As part of his Dark Reign over the Marvel Universe, Norman Osborn has successfully co-opted the legacy of the Avengers by creating his own team of "Dark Avengers" to advance his agenda and deceive the public. Osborn's key opponents have been the outlaw "New Avengers," who are fighting him tooth and nail to reclaim the Avengers mantle. And in the recently completed "Earth's Mightiest" arc by writer Dan Slott and artist Khoi Pham, which ran through "Mighty Avengers" #21-24, the battle for the Avengers' good name was joined by an additional team of heroes that came together under the leadership of the Wasp, Hank Pym, one of the founding members of the original Avengers.
In their first adventure, Pym's team put aside their differences and saved everyone on Earth, but now that they've done that, what's next? CBR News spoke with writer Dan Slott for answers to that question and more.
In their baptism of fire against the dreaded Elder God Cthon, the ranks of Pym's Mighty Avengers were quite large. But now that "Earth's Mightiest" is over, some of the initial members left and the current core cast of the team remains Hank Pym, Hercules, US Agent, the Vision, Cassie Lang, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch -- who is secretly the Asgardian trickster goddess Loki in disguise. The robotic Jocasta, teen genius Amadeus Cho, and veteran Avengers butler Edwin Jarvis serve as the team's support staff and occasionally accompany them on missions.
"I picked these guys because I wanted a good mix of classic Avengers and new Avengers all the way through the line up. The characters we picked represent almost every era of the Avengers legacy," Dan Slott told CBR News. "Hank and Loki appeared in the first issue [of the original series]. Herc and Quicksilver were in the first 50 issues. Jocasta made her debut in the '70s when I was reading the book. US Agent came in the '80s as part of 'Avengers: West Coast.' And then you get Cassie and Vision from the modern era. So you've got a really nice stretch of Avengers from every age of Marvel."
Slott continued, "You can read 'Avengers: The Initiative' and see how much I love characters like Triathlon, who we recently turned into the new 3-D Man, but we all know in our heart of hearts that when certain characters show up and officially become part of the Avengers they come off as characters like Triathlon, Deathcry, or Doctor Druid; characters who don't seem to rise to the challenge of what it means to be one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. When you look at this line up these are powerhouses and guys who are hardwired into the Avengers' legacy."
While Jocasta and Jarvis's connection to the Avengers are clear, Amadeus Cho's ties might not be apparent at first glance. Slott sees the adolescent genius as playing a similar role to another famous Marvel teen who was present when the Avengers first assembled. "Amadeus is our ersatz Rick Jones," Slott explained. "I've been having a blast with him. He has great relationships with all the different characters. He has a fun big-brain-relationship with Hank Pym. He's got his buddy Hercules and suddenly in the form of Cassie Lang there's a cute 15-year-old blond girl nearby him. Stuff will click from that as well. So there's things pulling him in a lot of directions and that makes him a great character to play with."
While Amadeus is enjoying being part of the new Mighty Avengers, his fellow adolescent teammates Stature and the Vision, who are also Young Avengers, have one haunting question on their minds. "What are we doing here? In issue #24 they ask that a lot," Slott remarked. "And Amadeus Cho is the first one to say, 'Hey, if Wolverine can be in like eight teams, you can be in two.'"
On sale this week, "Mighty Avengers" #24 puts the spotlight on the team's most unlikely member, Quicksilver, a.k.a. Pietro Maximoff. "When Quicksilver first joined the Avengers all those years ago, he made everybody but the Scarlet Witch grind their teeth and go, 'PIETRO!' And to have that kind of a character in a group dynamic is always fun," Slott said. "The spin we're putting on him is that for a character who's normally so haughty and full of himself, now he's in a place where he needs to be on this team. He can't afford to tick people off. We get to see this side of him where he's seething with resentment but when he's with the rest of the team it's like, 'How-- wonderful-to-- see-- you!' or 'Thank-you-- Jarvis--- I didn't mind waiting ten minutes for my tea.' And it's all because he really wants to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding his sister [the Scarlet Witch]. So now he needs to be with these Avengers. That should be fun to watch.
"When people get to the end of issue #24, they're going to see that Pietro's been through a lot. In the past couple years, Quicksilver was the catalyst for 'House of M,' went through quite a bit to get his powers back, kicked off 'Silent War' by stealing the Terrigen Mists from the Inhumans, and caused all sorts of craziness in Mutant Town. This guy does not have a good track record. In #24, you're going to see his solution out of that which puts him on a redemptive arc."
Neither Quicksilver not any of the other Mighty Avengers know the Scarlet Witch is really Loki in disguise. In the "Earth's Mightiest Arc," Loki used this deception to helped assemble the team. The question is why? "Loki is a master of deception and you've got to admit if you're Loki and want to cause all this distraction and deception, what better way to do it than this?" Slott said. " Loki was the first ever foe of the Avengers so I really wanted him/her to be part of this. When I looked at Norman Osborn's Cabal members I thought, 'If one of these guys is the Avengers Cabal member, it's Loki.' So Loki was going to be the one who brought the Mighty Avengers together and the question became how best to do that and not have people see it coming."
