In the final days of 2012, Jonathan Hickman began his tenure as the writer of Marvel Comics’ “Avengers” and “New Avengers.” Both books found the titular teams making big and often difficult choices to protect the Earth from mysterious, large-scale menaces. In the recent “Infinity” event, also written by Hickman, the Avengers and the secret Illuminati-style New Avengers made more tough calls and readers discovered the separate threats they were facing — the alien Builders and the mysterious Incursion events that begin when two Earths from different realities occupy the same space and end with the destruction of one or both of those Earths — were linked.
In the aftermath of “Infinity,” the Builders have been defeated but the choices made by the Avengers and New Avengers will come back to haunt them, carry even greater weight and bring the two teams’ separate journeys together. CBR News spoke with SVP of Publishing and “Avengers” editor Tom Brevoort about the upcoming “Original Sin” tie-in to “Avengers,” in which Captain America remembers that he was mind wiped and expelled from the ranks of the Illuminati, the current arc of “New Avengers” that pits the Illuminati against a rival team of heroes trying to protect their world from an Incursion event, and how these two stories will lead to a larger tale that tightly links both books together.
CBR News: Tom, writer Jonathan Hickman has said from the beginning that his “Avengers” and “New Avengers” books are two sides of the same story. So is the long form epic that Jonathan is telling similar to what Brian Bendis did with his Avengers books during the “Secret Invasion” and “Dark Reign” eras where there was a larger problem that we saw two different groups come at from two different angles?
Tom Brevoort: Sort of. It’s probably most similar to what Jonathan did on “Fantastic Four.” Not in that there were two “Fantastic Four” books all the way through, but in terms of there’s a big story that plays out and you only have a vague sense of it at the beginning.
I remember at the beginning of Jonathan’s “Fantastic Four” run, especially when we did the four issues that introduced the Four Cities, people were very confused as to what the heck it was all about. [Laughs] They wanted to know where this was going and how it worked. There was a lot of disquietude, but once we got to the crux of things with the “Three” story line, the death of the Torch, the reconfiguring of the team, and how all these things began to knit together people began to see the pattern, connectivity, and connections and it all made sense. We got a big climax out of it once we got toward the end of that run. So it’s sort of similar to that.
Certainly when Brian was doing “Dark Reign” he had two titles and he had two groups of characters that were dealing with the situation of “Dark Reign” from different aspects. So there is a broad similarity to that, but it wasn’t as concretely planned out over such a long period of time. It’s maybe closer to the way that Brian seeded and developed what became “Secret Invasion” from the beginning of “New Avengers.”
This all goes back to Jonathan’s first issues of “Avengers” and “New Avengers.” It’s all been connected as pieces of this enormously large tapestry. The scope of it is quite big.
“Avengers” and “New Avengers” have used that tapestry style approach in the past, where you can read one or the other and get a complete story, but readers get a more complete picture of Jonathan’s larger story if they read both. For instance, there were clues like the sequence in “Avengers” that showed what happened to Hyperion’s world, which we later found out was an Incursion event. Recently we’ve started to see more of these elements pop up in “Avengers.” Will this same approach continue moving forward, or is there a point on the horizon where there will be a natural crossover because of the nature of his story?
Things are definitely coming to a point where the vector that is “Avengers” and the vector that is “New Avengers” are going to meet, collide, and intertwine. That point is the “Original Sin” tie-in of “Avengers.” Once we hit “Avengers” #29 and up these two books are going to be operating in lockstep much more so than they had been in the earlier days when events in the books seemed to not be connected.
As we’ve already said, in that “Original Sin” story the piece of information that Captain America walks away with is the fact that the Illuminati were reformed, that he stood among them, that the Incursions are happening, and his memories of those events were erased by people he considered his teammates and friends. So that is clearly going to lead to immediate conflict, difficulties, fisticuffs and make the situation for everybody a lot less tenable.
What can you tell us about Cap’s headspace when he uncovers this information? Is he prone to react immediately and emotionally? And will the turmoil he’s endured in his solo book impact how he reacts?
