Friedrich Nietzsche’s warning that those who hunt monsters should take care not to become them is particularly resonant in the Marvel Universe, since it’s a place where literal monsters dwell. And when a warrior descends into the infernal pits of any of the hells that exist in the Marvel U, even for the noblest of causes, they are putting their very souls at risk.
The Asgardian born and Heven raised warrior known as Angela made a vow to descend into the Asgardian underworld known as Hel at the end of her “Asgard’s Assassin” series. There, she discovered both deceased friend and longtime companion Sera and the dead angels of Heven were imprisoned, thanks to an Asgardian vengeance curse enacted by her birth mother, Freyja. While the outbreak of Marvel’s “Secret Wars” delayed Angela’s quest for vengeance, readers will soon see the aftermath of Angela’s Hel-ish mission.
Returning writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Stephanie Hans are joined by artist Kim Jacinto for the story, which unfolds in the pages of “Angela: Queen of Hel.” CBR News spoke with Bennett about what Angela winning the crown of Hel means for her relationship with Sera, the nature of the infernal realm, and how it will impact the master and sub-story structure that was featured in Angela’s previous title.
CBR News: “Asgard’s Assassin” ended with the heartbreaking revelation that Sera had not actually returned from the dead. The teaser image suggests that when you pick things up eight months later, Angela has made good on her vow to rescue Sera, and then some. What can you tell us about your title character’s status quo when you open “Angela: Queen of Hel?”
Marguerite Bennett: Sera is actually going to be our narrator for this arc. Instead of being the voice of the sub-story, she’s going to be the voice for our master story. Our first page is her summarizing the events that they’ve gone through, and the second is a splash where Angela is the Queen of Hel, and you’re starting to get hints via her costume and position and everything that’s happened that Angela’s given up a lot of things in order to make good on finding the woman she loves. The saga of “Queen of Hel” is what takes off from page one to page two; those eight months of love and sacrifice and everything that has brought us to this point.
It’s very rich and weird. [Laughs] But I think people have enjoyed that kind of stuff, between “Angela: Asgard’s Assassin” and “1602.” We’re that weirdo art book, dark fantasy and pop culture riffs.
How similar and how different is Angela from who she was before when we first meet her in this series?
That’s something I want readers to analyze and pick apart themselves, but we’ve been joking that this is something between the myth of Orpheus, “The Gift of the Magi,” and some Norse Death Metal. [Laughs]
Angela is going to a very dark place in order to accomplish what she needs to. Txhere’s this terror that she’s been altered so much that Sera will no longer love her. We’re going to some pretty twisted and inventive places, but I hope it still has the same level of sincerity, love, charm and wit people have become accustomed too.
In other words, you’re going to toy with the emotions of Angela and Sera shippers like myself?
[Laughs] I will go down with this ship. There’s grief and joy and anger and forgiveness, but those are the kinds of comics I like to read, so those are the kinds of comics I like to write. I like things to be beautiful, brutal and creative. I feel like that was the tone that Kieron [Gillen] set, and that’s the tone that I’m very happy to continue with.
Also, I want to add that Stephanie Hans also is still going to be very much involved with this. It’s not just going to be Kim and me for an entire issue. We’re still going to be doing these dual narratives between memory and story. They really compliment each other so beautifully.
Has being trapped in Hel all these years altered Sera at all?
Yes, it has, but I think in a lot of ways Sera is more resilient than Angela, because Angela has been so brittle in accordance to her code and ideology about the nature of price and debt. Sera is more versatile, more clever, more capable. She grew up in this culture of dogma and she went and ditched it, while Angela embraced it until she became its supreme conclusion. [Laughs] Essentially, Sera did not drink the Kool-Aid. Sera has always been independent. She’s always thought for herself. That’s given her resources to adapt, change and survive whatever tortures Hel might have in store for her.
I assume when I say these things that trope imagery might come to mind for some people when they’re guessing what the story might be like — you’re not going to see torture or anything like that. No fire, no rack — I don’t want to read or write that kind of story at all. Hel is memory and emotion in this story — but for those prepared for it, it doesn’t have to be a place of punishment. Sera is very, very clever, and she has a depth of understanding of the world and of her own self and soul that allows her to meet these trials with grace and ferocity. What we wanted to do was come up with something emotionally sincere that delivers something you might not be expecting.
What’s the status of Hel when you pick things up? Has Angela officially deposed Hela?
Yes, I will spoil that. By page two, we see she has dethroned Hela and seized this entire realm for her own. She’s the new ruler of the dead. That comes with a lot of major changes, but she’s got Sera as her right hand and royal consort. It’s scary, but we’re going to some weird and fun places in Hel.
