By Ben Morse
Just when you thought you knew the already impressive roster of players in ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST, the first issue of the six-part mini-series co-written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning with art by Tom Raney threw the scorecard out the window as Adam Warlock
, the High Evolutionary
leapt into the cosmic fray.
In the midst of Quasar, Star-Lord, Wraith
and company's struggle to free the Kree
domination, these new arrivals could tip the scales either way.
"I'm enjoying the ensemble feel [Abnett and Lanning] are fostering," remarks CONQUEST editor Bill Rosemann. "Watching a rag tag group of desperate but determined heroes stand against an overwhelming evil ism a fun component of fantasy epics."
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The return of Warlock, the lynchpin of past Marvel cosmic masterpieces such as INFINITY GAUNTLET, as the "Kree savior" alluded to throughout the QUASAR mini, restores a classic character to past glory but with a completely new outlook.
"Warlock was always very intense and driven with a wonderfully mystic and enigmatic edge," recalls Abnett. "[Andy and I] felt his motivation and destiny needed to be redefined. The Annihilation events are a wonderful opportunity to take classic cosmic characters and reinvent them for today's readers."
Adam's changes don't end with a new attitude and thirst for direction, his insufficient period of regeneration prior to being awoken by Quasar has also altered his abilities and physical appearance.
"Adam is younger and his powers have yet to settle down," explains Lanning. "He is already manifesting more complex and spell-like abilities than before."
Ultron revealed in
Somebody who has both his steely robotic eyes on Warlock is Ultron, the malevolent mechanic menace who has caused the Avengers
no amount of grief over the years and stood revealed as the force behind the rejuvenated Phalanx at the end of CONQUEST #1.
"[Abnett and Lanning] have set up an explosive collision between the 'perfect' man and the 'ultimate' robot," notes Rosemann.
"Adam clearly has his own agenda regarding Adam Warlock," adds Abnett.
Of course, another question must be asked: how can Ultron be traipsing around Kree space in CONQUEST while also making trouble for Earth's Mightiest Heroes back on terra firma in MIGHTY AVENGERS?
"While the actual comic has been delayed, the events in MIGHTY AVENGERS #6 take place before the events of CONQUEST #1," Rosemann explains.
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"It is important to remember that the events shown in MIGHTY AVENGERS #1-6 take place in a single day," continues Lanning. "Our story is set months later."
Once events could be coordinated with MIGHTY AVENGERS writer Brian Michael Bendis to make the two stories dovetail, Abnett and Lanning couldn't resist marrying Ultron, whose goal has always been the eradication of non-robotic life, with the similarly-minded Phalanx—truly a union forged somewhere other than heaven.
"With Ultron's influence, the Phalanx is much more dangerous than it was before," warns Lanning. "Rather than being a force of nature, it now has a specific purpose. Annihilus
[in the first ANNIHILATION series] was a sledgehammer—Ultron is far more insidious and subtle."
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While he shares methodology and a common end goal with the Phalanx, Ultron overlaps with the heroic figures of CONQUEST in another arena.
"Ultron, Adam Warlock and Phyla-Vell
—Quasar—all have father issues," reminds Abnett.
Speaking of father issues, the High Evolutionary has often attempted to serve as a surrogate dad to Adam Warlock. A geneticist of unparalleled skill, the Evolutionary long ago evolved himself to the apex of human potential and has been obsessed with Warlock's own genetic perfection since their first encounter.
"He's a fantastic and fascinating character with a past that's bound up with Warlock's, so it made sense to involve him in CONQUEST," says Abnett of the Evolutionary. "He's an enigma answerable to his own motivations. Sometimes that may make him seem a villain, sometimes a hero."
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So which role will the Evolutionary play in CONQUEST? And how did he get from Earth to outer space, anyhow?
"The High Evolutionary is in Kree space by prior invitation, brought in to work on a secret project sponsored by persons unknown at this time," teases Lanning. "He is deeply troubled by the very notion of the Phalanx and fears their viral infection."
He's not the only one. To find out if this trio of latecomers will mean the universe's salvation or accelerated destruction, be sure to check out ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST #2, on sale December 5.