When Marvel's heroes gather, exciting things happen, involving epic clashes, surprising appearances and shocking deaths. That was certainly the case in the recently completed Avengers:No Road Home, where the God of Darkness Nyx murdered the publisher's Olympian pantheon, a team of Avengers banded together to stop her from conquering all of reality, and Conan was reintroduced into the Marvel Universe.
The best events leave you wanting more by setting the stage for further interesting stories, and writers Mark Waid, Jim Zub, and Al Ewing and artist Sean Izaakse did just that in Avengers: No Road Home #10. The Vision found a sort of faith, and the life threatening damage that was done to his core was repaired' the Olympian Gods were reborn, out in the cosmos; and Hercules set out to walk a new heroic path on the space ways of the Marvel Universe.
In part two of CBR's No Road Home wrap up chat with Ewing, Zub, and Waid the writers talk about the new character directions, their future plans for these characters, and the possibility of getting the band back together for a third weekly Avengers event.
CBR: In Avengers: No Road Home #10 the Vision had a pretty profound experience about the nature of his and all creation. So would it be fair to characterize him now as a person of a particular faith? What inspired you to go in this direction with the character?
Jim Zub: I wrote the final sequence with Vision and the others in the diner as Brother Voodoo questions the possibility of his faith, so I'll take point on this. I liked the idea of playing against type here. The machine with a soul. A logic-focused being who now has to come to terms with greater questions of faith. For me, it feels like it builds naturally on Al's scene from issue 1 where Vision was quoting Shakespeare, which plays off of the Shakespearean quotes and tragedy in Tom King's Vision series, which in turn builds on the pathos and humanity of the original Roy Thomas Vision stories and both of Bill Mantlo's Vision and Scarlet Witch mini-series. That's what we do: Pass the baton forward with a character's story as the years go by, each of us building on what's come before.
The other major characters on a brand new path are Hercules and the entire Olympian pantheon which is now more cosmic and space oriented. This feels like both a nod to Bob Layton's classic Herc stories and a way to do some new things with the Olympian characters. Was that your intention? Who came up with this take on Herc and the Olympians?
Ewing: Yeah - I kind of took control of Herc as things went on. I have some big, evolving plans for Herc - I am at this very moment deciding if they should include the Recorder, so Bob Layton is definitely on my mind. He's part of a big forward progression with Hercules - Greg Pak made him a serious player, but kept him fun. Dan Abnett made him get serious in himself, to the extent of having him stop drinking, which is the bell you can't really un-ring - that felt like a major foothold in the rock, in terms of cementing the character's evolution and preventing too much backsliding.
But looking back at that series, he's still heavily motivated by other people's opinions of him. I wanted to break him free of that shell and spread his wings, to put him through the wringer and then have him cast off all his old insecurities and emerge as the best, coolest, sexiest, most secure version of himself - and then, as the cherry on top, send him into space in a cool new outfit to Flash Gordon his way around the universe and bring it all full circle. Which we're kind of doing, but in a way that I think will surprise some people - like I said, Herc is currently heavily involved in some big plans I've got.
The scenes with Vision and Herc of course beg the question of where we might see these characters next? What can you tell us about that? Jim, do you have plans for Vision to meet up with his daughter, Viv, over in Champions? And Al, can you talk more about your plans for Herc?
Zub: At the end of No Surrender we laid out possible story paths and those turned into the Quicksilver: No Surrender mini-series and the Immortal Hulk ongoing. We've got plans here as well, but so far I think the only one that's official is Gerry Duggan carrying forth with Conan in Savage Avengers. The rest will have to wait...
Ewing: There isn't a solo Herc project coming, unfortunately, but you'll see he mentions his "people" - who are they? I'll give you a clue – they're not the weird, scary Space Olympians crackling with cosmic energy somewhere in the void beyond the void. Those are NOT Hercules' people any more, as they're going to be pointing out to him at length. And Herc's not the only one - trust me, I've got plans for everybody.
The new looks for Hercules, Zeus and the Olympians' cosmic home were all designed by artist Sean Izaakse who also worked on this issue. What was it like watching Sean come up with those designs? What sort of input did you guys give him?
Zub: Al was the point-man on that, the only thing I said was that I didn't want us to go back to the old look when it was all said and done. Destroying the majority of the Greek/Roman pantheon in the Marvel Universe gave us license to try something new and we shouldn't squander that.
Ewing: My design note was basically to make them very chrome and future-y - I'm not ashamed to admit that Ulysses 31 was a big inspiration there. "It is the 31st Century. The ancient gods of Olympus are angry..." I always loved the weird juxtaposition of ancient myth and sci-fi, and I think the Olympians have a license to go full-on into that and become Space Gods in a way the Asgardians, who have much more going on right now, maybe don't. Sean took that ball and ran with it, and then some - his fearsome designs are right in line with what I want to do with these scary people, and his Herc is right at home fighting for freedom in outer space.
Death is often a big part of event style stories, and there was quite a bit of death in No Road Home, but the end suggests this tale was ultimately about rebirth. What was it like watching readers speculate on possible deaths during the story, especially in light of the solicits for issue #8 that suggested, "An Avenger falls?"
