Super-powered menaces and catastrophes are regular occurrence in the Marvel Universe, making it easy for a group of individuals to suddenly find themselves fighting together as team. But once the dust from the initial encounter settles, it's time to work out the logistics of this new team: Who leads it? Who funds them? Where do they operate from? How do the individual members deal with the difficult personality traits of their teammates?
Now that the chaos of "Infinity" is over, Luke Cage's new team in Al Ewing and Greg Land's "Mighty Avengers" are wrestling with these very questions, attempting to navigate a dangerous and difficult landscape in the aftermath of the Inhumans' Terrigenesis bomb and Thanos' invasion of Earth.
CBR News spoke with Ewing about his cast of characters and the challenges they'll face in the coming months, as well as the style of incoming artist Valerio Schiti and the mystery of the person behind the Ronin costume.
CBR News: Al, you introduced and further developed a lot of character beats and plot elements in "Mighty Avengers" #4, including new developments for the Superior Spider-Man. Spider-Ock's actions suggest that he has no love for this Avengers team, but if he has such a low opinion of the team why does he want to lead them? Why not simply try to dismantle the team or ignore them?
Al Ewing: Well, ignoring them would mean they were still there, in New York, potentially stepping on his toes, while dismantling them would be a waste of a good resource. Much as Spidey-Otto might find the MAs highly inefficient, they're very powerful, and deep down he knows that. As we'll see when #5 comes out, he's got a plan to integrate them into the rest of his Superior Spider-Force as his own private, personal Avengers squad -- almost a paramilitary strike team. It's a bit of a pipe-dream, but he does have the arrogance and -- seemingly -- the power and political clout to back it up.
While Spidey was trying to take control of the team another Avenger,Falcon, was trying to join it. In doing so, he had to confront his teammates' suspicions that he was there to be Captain America's eyes and ears. What did it mean to Falcon to hear that? How committed is he to proving himself to this team of Mighty Avengers? When a conflict arises between the two teams, will he have a problem picking a side?
Well, no such Avengers-Avengers war is currently on the cards, but hypothetically, if there was that kind of conflict brewing, I imagine it'd be a very tough decision for Sam to make.
Obviously, Sam doesn't like being seen as an appendage to Cap, or part of someone's supporting cast rather than a hero in his own right. One thing the Mighty Avengers can give him is space to show off his skills -- according to a wiki I read, he's S.H.I.E.L.D.'s leading Super Agent, which is just insanely cool if you ask me. I'm basically writing him as James Bond, if James Bond could fly and was King of the Birds. I don't think he actually needs to prove anything to anyone, if I'm honest -- but he believes in what Luke's doing, and he wants to be a part of it.
You also further developed the story of the character taking on the Ronin mantle by showing he's in contact with Kaluu, an ancient sorcerer who both battled and fought alongside Doctor Strange. Kaluu hasn't been seen in a Marvel comic since the late '90s. What made you want to bring the character back in "Mighty Avengers?" What do you find most interesting about him?
It's my little bit of nostalgia, if I'm honest -- a little luxury I'm allowing myself. I read the '90s "Strange Tales" run, and then picked it up again when it was collected. One of the first Marvel titles I ever read as a kid was Peter B Gillis' "New Defenders" -- he was ahead of his time in a lot of ways, and I've always felt like he hasn't really been given the critical acclaim he deserves. Anyway, his run on Dr. Strange was a particular highlight for me, and Kaluu was a highlight of that.
What's interesting about Kaluu is that he started off as a one-note villain and then grew into someone more interesting. There was a vogue in the late eighties and early nineties for reforming villains -- you had the Sandman reforming, the Rogues Gallery going straight, and Kaluu was one of those as well. He was still doing the black magician thing, and being very sinister and creepy, but he was using his sinister creepiness for good purpose. Anyway, I always found these types of stories very optimistic -- they showed growth and change, and that even the bad guys were human beings who could redeem themselves, and it was nice to see the arc of the universe trending towards some form of absolution.
As you can imagine, when they all got reversed a few more years down the road it was quite depressing, so, at least in the corner of comics I can reach, reformed bad guys stay reformed. Kaluu, at least, is still fighting the good fight, even if he's doing it in quite a "villain" sort of way. We've seen him act selflessly and heroically in the past, sacrificing himself for Dr. Strange -- but it always takes some terrifying cosmic stakes to bring out that side of him. So maybe him turning up to assist the heroes isn't a good sign.
In his conversation with Kaluu, Ronin mentions Jim Lucas, Luke Cage's father, and it seems especially significant. How much continuity information is out there about Jim Lucas? What was known about him before you started "Mighty Avengers?" Can readers expect more info about Luke's father to be revealed in the coming months?
Well, there was Luke Cage's solo series in the nineties that got into his father a little bit. I know he was with the police, and he believed his son was a criminal for a good long while -- Luke had a brother who fed their father false information -- and then recently, there was an issue of "New Avengers" which showed Luke trying to reconnect with his Dad and failing. And that's the short version of what we know.
So there are some gaps in the story of James Lucas, and while he was never a super-person himself, New York in the Marvel Universe is a strange place with a lot of strange history and people do have a habit of getting involved in things. And he might, at one point, have got involved in something. And over the next few months, we'll be finding out what that something might have been.
