[SPOILER WARNING: THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR "AGE OF ULTRON" #10, ON SALE NOW.]
How do you save a world that's already been decimated by one of your most dangerous foes? That's the question the heroes of the Marvel Universe were forced to confront when writer Brian Michael Bendis' event miniseries "Age of Ultron" began and the titular robot launched a sneak attack that killed millions and left most of the planet a devastated wreck. Things became even more complicated when the heroes discovered Ultron was using the future as a staging ground for his robotic army's assault on the present day.
Two heroes, Wolverine and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, sought to undo the damage Ultron had wrought by traveling back in time and killing the robot's creator, Hank Pym, before he could bring the murderous machine to life. They succeeded in altering their present day reality -- but not for the better. So they launched one last desperate plan to save the present and in "Age of Ultron" #10 by Bendis and artists Alex Maleev, Bryan Hitch, Butch Guice, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco, David Marquez and Joe Quesada, readers saw that plan come to fruition. CBR News spoke with Marvel Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort about the events of the issue, their consequences, and what they mean for the larger Marvel Universe.
CBR News: Tom, now that "Age of Ultron" #10 is in stores we can see where everything fits. It looks like this story began in the modern day Marvel U, but by the time issue #10 rolled around and reality was "restored" we were back at a time that appeared to before "Avengers Vs. X-Men", is that correct?
Tom Brevoort: That is correct. Most of the story we saw in issue #10 takes place around the time of "Avengers" #12.1
Rewinding back to issue #12.1 of the previous volume of "Avengers" and then altering those events wasn't the only cases of chronal manipulation in "Age of Ultron." Later in issue #10 we saw the consequences of all that manipulation as the space-time continuum began to break. In terms of visualizing things it seemed to me that if the continuum were a mirror it would now be covered in cracks? Is that a a fair way to look at it?
I don't know about the mirror part but the surface of the space-time continuum certainly is covered in cracks, ruptures, and developing fractures.
We also saw that these cracks are dangerous because they transport people to times and places they shouldn't be. At the end of the issue it appeared that the Marvel Universe's Galactus is now in the Ultimate Universe. Is that what happened?
That's certainly what it looks like!
Is it safe to say this story thread will be followed up in Joshua Hale Fialkov and Leonard Kirk's "Hunger" miniseries, which starts up in August?
That's a reasonably good suspicion at this point. [Laughs] I have to be a little cagey because this is part of what we'll be discussing in our latest Marvel Next Big Thing Conference Call, but what you're suggesting is not the worst bit of detective work in the world.
Certainly Galactus' presence in the Ultimate Universe will have a very significant effect in bringing together and bridging the worlds of the Marvel and Ultimate Universes.
Understood. Obviously the Ultimate Universe is in jeopardy, but if I remember Galactus' back story correctly he's necessary to maintain cosmic balance and order. So his absence in the Marvel Universe seems to suggest it is also in peril.
That is correct. Also, and I don't know if we've revealed this before, but everything in the Ultimate Universe tastes like chocolate and peanut butter. So it's really delicious! It's a perfect spot for Galactus to wind up.
[Laughs] Can you talk at all about what the cracks in the space-time continuum mean from an editorial stand point? Is this a way to reintroduce some extradimensional or older characters into the larger Marvel and Ultimate Universes?
At this stage I want to stay sort of quiet about that. I don't want to rule anybody's speculation out and I don't want to reveal anything too definitively other than to say that if you scrutinized the big time-space explosion page you'd see a number of images that have been layered in there. They show events that are going on now in the Marvel Universe, have recently gone on, or will shortly be going on. They all in some way, shape or form reflect or echo from this sort of cataclysmic twisting and ripping up of the space-time continuum.
What about the characters and images we saw before the explosion that were appearing around Wolverine, Iron Man, Miles Morales and Thing in his pirate guise? Is the appearance of those characters significant?
Those particular images were more like a time earthquake, so to speak. At that moment time, space, reality and all the parallel worlds are vibrating and shaking back and forth really fast. So you get a bit of a doppler effect as all of these various iterations or versions of characters and events begin to resonate and vibrate off one another as well as begin to be seen by one another.
At the end of the issue we saw that Tony Stark, Hank Pym, and the Beast know about the condition of the space-time continuum. That left me wondering if Beast used this knowledge to bring the original five X-Men to the present at the beginning of the current "All-New X-Men" series?
Again, I don't want to say anything too concrete, but people certainly have been wondering how it's even possible that the original X-Men are here in the present. And why they've stayed in the present and haven't gone back to the past. They've been wondering how that all works and certainly the fact that the space-time continuum isn't in the best shape to begin with would make that a little bit easier to have happened.
