In a fun bit of retconning, we’re told that when these immortals first picked their all-important hobbies (e.g.: The Runner runs; The Trader trades, etc.), there were two gamesmen: Gast, and the original Grandmaster. The stakes for each game they played ramped up until the two frenemies/brothers were playing for their very existence. The loser of the final game would languish in nothingness until the end of reality. Gast won the bout and took his comrade’s title once he had been exiled. Eons later, the destruction and reforming of the multiverse in Secret Wars created an opening for the original Grandmaster to find his way back. He took the new title The Challenger and demanded a rematch with the same consequences.
Each player has chosen a team to compete to find powerful artifacts called pyramoids, scattered around the world. Gast went with a new version of the Lethal Legion, while The Challenger selected The Black Order. It seemed like an uneven match up as The Black Order were only six warriors up against the Lethal Legions’ seven, but then The Challenger activated his surprise ace-in-the-hole, the Immortal Hulk. Gast also had a card up his sleeve, as the mysterious Voyager was revealed to be his daughter(!), who had been manipulating the game from within. As of the latest issue in the arc, Avengers #685, the competitors each had a pyramoid point, with only one left on the board.
Considering that what qualifies The Elder of the Universe to be in their exclusive club is being the last of an extremely ancient species, the Voyager revelation is a pretty big deal. Be that as it may, Gast isn’t the first Elder to have a child. The Collector, aka Taneleer Tivan, has a daughter named Carina since a run of Avengers comics in the late-‘70s. She is almost as long-lived and as powerful as her dad and is therefore also considered an Elder. So, it is likely Voyager will be classified as one as well.
Infinity Countdown, kicked off with the Infinity Countdown Prime one-shot at the end of February. In this prelude, the Elder of the Universe known as The Contemplator recounts where all the Infinity Gems are to the Magus, an evil version of Adam Warlock. Only at the end of the comic do we learn that Magus has decapitated The Contemplator and forced his living head to locate the Soul Gem, which is on Ego.
With the orange jewel in hand, Magus breaks into a classic villain spiel -- cut short when Pymtron (Hank Pym + Ultron) appears out of nowhere and punches right through his chest, claiming the powerful gem for himself. The human/AI hybrid then attempts to recruit The Contemplator’s disembodied head, but The Elder turns him down. So, the cyborg proceeds to disintegrate the cranium with an energy blast. Even though that would seem to mark the end of this cosmic being, The Elders cannot enter death’s domain. Meaning he is likely just in some temporary limbo.
Infinity Countdown #1 is split between Drax and the Nova Corps protecting a giant-sized Power Stone on the planetoid Xitaung, and the rest of the Guardians teamed with Ant-Man and Nova battling The Gardener (aka Ord Zyonz) on a world named Telferina. The Elder with a green thumb had seemingly gone mad and was empowering the planet’s flora to destroy the civilization that had covered its surface. Basically, an army of angry Groots were levelling cities and the Guardians were the last line of defence. While their direct attack on The Gardener was admirable, it was only Groot reasoning with him that stopped his rampage.
You see, Zyonz is Groot’s creator and he is the only one, other than Rocket, that understands his speech. Groot also realizes his “father” is under the influence of some substance and uses a network of roots to absorb the toxin. Once he is back to his old self, he explains that Loki had poisoned him and thanks Groot by returning him to his former glory, which not only includes increased size and more powers, but also the ability to speak in full sentences. Whoa!
Neither No Surrender or Infinity Countdown is finished yet, so we expect we will see more Elders and more changes to their stories soon enough. But regardless of what comes next, 2018 has already shaken up their status quo sufficiently.