In the aftermath of the “Siege” of Asgard Steve Rogers believed one of the best ways to protect the Marvel Universe was to form a team of Avengers tasked with taking down large scale and dangerous threats before the public learned of them. This team of “Secret Avengers” debuted in their own self-titled ongoing series where they battled megalomaniacal secret societies, alien entities, armies of super villains, and a race of robotic beings known as the Descendants.
This winter, the secret aspect of the team will be redefined when the group becomes part of the espionage agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D in February’s “Secret Avengers” #1 issue by the new creative team of writer Nick Spencer and artist Luke Ross. CBR News spoke with Spencer about the new volume which will be part of the Marvel NOW! initiative and was announced by Marvel yesterday at their “Marvel NOW!: The Avengers” panel at New York Comic Con.
CBR News: Nick, you first worked on “Secret Avengers” last year when you penned issues #12.1, and #13-15. How does it feel to return to the series. And what made you want to come back to launch this new volume?
Nick Spencer: That’s one of the cool things about this field. How often do you get a second chance at a book like this? My first little mini run on “Secret Avengers” came during the heat of “Fear Itself.” I was asked to do some “Fear Itself” event tie-ins. So I really approached that assignment as fulfilling that mission rather than putting too much of my own stamp on the book; because I already knew that Warren Ellis was coming after me and that he was working on those issues. My editor Tom Brevoort was very upfront about the fact that plans were already in motion for what came after me.
This is obviously very different because here they’ve given me the keys to the car basically. I can make the book mine. So it’s a whole different mind set really. I’m approaching it differently than I did when I just had a few issues to play with. So this is the same title, but everything else has changed.
You’re launching a new volume of “Secret Avengers,” but you’re keeping two of the cast members from current writer Rick Remender’s run on the series — Hawkeye and Black Widow. Can you talk about what kind of emotional shape these characters will be in when your run begins? What does it mean for them to continue to be part of the Secret Avengers?
Rick has had an epic run here and is telling a big, long form story that I personally, as a reader, have been loving. The stuff that he’s done with the Descendants and Bagalia is some of the best stuff that we’ve seen in the book to date. So I’ve got big shoes to fill and Rick is one of my favorite writers. He’s somebody I have an enormous amount of respect for.
When you look at the writers that have worked on this book — Ed Brubaker, Warren Ellis, and Rick — those are some serious heavy hitter writers to be following up. And in terms of the story, anybody who knows Rick and his writing knows that he writes in a great “take no prisoners” style. Toys get broken and big things happen. So where Hawkeye and Black Widow are is a result of that story. It definitely plays a role in what happens next.
You’re also bringing in quite a few new team members. One of them seems to have the perfect pedigree for a team of clandestine super heroes, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned super hero known as Mockingbird (AKA Bobbi Morse). What’s your sense of the character and what do you feel she adds to the team?
Mockingbird is obviously a character who has a background in this world, but at the same time we haven’t seen her in it all that much over the course of her career as Mockingbird. I saw a rich opportunity to bring her in and reestablish her and ground her in the world that she’s originally from. So for Bobby it’s a lot of the past catching up with her. She’s going back to a world she had left behind.
She’s got a major role to play in the book. She’s a big focal point and she’s always been one of my favorite characters. I always looked for an excuse to write her and this book really gave me a perfect chance to put my stamp on the character.
Mockingbird is the ex-wife of Hawkeye. Putting her on a team led by her ex-husband suggests that your “Secret Avengers” will have a complex and sometimes volatile dynamic. Is that the correct?
Yeah, one of the fun things about this book is really all the relationship dynamics. There are a lot characters with histories with each other and that’s a classic Avengers thing. I really wanted to get back to that. So yes, there are a lot of people who have been in complex relationships together that suddenly have to work side by side again.
Speaking of relationships we also understand that Black Widow’s significant other, the Winter Soldier (AKA Bucky Barnes), plays a role in your series. How big of a presence will he have in this new volume of “Secret Avengers?”
Bucky has a huge role to play in the book, but he’s not a member of the team, per se. That’s all I can say at this point. He is, however, an integral player in this book.
Mockingbird, Black Widow, and Hawkeye are all characters with stealth and espionage experience, which makes them a good fit for a team of covert super heroes. However, rounding out the team’s ranks are two characters that don’t seem like they’d belong on a team like this: the Incredible Hulk, and an all new Iron Patriot character that flies into battle with the American flag emblazoned on his armor. What kind of role do these two characters play in the book?
