Murder investigations can be like mosaics. They initially appear to be about one thing, but as you look closer they turn out to be about something much greater and often very different. The intrepid heroes investigating the death of the omniscient Watcher in Marvel Comics’ “Original Sin” event series by writer Jason Aaron and artist Mike Deodato are finding this to be very true. The “Mysterious Boss” that recruited them in the initial issues of the series split them into three different teams and sent them to locations across the Marvel Universe.
In “Original Sin” #4, the teams followed those individual trails back to the satellite headquarters of their employer, who was revealed to be a familiar figure in the Marvel U who appears to have some knowledge of the larger events behind the Watcher’s death. In today’s installment of MURDER MOST COSMIC, CBR’s series of post-game chats about the individual issues of “Original Sin,” we take a look at the true identity of the “Mysterious Boss” and the events that led his investigators to him as Aaron and Marvel Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort join us for some insight into “Original Sin” #4 and a look ahead to the next installment.
CBR News: Let’s get started by talking about the last page of issue #4.
Tom Brevoort: You want to cut right to the chase don’t you? Just right to the chase! All right let’s go! [Laughs]
[Laughs] Of course. From what we can tell on this page it appears that Nick Fury is still alive, but is elderly, and that he is in fact the “Mysterious Boss” that recruited and tasked the three teams with investigating the Watcher’s murder, and he has an army of younger Nick fury LMDs under his command. Am I correct in all of those? Or am I assuming things based on information we don’t know yet?
Brevoort: I think you’re correct in at least some of those. Nick Fury is still alive and yes, he is the Mysterious Boss. I don’t know if we’ve stated exactly what the other Nick Furys behind him are, but certainly the one Bucky sliced up last issue was an LMD and it’s a reasonable deduction that they are probably LMDs as well, but I don’t know that there’s anything in the book that actually states that.
Jason, I know you said the cliffhanger page in “Original Sin” #3 was one of your favorite scenes until you wrote the cliffhanger for #4?
Jason Aaron: Yeah, I loved the visceralness of the ending to issue #3 and the shock of it. I was a little surprised that so many people thought that Nick Fury was actually dead. [Laughs] Clearly a lot of “Original Sin” is a Nick Fury story so you figure any Nick Fury story is going to have an LMD at some point.
So I liked the ending of #4 because the big reveal is not just Nick Fury isn’t really dead, but once we see Nick Fury he’s an old man and he’s got what looks like an entire army of LMDs at his back. So clearly there’s a lot more going on here than just Nick Fury is alive.
Plus it raises two larger questions: Why would he have his investigators do one investigation and have his LMD lead the Avengers and other heroes on a separate one? And how long has he been in this elderly state? I know you probably can’t answer those in depth right now.
Aaron: Exactly, but those are questions that will start to be answered next issue. I think the next two issues really answer all those questions as to what’s really going on here, what Nick has been up to, and what’s happened to him.
Brevoort: Issue #5 is very much about Nick Fury; what’s going on with him, things that have happened in his life, and some heretofore unknown background that will give you some more context for the events of “Original Sin.” So I don’t want to pull the plug on any conjecture as to what’s going with Nick, but you will learn all in issues #5-6, which are pretty sharp.
While we’re on the topic of Fury and LMDs, does the fact that the Nick Fury killed by Bucky was an LMD account for why he didn’t experience any secrets when the Orb “detonated” the Watcher’s eye in issue #3?
Brevoort: That’s certainly a deduction that you could make. [Laughs] A lot of my answers are going to be like politician speak because of the nature of the story. I’m struggling mightily not to step on the story to come.
Let’s talk about the trail that led the investigative teams to the elderly Nick Fury’s satellite starting with Punisher and Doctor Strange. You open with the two of them arguing and if I’m reading that correctly Frank Castle appears to be the more trusting of the two, at least in this instance.
Aaron: Yes, I would say so. We’re only privy to part of that argument. We don’t understand the full extent of it. Clearly they both realize that there’s more going on here than they’ve been told. They’ve finally started asking the questions they really should be asking which are, “Why are we here? Who sent us here? And who knows what’s really going on?”
Did both Strange and the Punisher know who they were working for?
Brevoort: Not necessarily. As we saw in issue #1, certainly the Panther knew, but everybody else was recruited by T’Challa. So some of them may have known and some of them may not have known, and again issue #5 will tell you more about this.
