Old Foes, Friends Return in Bendis' "New Avengers"

Since forming in the mid-2000s, the New Avengers have seen and dealt with many of the Marvel Universe's biggest crises, participating in the superhero Civil War, battling the Skrulls' Secret Invasion and ending Norman Osborn's Siege of Asgard. The team is currently engaged in a worldwide battle with the forces of the Malevolent fear god known as the Serpent, a struggle which is being chronicled in the event storyline, "Fear itself."

Dealing with these struggles has taught the New Avengers that while they may win numerous battles, the work they do is never-ending; the resolution of one crisis invariably means several more are waiting in the wings. This Fall, in the aftermath of "Fear Itself," the New Avengers will once again have their hands full when some of their fiercest foes step out of the shadows and launch a global campaign of terror, leading to the Earth's Mightiest Heroes adding a new member in the form of a seasoned hero. CBR News spoke with writer Brian Michael Bendis about his plans for "New Avengers," which include Daredevil joining the team and the reemergence of H.A.M.M.E.R. and Norman Osborn.

Daredevil's invitation to join the New Avengers will come about because of his actions assisting the team in September's "New Avengers" #16. The the last part of a tie-in arc to "Fear Itself," it's fitting that Daredevil, the Man Without Fear, makes his debut in this issue.

"Daredevil doesn't set out to join the New Avengers. He get's dragged into working with them," Bendis told CBR News. "He makes a big splash with the New Avengers during 'Fear itself.' He comes in and has a really great moment that gets everyone feeling like he should be part of the team."

The last time Daredevil had a major interaction with members of the "New Avengers" was during the DD-centric event "Shadowland." In that story, an enraged Matt Murdock was corrupted and eventually possessed by the demonic being worshiped by the ninja assassin cult known as the Hand. While under the influence of this being, Daredevil attacked and nearly killed Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Spider-Man and Wolverine. Considering how he last interacted with his fellow heroes an invitation to join the team is the last thing Daredevil expects when he helps out in "New Avengers" #16.

"The wounds of Shadowland are still a little raw, but the friendships between the characters are that much stronger. The truth about this group of characters, more or less, is they've all been at the receiving end of everyone else's mercy and understanding. They're all characters that built quite a thing around themselves because of the second chances they were given. Matt's not asking for a second chance or even believes he needs it, but once he's given it, he realizes how much he needed it," Bendis explained. "The fact that the invitation to join the Avengers comes after Shadowland makes it that much more emotional. It's like, 'You guys really are my friends.' I think that's what makes the invitation impossible to turn down. If it came to him during the swashbuckling days, it would have been, 'Okay I appreciate that, but...' When it comes, though, after everyone has seen him at his worst and they're still willing to be his friend? That's pretty cool."

After spending 2001-2006 as the regular writer of Matt Murdock's ongoing series, Bendis welcomed the chance to write the character again on a regular basis.

"I'm loving it! What's making me love it even more is, I told Mike Deodato we were doing this and he said, 'Cool.' I didn't realize, though, how much he wanted to draw Daredevil. As you can see from the preview art, he just went to town. When he hands in pages that look like that, I just get more and more psyched up to do it.

"I must tell you, Mike is reinventing himself almost every issue. In 'New Avengers' #15 he made Squirrel Girl look absolutely kick ass, Wolverine cool -- you know an artist is amazing when they can pull that off," Bendis continued. "A couple weeks ago, the 'Marvel art of Mike Deodato Jr.' was released. It's a wonderful hardback book that looks at Mike's work for Marvel. I read it top to bottom and I discovered a few things about him I don't think I've made use of yet and I applied them immediately to my new scripts. He's going through some sort of evolution right now and he's going to come out the other side of it an even a better illustrator."

Often times when new members join a team, it's part of a shakeup which sees several old members depart. Bendis assures us that won't be the case when "Daredevil" joins the New Avengers, though it's true that in the months ahead some team members will find their responsibilities expanding. Doctor Strange and Iron Fist will join the ranks of a new incarnation of the Defenders and Wolverine will be leading his own branch of the X-Men. Despite all these other commitments, however, the individual members of the team will still remain dedicated to the New Avengers.

"The biggest shake-ups are coming to the 'Avengers' title. There will be some surprises that we're not showing people yet," Bendis said. "In 'New Avengers,' we'll be sharing Iron Fist and Doctor Strange. Matt Fraction, the writer of the new 'Defenders' series, is one of my closest friends in comics. He's over my house quite often, so we can share these characters. I already share Wolverine, Spider-Man and the Thing.

