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The “Select” Few: DnA Talk “Annihilation: Conquest

by  in Comic News Comment
The “Select” Few: DnA Talk “Annihilation: Conquest
“Annihilation: Conquest” #2 on sale December 5

In "Annihilation: Conquest Prologue," the techno-organic Phalanx conquered the Kree Empire. In the four spin-off stories that followed, many heroes stood up to the mechanical monstrosities and some small victories were gained. Now in the "Annihilation: Conquest" miniseries, these heroes must risk it all to defeat the Phalanx or the entire Marvel Universe is doomed. CBR News spoke with "Conquest" writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, collectively known to their fans as DnA, about the cosmic comic.

It was Abnett and Lanning’s choice to use the Phalanx as the main threat in "Annihilation: Conquest" that lead to many of the themes prevalent in the series. "We liked the idea of using the Phalanx because we didn’t want to repeat what Keith Giffen did so brilliantly with the first ‘Annihilation,’" DnA told CBR News. "The Phalanx, to us, represented a very different kind of threat than the Negative Zone gribblies (that’s so a real word). Once we were brainstorming, the themes quickly rose to the surface: souls and organic life, technology and techno-organic life, individuality, and the parent-child relationship"

The first hints of the parent-child theme emerged in "Annihilation: Conquest" #1, when the High Evolutionary mysteriously addressed the resurrected Adam Warlock as "son." "Adam has issues with the HE (as we’ve been calling him), because he knows that the HE’s schemes have, in the past, threatened worlds and placed the HE squarely in the role of supervillain," DnA explained. "But the HE is fascinated by Adam, fascinated by his genetic perfection, and Adam knows, deep down, the HE is one of the few beings in the galaxy who is capable of understanding him. Adam is confused and alone. He does what every kid does in that situation. He goes back to see his dad, even if he and his dad have never always seen eye to eye."

Warlock isn’t the only one suspicious of the High Evolutionary’s schemes. Some readers are wondering how long the amoral geneticist has been conducting experiments on the Kree and why he’s even in Kree space in the first place.  "All will be revealed in issue #2," DnA said. "The simple answers are: HE’s been there for quite a time now, and he was invited."

Page from “Annihilation: Conquest” #2

Adam’s reluctance to get involved in the larger conflict of "Conquest" also stems from the questions he has about himself. "He’s been ‘woken too soon’ and he has no idea what his destiny is supposed to be," DnA stated. "He doesn’t want to get involved until he’s worked out what it is he’s supposed to be doing (authors’ hint: he may not get that luxury!)"

In "Annihilation: Conquest" #1, Warlock’s role in the fight was guaranteed when he struck back at a Phalanx unit out to kill Moondragon and Quasar and apprehend him. This act of defiance got Warlock noticed by the Phalanx leader, who was revealed to be the Avengers’ unstoppable android foe, Ultron.

"This is the real deal, the same one we saw in the frankly fantastic ‘Mighty Avengers’ (we’re fans!)," DnA confirmed. "We were approved to use Ultron in ‘Conquest’ a while back, and at the time, the ‘Mighty Avengers’ story was slated to have finished before we got there. However, ‘Mighty Avengers’ has suffered a few schedule problems (this is comics, not rocket science, and that happens). So we’re overlapping slightly. But remember, the ‘Mighty Avengers’ story, all six issues, happens in one day. ‘Conquest’ is ‘some months later….’"

The Ultron that stepped from the shadows in "Conquest" #1 has undergone quite a few upgrades to his power potential since he menaced the Avengers. "He’s scary! He’s been upgraded by Phalanx high-end tech," DnA said. "Through the Phalanx, by extension, he’s a whole species. And, of course, he’s Ultron. That mind, that sentience, that hunger — he could inhabit a transistor radio, and he’d still be one terrifying villain!"

In exchange for their upgrades and obedience, Ultron has given his techno-organic followers a gift of their own. Explained DnA, "Ultron has upgraded them, teaching them that to be truly successful they have to incorporate and permit to flourish strong individual traits and freewill. Hence, the Select. The Select are much more effective than your average Phalanx warrior, because they retain their own old quirks, powers, and skills. By getting the Phalanx to allow for the Select, Ultron has turned them into an even more devastating and unpredictable force."

Page from “Annihilation: Conquest” #2

How Ultron came to lead the Phalanx is something DnA will reveal in later issues of "Conquest" as to what his plans are for them, there’s more than meets the eye. "He’s Ultron. Of course there’s more to his master plan!" said DnA. "Authors’ hint: he’s in control of a hyper-invasive species that can conquer Empires. What else will be on his ‘must conquer’ list?"

At the end of the original "Annihilation" miniseries, the Kree were forced to cede some of their empire to another invading species, the Annihilation Wave. Upcoming issues of "Conquest" will show how the wild card of Ravenous and the remainder of the Annihilation Wave factor into the Phalanx’s invasion plan. "On hearing news of the fall of Hala, Rav and the gribblies did a little happy dance and threw a party," DnA said. "However, as we’ll see in issue #2, the gribblies and the Phalanx is not a match made in heaven."

Kree space is definitely at risk in "Annihilation: Conquest," but if the Phalanx does envelops the Kree Empire, nothing will be able to stand in the way of their techno-organic war machine. The fate of the galaxy lies in the hands of a nearly powerless Quasar, a dragon-ified Moondragon, a dazed and confused Warlock, a Phalanx-ized Nova, Ronan and his crew on board a spaceship in a terminal crash dive, and Peter Quill and his merry misfits. "It doesn’t look good for the galaxy now, does it?" DnA said.

The various heroes of "Annihilation: Conquest" survived their individual miniseries but the chances of all them making it through this one are much smaller. "This is war," DnA said. "People are going to die. And DnA may end up being very unpopular with fans. There’s going to be a ‘you killed my favorite character’ club, you just wait."

Page from “Annihilation: Conquest” #2

Abnett and Lanning have been consistently amazed at the way the art team of "Annihilation: Conquest" has brought to life all the cosmic powered carnage of their scripts. "We think Tom Raney is fantastic, and doing an amazing job," the writers said. "He’s risen to every challenge we’ve thrown at him, and his art has never been better. We’re so pleased to have him as our artist and we think (it’s an impression we get) he’s having a great time too.

"Can we just mention Scott Hanna’s inks and Frank D’Armata’s colors? How good are they? We gasp in awe every time Tom sends us one of his pages, then gasp again when we see it inked, and then simply collapse in wonder when Frank turns in the colors. We’re really rather pleased to be part of this, can you tell?

"We’ve run out of compliments for this interview, but Aleksi Briclot’s covers, wow! And we’d also like to praise the ‘invisibles,’ our editorial shepherds Bill Rosemann and Tom Brevoort for their patience, wise counsel, and all round enthusiastic support.

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Marvel Comics forum.

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