Bendis Assembles his Avengers

This spring, the Marvel Universe will be a changed place. The dominion of Norman Osborn will be over and a new Heroic Age will have begun. But don't expect the villains of the Marvel U to go quietly into the good night. No, they'll still be a threat that looms large over the citizens of the MU. Thankfully, come May, a new team of Earth's Mightiest Heroes will stand ready to battle evildoers as writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist John Romita Jr. assemble for a new "Avengers" series.

But before the Heroic Age begins, Bendis will wrap up the chapter of Avengers history he began almost six years ago with the "Avengers Disassembled" storyline. That story arc gave birth to the Bendis-penned series "New Avengers," a title which plays a big part in the current "Siege" crossover event. "Siege" comes to an end in April with issue #4 by Bendis and artist Olivier Copiel and "New Avengers" also wraps in April with a special finale issue by Bendis and artist Bryan Hitch.

"The 'New Avengers' finale does wrap up this very large chapter in Avengers history," Bendis told CBR News. "I can't talk a whole lot about it, but the finale is a beautiful looking book with great Bryan Hitch pencils. It's an afterlude and exclamation point to the end of the team. It's very rare that you get to tell a long form story like this with a beginning, middle, and end."

When the Heroic Age begins, the Avengers and other Marvel heroes will be able to move around in public once more without having to worry about Norman Osborn or his minions. They'll have plenty of other challenges and threats to be concerned about, though.

"I think when people hear the words 'Heroic Age,' they're thinking it's going to be all blue skies, picnics, and snowball fights in Central Park. That isn't it. The Heroic Age is going to be something that's truly earned," Bendis explained. "Everyone has fought to have the world feel a certain way, but there are people who will oppose this new order in tremendously grand and violent terms. The villains are going to be working extra hard to defeat this Heroic Age. They don't want it. So, if anything, the adversarial positions between the heroes and the villains are going to be much, much stronger.

"And what the Avengers are facing, and I've got their adventures laid out for a couple of years, is a multitude of very bold, very dark, and very scary individuals who are looking to put real hurt on what's happening here," Bendis continued. "Hopefully you'll be rooting for the heroes, because what they're trying to protect is the life we'd all like to live."

Early teasers ads for "Avengers" have revealed that Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Woman and Hawkeye will all be members of the newest incarnation of the Avengers. "The holy trinity of Captain America, Iron Man and Thor was a given. That was the sell," Bendis revealed. "Stuff is happening in Spider-Woman's book and in 'New Avengers' that sets up Spider-Woman to earn her place on this team, and Clint Barton has been fighting for this for years. This is what he wanted. He wanted the Avengers back together. So, yeah, he's going to be on this team, but that costume that you're seeing is not going to be the final Hawkeye costume. It's going to have a different look and tone to it."

Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Woman, and Hawkeye are all on the Avengers but they aren't the only team members. The team's line-up will be fully revealed in "Avengers" #1, and it may just include a certain Bendis favorite character who will be starring in "Thunderbolts" come May. "The fact that Luke Cage is starring in 'Thunderbolts' doesn't necessarily mean he won't have a part to play in my books. 'Thunderbolts' writer Jeff Parker is a friend, and last week he was a guest lecturer in the college class I'm teaching. He was amazing and he has a very good plan for Luke," Bendis said. "It's very meaningful for the character, but like other great characters in comic book history, that doesn't mean 'Thunderbolts' is the only book Luke is going to appear in. There has to be a book where Jessica Jones yells at Luke Cage for being so stupid as to be with the Thunderbolts. That would be my book."

"Avengers" #1 doesn't just establish the team's full line-up. The issue will also offer details about the group's role in the Marvel Universe, their headquarters and the supporting cast of the series. "There are going to be some interesting developments in the first issue. The good news is we're not dragging things out. The whole team comes together in the first issue and another character joins in the second issue, but everything happens pretty quickly," Bendis remarked. "We get to find out who their support team is; we get to find out where Jarvis goes, where Maria Hill goes, and where some of the Dark Avengers go. There are a lot of pieces that are going to be moving in the next couple of months."