There is a lot of stealth going on in this book, but I thought the Hulk would be a fantastic fit for the roster. One of the main ideas of the book is that S.H.I.E.L.D. is very interested in utilizing the super heroes that are out in the world. They looked at heavy hitters like the Hulk and said, ‘We’ve got to get one of those.’ S.H.I.E.L.D. under its new leader has really decided it’s time to start making that happen. So the Hulk’s role in the book is to be the weapon of mass destruction when they need it. He’s used very carefully and very judiciously, but when they do use him it will count.
Are you building on what Mark Waid is setting up in “Indestructible Hulk?”
Yeah, definitely. These books will play off of each other and help feed each other.
Then with the Iron Patriot he’s a big part of our first arc. There’s a reason why the character is wearing that armor and the discovery of that reason leads us into this world.
Will the Iron Patriot’s identity initially be a mystery to readers?
Yeah, it’s too soon to talk about the character’s identity at this point.
We understand your Secret Avengers will be working closely with the two newest agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Marcus Johnson, who now goes by his birth name of Nick Fury, and Agent Phil Coulson. What kind of presence will Fury and Coulson have in the book? Will they be going out into the field with the team?
This really is a S.H.I.E.L.D book. I think it’s something we’ve been long suffering for and is long overdue. This gave us a nice excuse to get a proper S.H.I.E.L.D. comic going. This Avengers initiative within S.H.I.E.L.D. is obviously a big focal point of the book, but it still is a S.H.I.E.L.D initiative so everything originates there.
So Nick Fury and and Agent Coulson are very much involved in the missions. Nick will be in the field with the team. That’s his role. He’s the S.H.I.E.L.D agent that goes with these characters on the missions. Coulson has a fun role in that he’s backup and support. He’s the guy who makes the pitch, and brings in the team. So they’re a big part of every issue and in some ways they’re even our leads.
Do you have plans to put the spotlight on any other members of S.H.I.E.L.D, like director Daisy Johnson? Or some of the other people that helped her reform the agency at the end of Jonathan Hickman’s “Secret Warriors” series?
Definitely. Daisy has a huge role to play in the book, as does Maria Hill, obviously. A lot of what Daisy does in these early days of her new job will greatly impact the book. Plus I was a huge fan of ‘Secret Warriors’ and the work John did on that book. This book takes a lot of its cues from that. One of the things I would say though, is this is a new S.H.I.E.L.D. The structures behind it and the way that it’s formed, funded, run, and administered is different from the old S.H.I.E.L.D. So we’ll definitely be exploring that too
We’ve talked about characters let’s move into story. In terms of plot and themes what is your initial “Secret Avengers” arc about?
One of the things that always struck me about this book was what makes a ‘Secret Avengers’ mission? What do they look like? Why does this team tackle those missions instead of others? So once we’re on the kinds of missions that this team will go on you’ll really see why these missions couldn’t be handled by Cap’s Avengers. This team is the only team in the Marvel Universe that could be charged with dealing with these things.
S.H.I.E.L.D. has figured out a way for this team to operate and function with minimal risk to them. How that works is a big part of the first arc.
Luke Ross will draw your initial and subsequent “Secret Avengers” stories. What do you feel he brings to the book as an artist?
I love Luke’s stuff. Anybody who’s seen some of his recent work on “Ultimate Comics Ultimates” with Sam Humphries knows that he’s playing on a whole different level. He’s got this great wide screen impact style and he’s also great at the character moments. So he’s a very versatile guy. I think his work is really going to turn some heads here. I’ve seen his early pages and they’re pretty great.
Finally, what can you tell us about your long term plans for the book? We understand that your stories will be memorable for readers, but not your main characters?
[Laughs] Right. S.H.I.E.L.D. has decided to try to have its own team of heroes. So they’re trying to get inside this sort of Avengers world, but in order for the members of the team to be clued in on what the details of this world are they need a way to clean that up. Anyone who’s familiar with the tech that was introduced in Brian Bendis’ “Secret War” series knows that’s out there and that memory wipes are very much a part of how S.H.I.E.L.D. operates. I think we’ve come up with a pretty interesting take on that. That certainly plays a major role in the book.
Ultimately, it sounds like you’ve got a lot of big and interesting ideas for “Secret Avengers” and that initial story arcs will feed into much larger pay off stories a little ways down the line?
Definitely. There’s a big domino effect that occurs here and every story certainly leads into the next.
“Secret Avengers” #1 deploys in February as part of Marvel NOW!