â€¨Aaron: At the end of this issue we hear from Emma Frost that it was her understanding that they were working for Nick Fury. So as Tom said, who all in the group knows that they’re working for Nick Fury is something that will be revealed. Plus we don’t know in what capacity Black Panther was working for Nick. What does he understand about what’s really going on? That’s not clear either. So Black Panther still has some very important questions of his own.
When Strange and the Punisher teleport into Avengers Tower the Punisher temporarily removes the Hulk from the equation by blasting him out of the building. My interpretation of that scene is he fired some plastic explosive rounds at the Hulk and then detonated them, which caused the Hulk to fly out of the building. Is that correct?
Aaron: Yes, you can see that his gun shoots these sort of globs of goo onto the front of the Hulk and then he pulls out his detonator.
It reminded me of the scene in “The Dark Knight” where Batman assaults the Hong Kong tower and uses a rifle that fires plastic explosives.
Brevoort: Yes, not dissimilar at all. You’ve got to bring a bigger gun if you’re going to be fighting the Hulk.
While they’re at Avengers Tower the Punisher and Doctor Strange pick up the Orb. It seems like if you were going to sum up his role, at least in this portion of the story, using the “Lethal Weapon” films as a metaphor he would be the Joe Pesci of the story?
Aaron: [Laughs] A little bit. The Orb is clearly at the heart of everything that’s going on in ways that nobody quite fully understands yet. Nobody knows what role he played, if any, in the Watcher’s murder, but clearly he knows more than some of our characters do about what’s really happening.
So he’s the seedy witness that gets dragged along for information and becomes sort of an unofficial member of the investigative team?
Aaron: A little bit, yeah. Also the eyeball that we’ve seen so far is clearly very keen to what’s going, and the Orb so far is the only one who’s been able to unlock it and get at the secrets that are stored inside of it as we saw at the end of issue #2. So that’s the other thing. People want to know, what does the Orb know and what is his connection the eyeball? He initially had the Watcher’s eye. So how did he get at those secrets that are locked inside it?
Brevoort: Right now in terms of all the characters that our heroes have their finger on, the Orb seems to be the guy that knows the most about what’s going on and he doesn’t necessarily know everything either. He is privy to a bunch of information though, both that he’s experienced and that has sort of permeated his big eyeball head from being in contact with the Watcher’s eye. So he’s the best repository of information that any of the investigators have come across, at least so far.
The Orb is still changing too, right? Because whatever affected the Midases affected him as well, correct?
â€¨Aaron: Yes, he’s still clearly undergoing some kind of change. At the end of issue #4 we get a word balloon from the Orb where he says suddenly, “I don’t feel so good. If I had a mouth I think I might vomit.” So yes, those changes are continuing with him and might be ready to ramp up a bit.
Let’s move to Bucky who has a pretty sophisticated teleportation device that allows him to do multiple jumps which he didn’t carry as part of his regular equipment in books like “Winter Soldier.” That suggests to me that he has some foreknowledge of what’s going on here. Is the question of what Bucky did and did not know something that will be answered soon?
Aaron: Yes. If you look at the teleportation device he’s using what we see of the teleportation effect is very clearly modeled on the teleportation effect we saw in the “Point One” story that Ed Brubaker wrote way back when, which is kind of where all this “Original Sin” story began. It was a story by Brubaker and artist Javier Pulido where a couple of masked figures infiltrate the Watcher’s lair and they presumably used this same sort of device. Because it appears to be the same. So make of that what you will.
â€¨Also, on that page where we see Bucky teleport onto the moon and he’s got the LMD head and he says he’s been using it to track some sort of signal? He’s talking to someone on his communicator; just like we saw him talking to someone in the previous issue before he blew up Moon Knight’s ship. So he’s perhaps known a little bit more and been connected in a way that other people in this group are not.
While we’re on the topic of Bucky, this issue sees Wolverine and the Punisher, two Marvel heroes who are used to making morally gray decisions, comment on how they never really liked him. What is it about Bucky that seems to rub these characters the wrong way?
Aaron: Wolverine and Bucky have a real history together that’s already established. So they’ve always kind of been at odds going back to Bucky’s days with the Soviets. I believe he killed Daken’s mother.
Then with Bucky and the Punisher, I don’t know. In the moment that seemed right for me. There’s a little bit of history there. They crossed paths during Matt Fraction’s “Punisher War Journal.” To me they seemed like two characters who aren’t going to get along and certainly in this situation where everybody is coming together and nobody really knows who to trust. So they’re all kind of at odds.
