Roberto da Costa, the ultra-wealthy former New Mutant/former Avenger known as Sunspot, has spent the last several months living on a private island, unable to return to the United States. His outlaw status came about after taking over the high tech terrorist group A.I.M. and transforming them into the support staff of his own Avengers team.
This January, Sunspot will finally be able to come home, and when he does, he’ll be part of S.H.I.E.L.D., an organization that’s repeatedly attacked and hounded both him and his allies. All of this, of course, begs the questions of how did this happen? And what does it mean for da Costa and his allies?
Next week, Al Ewing and Paco Medina answer some of those questions as they bring Sunspot’s days as an outlaw to a close in “New Avengers” #18, the final issue of the series’ current volume. In 2017, the duo will provide more answers as they reunite for “U.S.Avengers,” an ongoing series chronicling Sunspot and his new team’s exploits as super-powered intelligence agents.
CBR spoke with Ewing about how the recent U.S. election will impact and inform the series and the activities the U.S. Avengers will get up to. The writer also shared some interesting info about his cast members — including the fact that the Red Hulk won’t be who readers expected – or, for that matter, who Ewing himself originally said he was.
CBR: “U.S. Avengers” will debut in the aftermath of a very divisive election in the United States. Will that impact and inform the book?
Al Ewing: It’s made it a lot more difficult, for obvious reasons. Not the least because things are happening so fast at this point – I honestly have no idea what America will be or represent when the book comes out. I don’t even know what America will look like when this interview comes out. Things are really not normal right now, and it seems like every day brings some new piece of ugly strangeness to our attention. I’m scared for my friends.
In a context like that, I wonder how useful escapism or superhero thrills can be, but as part of a balanced diet and as a means of taking a breather, recharging the batteries, and maybe finding some sort of positive inspiration in a difficult time, I’d at least like to believe it does more good than harm. And having the United States represented in this hour by this team feels relatively positive. Roberto is an immigrant to the US, and that’s his flag. Toni was born in Seattle, Washington, to parents who were immigrants, and that’s her flag. Sam is a coal miner’s son from Kentucky, and it’s his flag. It’s a symbol that belongs to everyone in America, whether they were born there or chose there or fled there, whatever their religion or race or sexuality or anything else. All, not just some.
I’m sure some people are asking what exactly I know about it – well, I have the same relationship with the Union Jack, as I’ve said before. It’s ours, if it’s all of ours. And yeah, flags have blood on them, and they’re heavy with the weight of history, and there are conversations to be had about using them as symbols. But they are used as symbols, and if we make a national flag the sole property of any one group, we hand them a very powerful symbol indeed.
“U.S. Avengers” begins in January, but the current chapter for Sunspot and his A.I.M. affiliates comes to a close in November’s “New Avengers” #17. Can you hint or tease what we’ll see in that book? Is it mainly just a wrap up of old storylines, or is this an issue that’s very much a bridge to the next chapter?
It’s a bit of both – I tried to make it a satisfying epilogue issue in its own right, but also a bridge towards where everyone’s heading next. In terms of hints and teases, two characters get a kiss, one character retires, one character gets a new name, and we finally put old A.I.M. to bed once and for all – look out for a guest appearance from some A.I.M. villains, offshoots and cover versions of yore.
At the forefront of U.S. Avengers is Roberto da Costa, who in “New Avengers” showed an affinity for being able to operate in the shadows and play games of misdirection. Now, he’s the head of a very visible super team and branch of the American intelligence services. How’s he coping with that when you pick up with him? What’s his perspective on how he needs to operate in this new role?
Things have changed quite hard for Roberto, and for the book. A.I.M. is merging with S.H.I.E.L.D., as their Q-Branch-slash-Impossible Missions Force – not quite the replacements I was thinking they’d be before. That’s a problem with very early interviews – 90% of the time, they’re accurate, but plans can change and alter as a book moves closer to launch, and sometimes some of the more specific answers in a super-early interview can be a casualty of that.
The visibility you’re talking about means he’s much more in the spotlight now, operating through more proper channels. He’s answerable to people in a way that he wasn’t before. And on another level, yes, he saved the President [In the final arc of “New Avengers”], but it was an outgoing President, and the people in charge now are less than thrilled with him. This posting is as much a way for S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep a closer eye on A.I.M. as it is for A.I.M. to work with S.H.I.E.L.D., so we can expect a fair amount of obstruction, as well as moves to unseat him and remove his power. He’s risen, but risen to a place where he can’t do as much as he could before, and that’s frustrating to say the least.
Sunspot isn’t the only mutant on team; His best friend and fellow mutant Cannonball is also part of the group. How important will the plight of mutants be to this group? Can we expect the U.S. Avengers to get involved in the conflict between mutants and Inhumans?
Undoubtedly, huge swathes of A.I.M. have been tasked with solving the problem of Terrigen poisoning – although probably less now than when Roberto was an entirely free agent – but so have a whole bunch of other people, and the problem remains a problem. As for directly assisting one side or another in the conflict – that might be very difficult for someone in Roberto’s position to manage, even if anyone tells him their plans ahead of time. Which would, I’m sure, be another frustration for him.