The scope and scale of the adventures Bendis has planned for his cast will be gigantic and are intended to test the team's reputation as Earth's Mightiest Heroes. "It's going to be bombastic. There will be similarities to some of my other Avengers work because it is me writing, but this is being written for John Romita Jr. and nobody else. It is being written so the Avengers look like they're carved out of concrete and fighting on a theatrical stage larger than I've ever written for anybody else," Bendis explained. "At the same time, there's going to be drama, hijinks and romance. I'm going to bring the funny every chance I can get. I'm absolutely pushing to create something else. Hopefully it will be a mix of the new and the classic Avengers eras put together to form something even more interesting than what we've shown before

"Before I decided to stay with the Avengers, I asked myself, 'Am I done?' And the answer was, 'No. I'm not.' So going into the Heroic Age, I decided to write these books as if I were taking over for the Eisner Award winning Brian Michael Bendis and see what new things I can add to what's already been put out there. And yes, I talk about myself that way. When I'm with my wife eating dinner, it's like, 'Please pass the rice to the Eisner Award winning Brian Michael Bendis. Thank you,'" Bendis joked. "Some people reading this might be thinking, 'Why don't you let someone else write it?' But the answer is, 'No. I don't want to.' The books are still selling and it's so much fun. Plus, when I'm not doing this, I'm out in LA helping with the Marvel movies, which are all leading to the Avengers movie. So it's a grand time for this franchise and I feel like I have a lot of cool things to do. My first storyline in 'Avengers' is going to be a Kang story, which I've never done before. We came up with a very cool hook for Kang that I've not seen [before], and I think will be a lot of fun for Avengers fans, both old and new."

Both Bendis and his "Avengers" collaborator John Romita Jr. are long time Marvel Comics veterans, but they've only worked together once before; on issue #15 of "Mighty Avengers." "He did that issue as a favor in, like, a week. He really came through for us, because we had an artist fall out. You cannot tell how quickly he got that thing together. It was amazing," Bendis stated. "So, I've been at Marvel for awhile, and he's been at Marvel for almost 30 years and, of course, over the years we talked about how we really should do something. He was definitely one of those guys where it's got to be a real special thing, but nothing ever seemed to come together where we went, 'Oh that's it!' Then one day my editor, Tom Brevoort, called and said, "You know who should do the Heroic Age Avengers? You know who would make them look like they were powerful, carved out of granite, Marvel heroes?' And I go, 'Who?' He said, 'John Romita Jr. I'm going to call him.' I went, 'Let's do it!'

"Then as soon as John said yes, it clicked in my head that I had bought every book that this guy has ever drawn; every single goddamn book. I went, 'Holy Crap! I've got to earn this man's attention. I have to earn this artwork.' So I've been studying," Bendis continued. "I've gotten books and books of his stuff, both old and new, including 'Kick-Ass.' I'm studying everything. Then I just sit down and write for him. I imagine the world through his eyes. He handed in two pages right away and I was like, 'Perfect!' John does rain better than anyone and it's hard not to just have it raining everyday in the book. He does the best comic rain in the world."

Throughout his career at Marvel, John Romita Jr. has proven his ability to bring to life all types of stories; from street level action with Spider-Man all the way up to cosmic epics with Thor and the Eternals. Bendis plans on giving him stories that tap into that wealth of experience. "I'm taking him for a spin. Working with a guy with this kind of legacy, I feel obligated to give him things to draw that he has not drawn before," the writer said. "It's not enough to go, "I love his drawings of Spider-Man. So I'm going to have Spider-Man swinging by. It's got to be that and something new; so that he's both entertained and challenged."

Romita Jr.'s artwork on "Avengers" is being inked once again by Klaus Janson. "I've been slowly working with Klaus on 'Daredevil: End of Days' over the last couple of years. I've had lunches with him and I've really gotten to know what an honorable and fantastic human being he is," Bendis stated. "So it's the two of them, and they did 'World War Hulk' together. They're just great together. Klaus is probably the best inker for John. So it's a spectacular team. It's an honor to be part of it."

Come the Heroic Age, "Avengers" won't be the only Marvel book with the word Avengers in the title. One such series is "Secret Avengers" by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Mike Deodato Jr. "I can't say much about how Ed's book and my book will interact. It was pitched at a retreat and everyone who heard Ed's pitch went, 'That sounds fantastic.' It's such a good idea for a book," Bendis said. "It's a completely different flavor from what I'm going to do. The two books complement each other and do not repeat each other. That's what you want from a franchise. These books don't eat each other's heads. It makes you want to buy all of them, like in the glory days of the X-Men."

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