Bunn Drops the Hammer on "The Fearless"

During Marvel Comics' recent "Fear Itself" event a forgotten and malevolent being stepped forward from the shadows of time to menace the world. His name was the Serpent, the Fear God of the Asgardian pantheon. His power and capacity for evil led to his imprisonment and eradication from the records of the Asgardians by their King, Odin. Needless to say, when he emerged from his prison the Serpent was incensed and took his anger out on the entire world. His rampage decimated much of the planet and there was a good chance he could have taken over entirely if a coalition of mortals, gods and heroes did not find the strength to stand up to him and his forces. In the end, this coalition proved victorious and the bravest of their number, Thor, was able to kill the Serpent and end his reign of terror.

However, the world is not safe. The Serpent may be dead, but his legacy of evil lives on in the form of seven powerful, mystical hammers wielded by his avatars, the Worthy. In the twelve-issue maxiseries "Fear Itself: The Fearless" co-written by Cullen Bunn, Chris Yost and Matt Fraction with art by Mark Bagley and Paul Pelletier, a global race is under way for control of these hammers. The participants are the Asgardian heroine Valkyrie and the Red Skull's villainous daughter, Sin. The series reaches its midpoint on January 4th with the release of "The Fearless" #6, and CBR News checked in with Bunn about the story so far and his plans for the second half of the the saga.

CBR News: So Cullen, since "Fear Itself: The Fearless" deals with the ramifications of "Fear Itself" it features a large cast of characters, but it looks like your main protagonist is Valkyrie. She seems to be experiencing a surge in popularity the past few years. Why do you think that is? What do you find most interesting about her as a writer and what made her the right protagonist for this story?

Cullen Bunn: The interesting thing about Valkyrie is that even though she's been around for so long, she's a little bit of a blank slate. There's a lot of history and personality for writers to explore, so we're able to show aspects of her character that are new to readers. It's that history, along with her Asgardian heritage, that made her the right choice for the heroic lead of "The Fearless." Her motivation for collecting the hammers is starting to surface: she's ready to call it quits, which may be a bit of a surprise for some. She's a character who is easy to dismiss and to underestimate, but she's more than capable of holding her own against some real heavy hitters. When the series is over, I don't think anyone will look at her the same.

Valkyrie's quest to retrieve the Hammers of the Worthy has made her unpopular among her fellow heroes, but her chief adversary is the Red Skull's daughter, Sin. What can you tell us about Sin's motivations to gather the hammers? In past appearances it seemed like Sin was just a nihilist who reveled in destruction, but at the end of issue #5, in stores now, it sounds like she actually wants something more than to just destroy for destruction's sake?

One of the things I really like about Sin is that she's always been this kind of deadly thrill seeker. In "The Fearless," she's just taking that to the next level. She's hurting after her defeat in "Fear Itself," and she's lashing out. She tasted godhood and the pain of having that ripped away is maddening. She's lost two fathers (the Red Skull and The Serpent) and she's on the verge of a breakdown. She's filling this emptiness that she feels by taking these incredible risks. She's still hellbent on chaos, fear, and entropy, and her plans are still deific in scale.

It also seems like Sin's motivations are partly tied to her lover Crossbones. How would you describe her feelings towards Brock Rumlow? Does she genuinely care about him? Given who her father is and her twisted upbringing, is it possible for her to care about him in a meaningful way?

A few days ago, I was talking to a friend about something non comics-related. (Sometimes I do that. Not often, but sometimes). He stopped in the middle of a sentence, looked at me gravely, and said, "You know what? Crossbones is a @#$%." That filled me with a moment of pride. I like writing Crossbones -- a lot -- but I don't like him. He's just a terrible person through and through. The only person who could care about him is Sin. I like to think that if there was some sort of online super villain matchmaking site, Sin and Crossbones would be flagged as perfect for one another. But with someone as messed up as her, you can never be sure what "love" really means.

They may be a match made in Hell, but Crossbones is starting to realize that he and Sin may not be on the same page on a few things. There are times in this series that I almost feel sorry for Crossbones -- but I still don't like him.

In "The Fearless" #5 you introduced what might be Sin's Doomsday weapon in the form of the Nazi's Sleeper Robots. It seems like you added a new twist to the Sleepers though. If I remember correctly, previously they were just giant mechanical monstrosities, but now it appears there's a magical techno-organic element to them as well? Was this something you came up with, and what made you want to add this to the Sleepers?

The connection to the Sleepers is something that Chris, Matt, and I discussed with editorial during some of the early brainstorming discussions. The idea spun out of the concept of the Red Skull and his Thule Society trying to control Asgardian weapons during WWII. The Serpent's hammer wasn't the only thing the Thule called down during the war, and the Sleepers may have been a product of their research. The Final Sleeper, revealed at the end of the fifth issue, is a pretty important piece of hardware, connected to the Red Skull, the Thule, the Serpent and Asgard.

