This July, readers will meet a cosmic character unlike any the Marvel Universe has ever seen. That new character, Wraith, will discover that the galaxy doesn't care about his personal vendetta when it's in the grip of interstellar war. CBR News spoke with Javier Grillo-Marxuach, writer of "Annihilation: Conquest - Wraith" a four-issue mini-series, which will introduce readers to the mysterious "cosmic gunslinger" and his role in the larger Conquest conflict.
When plans for "Annihilation: Conquest" began, Marvel decided they wanted to use the mega story to introduce a new cosmic character. "Bill Rosemann, my editor, came to me with the name Wraith along with some ideas of what he wanted the character to be," Grillo-Marxuach told CBR News. "The biggest driving force of it is these cosmic characters tend to be very operatic and grandiose. Super-Skrull had this real warrior pedigree. Ronan wound up being an emperor. The Silver Surfer is the Herald of Galactus and Nova is the last of the Nova Corps. These characters have a real sort of space opera tone to them. Wraith is sort of an experiment in doing the opposite - a cosmic character who is not regal in nature - more of a loner with a horror/gothic touch. So we sort of began to think what a horror character would look like and began to spin out a lot of ideas about who Wraith would be and what he means to the world of 'Conquest.'"
Many readers have been wondering just exactly who Wraith is. Based on the character's name, some have theorized that the character is related to the old foes of Rom, the Dire Wraiths. "He's not a Dire Wraith," Grillo-Marxuach said. "He's coming from a new place in the cosmic mythology. We wanted to do a character that had sort of been raised outside of the mainstream cosmic universe. He's a Kree by birth, but he's also many other things by virtue of where his travels took him. We're kind of thinking of him as the Kree With No Name [Clint Eastwood portrayed a character called The Man With No Name in a legendary trilogy of Sergio Leone directed Spaghetti Westerns]. He's a Kree who hasn't been raised by the Kree and he's coming at the events of 'Conquest' from the perspective of a complete outsider," Grillo-Marxuach said. "The genesis and spark of the character was kind of 'How do we do a wandering gun slinger who also has a supernatural origin?'"
Grillo-Marxuach is a former writer on the TV series "Lost" and in a way the "Wraith" mini-series is structured similarly to his former show. Readers will get to know the title character as the series unfolds. "The way the issues are laid out is that issue one is an introduction to the character," Grillo-Marxuach stated. "Then issue two, because of what happens in issue one, winds up being the one where you really find out what Wraith's back story is."
Wraith's back story shaped his personality and gave him a distinct viewpoint on things like intergalactic war. "The challenge with writing a character like Wraith is that you want him to be cool and by cool I don't mean Fonzie cool, I mean sort of detached because of the unique state he's in," Grillo-Marxuach stated. "At the same time you need him to become engaged in what is essentially a heroic cause. So for his defining character traits I looked at the Western heroes; the stranger who blows into town with unique abilities and skills that are needed by the people there, but his nature is to not become engaged.
"His state of mind at the beginning of the series is 'I'm here on a personal vendetta. I've got a guy to kill. Who cares what's going on in this world? I'm not a part of it,'" Grillo-Marxuach continued. "He's not interested in 'Annihilation: Conquest,' Ronan, Quasar - he doesn't know them. He doesn't care. He's a complete stranger to this world. He's literally a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only thing that matters is fulfilling his destiny."
Readers will catch their first glimpse of Wraith and his mysterious agenda in the pages of June's "Annihilation: Conquest Prologue" and when the "Wraith" mini-series begins in July, enough story time has passed so that the monumental events of the Prologue have had a chance to settle. "Because of what happens in the 'Prologue,' Wraith is sort of in the thick of things from the beginning, but he's also in the middle of a journey to fulfill his obligations," Grillo-Marxuach explained. "He doesn't become involved in things until the Conquest has kind of taken root a bit."
Wraith is a man with many unique powers, abilities and weapons and he'll find that he'll need to call on all of them to survive the events of "Conquest." "He carries weapons of unknown origin which are connected to his main fighting abilities," Grillo-Marxuach said. "Part of designing the character was to give him abilities that aren't just sort of your stock flight, super-strength and the ability to shoot something out of his hand kind of skill set. I think one of the things that will be really cool about Wraith is that he has a lot of gunslinger abilities that you'll see in the book. Again, trying to give the book a little bit of an Old West flavor was a priority for me and Bill Rosemann; to sort of give the character a little bit of a difference in texture from the other cosmic characters."
While Wraith's gun slinging abilities will come in handy during many of the conflicts of "Annihilation: Conquest," it's his unique abilities that stem from his horrific origin that will make him such an attractive ally to the other cosmic characters involved in "Conquest." "Wraith's unusual state and powers have a distinct effect on the different type of villains in 'Conquest' that other characters don't have, and as a result Wraith is a very effective weapon in this conflict," Grillo-Marxuach explained. "But that doesn't necessarily jibe with the fact that he's a guy who's blowing into town with his own agenda. So a lot of what happens in this mini-series is sort of about that conflict; him really not wanting to become part of the cause and the cause being bigger than he is."
