SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Ultimates 2" #4, on sale now.
Since it launched late last year, the second volume of Al Ewing's universe-redefining "Ultimates" series (a.k.a. "Ultimates 2") has not held anything back. The series has broken the rules when it comes to Marvel's cosmic order, using 2015's "Secret Wars" as the impetus for a number of major changes. The latest issue, "Ultimates 2" #4 by Ewing and series artist Travel Foreman, is no different; the issue concludes with one of Marvel's major cosmic players seeming changed forever.
Galactus has become a devourer of worlds.
Okay -- if you're not up to date on the "Ultimates" saga, that big reveal might be a head-scratcher. Originally introduced in 1966's "Fantastic Four" #48 as a massive, planet-eating cosmic entity, Galactus has spent the last 50 years as one of the biggest threats in the Marvel Universe. Time and time again he has tried to drain the Earth of its energy, leaving everyone on the planet -- and the planet itself -- dead. And, time and time again Earth's heroes fought Galactus, beating him and his powerful heralds back and buying the Earth even more time.
Following the death and rebirth of the Marvel Universe at the end of "Secret War" (an event that went unnoticed by nearly all of Marvel's heroes), the Ultimates formed in November 2015's "Ultimates" #1. Their first mission: solve Galactus' hunger problem. Realizing that it made more sense to cure the cosmic entity's hunger than continually fight him, the team uncovered the specifics of Galactus' transformation from an ordinary humanoid named Galan into the all-powerful Galactus.
They also found the device that did that deed: Galactus' incubator. The Incubator, which actually debuted way back in 1969's "Thor" #162, was a previously lost artifact. After appearing in that Silver Age issue, the device that created the Devourer of Worlds remained lost until the Ultimates found it. Knowing that the Incubator would no doubt have an effect on Galactus, potentially evolving him further, the team forced him into it.
The team's theory was proven correct, and Galactus emerged from the Incubator once again, fundamentally changed. Instead of devouring worlds, he now brought life to dead ones, starting with Archeopia, the very first world he destroyed billions of years ago as Galactus.
Galactus' new role set a shockwave throughout the cosmic order. But wile that development took Earth (and every other planet) off of Galactus' menu, it didn't sit right with Master Order and Lord Chaos. That pair of cosmic entities didn't like Galactus' makeover, so they took the Lifebringer to the universe's equivalent of "The People's Court" -- which is a meeting with the Living Tribunal. That meeting didn't go so well either. The Living Tribunal ruled that the old cosmic order perished after "Secret Wars," so Galactus' new role was a valid one. With the cosmic order malleable, Master Order and Lord Chaos did what was previously unthinkable: they killed the Living Tribunal.
Order and Chaos then turned their attention to Galactus -- and hit him with an energy blast designed to shove him back into his old role and destroy his Lifebringer persona.
The pair then snacked on their creation, the In-Betweener, and became a totally new, judgmental cosmic entity called Logos -- and then set out to wreck shop. "Ultimates 2" #4 sees Logos lay down a new kind of order across Marvel's cosmic landscape while Galactus fights against transformation. Logos returns and hits Galactus with another blast -- and it does the trick.
The Lifebringer is dead. Long live Galactus, devourer of worlds.
What the future holds remains unclear, but there are a number of factors to take into account. For one thing, Galactus didn't want to change back. He made it clear in his pleas to the Living Tribunal a few months ago, and in his defiance of Order and Chaos' power, that he felt fulfilled in his new role as the Lifebringer. He even went beyond his new role as the seeder of worlds, actively seeking to make positive changes across the universe. After becoming aware that all of reality has been placed in chains by a mysterious aggressor, Galactus has been investigating this cosmic conundrum. He even put together this current group of Ultimates to serve as his heralds of life and work with him to free all of reality.
And then there are the Ultimates to think about. Right now, the team is begrudgingly working alongside Galactus to solve this massive mystery. Their new headquarters is even Galactus' super spaceship, the Taa II. How will the Ultimates react when they realize that their boss has been forcibly reverted back to his hungry ways? Will they try to shove him into another incubator?
There's also the possibility that Galactus will now bear a classic, Marvel-style internal conflict. This could be a totally new take on Galactus, one that hungers (like he has since the dawn of time), but now has a new awareness of how dangerous his hunger is thanks to his brief stint as the Lifebringer. Could this be a Galactus that's tormented by guilt, one that strives to overcome his hunger and be a better cosmic entity? Is this a Galactus that could search out already dead worlds and feed on them while also maintaining a career as a cosmic superhero with the Ultimates? There are plenty of ways this development could go -- and obviously Logos isn't done rewriting the rules of Marvel's cosmic landscape.
"Ultimates 2" #5 arrives in stores on March 22. The solicit text for the issue remains light on Galactus-heavy information, although the cover prominently features Galactus' discarded Lifebringer helmet. There is one bit of major information that will be revealed next month, though: we'll learn the name of the Cosmic Jailer, and therefore know the name of Galactus' previously unseen enemy.