SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers for “New Avengers” #9, available now.
The Marvel Universe is home to a number of aggressive and malevolent alien empires and entities. So Earth is always in danger of being attacked, and sometimes those attacks come at the worst possible moment — like when the Avengers are off in space trying to intercept an alien armada hell bent on blowing up their planet. That’s exactly what happened in “New Avengers” #9, an “Infinity” tie-in by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Mike Deodato.
In the issue, the intergalactic mass murder Thanos unleashed his armies on the Earth to wreak havoc and find the last remaining Infinity Gem, which lead to skirmishes with the various members of the superhero secret society known as the Illuminati. In today’s installment of the INFINITE WAR REPORT, we’ll examine those conflicts and more, as Marvel senior vice president of publishing (and “Infinity” editor) Tom Brevoort joins us for some insight and commentary into “New Avengers” #9.
CBR News: Tom, let’s start by talking about Thanos’ plans for Earth. This isn’t your typical alien invasion, is it? What his forces are doing feels comparable to pirates or barbarian hordes sacking cities, but on a much larger scale. Is that a valid comparison?
Tom Brevoort: Absolutely, at least in terms of the broad strokes of what Thanos is doing. He’s got two very specific objectives. There are things that he wants. We reveal in “New Avengers” #9 that he’s out to locate the one remaining Infinity Gem. The Gems were all destroyed back in “New Avengers” #3, except for the Time Gem, which disappeared. Then on top of that, he’s looking for something else as well.
He certainly doesn’t mind if his armies sack the planet in addition to that. They can do as they will as long as he gets the stuff that he’s after.
As you mentioned, one of the items he’s out to acquire is the Time Gem. Is Thanos only after the gem for its strategic value? Or does Thanos have a personal connection to the Infinity Gems as well?
Thanos has had a strong history with the Infinity Gems, which includes being the secret member of the Infinity Watch for a while. So I think they have a greater value to him beyond being strategic weapons of immense power. They mean more to him than any of the other weapons and items of power he’s used over the years, like the Cosmic Cube.
Supergiant questions Thanos’ interest in the gem, and he does not chastise or punish her for it. That has me curious about Thanos’ relationship with his Black Order. Essentially these guys are his advisors, correct?
They’re his lieutenants. If Thanos is the commander-in-chief, then these are his generals. They’re the five fingers on his hand who will go out and do his bidding. They’re almost like his cabinet. So they do function as advisors, although I don’t know if any of them would put it that way, nor would Thanos.
Thanos makes up his own mind and does what he must, but among the many who follow him they’re the elite. They’re the inner circle.
So they’re given some leeway to question his orders, but the big question is just how much leeway does Thanos allow them?
Right, and the other question is how much leeway would they take? I don’t think any of them would ill-advisedly overstep their bounds, at least not without a very strong hand of cards. Because they’ve clearly spent some time in Thanos’ service and they know who and what they’re dealing with.
Plus, Thanos is the kind of guy who isn’t all that interested in blind followers. He’s a little more self-aware and sophisticated in how he goes about things. At the end of the day, he makes the calls, but I don’t think he minds having optics as long as they’re presented in the right manner.
Our first glimpse of the invasion of New York comes in a scene where Tony Stark and Reed Richards are trying to repel Thanos’ forces by manning guns in Avengers Tower. How off guard were they caught by the sudden appearance of Thanos’ armies? And do they know who they’re fighting?
I don’t believe that at that point they know who they’re fighting. They were taken relatively off guard in that Thanos’ guys suddenly came down out of the sky and are hitting the Earth, when the action is supposed to be way off in outer space where the Avengers proper are battling the Builders.
That having been said, back when the Avengers had to get bigger they put together plans and prepared for eventualities like invasions from the stars. So the Tower guns are there to protect and defend at least a square mile’s worth of territory.
Then we cut to the various members of the Illuminati as they battle the members of the Black Order, who are searching for the Time Gem. How did you guys decide which member of the Illuminati the various Order members would come face-to-face with? Is each member of the Black Order powerful enough to take on any member of the Illuminati? Or are some members more powerful than others?
Each member of the Black Order, the Cull Obsidian, has their own individual attributes. So some are more physically powerful, some are more mentally powerful and some are more deviously powerful.
It really sort of depends on how you define that scale. Some guys are going to be better than others when it comes to lifting dead weight, while others may excel at martial abilities. Each one of these characters, though, was conceived to be a potential threat to a team of super heroes. So there could be a day where any one of the Order could be a legitimate foeman for the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, or any of the other Marvel super teams. Individually each one of them is a formidable opponent.
