The characters taking the lead of Marvel Comics’ “U.S.Avengers” are the chief super-powered operatives of S.H.I.E.L.D’s new A.I.M. (American Intelligence Mechanics) division. This means team leader Citizen V (AKA Roberto da Costa, who until recently operated under the moniker of Sunspot) and his comrades the new Red Hulk, Squirrel Girl, Cannonball, Iron Patriot, and Enigma are ready to take on all manner of strange and dangerous threats. Unfortunately for the team, the two most imminent dangers they face come from unexpected places: a massively powerful former ally of one of their team members, and an incredibly cunning and devious individual who recently gained control of all of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The former is Todd Ziller, a patriotic zealot who was transformed into the rampaging monstrosity known as the American Kaiju. The latter, of course, is the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, S.H.I.E.L.D’s new director and the focal point of Marvel’s upcoming “Secret Empire” event, whose history was recently altered so that he had been a lifelong clandestine agent of Hydra. We spoke with writer Al Ewing about pitting his and artist Paco Medina’s cast against these two dangerous enemies, what life will be like for the U.S.Avengers during “Secret Empire,” and the member of his cast that might be marked for death.
CBR: The U.S.Avengers first major mission ended with Sunspot receiving some advice from the Captain America of the future, Danielle Cage, about finding hope by caring for other people and allowing them to care for you. We know the Marvel Universe will be in for some interesting times, and we’ll talk more about that in a bit, but what did it mean for Sunspot to get that advice from Danielle?
Al Ewing: You’re right that Roberto has no idea how tough things are about to get — he’s a master of long-term planning, but in Steve Rogers’ Hydra agent, he’s almost definitely met his match in that department, and the wheels the evil Cap has set in motion could end up crushing A.I.M. in their path. So when things get really bad for him — and for the world — a little hope and caring might just go a long way. Not to mention that helping other people, and letting other people help you, is just good policy for life in general if you can do it.
This first adventure also introduced Sunspot’s former rival, General Robert Maverick, a character you created, into the ranks of the U.S.Avengers as the new Red Hulk. What made you want to bring Maverick on to the team and make him the Red Hulk?
This is an interesting case — we knew Maverick was floating around in the background, and he already had a place on the team as a civilian advisor, but it wasn’t until we found out that there were plans for Thunderbolt Ross elsewhere that we decided to just go ahead and make General Maverick into the new Red Hulk. That bit of thinking solved a lot of problems for us; it let us have some Hulk action in #1, it allowed us to give him a semi-solo issue in #4, and it’s given us a lot more freedom to do what we want with this version. We’re going to be playing around a little with the Hulk Plug-In, for a start — that kind of tech never works out well…
“U.S.Avengers” #4 reintroduces one of Robert Maverick’s former soldiers, Todd Ziller, the American Kaiju. What can you tell us about this issue, and can you reveal if we’ll see more of Kaiju in upcoming issues?
I knew we weren’t doing a “Monsters Unleashed” tie-in, but I did want to bring back American Kaiju in some capacity, so I figured it might be fun to do the opposite of a tie-in – an entire crossover in one issue. That’s “Monsters N’ S.H.I.E.L.D.”, which has its own Alpha and Omega issue contained within the issue, and also runs through “Deadpool Into Fear” and “Hulk: King of the In-Crowd,” so make sure you have every issue of both of those incredibly long-running mags, or you’ll be completely lost.
I think the Kaiju’s got legs as a recurring baddie. I’m fleshing out his human half, Todd Ziller, a bit more – we get to see a bit of the man inside the monster. Plus, there’s an all-new bad guy who’s a descendant of a monster-maker from the ancient days of Marvel, so you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck with this special done-in-one ish!
That bang will also include an appearance by Deadpool. What’s it like bouncing Wade Wilson off your cast of characters?
Deadpool is surprisingly easy to write – it’s almost relaxing to just sit back and let the Id take control a little bit, just let the jokes flow. With this one issue, and with Deadpool, I’m getting to use a couple of the absurdist muscles I usually only get to stretch if I’m writing “Zombo,” so that’s nice. Deadpool is one of those characters that will find his own level in a story; for this, he’s pretty full-on goofy, but when I guest him in “Rocket,” I’ll likely take quite a different approach.
Let’s talk a little more about Sunspot’s new boss, Steve Rogers, who he meets in “U.S.Avengers” #5. What’s it like writing the Hydra-affiliated Steve? What do you find most interesting about him?
It’s more difficult writing Hydra Steve, because he’s both extremely ruthless and a master strategist, and he’ll say anything to make his goals happen – even to himself. So every bit of conversation coming out of him is an attack, a probe, a test, an attempt to extract information. Every page of dialogue feels like I’m choreographing a fight.
Roberto thinks he’s talking to a friend. Even if he suspected something, would he understand the depth of it? Meanwhile, in the background, we can see all Steve’s plans falling into place like dominoes. It’s a quieter issue after the fun and games of #4, but maybe a tenser, more sinister one too.
I understand issue #5 also involves a bit of a character arc for Cannonball. Can you talk a little more about what he’s feeling and the issues he’s dealing with?
Everyone in #5 is going to get some character beats that’ll set up the next arc, and Cannonball’s no exception. We don’t get to see much of his home life, usually – we know he commutes in from space, and he’s still married to Smasher, the human member of the Imperial Guard. So we get to see his home on one of the Shi’ar colony worlds, and it’s relatively idyllic; in fact, we might see Sam tempted to give up life on Earth in favor of superheroics in space. You could almost say he’s only one day away from retirement, which reminds me of something about the teaser images we ended issue #1 with, but for the life of me I can’t put my finger on what.
“U.S Avengers” #6 kicks off your “Secret Empire” tie-in. I know you like to use event tie-ins to both connect to a larger story and advance the ongoing story in your own title. So can you talk about some of the things your cast will be dealing with in this story?
Well, one member of the team could well end up dying horribly in that issue. I won’t spoil which one, but his name isn’t a million miles away from “Splam Spluthrie.” Also, Roberto’s on the cover being shot in the head, and it looks like Red Hulk’s on some kind of rampage, so it’s not a good day at the office for the team by any means. One thing we’re going to be doing is advancing a few of the ongoing plotlines, some from this book, some older – Roberto’s M-Pox sickness, Toni’s increasing reliance on weapons and giant robot suits, the General’s issues with the Hulk Plug-In, and so on. So there’ll be plenty of excitement for anyone here for “Secret Empire,” but it won’t be derailing the character work we’ve been doing.
It sounds like these next few issues will keep Paco Medina busy , not unlike the work he provided on your last collaboration, “Contest of Champions.”
There’s a treat coming up for “Contest” fans – the Contestants are back! As part of the “Secret Empire” tie-in, we get to check in on Outlaw, Guillotine and everyone’s favorite war god Ares. And I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have drawing that than Paco, who brought it all to life back on the “Contest” book.
We’ve talked about Red Hulk a lot this time out, but I do like how he treats that character, both in Hulk form and in human mode – I feel like readers who might have been a bit iffy about the General are really going to start to warm up to him when #4 comes out. But I can’t think of a character who he doesn’t do a wonderful job on.
I’ll end this in the usual way – by offering my heartfelt thanks to anyone and everyone buying the book. Some people have offered some very kind words about it, and I’m always very grateful when that happens. And if you’re
enjoying it, we’re going to try to do even better in the months to come, so I hope you stick with us.
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