Will some of the lingering questions that people have be addressed in the upcoming "X-Men: Battle of the Atom" crossover?
I don't know if it will specifically be in "Battle of the Atom," although there is some wonkiness with time and space that goes on in that. There is also some in upcoming issues of "All-New X-Men" and to a certain extent "Uncanny X-Men" as well.
There's stuff here that will resonate throughout most of the books in the Marvel line. So "Infinity" doesn't come out of anything specific in "Age of Ultron." It takes place in the same Marvel Universe, though. We're not saying there's absolutely no reverberations, echoes or fall out from one reflected in the other. It's just that one is not a direct outgrowth of the other.
So"Infinity" is not about the breakdown of the space-time continuum, but's informed by those events.
How has the breakdown of the continuum affected other Marvel heroes? Are the average heroes of the Marvel and Ultimate Universes aware that something is wrong?
Again, I'm sort of pleading the fifth. We haven't seen any evidence that anybody is particularly aware of it since "Avengers" #12.1. Although, given that we went back in time and changed the ending of that issue, I don't know if you would have seen that in the interim. So the evidence of who knows what and what anybody else might be able to discover all remains to be seen moving forward in the stories that we've got coming up.
Let's move from the big story beats in the issue to some of the character-related moments. Starting with Hank Pym, I imagine writer Mark Waid will be delving quite a bit into Pym and how he feels in the next week's "Age of Ultron" #10 AI, but it seems to me that what he had to do in this issue was pretty horrible. Was he essentially killing his child, Ultron, to save the world?
In a way. One of the things that people have kind of forgotten about Ultron is that, in the same way that the Vision was created using the brain patterns of Wonder Man, who at the time was thought dead, Ultron was created using the brain patterns of Hank Pym. He used his own brain as the map. So in a sense this is Hank sort of killing his child, but on another level it's Hank killing this aspect of himself that's kind of held him back and sidelined his potential.
So I don't know if it's quite as simple and elegant as Hank has to kill one kid to save the world. Certainly nobody looks at Ultron, even the big Hoover vacuum cleaner style trike Ultron 1 that we saw at the end of "Age of Ultron" #9, as much of a child. It grew up and grew malevolent pretty quickly.
So Mark will explore a whole range of emotions in "Age of Ultron" #10 A.I.?
For sure. That special is less about Ultron, and it's more about Hank; his background and upbringing, and where he's going. Mark and artist Andre Araujo do a very nice job in setting the table for who Hank is and where he's going to be going in the future. He'll then pass that baton a week later to writer Sam Humphries for his "Avengers A.I." series.
Hank killing Ultron was the culmination of Wolverine and Sue Richards' plan to save and restore the present day, and at the end of "Age of Ultron" #10 we see them briefly celebrate their success. It felt like they bonded over these last few issues and became friends right before the space-time continuum cracked. Is that true?
Sort of, and this is one of those odd doglegs. A version of Wolverine has a relationship with a version of Sue, but since the "Age of Ultron" timeline was essentially averted in "Avengers" #12.1 that Sue and Wolverine are an extra Sue and Wolverine. They're not the characters who are in "Fantastic Four" and "Wolverine & the X-Men" right now. They can't be, because for those characters, none of that happened. Ultron was beaten in #12.1. He never came back and blew up Manhattan.
In fact the Sue that's present on that rooftop didn't get to see what the present day would have looked like without Hank. Because the Wolverine that was killed in the past stopped himself from creating that sequence of events in the first place.
It's very complicated in terms of the time travel stuff [Laughs], but yes, we saw those two characters have a relationship and share an experience, but how that translates to our Wolverine and our Sue going forward remains to be seen. It does mean that potentially somewhere out in the world there's another Sue and another Wolverine. Or they may have been swallowed up by one of the cracks in the universe. Having those extra iterations of those characters walking around may have been too much for an already strained multiverse to handle.
Angela arrives in the Marvel Universe on the final pages of "Age of Ultron" #10. When the Guardians of the Galaxy encounter her in their series will she have some knowledge of the Marvel Universe? Unless I'm mistaken, if she arrived in the Marvel U around the end of "Avengers" #12.1 wouldn't she have been here for a couple months of Marvel time?
I don't know if that's necessarily true. We see the explosion in time and space and the cracks and ripples fanning out forwards, backwards, left, and right, but that doesn't necessarily mean that all that stuff and all that damage was done at the time of "Avengers" #12.1.
Certainly Galactus didn't show up in the Ultimate Universe three to four years ago publishing time. And the Guardians weren't using the ship that we see briefly on the first of Joe Q's pages yet. So I don't think at this point that there's any evidence that Angela has been around for very long. That having been said, that's the story that writer Brian Bendis will be telling with some help from Angela's creator Neil Gaiman in "Guardians of the Galaxy" in just a couple of weeks.
