In the wake of Secret Wars, the Ultimate Universe and the 616 will cease to exist in favor of a unified Marvel Universe. But one legacy from the Ultimate Universe lives on – The Ultimates.
Writer Al Ewing and artist Kenneth Rocafort are launching a new version of the world’s most powerful superteam designed to take on the biggest cosmic threats the “All-New, All-Different” Marvel Universe can throw at them.
Featuring an all-killer-no-filler roster with several holdovers from Ewing’s Mighty Avengers, The Ultimates will kick off their career by taking on the biggest cosmic menace of all – Galactus, the devourer of worlds. But exactly how they plan to solve this problem is a mystery; one which will utilize the unconventional problem solving skills of this cosmic team.
Newsarama spoke to Ewing ahead of The Ultimates #1’s November 11 release to find out what fans can expect from Marvel’s newest iteration of the team. Ewing spilled the dirt on where fans of the Ultimate Universe can find some familiar faces, how the team functions as a whole, and why The Ultimates is going to be a book to watch for Marvel’s most cosmic stories.
Newsarama: Al, the name “The Ultimates” obviously has a huge history at Marvel. How do you honor the legacy of the name in the mainstream Marvel Universe?
Al Ewing: Well, the original Ultimates comic had a certain now-ness to it - it felt like quite a pure distillation of the storytelling experiments of the time, especially with Bryan Hitch working at his widescreen best. With the help of Kenneth Rocafort - without whom this comic wouldn't, couldn't exist in the form it's taking - I feel like we're exploring some similarly experimental territory, while at the same time doing our own version of that widescreen visual language. At the same time, it's a very, very different beast - very much our thing.
Nrama: The line-up for The Ultimates is packed with powerhouses, which makes sense considering the kind of problems they seem to be tackling. You’ve even got two female Captain Marvels on the team in Monica Rambeau and Carol Danvers. What separates these two characters, and moreso, what do they have in common?
Ewing: Well, they're both strong leaders - Monica's led several teams, while Carol's currently running Alpha Flight, which is Earth's premier space agency. They've both seen the highs and the lows of the superhero business, and come out the other side. Right now, Carol's in the ascendant, culturally, both in-universe and outside it, whereas Monica's had some wilderness years, but that's left her unbound, freed from her own ideas about herself. Carol's story in The Ultimates is very much about her links with the ordinary super-hero world, and about trying to form a bridge between that world and the world of The Ultimates, while Monica's is about releasing herself from the expectations of that world and moving forward to a new cosmic level.
Nrama: One of the biggest (no pun intended) things people are talking about when it comes to The Ultimates is the presence of Galactus. Is he the first big bad, or something more?
Ewing: You'll have to read it to find out! Nobody's really guessed what we're doing with Galactus yet - not fully. He's definitely a threat to be resolved by the team, but how that resolution happens in The Ultimates #2, and what happens after that, will hopefully take some people by surprise, in a good way. I know a lot of people got very excited by the way we've been putting him on covers - that Art Adams cover is a beaut - and I promise it'll all make sense soon enough.
Nrama: Galactus has connections to both the 616 universe and the Ultimate universe, having menaced both in the past. Will we see that connection explored in The Ultimates? Will any other elements of the Ultimate universe find their way into the book?
Ewing: It's semi-slim pickings, as we mostly just wanted to salvage the name - but if you're a fan of the unique architecture of the Ultimate U, you'll find the Triskelion hale and hearty in regular Marvel New York, taking its rightful place as HQ for the world's ultimate superteam. We've put our own twist on it, as you'll see in The Ultimates #1 - it ties into some of the other “All-New All-Different” titles in ways that might tickle fans of Captain Marvel and Black Panther. And if you're looking for other Ultimate Universe bits and pieces, New Avengers is probably the place to be, since that's where Ultimate Reed Richards, alias the Maker, is hanging his hat at the moment.
Nrama: The solicitation for Ultimates #1 mentions the “Omniverse.” Is this the new construct that takes the place of the Multiverse in the wake of Secret Wars?
