I had every intention of starting this post with the old “Poor Uatu, we hardly knew ye” bit, but the truth is that longtime Marvel comics readers know the Watcher all too well. That’s what makes his upcoming fate all the more tragic.
It’s not a secret that Marvel’s next event, Original Sin, centers around a murder mystery regarding Uatu’s death. Not only that, but writer Jason Aaron and artist Mike Deodato are going even further and having whoever did it make off with at least one of his eyes, which apparently hold all the knowledge he’s accumulated over the millenia. So not only is the Watcher going to be dead, his body is going to be desecrated as well.
That’s a sad fate for the bald guy after all he’s done for us. In case you’re new to the concept of the Watchers, Uatu’s people are an ancient race that once desired to share its knowledge with other less advanced species until they gave nuclear technology to one of them and they ended up wiping themselves out. After that, they stuck to what can be thought of as their version of Star Trek’s Prime Directive, taking oaths to observe but never interfere with other planets and their civilizations.
Uatu wasn’t exactly a man of his word, breaking his vow countless times. Since Earth has been written fairly consistently as a place of special importance in the Marvel universe’s cosmic scheme of things, perhaps this was warranted.
(As a side note, I also like to think that since Uatu was stationed at Earth, it earned him jealousy from a whole bunch of his people who ended up watching worlds that never developed beyond single-celled organisms, and thus were bored to tears.)
In any case, Uatu started violating his oath fairly early on when he tried to save Earth from the coming of Galactus. Depending on who was writing him, he hasn’t been above dropping some very serious hints to lead heroes in the right direction even when he’s resisted the urge to get physically involved.
You could say that Uatu has proven himself a stand-up guy, doing everything from promising not to watch Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman on their wedding night to getting himself basically expelled from Watcher society for doing what he thought was right.
More than that, he was the all time master of the dramatic entrance. When Uatu showed up, you knew “Something Important” was about to happen — or at least the writer wanted you to think it was. Sometimes this was debatable (Civil War comes to mind), but more often than not, his arrival gave you the Jim Ross, “business is about to pick up” feeling.
What was never as clear, to me at least, was how powerful the Watcher was if he decided to let loose. Certainly he didn’t rank up with the cosmic entities like Eternity, Death and Galactus, or the Celestials. He may even have been a notch below beings like The Stranger or patriarchal deities like Odin, but not by that much.
Uatu was certainly a fan favorite in my family. When my brothers and I started our own boxing blog in 2007 (now sadly lost to the sands of internet time), we named it Boxing Watchers with him in mind, picturing ourselves as observers who would show up at boxing matches like combat sports versions of Uatu. One of my siblings even used that name to post to protect his anonymity (sorry Marvel!).
Here I’ve been writing about him in the past tense this whole time like he’s already dead. Uatu is still alive darn it, at least for two more months worth of comics. In the Marvel Zombies universe, it seemed like maybe he couldn’t be killed, so there may yet be hope.
I’m really looking forward to Original Sin simply because it seems like such a nice change of pace from the “OMG, this is the biggest threat to the universe ever” feel Marvel’s events often have. Plus some of the character pairings, like Dr. Strange and the Punisher, just seem crazy enough to be fun. But I’ll be pretty upset to see the big guy in some cosmic morgue, one end of the table weighted to avoid his impossibly big head from tipping it over in the other direction, and without his eyes. That’s going to be a bummer.
R.I.P., Uatu. Thanks for being so lousy at keeping your word.