Following the destructive ramifications of "Avengers vs X-Men" on the Marvel Universe, Captain America put together a team of "Uncanny Avengers" led by Havok, the brother of the branded mutant terrorist Cyclops. Dubbed the Avengers Unity Squad, the team first battled the Red Skull who now possesses powerful psychic abilities received from stealing the deceased Charles Xavier's brain and grafting it to his own. Their latest challenge is magnified as the Unity Squad must thwart the triple threat of the clashing villainous agendas of Red Skull, Kang and the Apocalypse Twins, Eimin and Uriel.
"Uncanny Avengers" writer Rick Remender spoke with CBR News about the team's upcoming battles, the ties of the new Four Horsemen of Death to specific members of the Unity Squad and how everything he's written thus far is leading to a conflict of epic proportions. Plus, exclusive art by current series artist Daniel Acuna.
In "Uncanny Avengers" #5, Remender hinted the team was about to become embroiled in the temporal machinations of Kang when they saw the time travelling conqueror abduct Eimin and Uriel, the infant twin children of Archangel and the Apocalypse horseman known as Pestilence. Then in "Uncanny Avengers" #9 Kang's alternate future self, Immortus, informed Captain America an event was coming that would split the prime Earth timeline into seven individual timelines.
"The Apocalypse twins showed up before that event happened and have derailed it," Remender told CBR News. "We saw the major seven timelines referred to in one of the early stories in Brian Michael Bendis' Heroic Age "Avengers" series. It involved future Iron Man and his timeline map, where the one point breaks and turns into seven -- this is what Immortus is talking about. It involves the Red Skull and I can't say anything else about it. I hate to be cagey, but that would be a big spoiler.
"I can say the shattering of the space-time continuum at the end of 'Age of Ultron' does not impact this story, and when you see where we end up in the next seven to eight issues you'll understand why," Remender continued. "When you're doing something like I am where the first story is 20 issues, Kang's scheme will seem to be undone and redone several times. He's playing a deep game though, and you're not going to know if Kang gets what he wants for a long time. The final showdown with him is huge."
While Kang's ultimate goal is still unclear, his role in the Apocalypse Twins' life is becoming apparent. In "Uncanny Avengers" #8AU (An "Age of Ultron" tie-in) and #9 readers saw Kang serve as an abusive father figure to the twins. Several scenes suggested that while the Twins were in Kang's custody they were subjected to brutal lessons and even harsher punishments.
"Kang had no sort of parental affection for the Twins. He has his own biological son in the Scarlet Centurion. So the Twins were nothing to him but pawns in a larger scheme," Remender explained. "Kang gave them some plans and he had some ideas on how to use them to make his own life easier -- by ridding himself of the mutants and saving himself endless skirmishes with Apocalypse types. The Twins might have plans of their own though. They might not be so easily duped, and they might still be resentful and pissed off about the methods Kang used to teach them the villainy of humanity. His primary method was dropping them off to spend some time at the Red Skull's concentration camps in the future."
Kang's brutal teachings pushed the Apocalypse Twins onto their current and brutal crusade against all of those who stand in the way of their mysterious master plan for Earth's modern day mutant population. While Eimin appears to be utterly devoted to their cause, Uriel is conflicted about their methods and mission. In "Uncanny Avengers" #8AU readers saw the young mutant boy was troubled by his murder of an alternate timeline Rogue. Then in issue #9, Uriel was relaxing in the Twins' headquarters with women and alcohol while his sister was out furthering their plans.
"There is some second guessing and doubt going on with Uriel," Remender said. "I imagine the Twins to be in their mid-20s at this point. The 'Age of Ultron' story occurred when Kang was taking tours of realities with them and training them. They were probably 10 or 11 at that point. So a lot has changed since then and we'll reveal what.
"I wrote out all of the Twins' lives -- I do that sometimes to make sure I know the full story, even though I might not get to all of it. We reveal some major pieces of their past in issue #12 and I'll try to get to some of the other stuff in there. If I don't tell all of their story though, I'll definitely hit enough of it so when you get to the big climax you'll know them pretty well," the writer said. "They're complex characters with a complex relationship. We've just gotten to meet them and we're starting to see who they are. Letting this thing grow organically means you're not going to get a really good idea of where Uriel's head is at until issue #15."
