By Ben Morse
The stakes couldn't be higher.
When ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST #6 blasts into stores on April 16, a hopelessly outmatched group of freedom fighters represent the last thing standing in the way of Ultron, housed in the genetically perfect body of Adam Warlock, leading the Phalanx on a mission of domination that won't stop until they reach Earth itself.
Oh, and he's growing an army of Adam Warlocks. Yeah, things couldn't be much worse.
However, just because the odds might be hopelessly stacked against them, doesn't mean Quasar, Star-Lord, Ronan and company have any intention of throwing in the cosmic towel. And with last minute relief from a certain Human Rocket possibly on the way, things could still turn around. Or they could get worse.
Regardless, many huge questions need to be answered in the final
chapter of CONQUEST, and we put those queries to co-writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning to see if we couldn't get an early tip-off or two.
WHOSE SIDE WILL THE HIGH EVOLUTIONARY END UP ON?
The master genetic manipulator of the Marvel Universe seems to have gotten off that fence he's always straddling and joined the dark side, aiding the Phalanx in exchange for being able to continue his experiments and their not assimilating him. However, this guy's loyalties typically shift more often than California's tectonic plates, not to mention that Ultron currently inhabits the body of his "son," Adam Warlock.
When posed this question, Lanning had simply the following to say in response: "Well that's obvious. His own [side], as usual."
WILL QUASAR GAIN REVENGE?
Phyla-Vell has been off her game from the second issue of CONQUEST when Ultron murdered her lover, Moondragon. She has been trying to collect herself since, but that's been tough with constant explosions, high speed chases, betrayals, etc. Will
Quasar be able to break free of the restraints put on her by her own insecurity and cut loose against the Phalanx in final battle?
"In an ideal universe, of course," says Abnett of Phyla's prospects for gaining justice. "But Ultron and the Phalanx are in total control of Kree space, they are immensely dangerous, and Quasar is hurt and powerless. So it's not looking good."
CAN THE SURVIVING MEMBERS OF STAR-LORD'S CREW REMAIN "SURVIVING"?
Deathcry bit it way back in the STAR-LORD limited series courtesy of Captain Universe going nuts in the heat of battle. Cap himself got incinerated by Phalanx foot soldiers early on in CONQUEST. Groot kinda got torched in issue #5, though a sprig still exists for possible resurrection. That leaves Mantis, Bug, Rocket Raccoon and, of course, Star-Lord himself still kicking from the "Dirty Half Dozen." And with those four running for their lives in the heart of Phalanx country, their chances of getting out alive look slimmer by the picosecond.
"They've done pretty well so far, except the ones who have died," notes Abnett, perhaps half joking. "Star-Lord's crew [is] plucky and resourceful, but they're out-gunned and out-numbered. They have
managed to damage the Babel Spire, but as it burns, there's no way out, and they've been forced to leap from an impossible height. So, again, it's not looking good."
WILL RONAN DESTROY HALA? WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF THE KREE RACE AND RONAN'S ROLE IN THAT FUTURE?
Few have had it harder throughout the course of CONQUEST than Ronan. Barely into his reign as emperor of the Kree, the former Accuser watched his people overrun by the Phalanx and its capital city of Hala burn as he himself endured subjugation as a Select by his conquerors. While Ronan escaped the Phalanx's thrall with the help of Wraith, he has resorted to desperate measures in these desperate times, making the decision to unleash a fleet of Kree Sentries on Hala and destroy his beloved home rather than let his enemies have it.
"Ronan is a determined being," reminds Lanning. "When he sets out to do something, even if it's something as ruthless as destroy his own homeworld so that it doesn't
remain enslaved to a wretched enemy, he tends to prevail. If he succeeds, there won't be much of a future for the Kree at all and Ronan will spend the rest of his days haunted by the immensity of his actions."
CAN THE SELECTS BE FREED?
Gamora, Drax, Blastaar and countless others currently remain under Phalanx sway as Selects-will they ever possess their full free will again?
"Quite apart from the technical question 'Can they be?' do they want
to be," asks Lanning.
WHAT PART WILL NOVA AND WARLOCK PLAY IN THE FINAL BATTLE?
Knocked out of the main CONQUEST struggle early on, Nova has been literally to the other side of the universe and back looking for help and a way to defeat the Phalanx.
He seems to have finally found the ally he needed on the Technarchy homeworld of Kvch in the form of the former New Mutant known as Warlock. Can Rich Rider and his new pal rocket back to the action in time to offer aid?
"If everything goes well, [they will play] a decisive [role]," says Abnett of Nova and Warlock's prospective part in the final issue of CONQUEST. "But nothing's really gone well for any of our heroes in this adventure."
So, we've seen the cover of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1, featuring many of the stars of CONQUEST...does that mean they're all safe? And we haven't seen Super-Skrull or Ronan anywhere in upcoming solicits...
"Maybe the cover [of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1] represents a wish list of the characters the team mentor would have recruited if they'd been alive," teases Lanning. "Maybe it's a group shot of the heroes that the Guardians team plans to avenge? Maybe we just can't bring ourselves to give away the actual 'who lives/who dies' ending?"
Don't miss ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST #6 on April 16 or you'll regret it. Another thing you'll regret? Not checking out ANNIHILATION on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.