CBR News: Sam, The Black Vortex item gets introduced in “Legendary Star-Lord” #5, which is a clear lead-in to your big Marvel event of the same name. Obviously, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the object, but what more can you actually say about the item now that it’s out there?
Sam Humphries: Well, we had to be a little reticent over what we could reveal at New York Comic Con, but now, we can confirm a lot of things that people have been asking me about. One of them is that the Black Vortex is an actual object — it’s not a belief or a metaphor, or anything like that. The Black Vortex is an ancient artifact, very much like what we could consider to be a mirror. It’s a mirror that reflects literally what is standing in front of it, but what you see when you look into it is your full cosmic potential in life. For example, if you were to accept the bargain of the Black Vortex, you would not just be an awesome guitar player — you would be as good as Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and George Harrison combined. Or if you’re a basketball player, it’s not just that you could dunk a lot, you could beat the entire Dream Team singlehandedly, one hundred games in a row. Your abilities would be so far beyond what we see on Earth.
So, if you extrapolate that to the powers of a superhero, they’re not just a superhero anymore. They’re cosmic level superheroes. If there’s a superpowered bad guy involved — and there are quite a few — all of a sudden, these are villains who may be impossible to stop. There’s no limit on the Black Vortex. If it gets in the wrong hands, you could apply it to one person, a whole team, a whole planet.
It seems like The Black Vortex is one of the most powerful artifacts in the entire Marvel Universe. How has it flown under the radar for this long?
People are afraid of it. People are afraid to use it, to talk about it. When people get ahold of it, if they’re altruistic and believe it should be hidden away, they definitely don’t want anyone to know that they have it, because it becomes a target that many people in the galaxy would go to any lengths to obtain. We saw that in issue #5 with the Slaughter Squad coming in and slaughtering all the Kymellians just to get their hands on this object, with only an inkling of what it could do for them.
This is an artifact that’s existed almost as long as the universe itself. The first pages of “Black Vortex: Alpha,” which I’m writing and Ed McGuinness is drawing, takes place 10 billion years ago and you see the Black Vortex, who created it and why. You also see the first person to become cosmically enhanced by the Black Vortex and what that did to them, and what that did to their planet.
You lay a lot of groundwork for Mister Knife and the Slaughter Squad’s role in “The Black Vortex.” How important will the Squad’s role be moving forward?
They’re absolutely going to be in “The Black Vortex” event in a big way. As we say in issue #5, they are Mister Knife’s hatchet squad. They’re his enforcers, his cosmic A-Team. Kind of like the Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s made up of various alien races — some of them are very old, obscure Marvel characters that have been seen before, but not very often. Some of them are brand new. They do have a part to play in pretty much every issue of “Legendary Star-Lord” leading up to “The Black Vortex,” and then they’re going to be a huge part of the event. They’re going to clash directly with the Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men.
In many ways, the Squad seems to be a darker version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Should readers be drawing certain parallels between the two groups?
I don’t know if readers should be drawing one-to-one parallels. Certainly, there are some similarities between characters, but the main takeaway is that they’re a twisted mirror version of the Guardians. We’ve seen the Guardians do so many amazing things as protectors of the galaxy. We’ve seen how powerful they are, but also how heroic they are. What would happen if you took that heroism away and replaced it with desperation and avarice and bloodlust. That’s exactly what the Slaughter Squad is.
Mister Knife actually shoots a member of the Slaughter Squad in the head before he’s able to realize his cosmic destiny. What’s Mister Knife’s motivation behind wanting to acquire the artifact? Is it something he’s hoping to use himself?
Well, that is a great question, and there’s a great answer — but I can’t give it to you! [Laughs] That would reveal too much of the plan — but rest assured that Mister Knife does have a plan for the Black Vortex, and it’s not just to take it for himself to become a badass cosmic being. Mister Knife thinks very big, and he has a past that informs how big he thinks. The Black Vortex can show any individual its cosmic potential, but some people just see themselves in it. Mister Knife sees something much bigger. He sees it as a key to something bigger and larger for himself. He’s not enamored with what the Black Vortex can show him, he’s enamored with what it can do for him.
The tether between the Guardians and the X-Men is certainly apparent given Peter Quill’s communication with Kitty Pryde. How will their relationship inform how the Guardians and the X-Men interact as you continue to lead in to “The Black Vortex” event?
In many ways, they are the center of “The Black Vortex.” They’re the characters that bring the two teamstogether. We’ve got a lot of great Peter and Kitty stuff coming up in between now and “The Black Vortex.” Issue #6 is going to be a date between Peter and Kitty Pryde that’s going to be interfered with by the Slaughter Squad. in Issue #7, we have Kitty coming to the rescue. In issue #8, we have Peter “popping the question,” which I am putting in air quotes, and issue #9 is straight into “The Black Vortex.” We’re going to see them getting closer and closer in the next few issues and figuring out if they have the potential to be in a relationship together. “The Black Vortex” is going to come along and throw all of that into chaos for them.
This might be a reach, but The Black Vortex reminded me a lot of the Siege Perilous. Any parallels that can be drawn there at all?
No, not essentially. You’re not far off, they’re both similarly sized — the Siege Perilous isn’t a mirror, it’s a portal. I think that the major distinction to draw between the Siege Perilous and The Black Vortex is that the Siege Perilous was a door or a portal to a new life, to a blank slate. The Black Vortex is not. The Black Vortex is very much in the moment, but it changes you. The circumstances stay the same. If you’re stuck in a moment of desperation, the Black Vortex may look like a very attractive answer, depending on how desperate the situation is. What happens with the Black Vortex and the question of the Black Vortex — whether or not these characters will embrace their cosmic potential — will have a lot of long-term consequences for a lot of the Guardians and X-Men characters in this book. This is not an artifact that spirits them away to a new life; this is an artifact that changes who you are in the immediate present and changes your future — changes everything about you. But you still have to cope with and deal with the circumstances that you’re in.
You’ve mentioned in the past that other characters will show up during the course of “The Black Vortex.” How will the Slaughter Squad and Mister Knife’s uncovering of the artifact on Kymellia III bring some of those other characters out of the woodwork?
Again, there’s a great answer to this — but not something I can elaborate on! But I will say that there’s a face on the cover that we haven’t revealed as being part of the event yet — a character who is not a part of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but is in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie. I think fans are going to be really excited about what he does in “The Black Vortex” event.
You’ve been working with Paco Medina for “Legendary Star-Lord” and you’re working with Ed McGuinness for “The Black Vortex: Alpha” and “Omega,” and their styles certainly gel well together. When you were writing the “Alpha” and “Omega” scripts, was there any particular sequences you were excited to put in there for Ed?
Yeah, absolutely. Paco has really redefined Star-Lord with his visual sense — his flair for the cosmic, but also his talentfor bringing up characters’ emotions and facial expressions. That’s something that I’ve been leaning into a lot with his relationship with Kitty Pryde. We’re just putting issue #6 to press this week — the Kitty date issue — and he just knocks it out of the park so much. Paco also designed the Black Vortex and did such a great job making it look like this sinister, ambiguous power.
With Ed coming on board for “The Black Vortex: Alpha” and “Omega,” it just opened up the possibilities so much. I knew that I wanted to show the Marvel Universe 10 billion years ago with Ed, and I knew he would do such a good job with so many characters thrown together, as you see on that cover. I wanted to have Ed draw some huge, massive cosmic battles with some insanely cosmically enhanced people and aliens. That’s the kind of stuff you’re going to see all throughout “The Black Vortex” event.
“The Legendary Star-Lord” #5 is in stores now; “The Black Vortex: Alpha” is scheduled for release in February.