In the Marvel Universe military skirmishes can be decided many ways. One on hand there are the traditional ones involving guns, bombs and man power. On the other, the unusual and frightening methods of advanced technology, super powers and the supernatural. When these awe-inspiring abilities and weapons are unleashed it can be tough for a regular soldier to survive and feel like he can make a difference.
This Fall one regular soldier will get caught up in the dangerous world of the Marvel Universe and will have to make a difference if he hopes to survive. Readers will meet Army Ranger Marcus Johnson in November’s “Fear Itself: Battle Scars” #1 by writers Chris Yost, Cullen Bunn and Matt Fraction and artist Scot Eaton. CBR News spoke with Yost about the action packed six-issue miniseries that examines how Marvel’s “Fear Itself” event impacted the super powered intelligence and mercenary communities.
CBR News: Chris, you penned the “Fear Itself: Spider-Man” tie-in and now you’re very involved in the aftermath of the big event. You, Cullen Bunn and Matt Fraction are all working on both “Fear itself: The Fearless” and “Fear Itself: Battle Scars.” How did these projects come about for you and how is the workload divided on each of them?
Chis Yost: Tom Brevoort, who was the editor of “Fear Itself,” called up and said, “Hey, we’ve got this project. I wanted to see if you’re interested.” I said, “I’m in!” I didn’t even know what it was. I had wanted to work with Tom’s office for awhile. They put out great books and “Fear Itself” has been fantastic. Then when I heard what the project was it became even better.
When we first started talking it was about one book where we’d go back and forth between these two stories. Then we had some creative meetings: Me, Matt, and Cullen with our editorial team of Tom, Alejandro Arbona, and Lauren Sankovitch. We came up with a ton of great stuff and at the end of the day we realized that we had two series not just one. So we decided to split the book up and make it two series.
Basically the team of Cullen, Me and Matt did story work on both series. Then Cullen is writing the scripts for “Fearless” and I’m writing the scripts for “Battle Scars.” We’ll send out our scripts for the others to give notes on, but the notes are usually things like, ‘Awesome’ or ‘That’s cool,’ because the scripts have all been great.
I don’t know if you’ve checked out Cullen’s work on books like “The Sixth Gun,” but you should. Then people may or may not be familiar with this guy Fraction. [Laughs] He’s done a couple things here and there, so working like this has been great. People have had great suggestions. Matt would give a note here or there that would put a different spin on things or add a punchier ending. Tom and his team are such pros too. So the creative and editorial teams have really been a joy to work with because every note makes the project better.
We understand another fun aspect of this book is that it stars a brand new character readers will meet for the first time in “Battle Scars” #1. What can you tell us about Army Ranger Marcus Johnson?
He’s actually on active duty in Afghanistan when “Fear Itself” goes down, so really this is a story of one normal guy thrust into the crazy super human world of the Marvel Universe. He basically wakes up one day and the entire world kind of changes on him.
“Fear Itself” was particularly horrible for the United States and the people of Washington D.C. In an active war zone, like Afghanistan, it was a lot worse. That’s how his story starts and there’s an event that happens during “Fear Itself” that pulls him into this story. So we’re taking a normal guy, as normal as a highly trained Army Ranger can be, and when he encounters all these Marvel characters and concepts like Captain America, Taskmaster and S.H.I.E.L.D. it turns his world upside down. He gets launched on this incredible quest and we get to see what the Marvel Universe looks like through normal eyes.
In that case, does Marcus serve as a sympathetic and heroic character?
He definitely is sympathetic. There’s a tragedy that happens to him, which kicks off the whole thing. He’s looking for answers, but he doesn’t exactly know what the questions are yet. He’s still going to start knocking down some doors and start asking questions. On a normal day he’d knock down some doors and go up against some bad guys, but the ones he’s facing here are a type he’s never dealt with before.
The situation Marcus gets embroiled in brings him face to face with characters including Captain America and Taskmaster, but does he run into these characters because of his investigation or do they actively seek him out?
They’re hunting for him and Marcus’ number one question is why are all these people suddenly interested in me? Why would Captain America, S.H.I.E.L.D. and all these super powered mercenaries suddenly be coming after me? What’s so special about me? That’s largely the quest that he’s on; to find out answers to that question of why me.