His solo adventures will impact on a subliminal level. It won’t be an overt thing where he’ll argue or punch Tony Stark and be talking specifically about his time in Dimension Z or the other things that have been going on in “Captain America.” All of the events of the character’s life inform that character. So it will be a part of his psyche but it won’t necessarily be an overt one.
The conflict is pretty straightforward. Cap is going to discover that Iron Man who he’s been operating shoulder to shoulder with on the Avengers, they even assembled this new roster together, has been lying to him and has done something fairly unthinkable to him. So he’s going to react in the manner you would expect somebody to react in such a situation — says me without wanting to give the entire story away to you ahead of time. [Laughs]
So this is not going to be a calm, rational conversation between everybody. This is going to be a flashpoint for the entire story and for the Avengers as a whole; New and otherwise. It’s a big deal since we’ve been heading to this point since, I believe, “New Avengers” #3 and we saw the one panel cutaway to it in “Avengers” #1. So now, many issues later, both books are at the point where that action has its fall out and ramifications.
So Cap will be a fairly incensed and angered individual in the “Avengers” story?
Yeah, I think that’s fair enough to say. Although, again, I don’t want to say too much and tip my hand too far as to what’s actually going to transpire during the course of this. I tend to imagine that if you woke up and discovered that somebody was playing with your mind and erasing your memories you wouldn’t be too happy about it. I suppose it depends on what those memories were, but even apart from the larger danger there was that specific action that was carried out by Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Reed Richards, and the other members of the Illuminati. That’s a fairly huge thing to have done.
Let’s talk a little bit about “Avengers World,” which Nick Spencer co-writes with Hickman. The stories there tend to focus on individual members so they often take a little longer to unfold, but are they also part of the larger story being told in “Avengers” and “New Avengers?”
They are in that it’s all the same characters and they’re all kind of in the same general environment. Nick is telling his own stories, but he’s telling them against and around the larger back drop of what is going on in “Avengers.”
So certainly the events happening on A.I.M. Island with the Scientist Supreme and the High Council is a critical piece of what’s going on in the core “Avengers” /”New Avengers” story. Nick is spending a lot of time in one of his story threads expanding on exactly what A.I.M. is doing, what those characters are involved in, and putting their plans out into the world. That includes some plans that are not specifically a part of what Jonathan has going on. They’re Nick’s own stories.
So in “Avengers World” Nick is building on the foundation of what Jon had laid down to tell more and additional stories about all these characters; all of which revolve around what’s going on in the core book. So it really is another sister title, but it’s not central simply because Jonathan isn’t really writing it.
You mentioned A.I.M., a group that’s been butting heads with the Avengers quite a bit these days, but lately it seems like they’re now more of a Marvel Universe villain that can go after any characters.
Sure, they’ve been appearing in a lot of places recently. Most likely because they used a version of A.I.M. in “Iron Man 3.” That sort of put them in everybody’s mind. So instead of groups like HYDRA or the Secret Empire everybody clicked into the idea of doing stuff with A.I.M. at around the same time.
There’s A.I.M. Stuff in Ales Kot’s “Secret Avengers,” which is kind of an outgrowth of what Nick Spencer was doing with A.I.M. there. And now Ales is taking it in a completely different direction as well. They also recently appeared in Nathan Edmondson’s “Punisher” series. So A.I.M. is a fairly significant force that we’re seeing all over the place. There’s a lot of business going on with A.I.M. right now. Everyone loves A.I.M.
Going back to “Avengers,” we already touched upon Cap’s conflict with the Illuminati, but the solicits suggest many painful discoveries will be going on around that time. It looks like the Hulk will uncover some shocking things during “Original Sin.” Is that correct?
That’s actually right before “Original Sin.” That’s “Avengers” #28, which is the last issue before “Original Sin.” And yes, certainly Bruce Banner has been around since “Avengers” #1. He’s a super smart guy. He’s pieced some stuff together that’s going to put him into a difficult and untenable situation. Again, I don’t want to say too much about the specifics of what’s going on with him and where’s he going to end up. So yes the Hulk has a role to play and will continue to play it as we move forward.
I also read something about the Avengers time traveling 50 years into the future and witnessing some of the repercussions of the choices they’ve made?
