Throughout the history of the Marvel Universe, there have been days unlike any other; days where Earth’s mightiest heroes and heroines have had to come together to fight the villains no single hero can face. This Fall, there shall come a day when the threat against humanity is so great no living hero can face it, no matter their number or power. That’s okay, though, because a new battle cry will ring out: “Dead Avengers Assemble!”
That cry will be heard in the three issue “Chaos War: Dead Avengers” miniseries from writer Fred Van Lente and artist Tom Grummett. We spoke with Van Lente about the project, which kicks off in November and ties into Marvel’s fall “Chaos War” event.
“Dead Avengers” spins out of and ties into the “Chaos War” miniseries by Van Lente and his “Incredible Hercules” co-writer Greg Pak. Kicking off in October, the mini will chronicle the battle between the all powerful Chaos King and an army of mortal and divine heroes led by the god Hercules. “The Chaos King, as ‘Incredible Hercules’ fans know, is Amatsu Mikaboboshi, the villainous god who destroyed Olympus, killed Zeus and did a lot of other horrible things. In ‘Chaos War,’ he’s destroying reality. “Amatsu was the only thing in existence before there was a universe, so now he’s systematically destroying all sections of the universe,” Van Lente told CBR News. “In fact, ‘Chaos War’ #1 opens with him destroying a very significant part of the Marvel Universe. It’s a shocking scene that, dare I say, will change the Marvel Universe forever. He’s destroying various aspects of reality, so all these dimensions are collapsing. Among those dimensions collapsing is the afterlife. That’s partly why you’re going to have dead people walking around all over the place.”
The Dead Avengers that will emerge from the afterlife include the Swordsmen, Yellowjacket II, Deathcry, Doctor Druid, Captain Mar-Vell and the Vision. “There were a couple other characters on the list that we could choose from, but some are appearing elsewhere in ‘Chaos War.’ Ares comes to mind as an obvious example,” Van Lente explained. “The Sentry is dead, of course, but his death is relatively recent so we don’t to overturn that, and to me, part of the fun of this series is seeing some characters we haven’t seen in a long time.”
The original Swordsman AKA Jacques Duqense was a supervillain armed with a high tech sword who eventually reformed and joined the Avengers. He was killed while attempting to save the team from Kang the Conqueror. “I like the Swordsmen because he is French, bad-ass and has a sword made by the Mandarin that can shoot lightning,” Van Lente remarked. “I’m sort of known for liking obscure villains and reimagining them. My version of the Swordsmen is definitely the most badass I’ve seen of the character.”
Yellowjacket was originally one of Hank Pym’s many heroic identities. In 1986’s “Avengers” #264, Roger Stern and John Buscema introduced readers to the second Yellowjacket, Rita DeMara. DeMara began her costumed career as a member of the villainous Masters of Evil before quitting and working alongside the Avengers. She later traveled to an alternate future reality where she joined up with the original incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy. While in the future, DeMara learned of a threat to the Avengers and traveled back to the present where she was killed while trying to warn the team.
“It was sort of a tossup between Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man and Yellowjacket. I have nothing against Scott Lang – I was just really interested in writing the female Yellowjacket,” Van Lente remarked. “I was a big fan of the Roger Stern Avengers in the ’80s where she was first introduced. That’s also when Doctor Druid and some of these other folks were on the team. I decided to go with Yellowjacket – that way you have two women on the team and get even more diversity on a team where there’s already a Kree, a Shi’Ar and a Frenchmen. [Laughs]”
Deathcry made her debut in 1993’s “Avengers” #363 as was an agent of the interstellar Shi’Ar Empire assigned to protect the Avengers by her empress Lilandra Neramani. She did her job with distinction, even becoming a valuable part of the team. She later left the group and was killed while fighting the techno-organic beings known as the Phalanx during the “Annihilation: Conquest” event.
“Death Cry was a character who I knew nothing about until we started talking in the room about who we could use in the series. She was terrific in ‘Annihilation: Conquest,’ and that’s definitely the incarnation of the character I’m going to be using. To me, her real name should be “The ’90s” because she’s the classic stereotypical bad girl with cleavage and a shitty attitude [Laughs],” Van Lente said. “She’s a Shi’Ar who may or may not be descended from the X-Men villain Deathbird. So she’s a female, berserker, bird person with crazy hair, which means she’s awesome.”
Doctor Druid joined the Avengers when he helped them repel an assault on their Mansion by the Masters of Evil. He was later killed after launching a scheme in an attempt to augment his powers. Some may look at Druid’s powers and abilities and see nothing but a second rate Doctor Strange, but Van Lente feels the character’s personality makes him wholly unique. “Doctor Strange was a douche bag who got into a car crash and hurt his hands. Then he gained enlightenment from the Ancient One. Doctor Druid is still a douche bag, and that’s what’s great about him,” the writer explained. “He’s also someone who has a totally different attitude about the Chaos War then everybody else, because he’s sort of locked into the natural order and worships nature. So he may think that what the Chaos King is doing in the ‘Chaos War’ storyline is part of the natural order and therefore isn’t something that should be stopped. Maybe this is reality’s time to be destroyed.”
