This week’s Inhumans: Judgment Day one-shot wraps up the story that writer Al Ewing has been building since March 2017's Inhumans Prime and through the Royals ongoing. Joining Ewing on this milestone issue is just-named Marvel Young Guns artist Mike Del Mundo, who brings his intense palette and sci-fi sensibilities to what amounts to a conclusion to the latest cosmic saga of the Inhumans.
The two principal creators spoke to Newsarama ahead of Judgment Day’s release this week, revealing the touching moment between Black Bolt and Medusa that moved them both, Del Mundo’s striking take on the Royal Family, and the big projects in their future.
Newsarama: Al, Inhumans: Judgment Day appears to be the end of the current era of Inhumans in the Marvel Universe. Are we jumping the gun on seeing this as closing the book on some parts of the Inhumans mythos?
Al Ewing: It's going to put the Royals in a place for the next person pick up. Some things will be resolved, some things will be left to be resolved - not least in the pages of Black Bolt. But yes, we'll be seeing the end of the story I've been telling - the Progenitors and Medusa will get a climactic moment, and those who've been wondering where the Royals will end up will get their answer.
Nrama: You’ve been building the story of the Progenitors since you launched Royals. How long have you known this was the end point?
Ewing: This particular story built itself out of the needs of the stories around it - I knew what I needed to get done before I went, but I made sure to check what other people needed from me before I solidified the plot. I knew roughly that we were headed for a final battle on the moon, but the form that battle took went through a few permutations - essentially, the deeper we dived into it, the more personal it got. The macro became the micro, and vice versa. So what we were left with is something that's very fitting, in terms of The Inhumans.
These are not characters who do the boring, ordinary thing. These are not characters who deal with threats in the ordinary way. One of my themes throughout the run has been that these are creatures of poetry, that these are beings who don't follow any of the normal rules - and that's how we're going out. Atypically.
Nrama: Mike, every Marvel story you touch takes on a completely unique visual identity. What drew you to the Inhumans as a subject?
Mike Del Mundo: I've always loved the sci-fi genre and Jack Kirby's characters are a gift in itself to draw.
Nrama: What was your relationship like with the Inhumans before taking this job? Are they characters you’ve had your eye on?
Del Mundo: I've definitely had my eye on them. What really drew me back in to the title is Christian Ward’s run on Black Bolt. His visuals were so stunning, it gave me a look into what artistic freedoms you can get with a book like that.
Nrama: So now that the Royals have found Primagen and the Progenitors, what exactly is about to happen to them?
Ewing: Primagen is a purer form of Terrigen - it supercharges people who interact with it, grants them a measure of longevity and enhances their powers in occasionally unexpected ways. In their own book, the Royals stole it from the Progenitors - vast space entities who created the Kree in the same way the Kree made the Inhumans - and now the Progenitors are coming for them because of it.
And there can only be one winner. We start the book minutes away from the Progenitors' arrival on the moon - and as soon as they arrive, they're going to harvest the Inhumans and turn them into monstrous versions of themselves. And all this has been predicted to end with the destruction of Earth. So... high stakes.
After we're done - part of the point of going after Primagen was to bring Terrigen back. You could probably use one to synthesize the other. Or they could keep some as nuclear option. Here, we start getting into the realm of what the next writer wants to do - I'm probably out of step with most Marvel writers, in that I've stopped thinking of this as toys in a toybox. I'd rather think of what we do as a never-ending improv. I'm handing over the scene - all I can do is leave it in an interesting place and wait for the "yes, and..." to come.
Nrama: Going into this story, the real Black Bolt is back with the family after being secretly imprisoned and replaced by Maximus. Al, how does that change things for the Royals?
Ewing: The circumstances of Black Bolt's return are... a little strange. I'll leave it at that, for now. But the main way his involvement changes things is that he and Medusa finally have that conversation they've needed to have since I stepped in during Inhumans Prime and ruined everything.
This is something I've thought about a lot, and something I've had long conversations about with other writers, and I think readers will be happy with how it plays out. And then maybe unhappy with me again. Or not. We'll find out.
Nrama: Mike, as Al said, Inhumans: Judgment Day closes the book on this chapter of the Inhumans saga. How does it feel to be working on such a milestone for characters straight from the brain of Jack Kirby?
Del Mundo: Amazing!!!
I'm honored that Marvel approached me to be a part of the Inhumans history books! I've always loved Kirby's designs and it was thrill to put my stamp on them.
Nrama: Speaking of Al, he’s no stranger to massive, cosmic concepts - especially when it comes to the Inhumans. Did he throw anything at you that pushed your limits, or made you step back and scratch your head?
Del Mundo: I dealt with a very emotional storyline between Black Bolt and Medusa. The backgrounds were very simple and they were almost isolated, like there's literally no sound within the scene except for some wind gushes. So a lot of the focus was on them and their emotions.
I had to make sure that I got their expressions right since the readers would totally be focused on them. Al wrote a very heartfelt emotional heartbreak story and the challenge was to keep the strength of the dialogue within the visuals without making it forced - but I think I did a good job. [Laughs]
Nrama: You take a soup-to-nuts approach on your interiors, generally handling every step of the process to the finished art. When you’re working in that way, how does that process compare to a more traditional workflow with a penciler, inker, and colorist working in succession?
