It seems like ever since the team’s inception, chaos and struggle have been part of what it means to be a member of the New Avengers. The team first came together back in 2005 in Marvel Comics “New Avengers” #1 during the middle of a riot at a maximum security prison for super villains. Then, shortly after forming, they were torn apart during the superhero “Civil War,” and when a new incarnation was formed it was forced underground thanks to the fallout from the “Civil War” and the “Dark Reign” of Norman Osborn. During the “Siege” of Asgard the team helped topple Osborn’s rule and undertook one last mission to capture the fugitive super villain crime boss, the Hood, who made their lives miserable for several months.
With the dawning of the new “Heroic Age” of the Marvel Universe a new incarnation of the New Avengers came together and just like before, chaos reigned. That’s because just moments after they formed the earth was invaded by supernatural forces and the group had to give their all to repel them. In issue #7, in stores now, things started to settle down for the New Avengers, but a new struggle and more chaos is on the horizon. CBR News spoke with writer Brian Michael Bendis about his plans for the series.
In issue #7 by Bendis and artist Stuart Immonen, the New Avengers finalized their initial line-up, with the roster now consisting of Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel, Mockingbird, Luke Cage’s wife Jessica Jones (formerly known as the super heroine Jewel), The Thing, Doctor Strange, with Norman Osborn’s former top aide Victoria Hand serving as their liaison to Commander Steve Rogers. They also repaired their new base of operations Avengers Mansion and tapped the super heroine Squirrel Girl to be the nanny to Luke and Jessica’s baby girl, Danielle.
“The New Avengers seem to have organically become a nice mix of types of people, ethnicities, and genders. Plus, because of the events of the first story arc, a friendship was formed between Wolverine, Doctor Strange, and Iron Fist. That will continue. There’s a lot of spirituality there and that will unveil itself in a nice way,” Bendis told CBR News. “And Issue #7 was about as much as I hoped I could ever get out of a mainstream comic. For me personally I think it’s the best thing Stuart has ever drawn.”
“New Avengers” #7 was a standalone tale that marked the end of Bendis’s collaboration with Stuart Immonen on the title. “We’ve been very mum about what’s going on with Stuart because we weren’t ready to announce Marvel’s big summer event ‘Fear Itself,’ which is being written by Matt Fraction,” Bendis said. “As sad as I am to lose Stuart for a while, Matt Fraction is one of my dearest friends and to let him experience what it’s like to have Stuart draw your scripts is something I would never get in the way of. Plus, Stuart having elevated himself to the place where he’s an event guy is amazing. It’s such an awesome thing. He went from ‘”Nextwave” guy’ to ‘event guy’ solely by the force of his professionalism and his talent. So I think that’s just fantastic.”
While he’s sad to see Immonen go, Bendis is very excited about the artists he’ll be working with for the next several months of “New Avengers.” For issue #8, in stores January 26th, he’ll be joined by artist Daniel Acuna.
“Issue #8 is fully painted and it is so gorgeous! And I know you may hear this a lot, but this is the best thing he’s ever done. Everyone at Marvel was like, ‘Whoa! Look at this guy!’ It was one of those great things where there was an element of story that I needed to do and I asked him what he wanted to draw. So I was able to craft a story that was half what he wanted to draw and half where the book needed to go, which is always the best. And oh my god did he deliver! It was so awesome,” the writer remarked. “Issue #8 is another stand alone story that involves Luke and Jessica finding who they are, what their relationship is, and what Jessica’s relationship to the Avengers is going forward. There’s been a lot of fate aligning to put them in certain places, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s where they belong. So this issue will have them deal with that. It also has a villain show up that touches ground on what’s going on in some other books. So that will be fun. You get some big Avengers action and you get an exclamation point on this first arc of what ‘New Avengers’ is, who these characters are, and how they relate to each other.”
February’s “New Avengers” #9 kicks off a new story arc that reunites Bendis with two of his favorite former collaborators, Mike Deodato (“Dark Avengers”) and Howard Chaykin (“New Avengers”). “Mike is doing ‘Secret Avengers,’ but he was available for this. So what happened was, about a year and half ago, Howard Chaykin, one of my heroes and I think one of the inventors of the graphic novel and many other great things that have happened to comics, came to me. We had done a couple bits of business together, which was an honor, and he said, ‘I have half of a fantastic idea about Nick Fury doing something in the late ’50s. It will be like an untold chapter in the history of Marvel Comics right before Marvel became Marvel.’ I was very intrigued by it and I loved it. I came back to him and said, ‘This story works if it affects something that happens today. It’s a story that anybody will read, but they need to know that this is something that actually pays off in the modern day.
“So we sat on it for awhile. I wanted it to be the right thing because it really is important for me to work with Howard, as important as anything I’ve ever done in comics. I didn’t want to take his idea and turn it into something he didn’t want it to be, though. I wanted to turn it into something he was into,” Bendis continued. “So I pitched him the idea of a story where we cut back and forth to the past and something happening to the Avengers in modern day, which would be drawn by Mike Deodato.”
