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Getting Defensive: Casey Talks “The Last Defenders”

by  in Comic News Comment
Getting Defensive: Casey Talks “The Last Defenders”
“The Last Defenders” #1 of 6 on sale in March

In the aftermath of “Civil War,” the Marvel Universe is suddenly crawling with super teams. There are two separate groups of Avengers and it’s the goal of The Initiative to put a super team in every state. As such, it only seems fitting that a new incarnation of The Defenders, one of the MU’s more popular teams, would form. The team makes its debut in March’s “The Last Defenders” a new six-issue miniseries by writer Joe Casey and artist Jim Muniz. CBR News spoke with Casey about the project.

There is only one returning Defender in the line-up of “The Last Defenders,” but his teammates will all be familiar to Marvel fans. The returning Defender and team leader is Nighthawk AKA Kyle Richmond, and his teammates are Colossus of the X-Men; She-Hulk, formerly of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers; and the Blazing Skull, a member of the now defunct Invaders.  Assembling such an eclectic team of characters was no easy feat for Casey and his editor Steve Wacker. “The fact that we were pulling heroes from all corners of the Marvel Universe meant that we needed to get clearance from multiple areas of Marvel Editorial,” Joe Casey told CBR News.  “Luckily, Wacker is on par with the best U.N. diplomats in that regard and he was able to properly facilitate whatever was necessary to eventually get the cast we wanted.”

Nighthawk has recently been seen fighting along side the other members of the U.S. government’s super powered fighting force, The Initiative. He ended up joining the group after making the painful decision to defect from Captain America’s band of Anti-Registration heroes during “Civil War.”

Page from “The Last Defenders” #1

“I’d imagine that while he was on Cap’s side, Nighthawk felt pretty much like anyone would when you do something you believe in but it pisses off the boss  (or, on the flipside, doing something you don’t believe in to avoid pissing off the boss),” Casey explained. “In this case, you have a guy who eventually let his head dictate his actions. But when you betray what’s in your heart, there’s going to be consequences.  But fundamentally, I think Kyle Richmond has aspirations that go way beyond the current political climate of the Marvel Universe.  He’s both a romantic and a pragmatist.  Very much like Tony Stark/Iron Man, in a way. Comparing and contrasting those two characters in particular has been an interesting facet of the series.”

The original line-up of Defenders was notorious for their dislike of one another, but the dynamic among Nighthawk’s team will be different. “This is a team that was not brought together by fate,” Casey remarked. “That makes a big difference where the internal chemistry is concerned. Group dynamics are the whole reason people read team books, and we’re intending to make these particular dynamics as dynamic as possible.”

According to advance solicitations, Nighthawk’s team was brought together for a specific “political” purpose, but “The Last Defenders” wont be a book strictly about politics. “That was mainly a reference to the Fifty-State Initiative that the team is formed to be a part of,” Casey confirmed. “It’s funny how many fans on message boards have reacted to the use of that word in the solicitation.  They might be putting more of an onus on the word than we are, in the context of the series.   Since ‘Civil War’, you could say the entire Marvel Universe has been politicized, maybe too much for some people.  But I think it’s an accurate reflection of what’s happening in our world, so there’s a bit of relevance there, ham-handed as it might be.  Honestly, I’m more interested in exploring what comes after this latest phase of the Marvel Universe, this whole superhero politics/conspiratorial thing that some writers have taken a shine to.

Page from “The Last Defenders” #1

“The tone of ‘Last Defenders’ is, I think, unique in the current crop of Marvel books. It’s classic and forward-thinking at the same time.  We’re playing with the themes of the post-‘Civil War’ Marvel Universe, but we’re also playing pretty far beyond them. That’s something that marketing never gets across.  But it’s absolutely what we’re doing.”

In addition to exploring new story ground, “The Last Defenders” will explore new settings as well. Unlike many of Marvel’s team books the action in the miniseries won’t revolve around New York City. “New York already has its own superhero team.  It’s one per state these days, remember?” Casey remarked. “The Defenders are certainly assigned a state of their own, but the series definitely bounces around the four corners of the Marvel Universe and even through different time periods.  I think, unlike DC, the history and the chronology of the Marvel Universe is a pretty rich tapestry and literally one big, long story.  It’s fun to dip into that and illuminate the dark corners, not only of the universe itself, but of its history as well.   It’s kind of a quantum mechanical way of approaching a story, but in this case it works perfectly, especially when it comes to the ultimate aim of the main villain.”

The main villain of “The Last Defenders” won’t be making things easy for his opponents. Before the team even gets to deal with him they’ll have to overcome a multitude of obstacles and adversaries. “These guys will see some pretty significant action right away,” Casey said.  “Hell, the team was put together to be immediately thrown into the fray and that’s exactly what happens in the first issue.”

Page from “The Last Defenders” #1

Casey couldn’t be happier with the way the artistic team of “The Last Defenders” has brought the series to life. “Jim Muniz is both a great guy and an uber-talented artist.  We’ve been waiting literally years to work together specifically on a big superhero book,” Casey said. “I’ve known since his first work for Marvel that Jim has the chops to be a heavy hitter.  This series will prove how right I was.  And Cam Smith is the perfect inker for Jim.  I mean, this is some of the best looking art that’s ever graced a mainstream, work-for-hire book that I’ve written.  And I’ve worked with some drop dead brilliant artists.   Jim’s right up there with them.”

Casey hopes “The Last Defenders” strikes a note with comic readers and retailers, because he hopes to pen more adventures of Nighthawk and company. “I bug Wacker all the time about how this should be a monthly series,” Casey stated. “I have no idea what the rationale of the higher-ups could possibly be to saddle this with miniseries status, since books like these almost always do better when they’re brought out as a continuing, monthly series. Fans want to really invest themselves in team books; they like the ongoing engagement with the characters when the book’s done well, and I think this book is some of the best work I’ve ever done on a mainstream title so naturally I’d love for it to go on and on.  I just hope, if the readers respond and the sales are there, that Marvel doesn’t waste any time putting this series on the monthly treadmill.  But that could be the hallucinogenics talking.  Right now we’re just concentrating on knocking these six issues out of the fuckin’ park.”

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Marvel Comics forum.

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