Can you comment at all on what Angela’s rulership means for some of the other characters associated with Hel, like the Disir, Leah, or Tyr? Will there be beings opposed to Angela’s rule?
I unfortunately have to play those things close to the vest, but you are going to see some beloved faces. I promise not to hurt them too badly. [Laughs] I will say that the Disir are so fun that I feel like it would be criminal not to include them — and a character I’ve been dying to feature arrives in Issue #2.
What about the tone of “Queen of Hel?” Angela’s first book was very much an action title, but does her new kingdom mean this series will feature some “Game of Thrones”-style intrigue?
Honestly it will be less political and more psychological. In going through Hel, I didn’t want it to just be torture racks and pain. I wanted to deal with the nature of memory and the nature of self awareness; having to confront things about yourself that you want to believe are true or are false, and being made to suffer this knowledge of yourself. We’re going to go back and forth in Sera and Angela’s stories, and you’re going to see parts of their younger days, together and apart. You’re going to see parts with them traveling together before Sera’s original death.
â€¨It very much plays with structure as far as the nature of time and memory and truth as pain or as Hel itself.
Hel reacts to its ruler’s whim. Hela had certain goals, but now that’s she’s no longer the ruler, the strict structure of Hel shifts. It’s really beautiful. This is a little bit of spoiler, but Kim has done this gorgeous, Norse-style knot work for the way the entire realm is patterned. It moves and shifts almost like clockwork. It’s really beautiful.
You talked about what you’re doing with Kim on the master stories in “Angela: Queen of Hel.” What can you tell us about your collaboration with Stephanie Hans on the sub-stories?
The number of pages Stephanie has per issue will change. It’s no longer going to be based on a five-page model. In some issues, she’ll be drawing 10 pages, and in others she’ll be drawing two. The sub-stories are about that nature of memory and dreams influencing life and the way it ebbs and flows, the trials of Hel being the trials of your own heart and mind, and that losing them means losing a part of yourself.
How big an impact will what you, Stephanie and Kim are doing have on the larger story Jason Aaron is telling about the 10 Realms of Asgard in “Thor?
There will be wide ranging and definite consequences to Angela’s actions. [Laughs] We’re still working things out right now, but Angela has just conducted a coup, so there’s going to be repercussions for all the Asgardians. What will become of their dead if she takes control of them?
Could those repercussions ripple out across the Marvel Universe? I know in the past other infernal beings like Mephisto have been interested in and played parts in the shape and politics of Hel.
Yes, and now Angela is ruler of the dead after sending a number of people to this place. She’s going to have to confront people that she’s executed over time.
It sounds like you want this series to be a new reader-friendly chapter in Angela’s life even though it really flows organically from what’s come before.
Yes — the beginning of this series is also the third arc for Angela, and that’s something I want to be very attentive to, because “Secret Wars” was so tied to continuity in a lot of ways. We’ve had two #1 issues before this new series, but I want to bring in new readers. That’s something I’m trying very hard to do with this. We’re not throwing anything overboard for the sake of simplifying things, though. I would still describe this series as a dark fantasy/romance.
I had so much fun writing the first issue of this new series because I finally got to do so many things I’ve been wanting to do since the first issue of “Asgard’s Assassin.” [Laughs] I’m very conscious of the debt I owe Kieron and our original team, and I’m very conscious of how much I miss him on this book. I want to say that loud and clear and make him feel bad when he reads this. [Laughs]
Plus, I’m so grateful for how supportive our fans and Marvel has been for a book this peculiar. I can’t thank our readers enough.
When “Angela: Queen of Hel” begins in October, you’ll have penned almost a year’s worth of stories with the title characters, and you’re launching a new volume of her adventures as a solo writer. How do both of those things feel?
Oh, goodness — I’m so proud of this character, and I’ve been so in love with Team Angela. There has not been a single person that’s worked on this book, from Kieron to Stephanie and Phil [Jimenez] and all our guest artists, like Marguerite Sauvage all the way to Clayton [Cowles] and Le Beau [Underwood] and Romulo [Fajardo], and always Wil [Moss] and Jon [Moisan]. Everyone who has been involved with this book has just been my favorite person.
We’ve got some shake ups coming with our team. Pencils from Kim have started to come in, and they’re so lovely. They definitely soothe my “I miss my friends” angst. I’m so excited for people to see Kim’s take on this world and the crazy places that we’re going. We’ve got our first three arcs lined up actually, and with each one I have to ask, “Oh, man — are we going too far with this?” [Laughs]
There’s a tremendous sense of responsibility and the fans have just been so remarkable and so supportive of a character whose entrance into the Marvel Universe was rather peculiar to some readers. So there are a lot of emotions involved, and I’m praying I do them all justice.
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