I also liked being able to stick Bucky’s line in there where he says he’s not afraid of a man who can’t protect his own children. That cuts pretty deep to Frank.
Let’s move to T’Challa, Ant-Man and Emma Frost’s journey to Fury’s satellite. On their way there Emma tries to probe T’Challa’s mind and it doesn’t go very well. I’m curious as to why. Is this a result of the power upgrade T’Challa got during Jonathan Hickman’s “Fantastic Four” run?
Brevoort: You could certainly chalk it up to that. You could also chalk it up to the fact that T’Challa has an extraordinarily disciplined mind, and the fact that he’s constantly two steps ahead of everybody. So whatever anti-psionic technology that the Wakandans may have has probably been installed within the lining of his cowl to protect him from telepathic attacks and unwanted telepathic intrusions, especially considering he was married to Storm and it seems like most of her extended family are telepaths or are friends with telepaths. So I think the Panther is prepared for situations such as this.
Plus, Emma’s powers are not really in that great of a shape. So she’s not as on her game as she might have been pre-“Avengers Vs X-Men” in trying to read the Panther’s mind.
Aaron: Yeah, Emma’s powers aren’t quite what they used to be, and this scene also speaks to T’Challa’s preparedness. To me, he’s the Batman of the Marvel Universe. So he’s a guy who’s going to have some pretty strong mental defenses in place especially if he knows he’s going to be teaming up with a telepath.
When the Panther and his crew arrive at Nick Fury’s satellite they encounter the other investigative teams and a fight breaks out between Gamora and Bucky, who is holding the severed Nick Fury LMD head in one hand and the Watcher’s eye in the other. What was it like writing that fight?
Aaron: It’s the first fight scene I’ve ever written where the guy is holding a severed head and a giant eyeball. [Laughs]
Brevoort: [Laughs] This is probably the first fight in Marvel history that involves a severed head and an extracted eyeball. So we’ve made history with that.
Aaron: It was fun, and like I’ve said all along, the most fun part of this book has been writing these different groupings of secret investigators. It was also a lot of fun to finally bring them all together and have them all at odds and looking at each other not knowing who to trust. There certainly had to be a fight in the midst of that, and Bucky even smacks Gamora with the severed head at one point. So that scene was certainly a joy to write.
It looks like Mike Deodato had fun with that scene as well.
Aaron:Yeah, Mike did a great job with all these different characters. This was always the heart of the book. The Avengers certainly play a big part in this early on and they come back around before the end, but I always wanted this to be more about this group of characters; a group of characters that are sort of odd for a Marvel event series. We don’t normally see a Marvel event series featuring Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Moon Knight as main characters, so I really liked that we were able to focus on these guys.
There’s still a lot more to be revealed as to why these characters? Why are they here? Why were they given this investigation in the first place?
Brevoort: Deodato has just been excelling at bringing to life not only the mood of the piece and the unsettling undercurrent that it requires, but he can also bring the big action when it’s warranted. So he’s very much in his element on this story.
Are there any other scenes that Mike did in this issue that really stood out for you?
Brevoort: I think his last page is great. Old Nick Fury making his entrance is a great moment for a powerful figure. Deo nailed that page and that moment in a big way that gives you the reveal and all the impact. You can look at it and know at once what it is that you’re seeing. You can drink in the majesty that is a Nick Fury that’s older and crustier than ever before.
Deo was having a good time drawing young Nick and he really seems to enjoy drawing old Nick as well. As you’ll see in issues #5 and #6 his old Nick just seeps character out of every pore, which you can see because he’s drawn every pore in poor old dilapidated Nick’s face. [Laughs] You’re seeing the end result of decades of Fury doing the job that he’s done and taking on the responsibilities that he’s taken on and what impact that’s had. That’s always been hidden from sight because he’s always looked like a slightly prematurely greying young guy. Now he’s starting to look his age and the years are catching up with him.
Aaron: Yeah, Mike draws a great old Fury, and I love that next to the last page. It’s really a crowded page. It’s a nine-panel page, which is not what I wrote. He packed a little more in there than I wrote and I really love that page in particular.
You can see as the book has gone along that Mike’s design sense has grown stronger, wilder, and weirder. The crazy page layouts he does and the way he breaks things up is really cool and fits with what kind of book this is. As things have escalated and gotten weirder the look of the book has gotten crazier and weirder. So I love that, and there’s still a lot more weirdness to come.
