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Tuesday Q&A

Thursday Q&A: Ultimate Comics

Sam Humphries and Brian Wood prepare to transition the Ultimate Universe from Divided We Fall to United We Stand!

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #14 preview art by Billy Tan

By Ben Morse

ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES writer Sam Humphries and ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN writer Brian Wood have the spent the last couple months—alongside ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN stalwart Brian Michael Bendis—steering the Ultimate Universe to the edge of collapse.

So how did you spend your summer vacation?

The healing’s almost set to being, though, as Divided We Fall wraps across all three titles in September and gives way to United We Stand the next month, with a new status quo for every Ultimate title and character as they attempt to recover from the Sentinel seizure of the American Southwest, the destruction of Washington DC, and the possible collapse of the United States as they know it.

We caught up with Humphries and Wood to get up to speed on what the Ultimates and X-Men have been through, as well as what lies ahead this fall and beyond.

Marvel.com: Sam, what have been the positive and negative effects of Captain America’s return in ULTIMATES?

Sam Humphries: The positive of Cap's return is he's galvanized the Ultimates, and the United States. We have a star-spangled Sentinel of Liberty fighting for the American Republic! The negative is that he might have waited too long, and there may not be an American Republic left for him to fight for.

Cap is split. He believes that coming out of retirement was the right thing to do, but he's worried—guilty, even—that he may have waited too long.

Marvel.com: How has the world come to view the Ultimates in these troubled times? Are they potential saviors or just another loose cannon?

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #14 preview art by Billy Tan

Sam Humphries: In the midst of all this chaos, no one knows which end is up. America is under pressure from the outside, and a mess on the inside. The Ultimates, under Cap's vision, have cut through the confusion. While others can't keep up and can't decide what to do, the Ultimates make the big, tough decisions and come to the defense of American citizens. In this, they are nearly alone; the only people who can rise above the fray and recognize what needs to be done.

Marvel.com: What kinds of personal challenges do Iron Man and Thor have on the horizon?

Sam Humphries: "How come there's nothing new on Netflix, ever?!"

Tony's got a sentient brain tumor. This is a big deal that no one has had time to come to terms with—not Tony, or the rest of the Ultimates. Meanwhile, Thor is still reeling from the destruction of Asgard, the murder of his family, and the genocide of his entire people. This is going to be a huge part of the end of United We Stand.

Marvel.com: Who else comprises the official team right now?

Sam Humphries: Cap is the coach. The whole Ultimate Universe is his depth chart. When times get tough, he'll pull in everyone he can. His strategic philosophy is "think of players, not plays." Who is going to make the difference when the battle gets rough?

Marvel.com: What’s Nick Fury’s status with the Ultimates?

Sam Humphries: Remember when you were a teenager and your parents were all, "If you're stuck somewhere, you can call me anytime. Even if you are drunk!" but then it's 3 AM and you're drunk and you're all, "Hell no I'm not calling my parents!" because you know there's gonna be hell to pay?

Nick Fury is off the reservation. He makes contact with the Ultimates, but he's forging his own path for now.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #14 preview art by Billy Tan

Marvel.com: Thus far, the book has been one part action, one part political maneuvering; how will this balance continue moving forward?

Sam Humphries: They're both important parts of the book right now. Issues #15 and #16 are maybe heavier on the maneuvering, whereas #17 and #18 are heavier on action, but all the issues will have both. When you cut off the head of the U.S. government, you're going to see some political maneuvering. We're just dramatizing it through the lens of super hero fantasy. At the same time, some of our main characters are used to punching their problems away. Sometimes this will come in handy. Sometimes it will be a distinct disadvantage.

Marvel.com: Brian, over in ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN, how has the goal Kitty Pryde and company set out of New York with changed since they’ve been on the road?

Brian Wood: Kitty has her eyes on the prize, which is to end anti-mutant aggression and shut down the camps and the Sentinel presence. The others with her agree, but none of them have the personal stake that she has, or the burning drive. She's stated that she'd give up her own life, if that's what it takes.

Marvel.com: More broadly, how have the kids changed themselves over the course of the trip?

Brian Wood: I think they've had their eyes opened a bit, travelling across country and coming face to face with this sort of bigotry and violence, most specifically at the hands of the human militias, the crazies who have signed on and are helping the Sentinels eradicate mutants; to the point that Kitty picks up a discarded gun and fully completes her transformation into freedom fighter. The gun is a big step, and as we continue on with the story will see her buy into that mindset; the whole "power from a gun" thing, to paraphrase horribly.

Ultimate Comics X-Men #16 preview art by Paco Medina

Marvel.com: Now that they’ve arrived at their destination, what’s the direction of the next few stories?

Brian Wood: A huge, violent push for liberation, winning freedom for their kind. There is a sense that this is do or die time; when you have mutants in camps and mutants in mass graves, that's sort of it. They are either going to win or lose, but what's for sure is that they have to fight.

Marvel.com: Will Nick Fury be a continuing presence in this book? What will his role be?

Brian Wood: He's given himself the job of advisor to Kitty Pryde, and the rest of the mutants. Look, I just mentioned camps and mass graves, and that is not anything that Fury and Cap and the other Ultimates are going to ignore. We'll see this talked about in ULTIMATES in an upcoming issue, and Nick Fury sees the wisdom in letting the mutants fight for their own, rather than the Ultimate intervening and winning the battle for them. So he trains the mutants, equips them, fights alongside Kitty for a bit. And when he's not needed, he'll be gone, but that's not for a few issues yet.

Marvel.com: Will we see more new versions of familiar characters like Husk?

Brian Wood: Oh yeah, in a big way. By the time United We Stand and the Point One issue are over, there will be a significant secondary cast of mutants, some more familiar than others, but almost all of them pre-existing. The only new character I've created is Mach Two, and we'll see her formally intro'd in the Point One.

Marvel.com: Will we learn what happened to Johnny Storm and check in with events in New York?

Brian Wood: Yeah, but not in a significant way.  The main focus of the story will be Kitty and the Southwest states.

Marvel.com: What’s the X-Men’s place in the larger Ultimate Universe moving into United We Stand?

Ultimate Comics X-Men #16 preview art by Paco Medina

Brian Wood: The big question that remains, after this upcoming struggle is resolved, is what to do about the so-called "mutant problem." The country is in pieces, and the reality is, in order to put it back together you have to deal with the fact that big chunks of the population just don't trust them, don't want to be near mutants. They have to find a way to deal with that so that the country can heal. If I say anything else, I'll be spoiling the story.

Marvel.com: What’s Spider-Man’s role while all this is going on?

Sam Humphries: Miles sees the Ultimate Universe through the eyes of a boy. That's an important compliment and contrast to the perspectives of Kitty and Cap.

The Ultimates have conflicting feelings about Miles. On one hand, he's a giant red flag, a jarring reminder of what happened to Peter. On the other, he's a symbol of hope, a reminder that the fight did not die with Peter.

Marvel.com: How will the world post-Divided We Fall represent new challenges and opportunities for these characters?

Sam Humphries: After the destruction of Divided We Fall, only two national pizza delivery chains will remain. Who will rise? Who will fall? What side are you on? These are the kinds of questions the Ultimates will have to deal with at midnight when they are really, really hungry.

Divided We Fall shows our commitment to show real, lasting implications of epic events in the Ultimate Universe. Whatever comes out of Divided We Fall, it won't be easily shrugged off.

Divided We Fall continues in ULTIMATE COMICS #14 on September 5, and ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES #15 as well as ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN #16, both available September 12.

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