Even in its less hectic periods, the Marvel Universe is in unending chaos. Relationships and roles can fluctuate wildly, and in the space of a few months, beloved heroes become outlaws, while enemies of the state can suddenly find themselves a nation’s first line of defense. Such a transformation will happen in the wake of “Civil War II” when Roberto da Costa, the leader of the former terrorist think tank Advanced Idea Mechanics and the current New Avengers, makes the shift from from public enemy number in the eyes of the U.S. Military to leader of America’s official teams of super spies and super heroes.
The result is “U.S.Avengers,” a new Marvel NOW! series from writer Al Ewing and artist Paco Medina. We spoke with Ewing about the new, expanded role da Costa, aka the former New Mutant/Avenger codenamed Sunspot, and the newly rechristened American Intelligence Mechanics will play in defending the U.S.A. We dig into which heroes will answer A.I.M.’s call to defend America, including the time-traveling offspring of some current Avengers, and, of course, the ongoing mystery of Red Hulk’s mustache.
CBR News: When “U.S.Avengers” begins, the U.S. will have replaced S.H.I.E.L.D. with the new A.I.M., rebranded as American Intelligence Mechanics. I have to wonder, though — since S.H.I.E.L.D. was affiliated with the U.N., what does this mean for the climate your team is operating in? How will they initially be viewed by the rest of the world? And will they be allowed to operate outside of America?
Al Ewing: Well — here’s where we have to talk Spoilers. We’re still in the “Civil War II” tie-in arc, which is also a very big “New Avengers” arc in its own right, and that’s going to answer a lot of questions about how we get from where we are now in the book to where we’ll be. So people who want to be 100% surprised by developments might want to stop reading now and retain a little of that.
For the rest of you — yes, this is going to be a very different set-up for the States. Where, previously, America has relied on S.H.I.E.L.D. very heavily, they’ll now be leaning a little more on their own resources. S.H.I.E.L.D. still has a hand in U.S. affairs, but they’re not nearly as trusted as before. The U.S. is going to be relying much more on their own secret agencies — the C.I.A., the N.S.A, and A.I.M., which will be handling the more outrageous elements. They’ll be taking over the more James Bond-style scenarios, the literal super-spies that only S.H.I.E.L.D. could handle before. Naturally, S.H.I.E.L.D. and their sympathizers within the government will be watching to see the new kids screw up.
As for how the rest of the world sees them — they’re very much an American agency, and as such, they won’t have a free hand all over the globe. But they’ll have plenty to keep them busy at home.
What kinds of roles will Sunspot and Cannonball have on this new team? What’s it like writing their friendship on the large stage that they’re operating on in this book?
Sunspot and Cannonball are two best friends at very different points in their lives. Sunspot, born in Brazil, has become a full American citizen and is embracing his adopted country and his new home. Meanwhile, Cannonball, born in the U.S., is increasingly wanting to leave it. His true home is in the stars, with his wife and child — he’s just commuting to Earth now for work, and as a mutant, the Terrigen cloud roaming through Earth’s atmosphere could potentially sterilize or even kill him. So we’ve got that going on, plus the wealth disparity between them — Roberto is a son of money, used to getting his way, while Sam had to work down a mine to feed his family. They’re BFFs, but there’s a tension there that’ll occasionally show.
Also coming with Sunspot to this new organization are his A.I.M. associates — Tony Ho, who will become the new Iron Patriot, and POD. How do they feel about being armored heroes in the public eye?
POD has gone through some changes. I’m not at liberty to say what those changes are — spoilers, everybody — but she’s got a new codename, Enigma, and some freaky new powers. It’s still the same Aikku Jokinen in the suit, though.
Meanwhile, Toni isn’t so used to the bigger stage — she’s a backroom boffin by nature, happiest in the lab rather than in combat, and going from that to superheroics in a new armored suit is a big step. And obviously, it being a suit with a giant American flag on it, there are going to be people questioning her abilities, asking for her birth certificate and generally being horrible jerks.
Another cast member of New Avengers you’re bringing over to “U.S.Avengers” is Squirrel Girl. What do you think she brings to the book, and perhaps more importantly, why did Sunspot want her on this team?