Is this an Angela that has been changed to accommodate her into the Marvel Universe? Or is she still essentially the character readers remember from her last appearance in "Spawn?"
I can't really comment much about her beyond what you see in the three pages at the end of "Age of Ultron" #10. So the character has now been thrust into our world without warning or any say in the matter from somewhere else beyond the confines of what we understand to be our universe. Exactly what that means, what she knows, where she's from, what her background is, how connected and connective she is to all of the publishing history that exists for the character in Todd McFarlane's "Spawn" material, and how that all factors in is something you'll learn as she begins to interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe.
In bringing Angela into the Marvel Universe, Joe Quesada, while he did sort of standardize her design and figure out how she was going to be depicted here, really was trying to maintain the look and the flavor of the character from her previous Image iteration minus those aspects of her attire that we don't have a claim to; specifically, the Spawn attributes that are still Todd McFarlane's. So moving forward there's nothing to say that the character and her look won't evolve further as she gets involved in stories, just like any other Marvel character.
Then I guess the only thing we can safely assume based on her dialogue is that she believes herself to be what she essentially was, an angel. Correct?
Yes. What she says there is what she believes. She is not lying to the severed head of Moomba as she floats in space.
Let's start to wrap things up by chatting about the art in this issue. Several different artists worked on "Age of Ultron" #10. What was it like to coordinate all that and make sure everything felt consistent and appropriate in terms of tone?
All of the art assignments throughout this series were based on what portion of the story was being told; what characters are being focused on, what part of the world and landscape we were in, and what the strengths are of the various artists involved. In this issue we did have some sections by people who haven't contributed to the book yet.
Alex Maleev did the scenes with Hank Pym both at the front and the back of the book. Brandon Peterson handled the Wolverine and Sue pages. They're the characters he's been following since they went into the altered Morgana Le Fey world that he created around them a bunch of issues back. Carlos Pacheco pretty much did the sequence with all the crazy universes smashing together, which are very much up his alley because he knows all that stuff. Then Butch Guice came on to do the segments following directly up from "Avengers" #12.1.
To be perfectly honest about it, we were hoping that Bryan Hitch would be able to do those pages himself. And for about a day it looked like he would be able to. Other commitments had to take precedent, though, so Butch was able to come in and maintain the look, tone, and style of what Hitch had done on that earlier job, and I think he did a very nice job with it. Then David Marquez, as we move to Mile Morales and the Ultimate Universe and the big shadowy Galactus, immediately sends a signal that you're in the Ultimate Universe beyond just that the Spider-Man swinging down the street is in a different costume and talks in upper-lower case balloons.
Then finally Joe Quesada doing the Angela pages was because we needed to be able to keep that a secret. There were very few people who knew about Angela when the series was being planned and put together. Joe was one of them, and it was a way for us to entice him into doing a couple of pages, which he rarely has time to do -- and really, truth be told, he didn't have time to do it here either. He made time, though, by doing a bunch of all-nighters and working a couple of weekends. He really went above and beyond to get those pages done.
We started off wanting all the guys who had contributed to the book so far to be present for the finale. We ended up using and reworking about six pages from "Avengers' #12.1, with the addition of Hank's call to Iron Man and so forth, all of which was planned back when we did that issue. We knew that sequence was going to have additional dialogue added in. No one really commented on it at the time, but if you go back and look at issue #12.1 there are some panels and pacing that look a little odd. Now that you see it with additional copy and captions you can kind of see why we did it that way.
So in that way were sort of able to have Bryan there for the finale as well. He worked very hard on the first five issues of the book and we would have like to have him for the balance of that scene as well. Then everything else became a question of how much can everybody manage and accommodate. It's been 10 issues and everybody is very tired and the schedules are getting tight. Then it became a question of casting the bits we had left over and who would do a good job with them.
Finally, now that "Age of Ultron" is just about over, what are your thoughts on the story that was told and how it resonated with readers.
As I said previously, I'm happy that readers were on board for the crazy ride and the long experience of it even though they felt off kilter for most of it. [Laughs] "Age of Ultron" #10 only came out today. So I haven't really had a chance to get a sense of what people are saying about it out in the world. If they stuck with us and were interested in it I hope they found it a fun ride. I hope that the stuff it portends for the Marvel Universe in the weeks and months to come are equally of interest to them. Ultimately, I thought this was a fun roller coaster to go on.
"Age of Ultron" #10 is on sale now, and be sure to stay tuned to CBR News for more on the future of Marvel's various universes.