At the end of "Uncanny Avengers" #9 the Twins unveiled their agents who help implement the next stage of their master plan, the Four Horsemen of Death. They created the Horsemen by exposing four deceased characters to the Celestial's "Life Seeds," then the "Death Seed" -- the same method used by the villainous Apocalypse to transform their father, Warren Worthington, into Archangel.
"Before they turned on their tachyon dam which prevents time travel, obviously after the many other time travel events we've recently seen, Eimin used her ability to read the future via music. So she already knows who's going to do what and who they need to take down to win. She saw the Unity Squad coming together," Remender explained. "That would inform the Twins' decision to forego creating War, Famine and Pestilence Horsemen and instead create four Deaths. It would also inform which characters they would choose to become their Horsemen."
The quartet making up the Horsemen of Death includes Wolverine's son Daken, former X-Man Banshee, former Avenger the Sentry and Wonder Man's twisted brother Eric Williams AKA the Grim Reaper. All were chosen by the twins for their power levels and connections to the various members of Havok's team. "If you want to take down Thor, resurrecting the Sentry and planting a Death Seed in him to make him even more powerful is a pretty good way to do that. It's the same if you want to deal with Wolverine. His son Daken, whom he recently drowned, is a person who could be motivated to help you without a lot of pushing," Remender said. "Banshee has a real issue with the Summers clan, given that Vulcan killed him and Scott Summers killed his good friend and mentor Charles Xavier. Then you have the Grim Reaper who has a lot of context towards our team -- he's the brother of Wonder Man and was recently put in his grave by Rogue when she borrowed Wonder Man's Ionic Energy-fueled strength and accidently snapped his neck.
"So we have four Horsemen that were specifically selected by the twins to deal with the Avengers Unity Squad," Remender continued. "Because they have these glimpses of the future, everything the twins do is going to seem insurmountable to our team issue by issue. Every time they think they've got an angle or are going to be able to get at these guys, the Unity Squad realizes everything they do has been predicted. So there's a very difficult road ahead of them."
Many members of the Avengers Unity Squad are already walking difficult roads, like Simon Williams AKA Wonder Man, who is committed to being an Avenger and a pacifist as well. In "Uncanny Avengers" #9 he assisted his team by flying to the Republic of the Sudan and rescuing Captain America from the forces of HYDRA, which he did without throwing a punch.
"He was the strongest and the fastest character at the mansion when they discovered where Cap was. So he's not just going to sit there and go, 'I hope he's okay,'" Remender said. "His scenes were something I certainly had to put some thought into because, in this case, he'll go get his buddy and he can act as a walking shield to protect him, then fly him out of there. He'll take somebody's weapon away and bust out some philosophy on them -- but he's not going to knock people out, get into fisticuffs and start throwing people through buildings again.
"I knew Simon was going to have a giant role when I was writing this story, but the more I wrote the bigger his role became. I've written up to issue #15 now and I've been able to explore Simon's character and fall in love with him in a way that doesn't happen often," Remender continued. "He's also the antithesis of Wolverine at this point, but those two aren't going to be at each other's throats. They're going to debate the nuances of methodology. After killing Daken and all the blood spilled in X-Force, he's really questioning whether or not what he does helps or makes things worse."
While Wonder Man struggles to stay true to himself, his teammates are struggling to work together. In "Uncanny Avengers" #9, Rogue and the Scarlet Witch struck a heated argument over the speech given by Havok in issue #5, where he articulated his belief that the word mutant was divisive, requesting the general public not to refer to him as such.
"Rogue is angry at the death of Xavier. She's angry at some of the ideas Alex is proposing, and she's acting more emotional than logical. She's not cooling off soon, either. This scene was a reaction to some of the larger questions brought about by people who were upset by the story in issue #5, but it is part of what I had planned and it's something you'll see continued and built upon as we move forward," Remender stated. "This is an ideological difference and it's one that Rogue sees as offensive and divisive. The same way Alex sees semantics as playing a role in the current human/mutant mess. That leads to a continued divide between her and some of the cast members.
"I like that Rogue was very supportive of Alex before he went off to give that speech," Remender continued. "She doesn't necessarily disagree with everything he said, but she doesn't agree with all of it. She thinks it was misguided. That just gives me more fodder to write about, and it's fun to explore these different perspectives about this imaginary class of super powered people known as mutants."