In a word? Compassion. It’s tempting to say her power is to always win, but the reason she always wins is because she’s tough, she’s very, very good at what she does, and she has total compassion and empathy for the people she’s up against. That’s very important for a team with so many flags on it. We need someone on that team who’s going to think like that. Frankly, we need more of that generally in all aspects of life. Plus, it counterbalances Ross.
Speaking of Thunderbolt Ross, it’s interesting to see him on this team, and it’s even more interesting to see that he’s once again the Red Hulk, who’s past appearances have shown that he’s capable of being both incredibly heroic, and a complete bastard. What’s your sense of the character, and will we learn how he regained his powers?
Thunderbolt Ross is complicated. He’s shown immense reserves of courage and steadfastness in the past — but we’ve seen that curdle into blind obsession and hate. He’s shown incredible strategic know-how, but we’ve also seen him do the same thing over and over, hoping for a new result. Like you say, we’ve seen great heroism out of him, but we’ve also seen a truly nasty side that we shouldn’t forget. Is he a hero? He wants to be, and maybe that’ll be enough. But maybe it won’t. Every human being has their dark side to face, and Ross’ is stronger than most. Maybe the strongest there is…
As for how he gets his powers back — there are ways and means. You’ll see how it happens. I think the important question, though, is how does he get his mustache back? That might be a question only the super-‘stache science of A.I.M. can answer.
Joining your team on their first adventure is the Captain America of a possible future, Danielle Cage. How would you describe her initial dynamic with the U.S.Avengers? Having coming from a possible Marvel Universe future, is she aware of the team’s existence and the role she’ll play in it?
Danielle Cage comes back to the past on a mission to recapture a criminal from her own time. But this past is new territory to her — thanks to Ulysses’ predictions during “Civil War II,” a crucial element of her history never happened. Marvel readers are used to alternate futures, especially as the sliding timeline means that no future will ever happen, but it makes for something of an existential crisis for Dani herself. Will her future be waiting for her when she returns from the present? Is her Earth the “true” Earth, or is this one? Should she try to preserve her own future legacy, in the knowledge of what she’s achieved, or let her toddler-self in this world have a life free of the burden of being Captain America? It’s a complex question. Oh, and Danielle fighting alongside her old baby-sitter is going to be a definite thing.
The criminal Dani is in pursuit of is the Golden Skull, a villain we briefly met in your “Avengers: Ultron Forever” story. In that appearance, he appeared to be someone interested in acquiring wealth and plundering resources. What else can you tell us about the Skull and his motivations? Just how dangerous is he?
He’s actually pretty dangerous! He’s kind of goofy, but then so was Boris Johnson. He’s got future technology that’s better than anything in the present, and he’s using it to make sure the future of this “alternate past” belongs entirely to him — a global kleptocracy, with him behind the scenes, manipulating all aspects of life to serve the end goal of funneling more cash into his vaults. The Golden Skull is fun to watch and fun to be around, but he won’t rest until the entire universe is just one big Scrooge McDuck money-bin, an engine solely devoted to making the rich richer, with him richest of all. And he might do it.
How does “U.S.Avengers” compare to the previous Avengers books you’ve written? It looks like you’re continuing the feel of “New Avengers,” but bringing the team out of the shadows and into the public eye.
That’s pretty fair. We’re going to be a little more serious sometimes — it’s a serious world — but hopefully it’ll still be a fun book. We’re tacking hard towards the super-spy element of the original ’60s S.H.I.E.L.D., and readers who’ve been wondering about that giant lizard foot in the “Divided We Stand” promo should watch for the return of a fan-favorite character in the nearness of future — there’s a particular tie-in down the road that I’ve earmarked that guy for, and I suspect the readers will have an extraordinary amount of fun with that.
I’d like to end with a “thank you” to the readers for sticking with us — hopefully we won’t let you down with this latest iteration of our ongoing super-saga. And a “welcome onboard” for anyone joining us with this new #1! We’ll get you up to speed real quick, I promise. In the meantime, stay safe, take care of yourselves, and Excelsior!
“U.S.Avengers” assembles in October under the watch of Al Ewing and Paco Medina.