustache twirling villain – Vogt, to me, is an essentially decent man who’s fashioned himself into a tool of the state. He and his team of special operatives do the bidding of the NSA, and sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes not – but Phil doesn’t allow himself the luxury of an opinion on it, only private misgivings. He’s based quite strongly on Gary Oldman in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” if that wasn’t brutally obvious – but, of course, he’s in a completely different story and becomes a completely different character.

Vogt is on a collision course with the Ultimates – his orders are to monitor them against the possibility of them operating on their own, something the US feels has the potential to cause a lot of trouble. In the course of this, he’s going to reach a point where he sees the bigger picture, and has to decide, in the context of that, if he’s a hero or a villain.

It appears that the architect behind the Ultimates reunion is Galactus, the Life Bringer. What kind of larger role will Galactus play in this series? Could he be viewed as a team member or perhaps mission coordinater? And what’s it like bouncing him off the other team members?

There’s something very mythic about putting Galactus together with human-size humans, even humans with awesome powers. What we’re trying to do is keep that vibe of Galactus as slightly unknowable, somewhere beyond human ken – so mission coordinator doesn’t fully apply, as that’s a very human idea. While Galactus is the one plotting the course, with the Ultimates doing the groundwork, there’s a sort of as-above-so-below deal -they’re both fighting the same forces on different levels of reality.

The first few issues will show those forces that don’t want Eternity free pushing back against the Ultimates and Galactus, mobilizing their enemies and attempting to stop the quest to free Everything That Is before it even starts, and we’ll show that pushback happening in a number of ways.

How much story time passes between the end of “Ultimates” and the first issue of “Ultimates²?” What can you tell us about the inciting incident that brings the group back together?

Marvel Time is pretty elastic, if I’m honest. I feel like if I say, “Oh, it’s three weeks,” or, “it’s two months,” someone’s going to get out a railway timetable and say that it couldn’t possibly be that long or that short, etc, etc. So… as much time has passed as is necessary. As much time has gone by as the story requires.

“Civil War II” is over, the dust has settled, and everyone’s into their new routines… which is when Anti-Man, the all-new Herald Of Galactus, arrives to blow up everyone’s cosy bubble and drag them kicking and screaming into the presence of the Seeder Of Worlds.

The mystery of who chained Eternity and what that means is a dire one, but will that be the only problem the Ultimates face in this new series?

I’m trying to have things on all scales, human and cosmic, so on the one hand you have Vogt investigating into whether the Ultimates have reformed against the wishes of the Government, Carol and T’Challa working out whether they can trust each other, and so on. At the same time, you have Adam working out how to fight a cosmic ghost from before this iteration of the universe, Galactus going on trial before the Living Tribunal, and living abstract concepts mashing together into explosive new super-concepts. We’ve got it all!

Finally, you’ve provided connective tissue between your other Marvel titles in the past for readers who enjoy all of them. Will we see some between “Ultimates²” and “U.S. Avengers?” Will the mystery of Eternity’s jailer touch that book at all?

We’ve already seen some lines drawn between “Ultimates” and “New Avengers” – as “New Avengers” evolves into “U.S.Avengers,” you can probably expect a little more where that came from. I do have plans to do something more with the Maker, so that might happen in either of those books.

I’ll finish up with a big thank you to all those readers who are sticking with us as we start a new season, and a big HELLO to those new readers joining us! The Ultimates is not like other super hero comics, but the people who love it really, REALLY love it, and I’m always incredibly grateful for that, and for the kind words and great word of mouth we get. And things are only going to get bigger, better and weirder, True Believer! That’s a Galactus promise!

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