Fury has been part of this story since the beginning, but in the final pages of “Original Sin” #4 another established Marvel character becomes part of the story — none other than Rocket Raccoon. I assume part of the reason you threw him into the mix was what he added to the character dynamics?
Aaron: Yeah, there were a couple of reasons. One, once I blew up Moon Knight’s ship I had to come up with a way to get Gamora and Moon Knight back into the action. The easiest way was to have somebody give them a ride. It of course didn’t hurt to have the crass timeliness of Rocket Raccoon popping up as the hype is building for the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie. [Laughs] Also though, I knew that once we hit this point things were going to take a darker, somber turn. So I liked the idea of throwing one of the most ridiculous characters in the Marvel Universe into the mix at that same time to kind of balance it out.
Then once I had him show up writing Rocket and Punisher staring each other down was a lot of fun. So in addition to the Doctor Strange and Punisher book I want to do, I now want to write a Rocket Raccoon-Punisher book. Maybe just “Punisher Team-Up” or “Marvel Two-In-One” starring the Punisher.
Brevoort: Those scenes where Rocket and the Punisher compare firearms are worth putting him in the book alone. It was two characters that you’re not really used to seeing interact with one another. So much of what we’ve been enjoying with “Original Sin” is putting these mismatched couples together and letting them bounce off of each other.
I assume now that Rocket is here he’s part of the team for the remainder of the story?
Aaron: Yes, he’ll be here for the rest of the story.
I understand print and standard digital weren’t the only way to read “Original Sin” #4. There’s also a digital”Special Edition as well?
Brevoort: Yes, we did these with the first three issues as well, but we didn’t make as big a deal out of it. We’re going to do these with the remaining issues, too.
So with the Special Edition you get the digital version of the story, the digital versions of all the covers, and there are digital versions of several pages in black-and-white and color. There are no pencils and inks because Deo does it all. So you get the pencilled and inked pages and the colored pages as separate images.
Also, depending on the issue, there’s a varying bit of background material. So whatever sketches there happen to be, particularly for all the cover stuff, as well as any character sketches or any other odds and ends that might relate to the issue. By the time we get to issue #8 we’ll probably be including the script as well. We just decided that we really couldn’t do that on the previous issues given that it’s a murder mystery and the script is going to give a lot of clues as to what was going on that we would not want people to read before the end. Once we get to the digital edition of #8 there probably won’t be any reason to not include the script as well.
â€¨So basically it’s an archive of all of the materials that we can share on the making of every issue.
They’re essentially the bonus features on a DVD.
In essence yes. There’s no additional, actual story content. It’s all background, behind the scenes and ancillary stuff. For people who are interested in the process of making comics often you’ll get to see pages where there might have been a change and both versions of that page will be there; pre- and post-change. So you can flip them back and forth on your device like a little animated cartoon and see how we altered something for some reason. Basically it’s a peek behind the curtain at all of the detritus that comes from putting together a comic like “Original Sin.”
Finally, what sorts of hints and teases can you offer up about “Original Sin” #5. I know from our conversation about the last issue that issue #5 is the debut of a brand new Marvel Universe character.
Brevoort: Yes, there are two things I can say about issue #5. Number one is that it’s a great Nick Fury story. Everybody that has been lamenting the lack of Fury these last couple of months and were excited to see him in “Original Sin” and all the people that were so pissed after issue #3 where we had Bucky shoot and decapitate him can rest assured that issue #5 is going to give them a bad-ass Nick Fury story, the likes of which they’ve never seen.
â€¨And yes, issue #5 also features the debut of a brand new, never before seen Marvel character who is on my list of favorites. I definitely want to see us do more stuff with this character down the line. So issue #5 will be his first appearance and, sure, in decades to come to be called out in price guides and listings across the land — “Original Sin” #5, the first appearance of him and a big price after it.
So you’ll learn about this new character in issue #5 and a lot of other things as well. #5 is the point where a lot of pieces get turned over and a lot of the hints, mysteries, and things we’ve laid down in the first half of the story begin to come to light. Then we go into the third act and the race to the finish.
Aaron: A lot of the next issue is flashback. So we’ll learn about a piece of Marvel Universe history that up until now had been secret. We’ll start to see how that affects this group of characters and by the end we’re left with some really big questions.
“Original Sin” #5 goes on sale July 2.