[Warning: contains SPOILERS for the Ultimates2 #2.]
As one of the universe’s first and best defenses against the agents of chaos throughout universe, the breakup of the Ultimates was problematic to say the least. After King T’Challa (the Black Panther) denounced Carol Danvers’ actions during Civil War II, the team lost favor with the U.S. Government and also with one another. The end of the super-team, however, didn't stop the universe from churning, nor did its mindbogglingly vast amount of threatening life-forces cease their nefarious deeds.
The second round of the Ultimates2 saga (signified by the superscript) found the team still at odds, but with a major call-to-arms from a major life form, Galactus – now the Lifebringer rather than Devourer of Worlds. Trying to determine who enslaved the avatar of the multiverse, Eternity, he sent his first new Herald of Life, Connor Sims (formerly the Ultimates' villain Anti-Man) to Earth to recruit (and battle) the former superhero clutch. Pulled into the depths of space against their will, the team discovered the dubious entity had a very familiar booster – Ms. America Chavez.
Rebirth of the Ultimates?
Captain Marvel herself makes an excellent case against working with Galactus, in spite of America’s insistence. The powerful cosmic entity may have changed from a force of destruction to one of life, but for how long (and at what cost to public relations)? However, Ms. Chavez calls in a favor from Carol, tripping up her logic. America’s rationale is pretty sound, as well: helping Galactus solve a mystery of omniversal proportions is, in essence, what the Ultimates do. More than anything else its Carol’s promise to Chavez, though, which pulls her (and T’Challa) out of a meeting with the U.S. Government. Of course, this draws the interest of NSA operative Philip Vogt – the man charged with watching the team, who also recruited the counter-Ultimates team, the Troubleshooters.
Black Panther and Captain Marvel zip to the Lifebringer’s ship Taa II, only to be confronted by a ghost from the multiverse’s past. After Blue Marvel contains the hostile entity, they discover that it’s a specter of the Shaper of Worlds come to warn Galactus of that “everything lives…and if nothing dies, then they are still...” something. It seems the Shaper has been beyond the edge of reality and seen that further universes still exist.
Shaper of Worlds
Originally, the Shaper of Worlds began life as a Cosmic Cube – an object which alters reality to the desires of its user – as fashioned by the Skrulls. After becoming self-aware, the Cube crafted a body with a Skrull torso and a cube with treads for legs. Now calling itself the Shaper of Worlds, he set out on his own, but found himself bereft of ideas, requiring the creative force of another person or persons to tap into his near-boundless powers. After the events of Secret Wars, he and his unwilling herald, Glorian, ran across Silver Surfer and guest rider Dawn Greenwood. Together, they began to reconstruct the universe, but Glorian grew impatient, killing the Shaper to gain his freedom.
Apparently, death wasn’t quite the end of the Shaper, as an aspect of him appears in deep space to warn Galactus of the possible continued existence of at least one of the previous Marvel Multiverses – seeing as the 7th iteration of Earth-616, thought destroyed during the events of Secret Wars, and possibly all of the previous versions of the Marvel Universe – could impinge or superimpose upon the current, eighth realm. The Lifebringer, though, is otherwise preoccupied, as he’s been called to stand trial by the Living Tribunal – at the behest of Master Order and Lord Chaos.
A Judgement for Life
Pulled into a realm outside of time and space, the former Devourer is accused by the dualistic avatars of causing an imbalance within the Omniverse. Of course, they’re probably also smarting from the metaphysical bloody noses they received at the hands of Galactus in Ultimates #6. Pleading their case to the Living Tribunal, they insist that he either return to his previous, destructive form or be destroyed.
Fortunately for Galactus, the Tribunal rules in his favor, citing the unstable and developing nature of the current state of reality as proof that the order of the Omniverse is still itself evolving. Either because the ruling doesn’t sit well with Master Order and Lord Chaos, or because they used the trial as a ruse to lure the Living Tribunal out, the brothers attack and presumably kill the cosmic judge as the Lifebringer looks on in horror.
As surprising as these developments are, the current state of the Marvel Universe since Secret Wars has been unstable. Before the dawn of Secret Wars, the House of Ideas has been scattering the seeds of a grand-scale multiversal saga across their comic book pages. References to Neutronium (“frozen spacetime”) or isotope-8 – which is essentially the stuff Cosmic Cubes are made of – have popped up since at least Mighty Avengers # 8 in 2014. In addition, elements of alternate realms thought destroyed have slipped into the current version of Earth-616, including an Ultimate “Norman” (Osborn?) in Jessica Jones, the aforementioned Troubleshooters from New Universe, as well as the merger of Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales and the Squadron Supreme (Earth-712), among others, into the contemporary continuity.
Clearly, Al Ewing (Ultimates2) and Brian Michael Bendis (Jessica Jones), and their editorial staff, are plotting something huge for the eighth variance of the Marvel Omniverse, and the alteration of Galactus, the ‘return’ of the Shaper of Worlds (sort of), and the apparent death of the Living Tribunal herald (sorry) a cataclysmic mash-up of cosmic proportions.
[vn_gallery name="Ultimates2" id="848719"]
Ultimates2 #2 is currently available in print and online.