Part of the reason Rogue has so much trouble with Havok's point of view is it's unique and differs from the ideologies of any other mutant leader in the Marvel Universe, a deliberate move by Remender.
"I wanted to make sure Alex had a perspective that could be debated one way or another, and that it gave him a place to stand at the table of the mutant debate. The usual argument is the Red Skull types on one far end, Magneto and the Apocalypse types at the other and Scott Summers and Wolverine in the middle," Remender explained. "Alex now has a very unique position.
"To Alex, when Scott got all the mutants together and went and lived on Magneto Island, that served to continue to separate them from their fellow man and make it look like they're a militant group. It appeared as if they gave up on Xavier's dream and instead of integration and working alongside mankind, they seemed to become militant separatists," Remender said. "We all know the reasons for why that happened, but Alex disagrees with it. So like it or not Alex has a perspective and he's at the table now."
Havok's ideology wasn't the only thing causing team members to clash in "Uncanny Avengers" #9, as Wolverine's teammates discovered what he was up to in the previous volume of "Uncanny X-Force," also penned by Remender. Captain America and the Wasp were especially horrified and angered to discover that the group's initial mission ended with them murdering a child.
EXCLUSIVE "Uncanny Avengers" #10 interior art by Daniel Acuna
"The death of Warren Worthington was mentioned, but the major crux of Captain America and Wasp's distaste is the fact that Wolverine led an X-Force crew that killed a kid. This strikes a very personal chord for Cap, as we'll come to see," Remender stated. "I've had some people come at me on Twitter and say, 'Captain America comes off as such a blowhard. What a dick.' I'm like, 'He runs the Avengers and one of his members was just discovered to have killed a kid. What would Wolverine have to do in your mind to earn Captain America being upset with him?'
"At a certain point I wanted to illustrate just how different things are from when I was writing 'Uncanny X-Force,'" the writer added. "Now you have a very Avengers style group of people. There's Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Captain America and Wolverine. Then when Cap hears what Thor has to say, he's just had it, for many more reasons than the obvious. Cap has recently suffered losses we're seeing bleed over to his day-to-day, but in the end, he's had enough of the compromises and so has Wasp. It felt very in character to me, like another domino still falling from 'The Apocalypse Solution' story in 'Uncanny X-Force.' I feel that's the opening act to all of this -- Cap's sense of betrayal was very genuine, and it's justified. Wolverine could have explained the details and that he didn't pull the trigger, but the bottom line -- whether or not he knew that it was a kid they were going after -- is he led a squad of assassins on a mission to go murder somebody. It went south and a kid Apocalypse was shot."
After Captain America learned what Wolverine had done with X-Force he wanted him out of the Avengers. Rogue took umbrage with that decision, not because she necessarily agreed with Wolverine's actions, but because of timing.
"Rogue's point of view more than anything is that Captain America is a complete hypocrite who's more worried about his antiquated moral compass than saving the world. She doesn't know what he's been through in Dimension Z -- no one does yet. To her, Cap's breaking up a Unity Squad he put together during an Apocalypse attack because of his morality. Rogue might even agree with his morality, but is this the time and place to let your emotions and indignation steer the ship? So she has a point, too," Remender said. "My responsibility for this book is to make sure every character has a point I could debate, get behind and express. I feel like I can. I feel I'm to the point now where I've written the characters enough that everybody has a perspective I understand."
Wolverine reacted to Captain America's outburst by agreeing with the Sentinel of Liberty and making the claim he was a killer and that's all he was good for. It was a statement fueled by the self-loathing and depression he was feeling in that moment.
"In my mind it's more of a pity party than a factual statement. It speaks more to a thought of 'That's how you see me. So that's how I'll always be,'" Remender said. "That kind of ignores the fact that yes, you did lead a squad of assassins that ended up killing kid Apocalypse. That happened. So he's not in a spot to defend himself."
Thor did step to Wolverine's defense though and when the heated argument between the Avengers Unity Squad ended, he chose to walk off with Wolverine, Rogue and Sunfire instead of staying with Captain America, Wasp, Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch and Havok. "Thor knows Wolverine enough and trusts him enough as a friend and comrade to feel that if he killed somebody, there was no other option. He trusts that in a way Steve Rogers is incapable of doing. To Steve it's, 'No, you're not an Avenger. You're a killer. This is a mistake. I've made a mistake,'" Remender explained. "Thor is a warrior and he knows these things are necessary on occasion, and he trusts if Logan made a choice like that he did so because it was the last resort -- it was necessary."
