By Eric Drumm
The evil techno-organic race known as the Phalanx has spread like a plague across Kree space with little opposition. They have assimilated whole worlds into their mindless, calculating collective while a desperate band of heroes has fought against them on several different fronts. Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (NOVA, ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST), along with fellow scribes Christos Gage (QUASAR), Javier Grillo-Marxuach (WRAITH) and Keith Giffen (STAR-LORD) have crafted a landscape where unimaginable evil prevails and unlikely heroes rise to meet it. The result: a cosmos-flattening adventure of epic proportions.
As the individual mini-series wrap up, events speed into the dawn of the ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST story itself by Abnett, Lanning and artist Tom Raney, where the victor will control the galaxy once and for all. Marvel Editor Bill Rosemann stops by to reflect on the "Conquest" tie-in series and reveal what lies ahead in the final battle.
MARVEL.COM: What are your thoughts on the tie-in books now that we're heading into CONQUEST itself?
On one hand, great enormous relief. I'm glad all four series reached their ends as planned—give or take a week—because I hate it as a reader when things don't come out when they're supposed to, and it affects the enjoyment of the story. So number one, everyone on the editorial side wanted to make sure that we weren't doing anything on our part that would impact the readers' experience negatively. So there were a lot of moving parts to keep going so that all the books would come out when they were supposed to come out and so far so good.
So I'm feeling relief, because we did it! And excitement because I can't wait to see what the reader reactions will be to some of the revelations. Actually, in all three of the final issues of the minis, WRAITH #4 and QUASAR #4, there are some big bombs, and STAR-LORD #4 also has some cool stuff that will set things up nicely for Peter Quill and his crazy crew. I hope all three fourth issues will hopefully really bring some satisfying closure and make readers then look forward to CONQUEST itself.
MARVEL.COM: Have Lanning and Abnett been the architects of "Annihilation: Conquest"?
It's been all Dan and Andy. My job was to sort of look out for icebergs ahead and springboard ideas off them. But really Dan and Andy are the masters of the ship. I just tried to keep things rolling along and I think that all the writers and artists on all the minis took the germ of ideas that we had and just really developed them so they bloomed into some beautiful and strange fruit.
MARVEL.COM: Who would you say is the breakout star of "Annihilation: Conquest"?
The STAR-LORD book itself was sort of a breakout. There were some characters in there that I suspected people would like. I thought they would like to see Rocket Raccoon again. And I think that there is still some breaking out to be done. There are still pieces that aren't out there yet on the chessboard. There is still time for characters to rise. Right now I hear a lot about Star-Lord and his band of friends, and a lot of people seem to enjoy WRAITH just because it's a new character and people really seem to dig that kind of different addition to the cast. As for who will rise like Nova did in the first series, that remains to be seen. But we have plans, and if things work out and the readers have their voices be heard, we might see some of these characters rise like Nova did in ANNIHILATION.
MARVEL.COM: Out of minis, what were some of your favorite moments?
I really loved all of the prologue. I think Dan and Andy as writers, as well as Mike Perkins on the art, really set the stage for the entire event. You know, here's a story where you don't really have to have a knowledge of Marvel sci-fi, you can start right here. Yes, there are crazy things going on. There are robots and people with swords and there are space knights, but it's a very human story and they told it through the eyes of Peter Quill and Phyla, two very human and relatable characters. They set the bar very high as far as quality goes.
After that, I really love the first appearance of Wraith, the first page he appeared on. I really loved when Moondragon turned into an actual dragon! I said to Christos Gage, a great writer, "Either this is going to be stupid or really cool. Maybe both!" I said to him, "It's up to you if you want to do it, but what if we did this…" Christos then jumped into her past and uncovered all these beautiful things that were already established about her, so it all made sense for her as a character.
Meanwhile, each page of STAR-LORD has been beautiful to look at. I think the first group shot was really great, I think the image of Groot holding Rocket Raccoon in his massive hand was a nice moment. The pages from CONQUEST itself, the first issue has like three or four jaw-dropping moments that I think people will really enjoy. And then in NOVA, the introduction of Ko-Rel was really well done, people seemed to really like her. And then when we were so evil and killed her! That also seemed to push people's buttons. Is she dead? We think so, but we shall see. You never know!
MARVEL.COM: Nova was turned by the Phalanx into a Select, an elite member of the collective. Can Nova turn away from the dark side, and can the good guys ever win without him?
If you read NOVA #7, there is an indication that Richard will be the first to overcome being one the Select. As you'll see in upcoming issues, he is still being affected by the Transmode virus, but whether he can completely triumph remains a story yet to be told.
MARVEL.COM: Coming out of CONQUEST, will characters like Star-Lord and Wraith have a future?
If they survive, I would hope they do, just like we carried heroes over from the first ANNIHILATION. A lot of it is up to the readers, seeing who they respond to. We do have plans for a number of characters, but first a number of twists will happen in CONQUEST. But after that, we shall see. But the hope is to continue what the first "Annihilation" creators did: expanding and revamping and reigniting the Marvel sci-fi playground.
MARVEL.COM: What about Quasar? In QUASAR #3 she used up the last of the energy in her Quantum Bands. How can she possibly defeat the Phalanx now?
Quasar designs by
Things are always darkest before the dawn. If there even is a dawn coming in this story! That was a thing from the very beginning, how powerful Quasar is and can be. How big is the drama if you have a hero who can do anything? Dan and Andy came up with a great idea of the Kree galaxy being cut off and out of phase from the rest of the universe, so Phyla's powers are depleted and now all her energy is gone. That really raised the stakes. It's like when Luke learned the truth about Vader got his hand cut off in "Empire Strikes Back." Can he come back? So that's where we are right now. She is out of power, but she has her sword, and her strength, and her military training, and she has Moondragon. But against a horde of unstoppable killing machines, is that enough? She has to save her whole galaxy. Not a city, not a country, not a world, but a whole galaxy. That's a lot of pressure.
MARVEL.COM: Quasar is searching for a savior that apparently holds the key to saving the galaxy. Will the savior answer all the questions or will it create a whole mess of new ones?
Wraith designs by
Once QUASAR #4 comes out, you will see the answer to her quest. You'll see who or what it was that sent her on her quest and who or what is the savior. There's an idea of sometimes looking for something and finding something else, and that's the question. This so-called savior, is it really the savior? Stay tuned.
MARVEL.COM: When the smoke clears and the victor is decided, will it be the dawn of a new age for the galaxy?
Star-Lord designs by
Is there any coming back from all these people essentially being turned into zombies? Can they be saved? If they can defeat the Phalanx, what could be next? I guess I would say that it's just like the first ANNHILATION. The battle, the war was won but there were divided territories, there were whole worlds lost to Ravenous and his forces. Anytime we go into a big story like this, there must be change and ramifications at the end. There must be evolution. We must develop new surprises and possibilities for the readers. Otherwise, it's not much of a story. Our goal, when it's all over, is to move the Marvel sci-fi battlefield further another step.
MARVEL.COM: What would you like to say to the readers about CONQUEST and the adventure we've had up to this point?
First I want to thank them for joining us on the journey so far. But even if you've read only one of the minis, maybe only NOVA or maybe not even NOVA, you don't have to have read anything to jump into CONQUEST #1. If you've been hearing about CONQUEST and hearing the minis were really good, it's a great time to check it out. Everything will be collected, so you'll have the opportunity to read things as they are collected. Don't feel like you've missed out on anything. Read issue #1 and you'll be good to go. And get ready for more evil, more surprises, more shocks, more twists, more destruction and more heroes rising to their destinies!