The Ten Realms of Asgard may be some of the most fantastic and strange locales in the Marvel Universe, but they’re still governed by rules. This is especially true of Hel, where the souls of damned Asgardians are consigned for all kinds of nightmarish punishments. Hela ruled Hel for countless millennia, but her reign was recently cut short by the Asgardian-born and Heven-raised warrior known as Angela, who had ventured into Hel to free her slain lover Sera.
In the opening arc of their new ongoing series “Angela: Queen of Hel”, writer Marguerite Bennett and artists Stephanie Hans and Kim Jacinto tell the tale of how Angela won Hel’s crown and what it cost her. So far we’ve seen her confront her fears, cast away painful memories and forge an army, but many obstacles still bar her way including two brothers she’s never met: Tyr and Balder.
CBR News spoke with Bennett about the challenges that Angela, Sera, and her army have yet to face; Angela’s coming clash with the new Thor; and her inspiration to make Hel a place of memory.
CBR News: In “Angela” #4, your protagonist comes face to face with the fallen Asgardian warrior Skurge and two brothers she’s never met before, Tyr and Balder. It seems like they may be wildcards in the struggle for Hel. What can you tell us about how Balder and Tyr feel when they come face to face with Angela at the end of “Angela” #3? Is there a sense of loyalty to this family member they’ve never met?
Marguerite Bennett: Oh, Tyr and Balder were wonderful to actually write in the contrast of their relationships! Genuinely, having the two of them together in Hel, having never met Angela — having barely known of her — was a gift. Tyr, as god of war, is hardened and suspicious. And though he knows Angela is one of his few blood siblings, he chose long ago to be with Hela, forgoing certain blood ties in favor of choice. He knows Angela’s mettle is just as stern as his own and does not trust her in the least. Balder, on the other hand, feels great sympathy towards her and a desire to know her better, to connect. He feels great guilt that he was not a better comfort to his mother, Freyja, after Angela’s loss (he did not know Angela existed, of course, and only understood Freyja’s grief in hindsight, which contributes all the more to his sense of guilt). He longs to reach out to her, to find a peaceable compromise to their positions.
Tyr’s response is practical, and Balder’s sentimental. Tyr is suspicious, Balder guilty. Tyr, for all his sternness, is motivated by love of his paramour, and Balder by a desire to have the love of a family. The two of them are wonderful to play off one another.
You haven’t just been setting up the battle for Hel in these initial issues, you’ve also been defining the realm. We keep hearing the phrase “Hel is memory” and memory can be a very subjective thing. What inspired this take on the Asgardian underworld?
I wanted Hel to be memory. We’ve seen Hel as a torture chamber. We’ve seen Hel as a pit of fire. We’ve seen Hel as an empty white nothingness, and Hel as heaven, and Hel as other people. I wanted Hel to be memory — just the choices you’ve made, for better or worse, over and over. The good will cause pain because the good is done; the bad will cause pain for the guilt of what occurred.
The inspiration for that take is how Angela and Sera might handle it. Angela and Sera, in contrast, derive strength from their past, because it was where they were together, and that, as much as anything, allows them to break the cycle and rise in challenge of Hela.
I’m really enjoying the work your collaborators Kim, Stephanie, and colorist Israel Silva are doing on this series. Stephanie illustrating the ethereal memories is perfect, and Kim has this clean line style that really makes action scenes pop. And Israel’s colors add so much to the mood of the story.
Cheers! And 1000% agreed. I am so blessed to have this team. Stephanie is brilliant at the haunted, twisted, romantic nature of dreams and memories, and we can talk openly about what we love and hate when we’re building the story. She’s been with us from the very beginning. Covers, flashbacks, the bulks of issues — she has more of a hand in Angela’s story than I do, I swear.
Kim is a puzzle master, fitting and angling the craziest fight scenes and the densest pages I’ve been fiend enough to give him, and he is, no doubt in my mind, the fastest draw in the West. Israel’s sense of magic and metalwork is gorgeous — very important, when everyone is 30% weapons, 30% sass, and 40% smooching.
The cliffhanger to issue #3 and the solicits for #4 and #5 suggest that things are going to be turned up to 11 in the remaining chapters of this initial arc. What sort of hints and teases can you offer up about the main story and the sub-stories in #4-5? How big is the scope and scale going to get?
If you liked the cliffhanger on #3, you’re gonna love the cliffhanger on #4! [Laughs] I can tell you that in issue #5, there are five splash pages — which might be the most I’ve ever put in any issue — and they are among the most gorgeous of our entire run. I can tell you that Issue #5 also made my friend (and first reader) cry when she is the hardest damn sell I have the pleasure to know. I can tell you that (ye Asgardian gods forbid) if I got struck by lightning and #5 was my final word of the subject of Angela and Sera and their adventures and romances, I would be satisfied and even vain.
In March’s “Angela” #6 you get to show the first real meeting between Angela and the new Thor. What’s it like bouncing those characters off of each other?
It breaks a lot of very expensive things, because they bounce and crash back into landmarks. It’s very exciting.
Angela, despite being a born Asgardian, is in no way worthy to wield Mjolnir. She’s a hired killer. She likes: 1) Sera; 2) being a mercenary; 3) end of list. Everything else is background noise because she likes Sera and being an intergalactic mercenary hitwoman so much.
Other characters might feel insecure to stand next to a human with the power of Thor; Angela feels a cool, distrustful contempt for concepts of “honor” (and everything Asgardian), but she simultaneously has to admire Thor for making something of herself. This Thor is no spoiled prince or princess; this Thor got what she deserved because she was the best, was exemplary (even if only by standards of morality that Angela might otherwise roll her eyes at). They occupy very interesting and curious places for each other.
I imagine this won’t be the only time Angela and Thor cross paths in upcoming months. In “The Mighty Thor,” the machinations of the villainous Malekith has ignited the “War of Realms.” How big of an impact will that have on “Angela” in the coming months? It seems like you were laying the seeds for that in these early issues when you talked about Malekith possessing Sera’s ring.
Ah, of this I can say nothing! I can say that you will soon see characters from our “1602: Witch Hunter Angela” series again, though! “1602: Witch Hunter Angela” will be out in trade in mid-February, if you’d like to catch up before Issue #6. Though it is not vital, it will definitely help if “Queen of Hel” is your introduction to Angela and Sera. And of the ring, all I can say is that Sera is as much narrator as character, and we shall soon reveal much of how she knows the forbidden and blasphemous things she does…
I want to conclude by saying thank you, as always, for coming along on the bonkers adventures of these mythological space mercenary smoochmonsters who occasionally overthrow afterlives to rescue each other and smooch further. I love every person who has worked on it. I love you for reading it. And I goddamn love Sera and Angela.
“Angela: Queen of Hel” #4 is on sale today.