Ewing: I don't think it is officially - I just really like the word. In this context, it's everything that is - all reality, from the very outskirts like the Neutral Zone and Limbo, to the Superflow, to the various multiverses. The lot. So if we're talking about what's outside that - well, I've already seen people online doubting that there even can be an 'outside', so we know that it's going to be pretty damn cosmic. If The Ultimates are going out there - what's going to be waiting for them?
Nrama: The line-up for The Ultimates has some serious heavy hitters. How did you decide who to include when building the roster?
Ewing: Well, we wanted people who were absolutely the most powerful heroes we could possibly get, so we drew up a list of those. The only definites, right from the start, were Adam and Monica - I wanted to keep telling that story from Mighty Avengers. So we wanted three or four heroes - we wanted to keep it small at first - who'd compliment those two, be too cool and interesting to turn down, and be available for the team.
America Chavez was the first choice - I was emailing Kieron Gillen about something and mentioned that I was looking for cosmic heavy hitters, and he dropped her name, and it made so much sense that she joined Adam and Monica in the 'definites' pool.
Black Panther provided superpower of a different kind - he's the most politically powerful hero in the MU, and I was interested in how he might eventually bounce off Adam, especially after I had Adam get a little fractious with T'Challa in Mighty Avengers. They start off on good terms in the book, but their differences are bubbling under the surface.
And finally - Carol Danvers, another powerhouse with a lot of political authority and connections to the other characters, as well as someone who creates connections with other books that'll help anchor everything together. Really, it's a great unit - I don't think I'd change the roster at all at this point.
Nrama: Many of the characters in The Ultimates carry over from your Mighty Avengers, but the scope of this book is much more cosmic, whereas Mighty Avengers was very street level. What’s it like bringing these characters you’re familiar with into such a vastly different environment?
Ewing: Mighty Avengers wasn't that street level - they started off kicking Shuma-Gorath's tentacled behind in fine style, and went out dealing with a Beyonder-level cosmic menace. While they did deal with smaller-scale stuff, and the hotline did keep them very connected with their local community, it was an Avengers book that ran the whole gamut of what the Avengers should deal with. In the case of Monica and Adam, they're really just doing what they were doing before - dealing with cosmic threats - but on a much larger and more opulent scale. I think Mighty Avengers readers will be able to move right onto this without too much trouble.
Nrama: With The Ultimates, artist Kenneth Rocafort is making the jump to Marvel after a few years at DC. What’s it like working with him? What does he bring to the cosmic scope of The Ultimates?
Ewing: Kenneth's a fantastic artist, and I feel like we get to really play to his strengths on this book - it's full of some outrageous alien beings, gorgeous spaceships, cosmic star-spanning vistas, and all the human beings in the book look great as well. I wasn't kidding earlier - without Kenneth, this would be a very, very different book, and knowing he's on the art side makes me feel happier cutting loose with some serious cosmic action, safe in the knowledge that he can handle anything I happen to throw at him. So to answer the question of what he brings to the cosmic scope - he brings the cosmic scope, full stop, and people picking the book up in a week or so will see that for themselves.
Nrama: You’ve got a number major titles launching as part of “All-New, All-Different Marvel”. How involved were you with crafting the world that will be created in the wake of Secret Wars?
Ewing: I have my corner, and I get to play around in it. Readers of both Ultimates and New Avengers - and Contest Of Champions too - will start noticing connecting tissue, ideas and issues that play across the various titles. We're gearing up for something pretty big in that direction, and Ultimates will probably be where it hits.
Nrama: We know that The Ultimates will deal with some major concepts and big ideas. Can you tease readers about what to expect when the first issue hits stores?
Ewing: Let's see... There's the new Triskelion, a new super-substance, new cosmologies, new alien planets, and the return of some very old foes that haven't been seen in the Marvel Universe for quite some time. Not to mention Galactus - we think Galactus fans will be very happy with us, at least at first. And there's a giant astral head made of space ectoplasm. Don't say we're not good to you!