It seems an American soldier would have a fun and interesting perspective on Captain America. When Marcus meets Captain America for the first time will we see the Sentinel of Liberty through his eyes?
Yes. It seems like Captain America is everybody’s hero and that’s especially true for military men. Marcus has a partner that he works with that goes by the name of Cheese who is really blown away by Cap.
Cheese and Marcus served together in Afghanistan. They’re buddies and Cheese will help him out in his quest. Cheese is a huge Captain America fan though, and, as cool as Marcus is trying to be during all this insane stuff, he’s the one who puts the voice to it when he says, ‘Holy crap! That was Captain America!’
Cap isn’t the only hero after Marcus. We noticed Daisy Johnson on the cover of “Battle Scars: #2. In the final issue of Jonathan Hickman’s “Secret Warriors” series Daisy became the head of the newest incarnation of the spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. Does “Battle Scars” pick up some of the plot threads established in “Secret Warriors?”
Absolutely. I’m such a huge fan of Hickman’s work. His “S.H.I.E.L.D.” series and “Secret Warriors” have been fantastic. Now that “Secret Warriors” is over I’m interested to see what S.H.I.E.L.D. is becoming. They definitely play a role in this series because, much like the bad guys, S.H.I.E.L.D. is after Marcus too. You’re going to see Daisy and the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. repertoire or whatever it is S.H.I.E.L.D. may have become.
We’ve touched upon the heroes of the series. Now let’s talk bad guys. You mentioned the Taskmaster is after Marcus. How big a role does Taskmaster play in this series?
I love Taskmaster. Fred Van Lente’s recent “Taskmaster” miniseries made him even more interesting by revealing his origin and how his powers work. Here though, Taskmaster is doing a job so he’s playing the role of villain. The fun part of that is Taskmaster is a guy who can go toe-to-toe with many heroes. So how does Marcus, who is a normal guy, deal with somebody on that level?
Who are some of the other villains after Marcus?
You’re going to see the whole array of Marvel Universe mercenaries at work. They’re all guns for hire. The big question, basically, is who’s hiring them and why? The mercenaries don’t necessarily know. And of course, when you think of famous Marvel U mercs there’s probably one that springs to mind. You may be seeing him.
Is this merc famous for having a mouth?
Yes, he is know for his mouth! [Laughs]
What else is happening as these various villains and heroes chase after Marcus?
It’s very much an action mystery. The thing we liken it to the most is probably the “Bourne” series of movies. It’s heavy on the action, because I’m me and that’s my thing, but there’s a mystery to it and at the same time, much like in “Fearless,” we’re checking out a few other corners of the Marvel Universe. The series is sort of an introduction to the espionage elements of this world through the eyes of this character. He’s basically our Kitty Pryde.
What is the theme of “Battle Scars?”
Thematically Marcus is on a journey of self discovery; a journey that will require him to kick plenty of ass.
Where will those ass-kickings be delivered? Are they limited to a location or two, or does the action in “Battle Scars” unfold on a global stage?
We’re taking our readers globe hopping. We start in Afghanistan, then move to Atlanta. The story then goes to Washington D.C. and New York City. Then it goes abroad.
It’s a big story. At the end of the day, I say this having heard it a hundred different times, it involves the greatest secret of the Marvel Universe coming out. Our main character doesn’t seem to know this secret, but everybody else seems to. It all comes crashing down.
“Battle Scars” is one of those books that’s tricky to talk about because there’s a secret at the heart of it. You’ll want to pick up the first couple of issues, because once the truth comes out in our book people are going to step up and pay attention because it’s going to be hard to ignore.
Finally, let’s end by talking about something you can say a little more about. Everything you’re telling us about “Battle Scars” sounds like it would be firmly in the wheelhouse of your artistic collaborator, Scot Eaton. What can people expect from him on this book?
I’ve been a fan of Scot’s for a long time. He worked with me on the “Endangered Species” stuff on the X-Men books, but he’s seriously taken things to a whole new level. The first double page splash that he did for issue #1 is insane. My script said something like, ‘It’s really chaotic.’ He then delivered this piece that just blew me away. In issue #3 he’s got this sequence with Taskmaster that’s just astonishing. He’s really brought A+ game.
“Fear Itself: Battle Scars” goes on sale in November.