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 (opens in new tab). 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.(opens in new tab)
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!(opens in new tab)
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.