Last time we spoke, you were only able to talk a little bit about Aikku Jokinen. Nw we know that POD, the sentient suit she was part of, gave its life to protect her. How is Aikku dealing with that in “U.S. Avengers” #1? What can you tell us about her new armor and the role she plays on the team as the armored superhero Enigma?
Aikku has been through a period of mourning – we see some of that in “New Avengers #18 – but she’s found some strength in her ongoing romantic relationship with Dr Toni Ho, AKA the new Iron Patriot. Also, she still has part of the POD suit bonded to her – the undersuit, part of the control interface. This is what we’re calling the Enigma armor, and it has some interesting powers of its own – while it’s got the adaptational powers POD has, it’s more subtle, more shadowy. When I was conceiving this team – several billion years ago, in the Garden of Eden – my idea was that Enigma would be a perfect machine for spy missions, so we have camouflage and image generation powers, we have phasing abilities, we have offensive capabilities that are more hand-to-hand. It’ll be interesting to develop things further – is this the seed of a new POD, or something else?
We also talked a little bit about the Red Hulk last time, but now we know that Banner has passed away. We saw some of how Thunderbolt Ross, the Red Hulk, dealt with that in Greg Pak and Mark Bagley’s “Civil War II: The Fallen,” but what’s your sense of how Banner’s death has impacted Ross when “U.S. Avengers” begins? What does it mean for him to have the person he hounded, hunted, and harassed no longer part of the world? Has it changed his perspective on what being the Hulk means?
Remember what I said about early interviews? Well, Thunderbolt Ross isn’t the Red Hulk. Essentially, we had the idea to bring Ross into the book, and it seemed like a great one – but then we were bending over backwards and tying ourselves in knots to make it actually happen without wrecking some other stories. And at some point on a recent trip to the U.S. I was sitting down with [Editor] Tom [Brevoort], face to face, and I said something about how we could just have the Red Hulk be someone else. It turned out that that was a simple, one-step, Gordian Knot-style solution that solved every problem we had… except the problem of saying the Red Hulk was Thunderbolt Ross in previous interviews. So, mea culpa, CBR.
There’s an all-new Red Hulk. It’s a familiar face to those who’ve been reading “New Avengers,” and it’s someone who didn’t really have any kind of relationship with Bruce Banner. He did have an adversarial relationship with Roberto da Costa, though, and just because they’re working together now, it doesn’t mean he’s forgotten his objections.
Last time we talked about the important role Squirrel Girl plays on the U.S. Avengers; the voice of compassion and empathy. So what’s it like for Doreen to be part of such a high profile team?
I don’t think Doreen thinks in terms of “high profile” and “low profile.” To her, there’s no difference between working with the U.S.Avengers, and working with the GLA, and palling around with Koi Boi, Chipmunk Hunk, Nancy, Brain Drain et al. It is an opportunity to promote her brand of inclusive, empathic compassion on a wider stage, as well as kick some butt, and I’m sure she’ll take the opportunity to do both. But I don’t see her as someone who gets stage fright or thinks about hierarchies of heroes where there’s good to be done and fights to be won.
Personally, I get huge stage fright when writing Squirrel Girl, but I met the awesome Ryan North recently and he said I was doing a decent job of it, so I’ll keep on doing roughly what I’m doing.
For this first adventure, you and artist Paco Medina are allying the team with Captain America of the future, Danielle Cage, and pitting them against The Golden Skull.
Paco just sent in a double spread of… well, I’ll say it’s got most of the current Marvel Universe in it, and leave it at that. I don’t want to spoil any surprises. But let’s just say I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Paco can rise to any scope or scale I ask of him. (Not that I’m going to ask for something like this every day!) As for his strengths, he’s an incredibly strong artist overall, but he’s got a great facility for clear, clean art and storytelling that doesn’t sacrifice character and nuance.
As for the scale of the arc… well, issue #1 goes very big in terms of size, in a way that I think people will enjoy, and I’ve got some plans for big set-pieces throughout the rest of the arc that’ll hopefully go down well with people. Scope is a little harder to quantify right now, in the wake of everything. You’ll have to bear with me.
Can you leave us with a tease of what adventures are in store for the U.S. Avengers after their inaugural arc and perhaps what might be in store further down the line?
“U.S.Avengers” is the book I’m planning to tie the most into the larger Marvel Universe, and we’ll see some of that as we go. Immediately after the first arc, we’re going to do a “one-issue event,” currently titled “Monsters n’ S.H.I.E.L.D.”, that’s an attempt to do something fun and ridiculous with monsters. It’s not part of “Monsters Unleashed” in any way, but the idea of that crossover really tickled me when I heard about it – again, a billion years ago – and I wanted to do something crazy with monsters that was thematically consistent with it, if not tied into it.
After that… well, there are plans, but a big part of my work at the moment, especially with this book, is just taking it a day at a time. I don’t want to make too many plans too far ahead.
This is usually the bit of the interview where I thank everyone for their support and do a cheery Stan Lee impression, blah blah, True Believer, and so on. I’m not really in a place at the moment where I can do a cheery Stan Lee impression, but thanks all the same to everyone for your support over the years, on “New Avengers” and everything else – it really has meant a lot. Take care of each other, love who you love, be kind where you can. And good luck.
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