Squad Goals: Meet the Team in Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort’s ‘Ultimates’ [Interview]
Of all the books announced by Marvel during this week's big All-New, All-Different unveiling, one of the surprise titles that generated the most buzz was Ultimates, by Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort. Though the name echoes back to the Ultimate Universe version of the Avengers, this is a very different team, comprised of some of the Marvel Universe's major powerhouses and most brilliant minds as they tackle cosmic threats on the scale of... well, Galactus.
ComicsAlliance spoke to Ewing to learn about the big idea behind this big team and the sort of threats they'll be facing, and to discover what drew him to put characters like Black Panther, Captain Marvel and America Chavez on one team --- besides the fact that they're all obviously the best characters.
ComicsAlliance: What's the mission statement of this new Ultimates, and what's their relationship to the Avengers?
Al Ewing: The Ultimates are a team put together to find and fix omniversal problems likely to affect the safety of Earth and the larger universe. A cosmic team for cosmic threats. "The impossible is where they start." Although, actually, they'll be starting with the most well-known cosmic threat of all --- Galactus.
As for how they fit in with the Avengers --- they're not strictly speaking part of the Avengers, but they are an official team, operating with the approval and subsidies of at least two world governments --- the US and Wakanda --- and fairly closely affiliated with Carol's new organization. They've got the support they need to do the jobs they have to --- I haven't considered the possibility of 'Ultimates cards' to get them into places yet, but why not?
CA: With the Ultimate Universe destroyed, why take on this name, for the team and for the book itself?
AE: Because they're the ultimate super team, solving the ultimate problems. They're generally pretty ultimate. And "The Ultimates" is a fine name for a book --- it says it all, really. I don't see a need to retire it just because the universe it came from is no longer with us.
CA: It's such an unusual team that I'd like to take the team members one by one, and find out why you picked them, and how you approach each character.
Blue Marvel? Obviously a favorite of yours.
AE: It's true that I'm a huge fan of Adam, and I'm glad of the chance to put a little more focus on him and chronicle his adventures for a little longer. [Editor] Tom [Brevoort]'s a fan of his too, I think --- certainly, when we were kicking around ideas for the roster, he was part of it from the start.
Adam's the same character he was in Mighty Avengers, although he's got a new costume and he's leaning a little more into super-scientist mode. He's still one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe, and this is going to be a book where he'll finally get to cut loose on the page. He can't be distracted by a larger threat the way he was in Mighty Avengers --- these are the largest threats.
CA: Monica Rambeau?
AE: Again, I'm a big fan of Monica and I wasn't quite done with her --- I feel like now that she's reinvigorated and repowered and she's kind of conquered her demons a little, we can really tell some fun stories about one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe. This is going to be a good venue for really pushing what she can do --- how her powers operate, what they mean in terms of her humanity. Plus we get to see her interact with Carol Danvers, which is always fun.
CA: Speaking of which; Carol Danvers?
AE: Captain Marvel is another huge powerhouse, but she's also in a high position of authority in the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe, especially when it comes to big cosmic threats. It makes a huge amount of sense to have her be on this team, representing a new, outer space peacekeeping force and speaking from that point of view --- she's a fantastically useful asset to the team in all areas. Part of what makes this lineup so interesting is that it's not just these huge reserves of physical and mental power that are represented, but also political power. Which brings us to...
CA: Black Panther!
AE: ... Black Panther. The most politically powerful hero in the Marvel Universe, I'd say. The reigning king of one of Marvel-Earth's major technological powers --- I don't think calling Wakanda a superpower is any kind of stretch. The Ultimates is as much a Wakandan enterprise as it is an American one --- it's very in tune with that idea of having a plan in your desk drawer for when Galactus drops by.
Wakanda's always been very cagey about exporting Vibranium and its technological breakthroughs, and with good reason, but I feel like they'd be more willing to collaborate with other nations on matters of defending Earth against extra-terrestrial and extra-dimensional threats --- that's a case where everyone benefits. Nobody wants Earth to blow up. (Again.)
It's going to be a lot of fun putting T'Challa and Adam in the same room.
CA: America Chavez? As she's a queer woman of color, I think she's incredibly important, so I'm very glad to see her back on a title.
AE: It was Kieron [Gillen] and Marguerite [Bennett] who brought her up when I was chatting to them about cosmic kickers of all the ass, so you can thank them. America's a fun addition to the team, in that she's been doing everything they've been doing in terms of keeping inter-dimensional crap from hitting fans for quite a while now, so she's not seeing this as a brave new venture so much --- she's seeing a bunch of amateurs taking their first steps into a world she knows back to front. And there may come a point where she has to shut them all down.
CA: This is notably a very diverse team, as were your two Mighty Avengers rosters, but now we also have a diverse main Avengers team as well. Why do you think this sort of diversity is so important?
AE: I think it's important in the way that a roof is important. If you're moving into a building and the landlord says "oh, and we have --- get this --- a roof! And four walls! We're not just a hole someone dug in the street!", you don't start giving out medals for that. That's just a basic thing that ought to be standard. It's just fiction reflecting reality --- there are all kinds of people in the world, and we should reflect that properly and try not to screw up. To be honest, I think there's a long way to go in a lot of ways, both on the page and off.
CA: How would you describe the vibe and energy that Kenneth Rocafort brings to the series?
AE: Otherworldly and beautiful. One thing I like that we're getting him to do is strange and bizarre creatures and landscapes --- he brings a kind of ethereal quality to it all that'll really help us when things get cosmic. I love that I can tell him to draw a menagerie of strange inter-dimensional life, and what comes back is beyond my wildest expectations.
CA: A team like this is going to have to face some monumental threats. Can you drop any hints about the sort of craziness you'll be asking Kenneth to draw?
AE: Well, we start off with a Galactus two-parter that'll probably go further than people are expecting. I mean it --- you might think you know what's going to happen, but unless you're a very good guesser, you don't.
Following that, we have a trek to the outside of the Omniverse, a journey into the dreams of the Dreaming Celestial, and the return of one of the oldest and strangest creatures in the Marvel Universe. It's going to be a fun ride.
Ultiimates #1 by Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort goes on sale in October.
Best Black Panther Art Ever
Marvel Facts You Might Not Know