How Marvel’s Reckoning War Brings She-Hulk, Silver Surfer & More to a Cosmic Battle (Interview)

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The Fantastic Four aren’t just superheroes. They’re also explorers who’ve saved much of the Marvel Universe’s intergalactic landscape. Whenever an otherworldly threat emerges near Earth, they’re on the front lines, using their incredible powers and scientific acumen to end a cosmic crisis. In February 2022, the Fantastic Four, and several other key Marvel heroes, will find themselves embroiled in one of the Marvel Universe’s most ancient and alien conflicts.

The Reckoning War is a story that current Fantastic Four writer Dan Slott has been building towards during his tenure at Marvel Comics. During an interview with CBR, Slott revealed he’s been thinking about this cosmic storyline since childhood. The upcoming Marvel event begins with Reckoning War Alpha, featuring art by Carlos Pacheco and Carlos Magno, and then continues in Fantastic Four #40 in an arc drawn by Rachael Stott. Slott detailed how The Reckoning War evolved, teased some of its Marvel tie-ins, and revealed the key players to fight alongside Marvel’s First Family — She-Hulk, the Watcher, the Unseen, Silver Surfer, and Jack of Hearts. Included with this interview is an exclusive look at pages from Reckoning War Alpha — the first two images are drawn by Pacheco with inks by Rafael Fontirez, and the third image is drawn by Magno with inks by Fontirez. Also, an exclusive sneak peek at Stott’s Fantastic Four #40 artwork is included at the interview’s end.

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CBR: I understand that The Reckoning War is very much a childhood dream come true for you, correct?

Dan Slott: Yes! There was a specific comic I read when I was eight years old that ties deeply into Marvel cosmology. I always wondered, “What if this one thing happened as a result of this critical Marvel Universe story?” No one has ever lifted up that rock. It’s just prime story fodder for cosmic Marvel chaos, and it’s been around since the early Marvel Silver and Bronze age.

That’s amazing that a lot of the creators who grew up on the same stuff you did have not touched it.

I got really scared a number of times Al Ewing started doing some of his stories. If anyone would find this it would be Al.

You planted some big seeds for what would become “The Reckoning War” back in the early 2000s during your tenure on She-Hulk. Has the story changed much since then? Was it always supposed to focus on Jennifer Walters and the Fantastic Four?

I instigated the story with She-Hulk because it was my first ever monthly Marvel comic. I sewed a lot of seeds for this story, though, in many different books with the exception of The Amazing Spider-Man because Spider-Man felt too street level. It felt like it would have been wrong to seed it in Spider-Man. That meant I had a book I worked on for over 10 years that couldn’t tie into it. [laughs] Every other title and all the different character work I’ve done has been feeding into it. There’s a world where if I had stayed on Mighty Avengers this might have been a Mighty Avengers story, but I’m so happy it’s a Fantastic Four story. It feels more right for it to be in the Fantastic Four-Silver Surfer corner of the Marvel Universe.

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Sounds like there’s a lot of your work that people looking for seeds can dig into, but The Reckoning War is also designed to be a very new reader accessible story as well, correct?

Yes, you don’t need to have read anything I’ve done in the past. You can jump right in with Reckoning War Alpha and everything you need to know is there. We play fair, but you should know this is a story that has 17-18 years of passion in it. If you have read my work you’ll have moments of, “Ah haha! That story!” [laughs] You’re getting a level of commitment and heart that has been marinating like nobody’s business.

I feel like some of the last major seeds for The Reckoning War were planted at the end of the recent Empyre event you co-wrote with Al Ewing.

Yes, in the aftermath of Empyre we got to regenerate Uatu the Watcher. We got to bring him kicking and screaming back into reality. We could not tell this story without Uatu.

RELATED: Guardians of the Galaxy Leaves Doctor Doom Ready for the Reckoning War

The plot of The Reckoning War involves the very first “Secret War” in the Marvel Universe. What can you tell us about this conflict?

If you know your Marvel history there’s logically a first great cosmic war. If you sit down and think about it, the largest war in the history of the Marvel Universe had to be a certain thing. That war is now rekindled in the present.

This is not the “Secret War.” This is a war that most Marvel characters, if they know about it, know about it second hand. There’s something very large and cosmic though, and when you think of the scale of cosmic Marvel stories this is a war that’s far greater than the Kree-Skrull War. It’s far greater than any other war you can think of.

There has been a lot of concepts, characters, and events added to the Marvel cosmology over the last few years by creators like Al Ewing, Jason Aaron, Donny Cates, and Jonathan Hickman. Has that impacted this story?

The beauty of the Marvel Universe is that there are so many hands on deck. It’s home to so many storytellers all adding to this giant tapestry. So, yeah, this is a story that has changed, moved, and morphed as the currents have changed. As writers like Jason Aaron, Al Ewing, Kieron Gillen, Dan Abnett, and Andy Lanning have told cosmic stories and introduced different characters and settings. It’s like the rivers have changed course as people have left their mark. You’ve got different tributaries and flows, but the central idea and concept of The Reckoning War remained unchanged. I’m happy to work within that tapestry and have it grow and change in ways that use what everyone else has done as stepping stones, as opposed to bulldozing them.

The core concept of The Reckoning War though, what it is, what it’s about, and what’s at stake, has not changed. It’s still that same story as a springboard that I wondered about when I was eight years old. As I said, there were some pieces I just needed. So even though Jason killed Uatu, I had to resurrect him. So it was like, “Here’s him getting resurrected, and here’s how.”

