When writers Jim Zub, Al Ewing and Mark Waid, along with artists Sean Izaakse and Carlo Barberi, began crafting Avengers: No Road Home, they set out to make a series that was just as exciting as their weekly shipping Avengers saga from last year, No Surrender. That said, they went in some excitingly different directions.
The recently completed 10-issue miniseries gave readers such huge events as the death of the Olympian gods and the reintroduction of Conan back into the larger Marvel Universe. The creators saved the biggest surprises for last, though, with a very meta final issue that found Hercules and Vision walking new heroic paths, celebrated Marvel’s 80th anniversary and took place against the exciting backdrop of... suburban Long Island?
Ewing, Waid and Zub recently joined CBR for a two-part chat about wrapping up No Road Home. Today, in Part 1, we talk about the meta nature of the Vision's final battle with villainous Olympian goddess Nyx, the reason why the battle was set on Long Island and the inspiration for that final showdown.
CBR: So, guys, one thing I was not expecting in this final issue is how meta the story would get with references to things like a literal "House of Ideas" and heroes appearing out of panels. Was the climax of this story always going to be about Marvel's characters and shared universe? What inspired you to end things this way?
Mark Waid: Jim muttered "House of... Ideas...?" at some point during our initial meeting and I jumped on it like Brevoort on a miscolored belt buckle. In a rare moment, it wasn't Al who was the King of Meta, it was Jim, and in a saga that was specifically built around the power of fiction (go back and look at the very first line of Issue #1), nothing could be a more perfect final battleground. In tales of heroic fiction, darkness doesn't simply symbolize nightfall; it's the shroud of despair, the shape of surrender. What, then, is the opposite of darkness but hope, and what's the greatest source of hope in the Marvel Universe if not unbridled heroism? On top of that, even though it was never our intention until that moment, we also saw how this would be the perfect way of working a stealth 80th anniversary celebration into No Road Home -- by unleashing the entire Marvel Universe on the enemy.
Jim Zub: Yeah, the meta concept of the "House Of Ideas" as a place, a wellspring of creativity in the Marvel Universe, is something I've had jangling around in my head for a while. I put it out to Mark and Al at dinner the night before our big story summit, not even sure if they'd like it or if it would be something that we could use this time out, but they both loved it and carried it into the room the next day as a big piece we could use. Once we'd built up a head of steam for the rest of the story, I pitched the House concept to C.B. Cebulski, Tom Brevoort and Alanna Smith and they came on board with it as well. When C.B. reminded us that 2019 was Marvel's 80th anniversary, that really cinched it.
As much as I came up with it, I also knew that Mark was the one who had to actually write that sequence. He delivered on it beautifully, and then Sean Izaakse and Marcio Menyz knocked the whole thing out of the park.
Al Ewing: I do remember Jim pitching it to us over the pre-meeting sushi, he was the big seeder of ideas for this go-round, what with the House and Nyx, but we all put our own lick of paint on it over the course of time. Mark was insistent that the House should have no windows, and he paid off that beat very nicely in the final battle. As for me, I played up the One-Above-All-ness a little bit with the opening, which Sean did an absolutely pitch perfect job on, reusing a bit of my "sampling" idea from that Defenders: Immortal Hulk special.
There's a lot more of that sampled Burgos lettering in the original script, but it ended up looking cluttered when I put it together with Sean's art, so we cut it down to the very basics.
And, of course, it was Mark's idea to relocate the House from the center of the Mystery -- the area beyond the Far Shore, at the heart of everything -- to its new location.
Let’s talk about that location. The final battle between Nyx and the Vision happens at one of the dwellings of "The One Above All Others," and that house happens to be in Long Island. Why choose Long Island? Is it a deliberate homage to your editor and Marvel's Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort, who also lives there?
Waid: As much as we love Tom, the Hatted One, he wasn't why we went with Long Island. For your Final Jeopardy clue, you'll have to look for a very specific bit of artistic license.
Zub: It is an homage, but not to Tom. Like Mark, I'll leave that one for readers to piece together.
Ewing: I've seen some readers do the detective work already, so the solution is out there!
During the Vision and Nyx's clash, Vision talks about how Nyx planned to impose her "rules" on their reality, and how this reality isn't about rules. To me, those lines and the meta nature of the issue, felt like a rejection of the things negative forces, especially online, have said about what Marvel Comics are and have to be. Was that your intention?
Waid: Honestly, no. Specific negative forces were never in our crosshairs or on our minds. The meta nature of that chapter was simply a way for us to draw a line in the sand against cynicism. I, for one, have been a broken record over the years about my belief that -- metaphorically -- superhero comics aren't about rules, they're about flying.
Zub: On both No Surrender and No Road Home, we set out to tell old school superheroic stories and do it with a bit of modern flare. We don't need to take potshots at specific negativity. The best thing we can do is create stories that exemplify the things that inspire us about superheroes. Positivity and hope is at the forefront of why we tell these stories.
Ewing: Yeah, we definitely weren't thinking of any specific stuff at the time. Especially because, if I'm honest, I think we built Nyx to be a relatively sympathetic villain, in that she originally only wanted a place at the table, and the reality she's looking to impose on everyone sounds like quite a peaceful, thoughtful time. So, I think trying to map that onto real world stuff in that very literal way doesn't really serve anything -- Nyx is complex enough to be her own thing.
Check back soon for Part 2 of our chat with Ewing, Waid and Zub, where we'll talk about the new heroic paths Hercules and the Vision are walking, the rebirth of the Olympian Gods and the possibility of them collaborating for another weekly Avengers event.