Galactus keeps trying to eat the Earth. A team of the smartest, most powerful heroes around isn’t waiting for him to get hungry again. They’re going to go knock on his door and talk to him.
Over the years, lots of superheroes — but mostly the Fantastic Four — have convinced, cajoled or otherwise stopped Galactus from absorbing the life energies of the Earth. But, despite the fact that he used to be a person a long time ago, the Devourer of Worlds is basically a force of nature. Trying to stop him from eating planets would be like asking the wind to stop blowing during a hurricane. In The Ultimates #1 — written by Al Ewing, with art by Kenneth Rocafort, Dan Brown and Joe Sabino — it seems like that’s exactly what the Black Panther, Captain Marvel and a few other characters are trying to do.
Superheroes tend to be reactive instead of pro-active. They wait for some crime or breach of justice to happen and then go about setting things to right. Part of the premise in The Ultimates is that this is a team that isn’t waiting for an emergency to happen.
The Black Panther refers to Galactus as a problem and his use of the word “solve” is significant. This isn’t the language of elimination or sanction; these are words of rapprochement. It’s also worth noting the context of this conversation. The Black Panther is the royal title of King T’Challa, leader of a secretive fictional African nation called Wakanda. He’s one of the smartest men in the Marvel Universe, a master strategist who’s gifted at outmaneuvering opponents and developing contingency plans.
The team he’s assembled is made of similarly high-powered characters. Adam Brashear, a.k.a. the Blue Marvel is another super-genius with antimatter energy wielding powers. Captain Marvel absorbs electromagnetic energy, Monica Rambeau/Spectrum is made of it, America Chavez/Miss America teleports across realities and closes dimensional rifts. This is a squad built to travel into the unknown.
Most of what we see in Ultimates #1 is information and resource gathering. It’s beautiful to look at, rendered with fine detail and scope by Rocafort, and made to pop with exciting firework colours and effects by Brown. Miss America and Spectrum are off in some remote corner of reality, corralling a being with expanded consciousness and the Blue Marvel is busy speculating on the nature of a rare cosmic element. His remarks about what its new configuration means for the universe are the clearest references yet to changes wrought by the events of Secret Wars.
When Galactus acknowledges the presence of two of the team’s members at the end of the issue, he dares them to try and kill him. They say that they’re on his doorstep to try and solve his problem. That problem, as longtime comics fans know, is a never-ending hunger that drives him to divest planets of their essential energies. There’s a big tease at the heart of The Ultimates: just what is the plan here? So far, as far as potential tools go, we have two members engaging with a ‘one-being surveillance state’ and one other wondering about a super-powerful cosmic-cube building block.
To hazard a guess, it might just be that the Ultimates’ big gamble is to find a way to stop Galactus from being hungry all the time. They have wrangling something that can see across the cosmos and an element that supplies vast amounts of energy. Consider the team’s leader as well. The Black Panther is a head of state comfortable with diplomatic parley. He’s not a guy who goes out to kill potential problems; he’s a guy who co-opts them. Part of the team’s mandate is to head off cosmic-level threats and getting on Galactus’ good side would give them a giant, ultra-powerful ally to help deal with even bigger problems. If this is where The Ultimates starts, then one can only wonder where they will go next.