In terms of who went where and why, they went where Jonathan sent them. [Laughs] He doesn’t do anything without due consideration, so I’m sure there was a method to the choices he made, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what that process was.
One of the battles in this issue happens at the Jean Grey School, and involves Beast and his fellow X-Men. Is this the X-Men’s only real involvement in “Infinity?” Or will they have a larger role to play in the story moving forward?
I think the best way to answer that is to say you’ll see them again. The X-Men as a larger organization — there are like 50 characters at that school and another dozen at the new Charles Xavier School that Cyclops is running at the former Weapon X facility — don’t have a ton of real estate in this story. “Infinity” is a Marvel Universe story, but it’s a very Avengers-centric Marvel Universe story. So the X-Men that are most likely to appear again or get significant screen time are the characters that are aligned with or have a foot in both camps. You’ll certainly see a lot more of the Beast. You’ll probably see more of Wolverine, and you’ll definitely see more of some other characters as well.
There’s a “Wolverine and the X-Men Annual” that’s a tie-in, and you’ll see some X-Men in that. So they’ll appear when applicable. This issue is not the sum total of their “Infinity” experience, but they’re not going to be the center of the event either.
It’s not exactly clear when Corvus Glaive and Supergiant’s attack on the Jean Grey School happens in relation to the other events going on in the X-Men universe like “Battle of the Atom” and the “Killable” story line in “Wolverine.” Will we get an answer to that question soon? Or will things become more clear once “Infinity” and those other storylines are over?
My answer is going to be the same answer that I always give at this point, which is once all these stories come to their individual end point or their momentary breakpoints, you’ll be able to take stock and figure out what sequence all of these events occur in. But I don’t want to take away any of the pressure or suspense from these stories while they’re happening.
So I don’t want to tell you that “Battle of the Atom” happens before or after “Infinity” because I don’t want you going into either story thinking, “Well, these characters are all safe because I know they’re going to be in the other story that comes later.” Once all is said and done, our crack Handbook staff is going to have no problem figuring out what goes where, and most of the fans who care about this are smart enough to figure it out as well.
For right now, though, I’m going to stay mum because I want people to be invested in all of these stories.
The events in Atlantis in this issue stem directly from what happened in the “Prelude to Infinity” issue of “New Avengers.” For readers who may have missed that and are just jumping aboard the title for “Infinity,” can you talk about what happened there?
I’d hope people would go out and track down a copy of “New Avengers” #8 because it’s only been a month, possibly less, since it came out [Laughs]. But the long and the short of it is that a state of war exists between Wakanda and Atlantis as a result of Namor’s attack on Wakanda in “Avengers vs. X-Men.” So in the previous issue of “New Avengers,” after some attempts at finding peace and common ground, Wakanda staged a big retaliatory attack and devastated Atlantis pretty hard.
So by the time that Proxima Midnight and her forces showed up in Atlantis looking for Namor and information about the Infinity Gem, Atlantis was pretty beaten down to begin with. So it was a bad day for Atlantis. They were beaten up by the guys who came before the guys who came to beat them up.
By attacking Atlantis in such a devastating way, did Wakanda inadvertently bring out some of Namor’s darker personality traits?
I think Namor’s darker traits are never far from the surface. He and T’Challa in particular have had a contentious relationship ever since “AvX.” In that story, Namor showed up with the power of the Phoenix and flooded Wakanda. He’s a head of state. So that was an act of war and ultimately it was one that was unprovoked. You could make the argument that the Avengers were hiding out there, so in the eyes of the Phoenix Five, Wakanda was harboring fugitives and they got what was coming to them. Although I don’t know that the Wakandans see it that way.
Now Wakanda blowing the heck out of Atlantis is not going to make the current situation any more pleasant, and certainly Namor is a character that’s capable of being devious and living very comfortably in a morally gray area if it’s in the service of his nation and his people. In that, he and T’Challa are kind of similar.
So while T’Challa isn’t really running Wakanda anymore, you’ve unfortunately got these two very similar personality types who are now locked in this death struggle with one another. It seems inevitable that all they can do is escalate until one or both of them isn’t in a position to fight any more.
What essentially is going on in the final scene in this issue? Is Black Bolt summoning the Illuminati by making them believe an Incursion Event is happening?
He’s not making them think an Incursion Event is happening. He’s summoning them through the implants that they all injected themselves with. Those implants do more than simply warn of an Incursion. They allow the Illuminati to communicate with one another — but that’s easier if you can talk.