There will be some other startling changes and things too that riff off stories that can go anywhere from an Al Ewing, to an Abnett and Lanning, to a Donny Cates, to a Jonathan Hickman, to really anyone who’s contributed to the cosmos. It’s all fair game.

RELATED: Fantastic Four: Reckoning War Uncovers Marvel’s Original Secret War

The Reckoning War has both you and the Fantastic Four reuniting with Jen Walters who’s been through some things over in Avengers. What’s it like returning to She-Hulk?

I love working with She-Hulk. By the time Reckoning War launches we will have done a two-issue arc in Fantastic Four guest-starring Jen. Part of the reason for that was for me to get my feet wet again. I wanted to play around with the character again before it’s time to go into The Reckoning War because Jen has a major part to play in that story.

We have a wonderful new She-Hulk series that’s about to start written by Rainbow Rowell. I got to read ahead on that and saw the first several scripts. They’re fantastic! So I wanted to be true to what Rainbow is doing as well because we’re all in the same sandbox.

Jen is coming back to the FF at a time when the Marvel Universe’s “First Family” has undergone a number of changes, and when they’re facing some tough challenges.

Yes, there are a lot of things going on in the FF right now.

Ben and Alicia are married. They’re raising two adopted children who are part of the legacy of the Kree-Skrull war. Reed and Sue have been dealing with problems with Franklin and a little bit with Val. Recently, Johnny has gone through the biggest change of all. Doctor Doom got some vengeance on him for stuff that Johnny did and his power is raging out of control. We’ll see more of that in The Reckoning War.

So, we’ve got She-Hulk and the FF. Who are some of the other key players in The Reckoning War?

In addition to those characters, it’s Jack of Hearts, Silver Surfer, Uatu, Nick Fury Sr./The Unseen, and… the entire Marvel Universe! [laughs] But the others are your core. They’re the ones we’ll keep checking in on.

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I’m not surprised you included Silver Surfer, given this is a cosmic tale and your history with the character, but what made you want to bring Jack of Hearts into The Reckoning War?

I’m not at liberty to say. [laughs]

Can you talk any more about the Unseen and Uatu’s roles in the story?

I can’t say much, but there is a second special involved in The Reckoning War. There’s the opening special, The Reckoning War Alpha. I like calling that “The Day of Reckoning.” It is the inciting moment of The Reckoning War. We’ll see it all around the Marvel Universe and the FF will get involved.

That Alpha issue is an oversized issue. Carlos Pacheco is doing half of it and Carlos Magno, who just did the gorgeous Kang series, is doing the back half. After the Alpha issue, Boom! The Reckoning War has begun and the FF step up. That’s all going to happen in the FF book. So the story is two specials and five issues of Fantastic Four.

The other special is called The Trial of the Watcher. I can’t reveal the identity of the artist, but I’ve been looking at layouts and they’re gorgeous! That special is something I’ve wanted to write for ages! It’s an important part of The Reckoning War.

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You mentioned Carlos Pacheco and Carlos Magno, what’s it like working with Rachael Stott, the artist on the Fantastic Four issues?

This is the project where everybody will look at her work and go, “Oh my god! Why isn’t she drawing everything?” Rachael has drawn many different things like Star Wars, Planet of the Apes, and Spider-Man. She’s most known for her long runs on Doctor Who, where she’s excellent at drawing likenesses. What people overlook though is that she can do everything! So, I love that you’re going to get to see her draw everybody in the Marvel Universe. She’ll mainly draw the core cast that we talked about, but you’re going to see her draw everybody! You’ll see her draw cosmic battles and things happening on the grandest of scales! You’ll also see small personal moments.

There’s a lot of heart in The Reckoning War. Ben Grimm is going to go through a lot. Reed Richards is going to go through a lot. Sue Storm and the Human Torch are going to go through big emotional turns in this story. So there will be moments of pure heart, and at the same level, there are massive Marvel Cosmic battles! Things are happening on a Kirby scale. So it’s neat to see someone with Rachael’s skills, someone who can do it all, draw all these different facets. I’m going to be surprised if everyone doesn’t try to steal her for everything after this.

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So, in terms of scope and scale, this is one of, if not the biggest stories you’ve done in your entire career?

There’s an old Warner Bros. cartoon where Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are doing vaudeville acts. Whatever Daffy does, no one applauds. Whatever Bugs does, everyone applauds. Then Daffy gets so frustrated he pulls out all the stops and does the greatest act of his career. He comes on stage in a devil outfit. He pulls out this box of chemicals, yells out “Nitroglycerin!” He drinks it. He then downs gunpowder and consumes some more of the most dangerous things in the world. Then he shakes himself up and eats one match. There’s a giant conflagration, a huge explosion, and everyone in the theater goes nuts and is cheering as they’ve never cheered before. Bugs applauds, and goes, “Daffy! They love it! They want more!” And you see Daffy’s ghost in that devil outfit rising up to heaven. He yells down, “It’s a great trick, but I can only do it once!”

That’s The Reckoning War. [laughs] You’re getting my Marvel story that I’ve always wanted to tell. There is no other story after this [laughs]. Have I been seeding something else for 17 years? No! I haven’t. This is the big, big story that I really wanted to tell! And we’re telling it now.

KEEP READING: Fantastic Four #35 Hosts a Bombastic Celebration of Marvel’s First Family

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