Del Mundo: Well, I can't say I do it all. I have the help of my co-colorist Marco D'Alfonso who does a killer job with setting up the blueprints of the colors. But yeah, doing the majority of the work gives a bit more editing freedom. Like if there's something I want to change or rework or refine last minute, I can do that since I'm not on a set inker, colorist schedule. So I'm constantly editing my work, going back and forth through the pages, until the deadline. The best part of it is if an idea comes to mind nearing the end of the deadline, I can easily add that in if time permits.
Nrama: Al, I can’t think of a better fit for a massive cosmic story like this than Mike. How much do you let someone like Mike, who has such a specific visual identity, run wild on the page?
Ewing: This time round, I had a relatively firm hand on the tiller - I think if I worked with him again I'd let him run much more, but this was a particular thing and I needed to do it a particular way.
Mike's one of those artists with a very unique style, and I wanted to put that to work in certain ways - sweeping vistas of metaphor, science-fiction montages, explosive all-action emotional catharsis... and in the middle, some character work.
When Mike drew that scene of Hercules and Vision in the coffee shop talking about immortality in Avengers, that was one of my favorite scenes of the year, just in terms of the expressions and the life breathed into the characters, so I was very glad to have him on this.
Nrama: What’s your favorite thing Mike drew for Judgment Day? Is there any particular scene or element from the script that he took above and beyond what you put in the text?
Ewing: There's a conversation between Medusa and Black Bolt - Mike mentioned it - that he absolutely hit out of the park. It almost seems sacrilegious to talk about an artist of Mike's ability and scope and then say that my favorite thing he did was two people talking, but... the mark of a truly great artist is how they hand the small, subtle moments.
And Mike took a small, subtle moment that was incredibly important to the story, and to me personally, and absolutely crushed it. Perfection. But I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the sweeping desert vistas, or his take on the Progenitors, or that flashback sequence that he turned into the greatest movie posters you could ever see. He's a phenomenal talent, and I hope to work with him again.
Nrama: Mike, one thing that always stands out in your work is your intense color palette. When you’re putting together a palette for a book like Inhumans: Judgment Day, what’s on your mind?
Del Mundo: I always let the story drive my color palette. It's a feeling, I just trust it. One of the pages I did involved a montage of the Inhumans bringing you back to the past issues, so in those situations I felt I could break out and just go wild without much thought of how it should look since images are just converging. For other scenes, like Black Bolt and Medusa's reflection scene, Al wanted a surreal desert type of background. But because the main focus was on this emotional conversation between them, I felt I should make the background sparse and very monotone, to keep the focus on the characters.
Nrama: Al, given the cyclical nature of comic books, a door never closes without a few windows popping open in the process. How do you bring a sense of finality to a saga like this without putting the pieces away entirely?
Ewing: I didn't. I ended on a cliffhanger. Well - not a cliffhanger per se, but definitely something that'll make the reader wonder where things will go from there. Oh, we end our plot threads - particularly regarding the Progenitors and a couple of other ongoing issues - but we don't pretend the ongoing story of the Inhumans is going to end there. The Inhumans will be back - it's just a question of when.
Nrama: We’ve seen Black Bolt sticking around in his solo title after Judgment Day, but not much else in the way of the Royal Family in upcoming solicitations. What’s next for Medusa, Karnak, and the rest? Is that your story to tell?
Ewing: It absolutely is not. We'll be seeing some of the events in Judgment Day from Black Bolt's perspective - and if people don't like how I play it, they might like how Saladin Ahmed does - in the pages of Black Bolt #10. From there, he's going to finish his story - maybe you'll see Medusa in his pages, maybe you won't. But you ought to be reading anyway, since it's one of the best comics of the year. As for Karnak - he's got his own things going on, as we saw in the pages of Secret Warriors, and I'd be very surprised if there weren't plans for him in certain quarters. People do love that wacky nihilist.
Nrama: Mike, you’ve done some wild stuff at Marvel in recent years, from your high fantasy Weird World series to your time-traveling Avengers run, and now this big cosmic adventure. Where do you want to travel next with your art?
Del Mundo: I'd love to do some more Inhumans related stuff, and X-Men would be my dream job - but I got some stuff lined up that hasn't been announced that I'm really excited about.
Nrama: After Inhumans: Judgment Day your next solicited work is more Doctor Strange covers. What’s in your pipeline that you can talk about?
Del Mundo: Things are coming. I can't share it just yet but It's going to be Thunderous.
Nrama: Al, After Inhumans: Judgment Day, your solicited Marvel work is down to Avengers' "No Surrender" arc. What’s in the works for you next?
Ewing: I have two Marvel series currently at various stages of completion. In their own ways, they're both personal big things for me. One of them is probably the furthest I've gone in terms of formal experimentation - it was going to be just a fun thing, but then it spiraled out of control into this deeply creatively and mentally challenging project. Which makes it sound less fun - but for the reader, I can promise that it'll be incredible fun. You'll know what I mean when it gets announced. It's so fun.
The other thing is... well, it's big. In terms of the property - it's one of the bigger ones - and in terms of what I want to do with it, the level of ambition... I'm pushing this one very hard, and in a different direction from what I usually do. See... when I made my start in UK comics, I started as a horror writer. Not many people know that. The first few stories I was ever paid to tell were horror stories - very dark and very creepy. But I don't think I've ever really done a long-form horror/suspense book for Marvel.
Not until now.
It's going to be big. And - no false modesty here - it's going to be very, very good. We've got an incredibly talented artist putting their all into it, and we've got me writing a character I've loved since my childhood - and not letting that love stop me.
This is going to be the book of 2018. Don't sleep on it.