Change is a constant for the Avengers. Over the years members have come and gone, status quos have shifted and there have been multiple Avengers squads with different mission statements. The Avengers Unity Squad, comprised of humans, mutants and Inhumans, currently stars in Marvel Comics' "Uncanny Avengers" series by writer Gerry Duggan and artist Ryan Stegman. In the aftermath of "Avengers: Standoff," founding member Steve Rogers regained his youth and can once again play an active role in the field, but Captain America isn't the only changed founding Avenger coming back into the Unity Squad's orbit.
In "Uncanny Avengers" #9, Duggan and artist Pepe Larraz kick off a new arc that finds Hank Pym returning to Earth -- but in a form that has him bonded with his deadliest creation, Ultron. How will the Uncanny Avengers handle the return of Steve Rogers and Hank Pym? How will their returns impact the team's continuing hunt for the Red Skull? And what kind of role will Pym's ex-wife Janet Van Dyne (AKA the original Wasp) play in Duggan's story? For the answers to these questions and more, CBR News spoke with the writer about his plans for the Avengers' Unity Squad and what it's like to tell the latest chapter of Hank Pym's story.
CBR News: In the aftermath of "Standoff" Steve Rogers has regained his youth and now both he and Sam Wilson are Captain America. What does that mean for your book?
Gerry Duggan: I think it means that there's going to be a real sort of leadership crisis in that there are too many cooks. We have young, revitalized Steve Rogers back in the field and we also have Cable who is very used to getting his own way. We also have Rogue who is the leader of the team. So I'm excited to see how that won't work out. [Laughs]
The other big fallout from "Standoff" is the Red Skull, a foe the Uncanny Avengers have been after for a while, is now in charge of Hydra. I understand you and Nick Spencer, writer of both "Captain America" titles, have done some coordinating with regards to the Skull and Hydra.
Yeah, we're going to have a really fun 2016 with the Red Skull. The Uncanny Avengers' secret mission the entire time that they've been in my care has been to hunt and stop the Red Skull. The mutants obviously would love to end the perversion of Charles Xavier. So it's a personal mission for both the A plus the X. It's going to be a really fun end of the year.
I don't want to give away too much, but a lot of pretty horrible things are going to happen. [Laughs]
[Laughs] In the Uncanny Avengers' immediate future are encounters with both Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne. As a long-time Avengers fan, how does it feel to get a crack at these two founding members? And what do you find most interesting about their current status quos?
Hank Pym is always an interesting figure, especially now that he's been merged with Ultron. I inherited Hank having been merged with Ultron from Rick Remender and Jerome Opena's "Rage of Ultron" graphic novel, and I'm very grateful for the chance to explore what that means not just for Hank, but also for Ultron.
Hank seems to think that he's worked all of this out, and he may very well have had the chance to do that. Nobody would be happier than me if that were the case.
I love Hank Pym, but there's a sense with Hank that he was born a genius in the Marvel Universe, but unfortunately for him it's in a time of gods. It's easy to see that Hank has been eclipsed all these years and what does that feel like? Now he's back on Earth having mastered his most dangerous creation, so he's finally here in triumph. That's the really cool thing about Hank. This feels like one he gets to win.
Then Jan used to be part of the Avengers Unity Squad at one point and she's the perfect person to roll back into the group because of her context with Hank. I think their interactions will surprise people.
My parents were married for 17 years, apart for 17 years, and now they're back together. So I know a little bit about long term relationships and their ups and downs. That's kind of fun to explore.
What can you tell us about the action of this new arc that starts in issue #9? Is it solely about Hank's return to Earth?
It is about Hank's return, but we also start to move the Red Skull stuff from the back burner to the front burner. So Pym is going to step right in. He basically quarantined himself in space until he could be sure that he had mastered Ultron. Now he's back and the Avengers are in some desperate need of some muscle, and the fun thing is the Red Skull probably didn't count on facing Ultron. [Laughs]
[Laughs] So depending on how this arc turns out the Unity Squad could have possibly two new members in Hank and Jan?
I think it is safe to say that we're going to see some new Unity Squad members.
I know Ryan Stegman loves drawing strange and weird characters. We saw him really cut loose with that in your first arc of "Uncanny Avengers." It seems like he's got another opportunity to do that here with your cybernetic characters like Hank.
Yeah Ryan loves drawing Cable and his Cable stuff is incredible. We've got a lot of technologically advanced characters with some weird elements. Hank is back, but he's also very much a man in a machine now.
Ryan has such a great imagination and all of the stuff he manages to make looks fantastic, but also very real. I mean that as the highest compliment. He's really been such a wonderful collaborator. I'm very lucky to have him.
Also Peppe Larraz is doing such wonderful work on the return of Hank Pym and sort of part one of the Red Skull of it all.
Finally, in terms of your larger plans for "Uncanny Avengers" it sounds like the team will have their hands full with the Red Skull in 2016, but will the book also have a "Civil War II" tie-in arc?
Yeah, I think you'll see that the team has some very good reasons to be infighting at that moment.
I want to finish by thanking the fans for showing up for this book. It's too much to dream that you'll ever get a crack at an Avengers book and I'm aware that opportunity might not come back around. So I'm trying to leave it all out on the page. We've brought some things to a slow boil, and the next year or so of stories are really filled with explosives. Even the character moments will be exploding. So I'm really excited for what's coming up and thanks again for reading the book.
"Uncanny Avengers" #9 goes on sale May 18 from Marvel Comics.