The modern-day aspect of the Deodato and Chaykin story has to do with H.A.M.M.E.R., the espionage agency established by Norman Osborn during his “Dark Reign” and abolished by the government after his arrest-or at least the government thought they abolished it. “There are a lot of people floating around who were involved with Norman Osborn, and when the Marvel Universe changes it doesn’t mean they’ve changed their minds,” Bendis revealed. “So in modern day the Avengers will be up against the brand new H.A.M.M.E.R that is becoming something on the level of HYDRA.”
The Howard Chaykin-illustrated portion of the new arc flashes back to the 1950s and takes place at a transition point for Nick Fury, where he was between his original role of war hero and his present-day role as super spy. “In this story he’ll be asked to put together a band of powered heroes. All of whom are name-brand people that you know. There are some surprises as well. So this very well could be the first Avengers team; the Avengers team before the Avengers! They’re going to put down something that will immediately affect what’s happening in modern times with the Avengers,” Bendis explained. “Now, what’s cool is one of the Avengers is going to wind up seriously injured to the point where we wonder about their career moving forward, and what happens in Nick Fury’s past will affect what happens to this character in the modern day. And all of this will occur in two story lines going on at the same time.”
The title of the Chaykin and Deodato illustrated “New Avengers” arc is “Infinity,” and it refers to the formula that has kept Nick Fury healthy, alive and youthful for so long. Bendis plans on using the arc to explore the origins of the titular formula. “I was surprised to find that the history of the Infinity Formula hadn’t been completely fleshed out. When I started talking to Tom Brevoort about it he told me, ‘No that story has never been told,’ which was fantastic,” Bendis said. “Then I asked Jonathan Hickman about it because I knew he had been dropping hints about the Infinity Formula in his “Shield” series. I asked him how far he was going into it and he told us. So I said, ‘I’ll do this part, then.’ And he went, ‘great, I like that you’re doing that.'”
Victoria Hand was the Deputy Director of H.A.M.M.E.R. during Norman Osborn’s “Dark Reign” over the Marvel Universe. So she’ll play a prominent role in the portions of “Infinity” that deal with the revamped organization and it’s new leader, the misandrist female super villain known as Superia. “I know you’ve heard this sentence from many other creators during your many interviews, but I’m going to do for Superia what’s been done for the Hood and others,” Bendis said. “I think Superia is a character with a lot of hidden potential and panache. There’s something really cool about her. If you follow her storyline, and for the eight people in the world who have, this fits the bill very nicely. Plus I like looking for new legitimate threats.”
The supporting roles in the ’50s portions of “Infinity” will primarily be played by Marvel Heroes that were operating during the 1950s. “I didn’t use the Agents of Atlas. I thought the best thing I could do to honor Jeff Parker was not touch those characters. So instead we dug not even as deep as you’d think we needed to. We found a handful of legitimately cool characters. I thought, listen. I don’t know how many times Howard Chaykin is going to draw one of my stories so Dominic Fortune is in there!” Bendis said. “I actually had research make me a list of who was alive and who had powers, where were they, what were they doing and there’s Dominic Fortune. And on top of Dominic Fortune, we found a couple of name brand, really fantastic male and female characters who are going to join with Nick Fury and do something in the jungles of South America that no one knows he ever did.”
Bendis plans to keep the cast of “New Avengers” very busy after the events of “Infinity.” He already has a number of stories lined up for the team, including a tie-in story to “Fear itself.” “Both ‘New Avengers’ and ‘Avengers’ will have serious tie-ins to ‘Fear Itself,’ but the more dramatic tie-in will be in ‘Avengers’ just because that’s where Thor and Captain America and some of the bigger players in the story align,” Bendis revealed. “Both books will have a roster change and come out of it different than they were, which I think is definitely using the event in the best way possible.”
Writing is a solo experience, but writing for comics is a collaborative one. Bendis always tries to write stories geared toward the strengths of his artist and the writer firmly believes that the next few months of “New Avengers” stories feature some of the strongest work his collaborators have ever done. “‘I’m super excited for people to see how beautiful this book is going forward. I’ve seen #8, #9, and most of #10 and it’s all really beautiful,” the writer said. “The best part of my year has been when the past work of someone like Alan Davis [who Bendis worked with on the “Avengers Prime” limited series] or Howard Chaykin, people who in the industry we worship, are discovered by casual or younger readers because of our sheer enthusiasm . I certainly saw that happen with Alan Davis. I thought everybody was over the moon with the work he did on ‘Avengers Prime’ and it was great to hear, ‘Wow! Where did Alan Davis come from?’ That’s the best. That’s me giving back the tiniest bit I can give back for the decades of what they’ve given me.
“I had that happen with Howard Chaykin, too. When he did his issue of ‘New Avengers’ during ‘Civil War,’ which was the highest selling issue of ‘New Avengers,’ people were going, ‘Cool. What’s he done? And I go, ‘”American Flagg!” Read it!’ and then they go ‘Thanks for that!’ So just that alone is a very cool thing and I’m excited for that to happen with Howard again,” Bendis continued. “Because what Howard has done on these pages is really amazing. He told me a year and a half ago he wanted to draw Nick Fury Nazi Hunter in the ‘Mad Men’ era and you can tell. Howard and people like Walt Simonson and Alan Davis are mopping the floor with most younger talent; both with their stunningly professional behavior and just verve.”