Yes, but it won’t just be 50 years into the future. Part of that is you’re only one solicit cycle in. The Avengers will be traveling into the future and the far future as an outgrowth of the story that is the “Original Sin” tie-in. So that “Avengers Infinite” story will take them from today and into the far, far future — 50 years, 500 years, 5,000 years, and 50,000 years — to see what and where the Avengers legacy is and goes. We’ll see the impact of some of their decisions and actions in the future and vice versa. We’ll also connect some dots and things that had been set up in previous issues.
Like the Iron Man from 3030 reality that we saw in “Avengers #24.NOW?”
Then over in “New Avengers” the Illuminati is preparing for a showdown with an alternate reality team of heroes known as The Great Society. What inspired the creation of these characters?
We’re dealing with parallel worlds in “New Avengers,” and from the start, although the exact sequence of events changed around a little bit because we did “Infinity” and some things moved, it was always part of the plan that we would do a cycle of stories where we would essentially see things from the point of view of the other Earth.
In each one of these Incursions two parallel Earths come into conflict. Typically we’re seeing that from the point of view and perspective of the Illuminati as they’re dealing with this. So it was always Jonathan’s intention to do a cycle of stories that approached the Incursion problem from the other side and that’s what The Great Society story really is all about.
It’s about looking at these events, activities, and problems from the other angle where the New Avengers are no longer heroes trying to save the Earth. They’re part of the problem facing the other Earth.
Some readers might look at The Great Society and see them in the same vein as Squadron Supreme, in that they’re original creations but they appear to be somewhat inspired by characters from your Distinguished Competition. Is there any truth to that?
They’re all sort of archetypical characters. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Sun God is Hyperion because they’re different characters. They certainly have some of the traits and tropes of primary super heroes, but they’re not specifically any other group of characters. Potentially they’re characters that we could see more of after this assuming that their entire Earth isn’t destroyed and they’re not all horribly killed. [Laughs]
There’s a certain set of archetypes for any number of characters and these characters kind of fall into them for no other reason then it’s much easier to get people to understand who these characters are in a short amount of time than by going to the archetypes. It’s also kind of fun to play with that stuff.
These characters are more than just broadly drawn quick character sketches of a bunch of other guys though. The more time and space that gets spent with them the more you see the things that make them unique, distinctive and different rather than the more obvious stuff of look that’s a fast woman, or that’s a dude with a power prism. These sorts of surface trappings are just that, the surface.
I understand we’ll see some interesting character dynamics between the various Illuminati members in The Great Society story. A recent Marvel.com interview suggests that T’Challa would discover how Namor pointed Thanos’ forces at Wakanda during “Infinity.” Will we see that in this upcoming story?
If not specifically discover, certainly in the course of the Great Society arc, their bubbling tensions that have been going on really since “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” so since the beginning of the book, will reach a crescendo and a tipping point. So it’s less specifically about “Infinity” than it is about what both of them have had going on since “AvX” where Namor attacked and flooded Wakanda and the state of war that has existed ever since.
Then with Doctor Strange, Frank Barbiere and Marco Rudy are exploring some of this in “New Avengers Annual” #1, you’ve got a guy who literally sold his soul for power. Is he a man with something to prove?
I don’t think he’s so much a man with something to prove as it is the stakes are dire right now and things need to be done to insure the future of everything. Not just of our world, but potentially of all worlds.
The Illuminati have been working on this problem for almost 19 issues and they’re still not any closer to finding out what’s causing the Incursions and being in a position to stop them. This means that unless they’re able to unravel that and find a way to fix whatever the problem is this is going to keep happening. And if it keeps happening sooner or later the Illuminati’s luck is going to run out.
They’ve been very, very lucky so far in that most of the worlds that have interacted with the Earths have been unpopulated, being prepared to be destroyed on the other side, or were in such a state that it was easy enough to deal with them. The Great Society story is the first time they’ve had to deal with the fact that there is another fine, fully populated Earth and either one of them is going to go or both of those universes are going to blow up.
So Doctor Strange realizing the enormity of what they’ve been dealing with has felt like other people have been shouldering more of the burden than he has. Now he’s prepared to bring new abilities, strategies, and mystic mojo to the table of trying to deal with this both in the short term and the long term.
