War Machine: The New Ultimo

WAR MACHINE writer Greg Pak dishes on what our hero’s future holds

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WAR MACHINE #9 black and white preview art
By Marc Strom

James Rhodes has fighting giant robotos down pat, but the renegade hero meets something else entirely in WAR MACHINE #9 on September 16, as he squares off against the new Ultimo courtesy of writer Greg Pak and artist Leonardo Manco.

Recently, fans learned that Tony Stark's deranged cousin Morgan had transformed the former robot Ultimo into a type of virus, though that deal may not work out quite as well as he'd hoped.

"Morgan's spent his whole life as Tony Stark's dumber, [more evil], and slightly fatter cousin," explains Pak. "He's ready to finally step up and be special in his own right-by tapping into Ultimo's neural network and giving himself the massive brainpower of a billion supercomputers. Alas, he's also inherited Ultimo's programming in the bargain. And Ultimo, of course, wants to destroy all life on the planet."

Bringing Ultimo into the series as an antagonist for War Machine came about for a number of reasons, as Pak recounts:

"Back in the day, Rhodey played the key role in leading the Iron Legion against Ultimo in IRON MAN #300. Ultimo's probably the most dangerous enemy he's ever faced, which made him attractive as an adversary in the new series. But the fact that Rhodey's now a cyborg and has the potential to communicate with Ultimo on a whole new level cinched the deal."

WAR MACHINE #9 black and white preview art
And as if a crazed Morgan Stark and an out of control Ultimo didn't seem like enough, the latest issue of WAR MACHINE ended with Norman Osborn preparing to enter the scene in his Iron Patriot garb.

"Norman's always playing multiple hands [and] only he knows if he sees Ultimo and Rhodey himself as tools or threats," Pak notes. "But all will revealed over the course of issues #9 and #10. And Norman may find himself playing a very specific role that he absolutely didn't anticipate. The Rhodey/Norman showdown will be a massive fight with life-changing consequences. Only one armored hero will be standing at the end of this one."

Given the number of unforeseen obstacles that Rhodey has had to deal with in the last few issues, it might seem as if very little has gone according to any type of plan. But looks can also deceive, according to Pak.

"Rhodey's all about adaptation these days," reminds the writer. "His primary power is the ability to assimilate any new technology he comes into contact with. So he's well equipped to adjust to changing circumstances. But Rhodey absolutely has a master plan and a huge endgame, all of which will be revealed in issue #10. I'll just say that Ultimo isn't the only reason he came back to the United States."

Looking even further ahead, Pak guarantees a number of pay offs beginning in WAR MACHINE #11 with the series' third story arc.

WAR MACHINE #9 black and white preview art
"All of the themes and plot lines and character development we've been building since issue #1 come to a head during the 'War Crimes' storyline in issues #11 and #12. This is where we learn the consequences of every explosion and outrage in the story thus far-and Rhodey and his friends and enemies will reap what they've sown, for better or for worse."

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