Zub: One of the most enjoyable parts of working on No Surrender and No Road Home, has been that idea of building new things. Putting more toys in the toy box. I'm absolutely fine with killing characters if the story warrants it, but in the end I want there to be a net positive effect, that we finish with more than what we came in with.
Mark Waid: Look, teasing fans is sometimes the most fun part of the job. Don't take that away from us! I want to say that the rebirth of the Olympian Gods was something we came up with not initially, but rather as we went along, and in retrospect, what other end note could there be than "myths never die"?
Ewing: An Avenger did fall! The Hulk - technically once an Avenger, therefore always an Avenger - got taken down hard. People assume he's very tough now because he cracked Thor's skull open that one time, but he's got a big weakness to match his big strength, and Nyx capitalized on it as only she could.
Watching readers speculate on which Avenger would die was kind of fun. I did feel a bit bad that we'd be disappointing them in the end with a lack of death - that said, one of my pet peeves is people thinking their very subjective interpretations of the text, whether it's a solicit or a whole comic, are objective truths that must be bellowed from the rooftops as the one, true reading... so I didn't feel too bad.
Now that No Road Home #10 is out in stores, how does it feel looking back on this project and No Surrender?
Waid: Like I can't wait to find a way to put the band back together.
Also, for a fussbudget science-freak guy who never had any use for Conan and never read a single Conan comic until we got to issue six, son of a gun if the Cimmerian hasn't grown on me. I get it now. Now I understand why people are huge Conan fans (though you might have to knife-fight Zub for the title of Most Fervent). By Crom!
Zub: Conan is my jam. Moving from No Road Home over to working on a 3-part story in Savage Sword of Conanwith Pat Zircher feels great.
Working on No Surrender with our team was a dream come true. Being asked to come back and show that it wasn't a fluke is even more surreal.
I recently grabbed lunch with a dear friend in the business, and he told me how much he regretted not enjoying his time more when he was on a top-tier title. He was stressed and frustrated that it didn't go exactly the way he planned and, now that it was in the rear view mirror, he told me how much he wished he'd relaxed a bit more and appreciated the experience. I already appreciated having a chance to contribute to Avengers, but that really hit home for me. I wanted to make sure I let everyone on our team know how much this has meant to me. I don't care if it comes off as dopey or uncool. This has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my creative career.
Ewing: There are three phases to this kind of thing - you go in very hyped up and very excited, and the ideas are flying and crackling and buzzing around, but it's not quite real yet. Then we've started it, and we're in it, and the plane's taken off and in the sky and everyone's suddenly noticing all the tiny little pieces we forgot to bolt on or properly secure before take-off, and then it's all about keeping the bird in the air, and part of the big thrill comes from finding the solution to that day's problem. So I get the stressed and frustrated part, but for me, those stresses and frustrations come with the big highs of solving them, and that gets kind of addictive after a while - there's a big part of me that loves the chaos of that, of letting go of what you thought the moment was going to be and riding the sychronicities to the new thing. And this team is a joy to solve those story problems with - we work well together, and we all have a good time. (And Jim, don't even say you're uncool. Sincerity is the coolest.)
Anyway, the third phase - once you've brought it down for the landing, and everyone survived, and from the outside it looked spectacular - is right now, when we get to look back and say "we did it!" And that's a really great feeling, and we're going to bask in it for a little bit... but it leads right back to wanting to do it again.
Speaking of doing it all over again, there's one last scene in No Road Home #10 that felt like a set up for further stories; the one where Voyager returns home, finds it destroyed, and her uncle missing. Is this an indication that you three have more Avengers stories left to tell with Voyager? Are you currently talking about another weekly event?
Zub: I scripted the scene, but I think Al and I came up with that in the room. That's absolutely us putting out the breadcrumbs in a not-so-subtle way. That's pure Brevoort bait right there. His continuity clock can't let that tick go away unaddressed, can it?
Ewing: I think at one very, very early point, we were going to have the Challenger come back in this one, and then we decided to let him lay fallow for a bit. But this is the natural end-point of the fallow cycle - setting him loose. He's a good villain, he's interesting, he's complicated, he's got natural enemies - it's time to set him free and see where he goes.
Zub: I'd like to conclude by making sure everyone knows how hard our entire team worked to make this series happen. Weekly books are tough and, no matter how much pre-planning gets done, they become a sprint in the end.
Paco Medina (with Juan Vlasco on inks), Sean Izaakse, and Carlo Barberi on line art. Jesus Aburtov, Marcio Menyz, Erick Arciniega, and Jay David Ramos on colors. Corey Petit and Joe Sabino on letters. Yasmine Putri on our main covers. Joshua James Shaw on the Nyx and Nyx's children designs. Alanna Smith, Shannon Andrews, Tom Brevoort, and CB Cebulski guiding us the whole way through on editorial. I know it's a lot easier and faster to just say that it's the writers' story, but it's not. We're a team and this came about because of the hard work of all those people.
That's what the Avengers do - band together to fight the battles we couldn't handle on our own.
Ewing: Thanks for mentioning the whole team, Jim - I'll echo what he said, that there wasn't a single person on the creative front who didn't work their guts out to bring you this series. So I'll end with a huge, huge thank you to the rest of the team - and to all those readers who've had kind words to say about this book and about the effort we put into it.