The originator of the Captain Marvel legacy in the Marvel Universe, the Kree captain Mar-Vell, was originally tasked with helping to invade Earth. Instead, he chose to defend it. During the “Kree-Skrull War” storyline, Mar-Vell became involved with the Avengers. Several years later, he died of cancer in one of Marvel’s first forays into the world of graphic novels, Jim Starlin’s “The Death of Captain Marvel.” “I think he’s a terrific character! This is more the Starlin incarnation of the character, with the cosmic awareness. He’s also a really interesting character because every single one of [the Dead Avengers], except for him, died violently. Captain Marvel died of cancer. He passed away in bed, surrounded by his friends and family. So he definitely has a different take on things than everybody else because the way he died was such a serene way of going.
The final Dead Avenger is the Vision. Created by the villainous robot Ultron as a weapon to destroy the Avengers, the Vision instead rebelled against his master and aided the team in stopping the adamantium terror. He later joined the team and served for many years as a member, even as chairman and leader. During that time, he met the woman who would become his wife, the mutant heroine known as the Scarlet Witch. Years later, the Scarlet Witch would lose her mind and use the Vision in a scheme to wipe out her former teammates. The Vision was destroyed while carrying out that vendetta.
“The Vision has always been one of my all time favorite characters. He’s one of the characters I was most into as a kid reading reprints of the Roy Thomas Avengers in a book I believe was titled ‘Marvel’s Greatest Comics,'” Van Lente stated. “I think the Vision is a great sort of Mister Spock type, the classic Pinocchio figure, the android who dreams of being human. So we’ll be seeing a lot of that here.”
The title characters in “Dead Avengers” may be “living challenged,” but that doesn’t mean they’ll be treading the same resurrected ground as the title characters of another series Van Lente is famous for, “Marvel Zombies.” “They are not zombies. I want to make that totally clear. That’s my other book that involves dead people, and they’re not related [Laughs],” Van Lente explained. “The Dead Avengers do not hunger for sweet, sweet human flesh. The easiest way to put it would be that you can’t tell they’re dead by looking at them. You take their pulse, you might have a different reaction.”
The events that bring the “Dead Avengers” back also make them only Avengers team capable of opposing the Chaos King and his allies. “The current teams from ‘Avengers’ and ‘New Avengers’ do make an appearances,” Van Lente revealed. “They are a little worse off than the Dead Avengers, let’s say. They definitely need the Dead Avengers help.”
“In this miniseries, the Chaos King has put together a very Avengers specific threat that only the Dead Avengers can stop. Since they are the only ones around to do it, they have a chance at redemption,” Van Lente revealed. “This is very much a story about redemption. The entire cast, with the exception of Captain Marvel died rather dishonorably or tragically. The Swordsman was accidentally killed by Kang. The Vision’s wife used him as a pawn to help blow up Avengers mansion in ‘Avengers Disassembled.’ Yellowjacket was killed by Iron Man when he was possessed by Immortus. She died without anybody really noticing, which is even more horrible. Doctor Druid was killed by Nekra…[who] may be a character appearing in this series, which will give you a huge hint as to who the main villain is.”
“Who else would the Dead Avengers fight but Nekra’s on again off again boyfriend, The Grim Reaper? So it’s the Dead Avengers versus the Grim Reaper and it will kick ass!” Van Lente continued. “What the Grim Reaper is up to is quite awful, and he has sworn himself over as a major lieutenant of the Chaos King. It’s up to the Dead Avengers to stop him. There’s a lot going on here, obviously, because the Grim Reaper really hates the Vision because the Vision has the brain patterns of [the Grim Reaper’s] brother, Simon Williams. So each one of the Dead Avengers has a chance at redemption and doing in death what they weren’t able to do in life.”
“Chaos War: Dead Avengers” has been a labor of love for Van Lente, and the writer can’t wait for the series to hit stores. “I’m really excited about this project. Tom Grummett’s artwork is just amazing,” the writer stated. “Spider-Man was the first thing I remember reading as a kid, so it was a real honor to do ‘Amazing Spider-Man. ‘ The Avengers was another book I gravitated to. I collected it as a kid – I had every issue from #16-200 – so I am a vast storehouse of Avengers knowledge, at least from that period [Laughs].”
Editor Mark Paniccia feels that with “Chaos War: Dead Avengers,” Van Lente and Grummett have crafted a story that should make fans of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes very happy. “Fred and Tom give us a great story that taps into the core of each of these characters, showing us the things that make them heroes, anti-heroes and most of all, human,” Paniccia said. “And there’s no shortage of action. This event gives Fred and Tom a chance to cut loose in a world where literally anything goes. You’d think once you’re dead, you’re out of danger. Things for these Avengers couldn’t be less true!”