After his conversation with Kaalu, Ronin walked off with the team on a mission to infiltrate Attilan. I know you have to be careful to preserve the mystery of the character's true identity, but what do you think being part of a team means to Ronin? Is it something that comes naturally to him? It seems like Spectrum trusts his judgment when he says they need to break into Attilan.
Spectrum might be going along more to keep an eye on him. She definitely trusts his judgment that there's something nasty there -- but that's a lot different from actually trusting him.
As for what being part of a team means to Ronin -- well, I have to be very careful not to spoil it for those who've successfully navigated the spoiler minefield, but Ronin isn't really a team player. To him, teammates are resources to spend carefully in the service of his goals -- actually, I guess he's not that different from Spider-Man after all.
The Mighty Avengers weren't the only people with eyes on the ruins of Attilan in issue #4. Jason Quantrell, the CEO of CORTEX Incorporated was very interested in acquiring Terrigen Crystals. You and Kieron Gillen introduced CORTEX in the "Iron Man: Fatal Frontier" Infinite Comic and CORTEX comes off as a super villain clothed in the structure of capitalism. It seems like Cage's vision for helping the world and Quantrell's vision for controlling it would mean their two organizations would be bitter rivals.
Yep, well spotted. In #4, Quantrell and Cage mirror each other in terms of how they're dressed -- that was deliberate.
When me and Kieron Gillen came up with CORTEX, it was going to be an extension of A.I.M., so originally it would have been playing much more off those perceptions -- it would have probably ended up as more of a neutral party. But eventually that fell by the wayside -- A.I.M. has its own things going on right now and adding another would have only complicated everything -- and CORTEX became its own entity.
What it does is find innovations and things with the potential for societal change, acquire them, brand them, control them and use them to gain more power. It's not really doing anything real-world corporations don't -- it's an email provider that sells data it collects to advertisers and government agencies, for example -- and the ultimate goal isn't so different, either. A CORTEX smartphone in every pocket. CORTEX soft drinks replacing tap water as the go-to refreshment. A CORTEX logo 'sponsoring' every school, teaching the kids CORTEX-approved history with CORTEX-supplied textbooks. And of course, the CORTEX employees on the boards of education are only too happy to go along with that. And nothing they're doing is illegal -- at least as long as CORTEX money pays for the right lawyers, judges and politicians.
So when Jason Quantrell sees the Mighty Avengers, he doesn't see a rival - he sees a potential acquisition. (There are other, rival corporations with their own private superheroes and teams, after all. He doesn't want to get left behind.) The question is -- has CORTEX already bought into the other side of the hero-villain equation? Does it own any bad guys yet?
Let's talk a little bit about the plot and themes of "Mighty Avengers" for the next few months. What's the overall theme of the next arc? The solicits for issues #5-8 suggest stories that are a mix of super hero action, intrigue and supernatural horror.
They're about family.
Well, #6-9 are -- #5 is the wrap-up for the second arc (Titled "Come In, We're Open" -- words to live by. I'm doing titles for arcs rather than individual issues. It might work better in the trades.). It's also the finish for the first trade, so it's a good ending point for people who are reading it that way. (Although reading comics you like in singles is very important in terms of keeping them going and should be strongly encouraged.).
Anyway, 6-7 and 8-9 are either a four-part story or two linked two-issue stories with similar themes -- themes of family and what you do for them, and how that can hurt. Ava [Ayala, the White Tiger] is a daughter who lost her parents, Adam [Brashear, the Blue Marvel] is a father who -- well, I'm getting into spoiler territory. Things have been relatively bright up to now, but they get fairly dark. The sun sets in #6, and it might not come up, metaphorically, for a while.
Anyway, yes! You can expect pulse-pounding superhero action turned up to eleven -- volcano bases and everything -- as well as street-level intrigue and a healthy dose of the supernatural, but there's also going to be a lot of tragedy in there too. It's the total package for Marvelites.
Greg Land provides the art for "Mighty Avengers #5 and then will return to the book later with issue #9. Artist Valerio Schiti ("Journey Into Mystery") will pencil issues #6-8. What do you feel Valerio brings to this book as an artist?
He's got a real warmth to him, which I like. His people are very expressive, and there's a lot of love and depth to them. #6 is another one of my conversational issues, and Valerio just knocks every interaction right out of the park. He's got a wonderful style. He's also very good at rain-swept streets, noir and increasing threat, which is very useful in #6 -- it's not all conversations. And he does an absolutely phenomenal Tiger God.
Finally, Iron Fist is set to guest star in upcoming issues, but will any other characters that were part of Luke's world at one time feature in upcoming issues? Like say, Misty Knight?
I feel bad that nobody's noticed Dave is back. Dave was the Iron Fist before Iron Fist! I was so happy when I found out he hadn't been killed -- that's something you end up running into a lot writing superhero comics. You think, "Oh, that'd be a good villain/hero/supporting cast member" and then you look them up and they're dead. It's that Scourge, mostly. Thank goodness for Hobgoblin bringing all these great old villains back, or at least their old suits.
Anyway! Yes, it'd be nice to see Misty Knight again. If I'm bringing in Danny for the occasional cameo, it's only fair to bring Misty in too, and Colleen - although that might not be until sometime in the second year of the book.