SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers for “Avengers” #18, available now.
When an ancient and powerful race embarks upon a journey of planetary destruction across the Marvel Universe, it’s an all hands on deck situation. That means it’s time for the various intergalactic empires to set aside their rivalries with each other and their grudges against the various champions that protect Earth. That’s what happened in “Avengers” #18 by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Leinil Yu, the next big chapter in the current Marvel event story line, “Infinity,” as the titular team travelled out into space and joined the Galactic Council in its stand against the mysterious race known as the Builders.
The issue showed how such an impressive coalition came together and how it faired in it’s first battle against the Builders. In today’s installment of the INFINITE WAR REPORT we’ll examine those events and more as writer Jonathan Hickman and Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort join CBR News for some insight into and commentary on “Avengers” #18.
CBR News: Jonathan and Tom, we briefly saw the shapeshifting Skrulls in “The Signal,” the “Avengers” prelude leading up to “Infinity,” and they also appeared in “Infinity” #1. In “Avengers” #18, they make their return to the Marvel Universe in a major way. Since we last saw them, it seems the Skrulls have been dealing with what happens to real world empires when the central authority that holds them together collapses; old rivalries resurface and warlords battle for control. Is that a fair comparison?
Jonathan Hickman: I’m not sure if it’s apt or it’s not, but we wanted to show what happens when a large body of people, in this case an empire, starts to fracture and fall apart. Sometimes it takes an external threat to make that stuff all come back together and help the people get over the things that were dividing them.
One of the warlords that arose during the fracturing of the Skrull empire was familiar to fans of the Fantastic Four and Marvel’s recent batch of cosmic events: Kl’rt the Super-Skrull. What’s your sense of the character now? How has being a warlord and battling the Builders changed him? Will readers we see more of the character as “Infinity” moves forward?
Tom Brevoort: More than they have recently. [Laughs] He hasn’t been showing up too many places. So yes, absolutely there will be much more Super-Skrull during these months as compared to the months immediately preceding them.
I think what you’re seeing here with Kl’rt is the carrying on of the sort of characterization that he’s had over the last couple of years in the cosmic arena that editor Bill Rosemann oversaw and Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning wrote for. They tended to characterize him more as a noble warrior than an earthbound super villain because the perspective was different. His treatment here is very much in keeping with that. He is not a bad guy from a Skrull point of view.
In the flashback sequences with Kl’rt, there’s a reference made to another Skrull world being lost: Hy’lt Minor. Is that the world that serves as the setting for writer Jason Latour and artist Agustin Alessio’s Infinite Comic “Infinity: Against the Tide?”
Brevoort: Yes that is the planet we see in the first “Infinity” Infinite Comic. It’s like it’s all coordinated. [Laughs]
After the flashbacks, the issue brings scenes inside the Galactic Council, one of which has a comparison between the size of the Avengers and the size of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. The Avengers have gotten somewhat large recently, but are they anywhere near the size of an organization like the Guard?
Hickman: I think lately we’re going with the structure that there are a lot of Imperial Guardsmen, but in addition to that there are always multiple groups training behind them preparing to take their place if somebody falls.
A lot of this is about scale. The Shi’ar Empire is a massive multi-system empire. So there has to be a certain number of these guys. It’s not like they’re earthbound heroes where they have just one planet to protect. There’s quite a lot of them. They’re a much bigger group than the Avengers, not that the Avengers are small.
Brevoort: Yeah, the Avengers are sort of like the Pittsburgh National Guard in this scenario. So, what I’m saying is Earth is like Pittsburgh. [Laughs]
In this issue, you deal with all the major cosmic players plus the regular cast. I know you want to keep the action moving forward, but you still find time for quick character moments in-between, like what readers saw with Spider-Woman. Is it tough finding those beats in a story of this size?
Hickman: I don’t know. Saying that though, I’m guessing that if I turned in a script with none of that in there Tom would want me to add it back in.
Brevoort: [Laughs] It’s true.