As Wraith gets drawn into the conflicts of "Conquest" he'll run into a variety of adversaries and put his lethal skills and powers to use in combat that takes place on a huge scale. Grillo-Marxauch had to remain cryptic though about the exact identities of the foes Wraith encounters over the course of "Conquest." "The one thing that I can say about the villains is that this is something that comes from a much different place and comes out in a much different way than the Annihilation Wave did," Grillo-Marxuach hinted. "In this case, the danger comes from within and without - and I think it's going to be very surprising to the comic audience just how this threat evolves and where it comes from."
Wraith will face the dangers he encounters in a variety of locales all across the Kree galaxy. "One of the things I wanted to do was get a lot of different environments," Grillo-Marxuach stated. "The 'Super-Skrull' series that I worked on was sort of desolate in a way. A lot of it took place in the Negative Zone on this very sort of barren planetoid as Super-Skrull raised his army. The environments that were in 'Super-Skrull' were very sort of hard places and in a weird way they sort of matched the personality of the character.
"I wanted to give this series a real sense of, 'If you were a stranger coming into the galaxy what are the things you'd see?' How would you experience the Universe?' Grillo-Marxauch continued. "At the very beginning of this series, Wraith blows into a number of Kree worlds and you get to see these big cities and the underground environments of the Kree Metropolises. The story switches settings quite a bit and spans the galaxy. This story stars a guy who is a Kree who has become detached from his own culture. So showing this galaxy where the Marvel cosmic events take place through his eyes is an important thing."
As he treks across the galaxy, Wraith will encounter a number of supporting characters both new and old. "I thought it was important to kind of fill out the world with some of the people who have been subjected to this Conquest," Grillo-Marxuach said. "So, I've created a couple of characters who aren't quite Joe Average, but who fill the role of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. They become involved in Wraith's story because I think that if you've got a cast that's entirely comprised of superheroes you lose a little bit of that flavor of the stakes of the adventure. So I've got a band of civilians that are involved in the good fight that you get to know and see their struggles.
"Ronan is also involved in my book," Grillo-Marxauch continued, "But I will say nothing else about that because I think it will be very interesting."
Some readers may remember that when the original plans for "Annihilation" follow-ups were being made that Grillo-Marxuach was originally scheduled to write a "Super-Skrull" mini-series but fans of the big green fantastically powered Skrull shouldn't fret. "Super-Skrull is also part of the 'Wraith' mini-series," Grillo-Marxuach explained. "It's something that I asked for when I got the mini-series partially because I wanted to continue that character's story. Its important that Super Skrull be involved and you find out what happened to him after 'Annihilation' and the circumstances that lead to his involvement in 'Conquest.'"
Readers of the "Wraith" mini-series will be treated to a dark-toned tale that blends together a variety of story elements. "It's pretty pitch black [laughs]," Grillo-Marxuach said. "Wraith's back story is a big tragic tale. His origin and where he's coming from is the darkest corner of the soul. In a way his story is redemptive of both him and his very dark journey. At the same time it's a cosmic book with a galaxy wide conflict taking place in it. I think one of the challenges for me has been to blend a desire to write a book that satisfies the action quotient while at the same time having that great darkness. I think if you look at our inspiration for this series, the Spaghetti Westerns, they don't lack action or adventure and at the same time they come from a very dark place and I think that's where we're coming from as well."
Like his "Super-Skrull" mini-series for the previous "Annihilation" event, Grillo-Marxuach wants "Wraith" to be a mini-series that will leave you wanting more, but is ultimately gratifying on it's own as well. "To me that's the guideline for success in terms of telling these 'Annihilation' stories," he stated. "It's important that you're left wanting more but it's also important that you if stop at a mini-series, you feel you've gotten the full story. We don't want you to feel like we're trying to coerce you. We want you to continue onward and read the rest of 'Conquest' because it's so damn good, but we also want you to feel like you've gotten your money's worth in terms of a story that's satisfying."
Grillo-Marxauch thinks readers will find the work of his "Annihilation: Conquest-Wraith" collaborator, artist Kyle Hotz, more than satisfying. "It's spectacular," he said. "The book has a unique look. What I think will be really cool about 'Wraith' besides the fact that he's a new character and has all sorts of stuff that make him special, is that Kyle's execution of my scripts is pretty darn amazing. It's a little different. It's cosmic but with a really dark edge. Kyle's art will blow people away."
Tuesday, CBR News will talk with writer Keith Giffen about "Annihilation: Conquest – Star-Lord."
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