The Sleepers are part of Sin's ultimate end game, but helping her achieve this end game is a relatively obscure group of characters you brought back, the Department of Occult Armaments, who I don't believe have been seen since their debut in the 1992 "Nightstalkers" series. Is that correct? What made you want to revive these characters? How have they changed since their last appearance?

As far as I know, the D.O.A. hasn't appeared since their "Nightstalkers" days, but I could be wrong about that. That's where I remember them, though. For a long while, I've had this urge to bring them back in a bigger, nastier way. I've always thought they could be a truly sinister and formidable group, and for all these years I've imagined they were just biding their time until they were ready to strike. With their connection to Hydra and their goal of collecting "occult armaments," they seemed like a natural fit for this story.

Now that they have thrown in with Sin, she has access to all of the occult weapons they've collected over the years. Where A.I.M., for example, uses technology to reach their goals, the D.O.A. is using occult power. As the series continues, you'll see that the D.O.A. has a strong connection to the Thule Society and they are growing -- in terms of power AND membership--and they are positioning themselves to be a contender in the realm of villainous organizations.

We're now almost half way through the "Fearless" and it seems like the first half of this series has been a race across the globe to retrieve artifacts of sinister power. Will that continue to be the story in upcoming issues? If so, what are some of the locales you're going to take readers to? If not, will story change directions soon?

Sin and Valkyrie will continue racing to collect the hammers, and their quests will take them to Project: Pegasus and Utopia. In upcoming issues, we'll see a lot more of Sin and her relationship to the D.O.A. As we move into the later issues of the series, Val and Sin are on a collision course. The battle that erupts between them will become our focus, and a number of Marvel heroes and villains will be swept up in the conflict.

Speaking of battles and action set pieces, you have an upcoming brawl between Wolverine and Crossbones that artist Mark Bagley told us was quite intense. What can you tell us about this conflict? Any other rumbles that you can tease?

The Wolverine/Crossbones battle is as violent and bloody as I could get away with making it. When those two lock horns, no one's getting away unscathed. It's like ultimate fighting -- only with machine guns and claws.

There are a few more big fights coming up in the series. The Avengers are gonna square off against Sin and a horde of hellspawn. Valkyrie will face a certain weather goddess and a nasty group of D.O.A. agents. And a ton of heroes and villains are set to clash in the final confrontation. The heroes of the Marvel Universe will sport one big collective bruise when this thing is all over.

It's interesting to see these conflicts and other scenes brought to life by your artists Paul Pelletier and Mark Bagley. It looks like Mark draws the beginning and end of each issue of "The Fearless" and Paul draws the middle portion. What's it like working with these two artists in this way?

Working with two artists has been interesting. Each issue breaks down a little differently. At one point, Mark was going to draw all the Valkyrie parts of the story and Paul was going to draw the Sin storyline. But as the two threads weave together, it doesn't always work out that way. My biggest goal with working with the two of them is to place the "switches" from one artist to the next at the most logical places possible. I really put a lot of thought into when to have one artist "tag out" for a moment. In most cases, that happens at scene breaks, but when the chaos really erupts in the final issues of the series, it took a lot of contemplation to make the interplay between the two of them work. Beyond that, I try to make sure each artist gets to draw some really dynamic scenes each issue.

You've given Mark and Paul a lot of different stuff to draw in terms of action and characters, but we couldn't help but notice the preponderance of horror and dark fantasy elements in the series so far. Your body of work features creator-owned books with strong horror elements such as "The Sixth Gun" and "The Damned," so it seems like "The Fearless" is a series that both plays to your strengths and allows you to have some fun. Would you have interest in further exploring some of Marvel's other horror concepts and characters when "The Fearless" is over?

I definitely love incorporating horror elements into my story. Lucky for me, a lot of those ideas seemed to work well with "The Fearless." It's no secret that I've always wanted to work with Marvel's horror characters -- Man-Thing, Werewolf By Night, and Morbius in particular. One of the first pitches I ever brought to Marvel was for a Morbius ongoing. It's a safe bet that there will be a few darker elements in anything I work on, but I like my horror with a healthy dose of action and fun.

The first half of "Fear Itself: The Fearless" certainly has been a lot of fun. What else can you tell us as the first half of your saga draws to a close and we prepare for the second?

I'm really excited to see what readers think of how this story ends. Both Valkyrie and Sin will be going through some significant changes, and their places in the Marvel Universe will be cemented when the story's over.

Also, at some point in the story, Valkyrie may punch Emma Frost out. If that's not a reason to read a book, I don't know what is!

"Fear Itself: The Fearless" #6 goes on sale January 4, 2012.

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