We’ve talked about the stories in both Avengers titles, so let’s start to conclude by talking about the artists that will bring those stories to life. Who is drawing these upcoming stories and what do you feel they bring to the books as artists?
The “Original Sin” story in “Avengers” is all being drawn by Leinil Yu. I don’t know if there’s much I have to say about Leinil’s graphic ability; the phenomenal power and visual dynamism that he brings to a page, and the fact that he can handle the enormous cast and the crazy big concepts that get thrown at him as he has so often in the past on books like “New Avengers,” “Secret Invasion,” or any of the things that we’ve seen him contribute to in days gone by. He’s great.
Over on the “New Avengers” side during The Great Society, the first two prologue issues, one of which is out now, were done by Rags Morales. These issues are his first real Marvel work ever, I believe. He’s done a couple of covers and little things here and there, but not an actual meaty story until this point. He brings all of his enormous skill on those.
For the crux of The Great Society story he’s followed up by Valerio Schiti, who most recently did issues of “Mighty Avengers” and has been bopping around a little bit from place to place. His work is very intelligent and very design oriented. He’s a very compositionally astute artist. He’ll bring those strengths to his “New Avengers” issues.
Then the final two issues of that arc will be drawn by Kev Walker, late of “Avengers Undercover” and “Avengers Arena” before that, who again is an artist that has a certain design sensibility. There’s a little bit of darkness and shadow to his work that underscores the gravitas and emotion of what’s going on in the book. The stakes are so high and the situation is so untenable.
So we’re tacking the series with top flight artists and we’ll continue as we move ahead. Then we get to September where everything changes.
Is September really the beginning of a new act for Jonathan’s long form Avengers epic?
Yes, the end of these cycle of stories, the “Original Sin” tie-in to Avengers which ends with #34 and the end of The Great Society cycle of stories which if I’m remembering correctly is “New Avengers” #23, are really the point at which we move into the third act and the end game that all this stuff has been building to. So we’ll get a big event in September that you’ll hear more about soon that sets both of these books on a trajectory and takes them barreling into the future in a big way.
Suddenly all eyes are going to be on “Avengers” and “New Avengers” and those books are going to be operating in lock step. So this is the time get on board if you don’t want to get caught short — the “Original Sin” tie-in of “Avengers” and The Great Society story in “New Avengers.” Because once we hit September we’re on a bullet train and into the third act. Stuff is going to start popping everywhere in a big way.
There will be a moment regardless of who you are and whether you love or hate all the stuff that we’re doing where you as a reader will go, “Man, I have to go back and look at this stuff. Boy I wish I was I reading this all along.” I know it sounds like hyperbole. Stuff like that is so easy to say, but once we get to September and 2015 you’ll be popping those issues down on the App and searching out the hardcovers. It’s just going to happen for a lot of people. So you might as well be smart and get ahead of the curve. [Laughs] Be a trend setter instead of a trend follower and get on board now! You really will thank me come September and 2015.
I’ve heard some people complain right after “Infinity” that for whatever reason, and it probably has a lot to do with the fact that we went from shipping two issues a month of “Avengers” to only one, it felt like things slowed down and the story wasn’t moving ahead fast enough for them. I’m sorry that people got that feeling. Jonathan needed to take a breather and catch his breath. That’s done now though. Once we hit the “Original Sin” months and the equivalent “New Avengers” months people are going to see exactly what’s been going on under their noses all this time. All these things will hopefully come together as successfully as Jonathan’s “Fantastic Four” run did. They’ll begin to pay off, and then pay off with bigger and bigger stuff.
The scale of what’s going on here is massive, and at this point you’re maybe seeing more of the iceberg above the waterline, but you still have not seen the whole of the iceberg. That’s still underneath the water. I think people are going to be shocked, stunned, amazed, and horrified, all the typical states of comic book readers, as we get into the crux of what has actually been going on. That’s all coming and it all starts with Cap regaining his memories and moving out to confront Iron Man about them in “Original Sin.”
“Avengers” #28 and “New Avengers” #17 both go on sale April 30.