When Wolverine and his allies turned to leave, Havok begged them to stay and try to work out their differences. "Alex is in a situation where the only thing that matters to him is that the Unity Squad work -- that these fights be healed and worked through as opposed to people quitting, being fired or picking a side and marching out. So he has ego integrity, but at the same time he doesn't really give a shit about being the guy in control. The most important thing to him is staying with the team -- if he also leaves, that's it. The split is done," Remender said. "So he's going walk the walk even though he might not view Steve's emotionally charged decision as a super strategic move. He's going to stick around and hold the team together as best he can. On some level, Alex, unlike the rest of them, recognizes the fact that unity is the only thing that's going to save humanity."
In "Uncanny Avengers" #10-#11 the path to saving the planet is blocked by the Four Horsemen of Death. "From here on out every issue starts to bubble and boil more and more as the action really starts picking up," Remender said. "In issue #10 the Four Horsemen of Death set upon our team, and in #11 you have part two of that, which is the big fireworks show."
Artist Daniel Acuna, who took over the artistic reigns of "Uncanny Avengers" with issue #6, depicted the explosive events of issues #10-11 and Remender is incredibly pleased by the work his collaborator has produced. "Issue #10 is going off to print and it's stunning. I don't know how Acuna pencils, inks and colors a book as fast as he does," he said. "We go to a bunch of different Akkaba society strongholds in issue #10. Part of that was just to see how Acuna would cook up a Mayan style Akkaba society stronghold underneath a Guatemalan temple, and what would he do with one in the Himalayan mountains.
"It's important to the story to establish what the Twins have been up to, and I don't want to give that away, but as the team is investigating these places it's also an opportunity to see Acuna design these new worlds and they're all crazy good. The guy is one of the most talented artists I've had the privilege of working with," Remender declared. "Acuna gives Wasp her new costume in issue #10 and it's the coolest Wasp costume ever. The dude is a treasure. He's amazing."
Artist Salvador Larroca joins Remender for "Uncanny Avengers" #12, an issue examining the ramifications of the Avengers Unity Squad's battle with the Death Horsemen, shedding some light on Kang's grand scheme and revealing more of what the Apocalypse Twins endured growing up. "In that issue we'll spend a lot of time with Kang in his future reality. We'll see Salvador mess around with Kang tech, but we'll also spend time in Ahab's concentration camps with the Twins. There's some pretty down and dirty ugliness with that," Remender stated. "Plus, like all of the issues up to this point, there are 20 different locations and a lot going on. So there's going to be plenty for Salvador to flex his muscles with. I'm very excited to have people see what we've been doing."
In "Uncanny Avengers" #13, Remender explores more of the fallout from recent events in the series, following it up with one of the biggest stores he's ever written.
"Issue #14 is some of the most fun I've had writing a Marvel comic book and definitely the biggest in terms of things that go down. We'll have the final payout to the Rogue-Scarlet Witch conflict," Remender revealed. "What I do in issues #14-18 is so big and the ramifications are so widespread -- every single issue from here on out is an exponential increase in the stakes and the insanity. It ends in issue #18, but then gets crazier in issues #19-22 and then... we'll see the huge ramifications of what the Red Skull is up to, which is huge. Basically, The Twins showed up on the day the Red Skull had planned to do... something. They chose that day because they obviously had suffered in the Red Skull and Ahab's camps. Their plans are in reaction to what Skull has planned.
"Our team is neck deep in dealing with the Apocalypse Twins. Then Kang escalates things and Red Skull, Onslaught, Immortus and everything else lends to the super escalation," Remender continued. "Then there's another escalation beyond that, which I've kept a secret. That takes us to about issue #25. We even see Magneto and Red Skull going at it as a handful of other huge events we've been building to since issue #1.
"My approach to this series has been to earn the conflicts and earn the build. So if you've stuck with me so far, it's all payout starting with issue #10," Remender concluded. "I'm really eager to get to this stuff because setting it up on a new series can be tricky. You want to give people some immediate fireworks, but you also want to plant and water seeds that turn into bigger stories further down the road. Now we're at the point where the slot machine pays out. I'm very eager for people to see what we've building up to."
"Uncanny Avengers" #10 by Rick Remender and Daniel Acuna goes on sale July 24 from Marvel Comics