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Empyre State of Mynd #3: Al Ewing talks co-writing Empyre, insight on Hulkling, and ancient magic

Find out what script was the weirdest for Ewing, which character he’s never written before Empyre, and more!

From the deep recesses of AIPT space…we’re back for another tantalizing edition of Empyre State of Mynd and this week Al Ewing answers your questions! Ewing goes deep into Marvel history, details the experience of writing with co-Empyre Overseer Dan Slott and seeing scripts come in from different departments, and recommends some important reads for the event like Road to Empyre: The Kree/Skrull War #1 out this week.

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly comics podcast!

Read on in the nearest writer’s quadrant below to find out a little more info on Marvel’s biggest event of the year!

Kicking things off Dave and Forrest ask in unison (they’re kind of like The Shining twins), “What’s the writing process like with Dan Slott? Are you guys collaborating frequently, picking major beats and comparing work, something else?”

Essentially, Dan and I worked out the basics of the plot together, the essential beats and what-have-you, during a writer’s room session a while ago, and since then I’ve been a little more in charge of the bus, fleshing out our mutual ideas and generally doing the script chores. Dan’s ideas are still at the heart of things, though – the shape Empyre‘s taken all grew from the seeds he provided.

For our next question, @dano_cosmic asks, “How far back in your time at Marvel did you start to consider that you would be crafting a story featuring the Kree, Skrull, and a Cotati? Do you have an issue in particular that this story stems from that you hold in particularly high regard? Thanks!”

When I decided that Wiccan and Hulkling should be on New Avengers, back when I was writing that title, I took a particular look at Hulkling – I thought he was due for some major beats, seeing as Wiccan had generally been the most served out of the two of them in terms of stories. And that led me back to his origins, and to the idea that there might be other Kree/Skrull hybrids like him out there, which naturally set the question of what those hybrids might want – and the obvious answer is for the Kree and the Skrulls to come together. I made a couple of minor pushes towards that at retreats, but I’d pretty much put it in a drawer as something that maybe I’d get to one day. But then editorial started floating some similar ideas, and I took a keen interest. If I had to pick one story that all this leads back to… New Avengers #3 was when I got to introduce the “King of Space” stuff, so that’s probably quite important to things, but Young Avengers fans will want to go right back to the [Allen] Heinberg run and Hulkling’s origin story.

New Avengers #3. Written by Al Ewing with art by Gerardo Sandoval

@silverrex3 asked, “What, if anything, is coming out right now that I should be reading in the lead up to Empyre? Are there any books that are building towards this event?”

I’d pick up the Empyre: Avengers and Empyre: Fantastic Four #0 issues – they both show exactly where the Avengers and the FF start from. Aside from that, Incoming was a tease for this, and Guardians of the Galaxy #1 dropped some hints as to what was coming – but they’re small hints. I’m really just recommending that last one because I’m proud of it.

EMPYRE: AVENGERS (2020) #0 Written by Al Ewing with art by Pepe Larraz

Back to Dave, who asked, “For fans of your Immortal Hulk series, are there any draws to Empyre that may be seeded or drawn from Hulk they could expect?”

There are, but I’m wary of spoilers. Let’s just say that Immortal Hulk fans will find things to enjoy here and move on.

Is there anyone that isn’t an Immortal Hulk fan at this point? Jumping back to Twitter, @Jandr0G asked, “The actions of the united Kree/Skrulls will affect the humans of Earth and Cotati, but will we see how other alien races such as Shi’ar, Kymellian, or Badoon react to this new alliance?”

It’s mostly an Earth-centric production – but noted Shi’ar allies the X-Men do get a mini that’s one of the wildest and weirdest scripts I’ve read in some time. And the aftermath of Empyre will create ripples that reach out and touch all those races in one way or another.

Uncanny X-Men #107 Written by Chris Claremont with art by John Byrne

bc_leecomics gets into the ancient magics with their question, “I’m curious about Excelsior. It’s an ancient magic sword that it seems like it can hold the power of Mjolnir and appear/disappear when you call it but does it have another ability we haven’t discovered yet? will we see more of what it can do?”

We’ll see the return of an ability that’s been seen before, but not quite in this context – the power to disrupt magic. Turns out there’s a lot of wiggle room in that – what else can the sword disrupt? And how will it help the Kree/Skrull Alliance achieve their mysterious goals?

New Avengers #4 Written by Al Ewing with art by Gerardo Sandoval

From @ComicBookHerald, “Empyre teases the return of the Celestial messiah to the moon as an inciting incident. I’d take this to mean Sequoia, but in much of J. Hickman’s work, the title is used for Black Bolt. Will dueling Celestial messiahs be explored?”

I’ve always preferred the Midnight King, myself. If we had a character called that and Black Bolt wasn’t around, you’d be onto something – as it stands, we have no guest appearance plans for Black Bolt just yet. But no character is out of the game forever…

Getting a bit specific @Thecafesinister asked (and should read Road to Empyre), “What motivated you to bring back a character like the Swordsman?”

He’s kind of fascinating – in the early age of “heroes with problems”, he had one of the more relatable ones. Not that many of us have been frozen in time since 1945, or fire optic blasts that we can’t turn off – but a whole lot of us have struggled with self-loathing. But, of course, the original Swordsman who had those issues died, and this is a Cotati using him as a template – it gets complicated, I know, but the upcoming Empyre: Swordsman special should shine more of a light on him.

Written by Bob Harris and Terry Kavanagh with art by M.C. Wyman

Following this, @PortalDemiurgo asked, “In the first preview of Incoming, when we had the first clue that the Hulkling would take his rightful place as Emperor, it was possible to see the face of a mysterious figure behind him, but that was not addressed again. Who was this figure and what is his relevance in Empyre?”

Hmm, let me dig out my copy… well, I can’t see any faces or mysterious figures. When he gave his speech, the Super Skrull was there, and so was Tanalth – and before that, in the alley, he was all alone until he found Wiccan waiting in his apartment. I don’t think there’s a face or figure to be seen – and if there is, it’s likely just incidental detail.

Road To Empyre: The Kree/Skrull War #1
Written by Robbie Thompson with art by Javier Rodríguez and Álvaro López

Your hosts with the most finish off the interview by first asking, “What have been some surprises in curating and co-writing an event compared to a regular ongoing series?”

Getting to see what everyone else came up with! It’s been a real treat to read all the various tie-ins and specials and watch people build their own takes on our basic ideas. Usually, it’s just me taking whatever turns I need to take – this time there’s a whole bunch of people building the event with me, which is both inspiring and also just a little bit terrifying.

“What one character you haven’t written before Empyre has been the most fun to write now?”

Probably the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing. There’s a particular moment in the story where he really clicked for me, and I felt like I “got” him on a visceral level – he might be one of my favorite Marvel characters now. Which doesn’t bode well for ol’ Greenskin in their eventual rematch…

And with a tantalizing Immortal Hulk tease, that’s a wrap! Check our AIPT Twitter soon as you can ask Anthony Oliveira questions about his (and co-writer Chip Zdarsky’s) upcoming comic Lords of Empyre: Emperor Hulkling.

Set to release April 22nd.


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