Hickman: The automaton that is Jonathan Hickman loves to do nothing but big action set pieces [Laughs] and is constantly being tinkered with by Tom the editor. So we have to put in the personal moments.
Brevoort: One of the advantages a big event series like this gives you in terms of those moments is that, if there are moments and situations that people are interested in, you’ve got the room to expand on them.
When it comes to the Battle of the Corridor, not only do we see it in this issue of “Avengers,” but we also see it in issues of “Avengers Assemble” and “Captain Marvel.” We’ll get much more of Carol Danvers’ perspective and Jessica Drew’s perspective as well as the characters that most naturally flow around them and are side by side with them on their respective Quincruisers. Depending on how deep into this a reader wants to go, there’s more opportunity to delve into some of these character beats and moments.
We want the scale in the core book and certainly in “Avengers” to be huge, but if you lose the characters at the center of it, the story becomes a bunch of events that you don’t necessarily connect with. You need to connect with the characters so you care about what’s happening to them and what’s going on in the maelstrom of this enormous intergalactic war. That’s always crucial.
Hickman: I talked to Kelly Sue [DeConnick] early on, in between finishing writing this issue and “Infinity” #2. I knew she was writing the “Captain Marvel” and “Avengers Assemble” tie-ins and I left that stuff sitting there with the hope that we would get to see what happens to Carol Danvers and the other Avengers in between whenever the events that happen in “Infinity” occur.
I wanted this to be a thing where I wasn’t stealing all the big beats and people who were doing tie-ins were forced to go back in dance around the stuff I was doing. I wanted to leave as much room to play in the tie-in books as possible, and I think we’ve done a really good job of that here. I think Kelly Sue’s books are like that, and Brian [Bendis] is doing some interesting stuff in his “Guardians of the Galaxy” tie-ins. It’s the same with Al Ewing’s “Mighty Avengers” stuff.
Tom, correct me if I’m wrong, but it feels like instead of me writing the big beats and the tie-in stuff being the little stuff that happens around those big beats, I get big moments and in between those moments are the opportunities for some really cool stories, and I think we’re getting that.
Brevoort: I’d agree with that. The various writers are certainly taking more and greater advantage of the fact that those pieces have been set up for them to explore and play with.
Jonathan, when we first started talking about “Avengers,” you said your philosophy for the book was to show the big name characters in action, but felt the big character-impacting moments would come from the writers of their solo books, and you would tend to focus on the moments of the characters that don’t appear elsewhere. Is that what’s going on here?
Hickman: I guess. I don’t take the position that we’re knocking it out of the park every month or anything like that. I think we can always get better and stronger, but I think we’re getting better at what we’re doing with each issue. I think that’s really starting to show through and shine.
The plan for the Battle of the Corridor arises from a previous conflict between the Kree and the Shi’ar, which reminds readers that the members of the Galactic Council have been at each other’s throats before and that they may be working together here, but they haven’t forgotten these conflicts.
Hickman: Yeah I think that’s fair. I think all of that came from, Tom, correct me if I’m wrong, the second issue of “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Brevoort: That’s correct.
Hickman: So all of that was set up in “Guardians,” and if these are the guys that are talking when things happen on a larger scale, I thought it made sense to continue on with that and extrapolate out. If you look at who those guys are, some of them are noble leaders and warriors and some of them are most definitely not. We’re going to see that through out the series. Some of these super empires that the Avengers are fighting alongside may not have the best intentions. Some of they may not be honest. Some of them may be much worse.
Is it fair to think of them as sort of intergalactic U.N. Security Council?
Hickman: It’s the U.N. Human Rights Council. It’s even worse. [Laughs]
Hickman: Only in the super Marvel event “Infinity” do you get a Human Rights Council joke.
In the Battle of the Corridor, the Avengers and their allies believe they’ve led the Builders into a trap, when in fact it was the other way around. Was the Battle of the Corridor a case of the Avengers and their allies severely underestimating the strength of the Builder’s fleet and the cunning of their military?