In "Mighty Avengers" #24, Loki, Quicksilver, Pym and the rest of the title characters are keeping very busy. "In the time it takes most heroes to gear up for an adventure, expect to see the Mighty Avengers pull off a number of 'em! And all in twenty-two pages!" Slott said. "These guys are all about getting things done and taking their place as the preeminent super team of the world. They're not America's Mightiest Heroes. They're Earth's Mightiest Heroes and we haven't see a group of true heroic characters step up to do that in some time. We're not talking street crime or down-to-earth stories. We're talking big things. These guys are going to step up and be the heroes that we need. As far as Pym is concerned, there won't be any duplicitous reasons. His team is Earth's Mightiest Heroes-heroes you can look up to-heroes who wear their heart on their sleeves."
In "Mighty Avengers" #25, on sale May 20, Slott sets his cast up for an encounter with another of Marvel's premier super teams, the Fantastic Four. It won't be a friendly visit, though. "In one corner, you have Hank Pym's brain, and in the other you have Reed Richards's brain. That's like putting two positively charged magnets together," Slott explained. "In 'Earth's Mightiest' Iron Man said to Pym, 'I can explain why you shouldn't be leading the Avengers in three words: You're hank Pym.' But Reed Richards is going to say something a million times worse. What Reed says is on a whole different magnitude. After he says that it will be like, how could they not go to war?"
What Reed Richards says to Hank Pym is only one reason the Fantastic Four and the Mighty Avengers are at odds. The other involves a device that played a part in both Slott's recent two-part arc in "Amazing Spider-Man" #590-591 as well as a role in the debut issue of the writer's "Thing" series from 2005. "There's already been a page released from 'Mighty' #25 on editor Tom Brevoort's blog at Marvel.com. In that page you see a scene set before Civil War, when Hank Pym and Bill Foster were working on a device called the Dimensional Wave Inducer, which was the device that helped the FF's Infini-bus go to the Macroverse this month in Spider-Man," Slott explained. "We've also seen that invention in 'Thing' #1, when a supervillain tried to steal it from Bill Foster. So it's a very important gizmo."
It won't be just devices and concepts from Slott's early work that pop up in "Mighty Avengers." Some characters the writer created will appear as well. "For 'Amazing Fantasy' #15 Vol. 2, Greg Pak created Amadeus Cho and I created a two-character team called Black Jack. You can expect them to show up and have the same sort of presence that Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. used to have in the Avengers titles," Slott revealed. "Why Black Jack? Because this is all part of Greg Pak's and my secret desire to make 'Amazing Fantasy' #15 Vol. 2 go up in value. Not as valuable as the original 'Amazing Fantasy' #15 -- but pretty close."
When the Mighty Avengers aren't saving the world they'll participate in the same sort of soap opera style interpersonal relationships that have been the hallmark of many classic Avengers stories. "How do these characters all relate to one another?" asked Slott, "Are they going to be friends? Or just team mates? You're going to see where they're going and what they need as people. It's not enough that they go on adventures. We have to care about them too."
For "Earth's Mightiest," Slott collaborated with artist Khoi Pham. Issue #24 features pencils by former 'Incredible Hercules' artist Rafa Sandoval, and the two-part Mighty Avengers-FF storyline that runs through issues #25-26 features art from another guest penciller, Stephen Segoiva, whose work was featured in the recent 'Wolverine: Manifest Destiny' miniseries.
"I think Khoi did a wonderful job on the first three issues and the story he's working on now looks beautiful," Slott stated. "Then you look at issue #24, Rafa's issue, and it's gorgeous. And Stephen's Wolverine work was fantastic so we're happy to have him do the two issues with the big FF throwdown."
Dan Slott is thoroughly enjoying his time on such a high profile book like "Mighty Avengers." Not only does it give him the chance to play with a compelling characters, it also affords him the opportunity to shine the light on several Marvel titles that many readers may not be familiar with. "There are the mainstream Marvel books like 'New Avengers' and 'Captain America' and there's all these books that have a cult status but are so brilliant that they deserve way more readers and a lot more love, like Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak's 'Incredible Hercules,' Duane Swierczynski's 'Iron Fist,' Rick Remender's 'Punisher,' Paul Cornell's 'Captain Britain and MI13' and all the cosmic books by Abnett and Lanning," Slott said. "A lot of what we're hoping to do in 'Mighty Avengers' is be the thread that ties them into the Avengers universe titles. I'd love to have Rick's Marvel U take on the Punisher show up, or set up an Avengers/Guardians team-up.
"We had brief cameos of Captain Britain and MI13 in our last two issues. And at the start of the current issue, there's tip of the hat to Punisher. We're going to try and showcase things like the cosmic books and maybe pop over to England for an issue. So we're going to try really hard to showcase some of the Marvel Universe that might get sidelined for bigger, splashier things. We want to show off some books that really deserve your love."