In essence, though, they can signal one another that there’s something going on which requires the attention of their secret brotherhood. This gets articulated much better and in more depth in “New Avengers” #10 and a little bit more in “Infinity” #2, I believe,
The dialogue in that scene suggests that Black Bolt is summoning his teammates to impart some information that he knows, which is relevant to what’s going on. Is that correct?
What Black Bolt knows is very relevant to what’s going on. We saw in “Infinity” #1 that the Outrider came down looking for what it was looking for, found its way to Attilan, probed Black Bolt’s mind and memories, and found some stuff that was of interest to Thanos. Black Bolt became aware of that and injured the Outrider, but did not stop, destroy, or curtail it. So he knows stuff is coming and he’s making his preparations, even as Thanos and his armies begin their assault on the Earth.
So again, you’ll find out more about that in “Infinity” #2 and 3, and “New Avengers” #10.
The other members of the Illuminati have not entrusted their families or their other fellow heroes with information about their activities. The dialogue in this final scene comes from Black Bolt’s brother Maximus, though, and it seems to suggest that he knows a lot about what’s going on. So how much has Black Bolt told his brother?
Maximus does know quite a bit, but I don’t think Black Bolt has told him all that he knows. Again, you’ll get a better sense of that in “New Avengers” #10. By the same token though, the one thing Black Bolt knows very well is his brother Maximus, and the one thing Maximus knows very well is his brother Black Bolt. So given their own individual skills and aptitudes these are technically the two smartest guys in the world of the Inhumans. There’s a reason why Black Bolt is their king and leader.
So that familial connection, the fact that they’re both very, very good at the things they do, and that they know each other so well means there are certain things that they can suss out about one another, what’s going on, and how each one is behaving that is perhaps not as apparent to other people.
So Black Bolt doesn’t necessarily trust Maximus? It’s more that his brother is a useful tool for what he wants to do?
Yeah, Maximus is absolutely a key component in Black Bolt’s strategy here, and the device that he’s been building is pretty important to what is to come.
We’ve come to the end of the issue, which means it’s time to evaluate it as a whole, and part of that means discussing Mike Deodato’s art. Mike is an artist with a very diverse style. Is that why he was tapped to do the “New Avengers” chapters of “Infinity?” What do you feel he brings to this particular story?
We tapped him to do “New Avengers” per se, not just the “Infinity” tie-in. Some of that was because his style is naturally a bit darker and more shadow laden. So it’s more in keeping with the tone and tenor that Steve Epting brought to the series when we launched it.
So to some degree we put him there because he was the best option for continuing the flavor. Plus he could also do the spectacle and the scope that the book requires. He’s a phenomenally good artist, and especially on these “New Avengers” issues, he shows that in a way which is not readily apparent.
That’s because he’s had less time on “New Avengers” #9 and #10 than he typically would have, because all of the coordination and work that had to be done to bring things together for “Infinity.” He’s been able to not only get these issues done, but get them looking extraordinary well under very difficult conditions. Probably more difficult than any of the other books. “Infinity” proper has a tag team of three artists. And “Avengers” has Leinil Yu, who, like Deodato, is very quick. He’s a hard worker and speedy. But also, it’s been easier to deal with the “Avengers” issues because, for the most part, the Avengers issues are leading the charge on the heroes that are off in space. Whereas the “New Avengers” issues, because they’re set on Earth and all those characters are potentially involved in other tie-in stories, the mechanics and gearing of that has taken a lot longer.
Finally, next week’s major chapter of “Infinity” is “Infinity” #2. Can you offer up some hints or teases about that issue?
I can. “Infinity” #2 is our next chapter and you can go in to it without having read the “Avengers” and “New Avengers” issues that preceded it, but it’s not easy. [Laughs] So “Infinity” #2 will feature some recapitulation of things that we’ve seen in greater detail in these issues of “Avengers” and “New Avengers.” So we’ll see Iron Man and Reed Richards defend Manhattan from Avengers Tower. That’s like one to two panels though as opposed to the greater depth and nuance that we were able to bring to those scenes in this issue of “New Avengers.”
Apart from that, we’ll see the first major engagement between the Builders and the alliance of galactic powers that oppose them, which includes the Avengers. We’ll see the Black Order make a request and a demand of the Inhumans, and we’ll see some other stuff that I’m probably forgetting because at this point both “Infinity” #2 and #3 have gone to press. So I’m a little sloshy as to what happens in issue #2 and what happens in issue #3. [Laughs]