Hickman: Sure, there’s some of that, but some of it is that it’s hard to believe that when you see this super massive army that another army is hiding inside of it. They trusted their eyes and in this case they were wrong at a super high price, and this might not be the last time that they are wrong.
Brevoort: Certainly the Builders have been around for a long time and are reasonably experienced at doing the things that they’re doing. If you add up all the accumulated battle knowledge and experience that all of the various forces in the Galactic Council possess, including the Avengers, it’s still probably not as great as what the Builders have.
Last time we spoke about the difficulty of telling a story that’s more self-contained — if people wanted to only read “Infinity,” they could. Considering the scope, scale and potential ramifications of the Battle of the Corridor, will we see this battle again from a different perspective in “Infinity” #2, or will “Infinity: #2 just touch on the ramifications of the battle?
Brevoort: You get a recap of those events, but you don’t see the full-on battle. We showed it to you in “Avengers” and we don’t have enough pages to show it to you again. We do touch on it, though, and if you’re just reading “Infinity” you’ll at least understand that something happened.
I think one of the things that I need to start sending a different message to the world about is that, as we’ve gotten deeper and deeper into “Infinity,” it’s become more and more apparent that the Jonathan-written tie-ins of “Avengers” and “New Avengers” are much more crucial to reading the whole of the storyline than we initially thought. We’re trying to make the core “Infinity” series function by itself. But while it’s possible to go from “Infinity” #1 to “Infinity” #2 without having read the “Avengers” and “New Avengers” issues in between, it’s not easy. This is a case where we tried to make the core series self-contained and we failed a little bit.
I would urge everybody who is interested in the story to check in with “Avengers” and “New Avengers” before coming back for “Infinity: #2. You can do it without them, but it’s much easier and probably much more enjoyable if you read it all.
Hickman: I just looked and the Battle of the Corridor is one page in the 24 pages of “Infinity” #2. Then the stuff that happens in our first “New Avengers” tie-in, which is the invasion of Earth by Thanos, gets a very generous two pages. [Laughs]
Then we rocket forward into even more important stuff. Like I’ve said in other places, I’m ashamed and embarrassed by my event sprawl, but it’s 400 pages.
As you mentioned earlier, Kelly Sue DeConnick will follow up on the immediate aftermath of the Battle of the Corridor in “Avengers Assemble” #18 and “Captain Marvel” #15, the kick-off to both books’ “Infinity” tie-in arcs. What else can you tell us about these tie-ins?
Brevoort: I think she did a great job of not only picking up with the pieces that were set up in the core book and “Avengers,” but being able to thread them in with the ongoing themes and concerns of the titles she’s been writing.
The “Captain Marvel” issues give you Carol Danvers’ view point on what’s going on with “Infinity” and they also propel her ongoing story by following up on things like the aftermath of the recent “Enemy Within” story. The same sort of thing can be said of “Avengers Assemble.” They fit together really nicely. I’m quite pleased with how those came together.
Let’s conclude by looking at “Avengers” #18 as a whole. Any final thoughts you would like to share about the issue?
Hickman: It’s very beautiful! The only thing I think I’ve been consistent in terms of all of the event stuff is saying that regardless of how bad the writing is, the books are absolutely beautiful. Leinil’s first issue is no exception to that. It’s stunning. It’s wide scale space opera with giant space battles and super heroes fighting against the backdrop of black holes and exploding planets.
He’s amazing, and I’m blown away by working with Leinil because he’s such a machine. He’s so fast, and so good. It doesn’t seem possible that somebody could be both of those to the extent that he is.
Finally, next week’s big chapter of “Infinity” is “New Avengers” #9. Can you offer up any hints or teases about that?
Brevoort: As we said earlier, it’s the invasion of Earth. It’s Thanos’ soldiers and the Black Order coming down and beginning to work their master’s will on the Earth while the core Avengers are off in space dealing with the Builders. We’ll see that in great detail.