On July 15, Marvel's massive summer epic event Empyre finally kicks off after delays due to COVID-19 - and according to co-writer Al Ewing, the story will have major ramifications throughout the Marvel Universe - right down to changing the Earth itself.
Ewing is writing Empyre alongside Dan Slott — the "Continuity King" Ewing credits with coming up with the essential bones of the story — with art from Valerio Schiti, who offered Newsarama his perspective on drawing Empyre earlier this month.
Now, we're catching up with Ewing ahead of Empyre #1's release to talk about the sides of the conflict, what's at stake, and what it's like to dive deep into classic Marvel continuity.
Newsarama: Al, Empyre is a massive undertaking that pulls in seeds from decades of Marvel Comics history. How did this story come together? At what point did it become clear the seeds you and co-writer Dan Slott have been planting were leading to Empyre?
Al Ewing: Well, this started off as an Avengers/Fantastic Four crossover, so everything grew out of that shared ground — what did the two teams have in common, how did they differ, etc.
The first bolt of lightning coming out of the brainstorm was a suggestion from Dan that basically involved a closer look at the origins of the Kree/Skrull War, and how a Kree/Skrull Alliance might form — obviously, this was something I'd been pushing at myself for some years, because I could see a whole bunch of story possibilities in the idea, so I was right on board.
I happened to be in New York for a signing, so we had the opportunity to get together for a writer's room — and that was when things really came together and we built an awful lot of the underlying structure, and then put meat on those bones.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the process of taking all these cosmic puzzle pieces and long-running threads that you and Dan assembled, and turning them into the script for Empyre? What were the priorities for you in building this tale?
Ewing: Priority one is always getting to a good comic on the other end. No matter how carefully you plot, when it comes time to fit it all into twenty pages, there's always a certain level of improvisation required, circles to square, and so on — not to mention some of the character beats you put down on paper need to be expanded a little.
It's all very well me writing "X feels heartbroken after Y happens" in my issue breakdown, and saying that'll take however many pages — when the rubber meets the road and it's time to sell that emotion in that space, there are still a whole bunch of story decisions to be made. Luckily, I really enjoy all that stuff — there's something addictive about solving story problems.
And I especially enjoy writing the big, epic beats that are the meat and drink of an event like this.
Nrama: You and Dan are both known as writers with big, bold ideas. What was it like putting your brains together for something like this?
Ewing: It was fun! I get to take Dan's ideas and build on them. I feel like working together, we've reached some places we couldn't have got to on our own.
Nrama: There are a lot of moving pieces in this conflict — the Kree/Skrull alliance, the Avengers and Fantastic Four, the Cotati. What's at stake for Earth? What is Hulkling and his empire's end goal for the Marvel Universe?
Ewing: At the end of all this, Earth will be in a very different place. Things will have changed, and we'll be exploring those changes in the more space-oriented titles. As for Hulkling's end goal as the Kree/Skrull fleet gets closer... well, we need to leave some of his plans to be revealed in the pages of Empyre itself!
Nrama: The Cotati, Hala's other people who were ravaged by the Kree at the dawn of the Kree/Skrull War, are a bit of a lesser-known — but important — component of Empyre. What’s their stake in this story?
Ewing: It was Dan who remembered this, being the Continuity King he is - but the Cotati are kind of the secret sauce of the Kree/Skrull War, the third force everyone forgets.
In some ways, they were the start of it — the Skrulls made the Cotati and the Kree compete for their favor, the Kree massacred the Cotati as a result, and then the Kree went on the assault the Skrulls, steal their stuff and start the neverending war.
So the Cotati do have a stake in all this — the question is, what do the Kree/Skrull Alliance want with them now? It can't be good.