"That's always been part of this book ever since the very first year it was created," Bendis continued. "'New Avengers' always had the characters doing something else. It lets the characters come and go with a nice fluidity which essentially created a continuity. I like it when things happen in other books, and when I can, I enjoy calling attention to those things in a way that will hopefully lead to one of our readers buying a book they might not normally buy."

"New Avengers" #16.1, also on sale in September, is designed to bring new readers up to speed while simultaneously preparing regular ones for the next big Avengers epic. Of course, Bendis is perhaps most excited by the opportunity the issue gave him to work with legendary comics artist, Neal Adams.

"What a great thing that I'll be able to say that I got work with Neal Adams once and it was a very nice experience! He could not have been more gentlemanly and cool," Bendis said. "At first I asked him, 'What do you want to draw?' and he said, 'I want to draw your best scripts.' I just thought, there are some artists where you write to their strengths, you let them draw stuff they're very comfortable drawing. And there's other artists where you go, 'You know what? I've never seen him draw Iron Fist. I don't think I've ever seen him draw Spider-Man.' So I called up my editor Tom Brevoort and asked him if Neal had ever drawn Spider-Man outside of a pin-up or things like that.

"Then I went through my cast, and I don't think he's drawn any of these characters. I think he's drawn the Thing in a couple panels here and there, but I don't think he's drawn pages of the Thing kicking ass. I was like, 'Has he drawn Wolverine?' I decided I was going to fill the page full of characters and things I don't think I've seen him draw. I thought he would love that, and he did. He went nuts," Bendis continued. "You're going to see Iron Fist drawn by Neal Adams in a way that says to you Neal Adams really wanted to draw this. There's a little Jessica Jones action in there as well, because the whole point of this is to turn the world into my personal sketch book," Bendis joked. "I'm absolutely thrilled with how it came out. Paul Mounts' colors look great and it begins our next 'season' for both of my Avengers books, which is the return of Norman Osborn, H.A.M.M.E.R. and the Dark Avengers."

Bendis' Avengers storyline picks up where Jonathan Hickman's recently concluded espionage series "Secret Warriors" came to a close. In Hickman's title, Nick Fury finally destroyed his arch-enemies,the terrorist organization known as HYDRA. Now, with HYDRA gone, H.A.M.M.E.R. is ready to step into the role of the Marvel Universe's top criminal conspiracy.

"What you're going to discover is what H.A.M.M.E.R. has evolved into in Norman's absence. H.A.M.M.E.R. will have become something that involves two or three corners of the Marvel Universe merging together to create one super-organization that there's no way Steve Rogers and his S.H.I.E.L.D. less defense system can battle," Bendis explained. "You're going to see some cool shit. You're going to see Madam Hydra, Gorgon, Norman, Superia and quite a few other characters coming together to create a H.A.M.M.E.R. that can not be defeated. Plus, they have a secret weapon that Norman didn't know about. It's revealed to him and the audience very early in both the pages of 'Avengers' and 'New Avengers.'

"Both teams of Avengers will be handling the H.A.M.M.E.R. situation from their own angles," Bendis continued. "That will be happening in both books, but they'll feature almost completely different genres of stories. The 'New Avengers' will be dealing full-on with H.A.M.M.E.R.'s Dark Avengers, and the 'Avengers' will be dealing full on with H.A.M.M.E.R. as an organization."

While it may seem that they pose a big enough threat tom monopolize any team's time, H.A.M.M.E.R. won't be the only adversaries making life miserable for the Avengers and New Avengers in the months ahead. In "New Avengers Annual" #1, on sale September 7, Bendis and his "Secret War" collaborator, artist Gabriele Dell'Otto kick off a two-part story that pits the team against Wonder Man AKA Simon Williams and his team of "Revengers:" D-Man anti-Venom, Goliath, Atlas, Devil Slayer, Captain Ultra, Century and Ethan Edwards.

"For those who wanted to know how I was going to ruin Simon Williams further, here's your answer," Bendis joked. "Last year, Simon made it very clear to the Avengers that from his outside looking in perspective, he now sees the Avengers as a mistake. He holds them responsible for quite a few sins against mankind and he's pretty much told them, 'Shut it down or I'll shut it down for you.

"Obviously they weren't going to shut it down," Bendis continued, "so he's here to shut things down for them. To help him, he's created a team of Revengers that is composed of ex-Avengers and people with ties to the team. It's going to be a beating so big, it will continue over into the pages of 'Avengers Annual' #1 in a couple months. Both issues will be drawn by Gabriele Dell'Otto."

With two very powerful enemies gunning for them, the remainder of 2011 is going to be a big time for "New Avengers," all of which sets the stage for an even bigger storyline set to run in the spring and summer of 2012. "I don't know if you heard, but there's an Avengers movie coming out," Bendis said with a laugh, "A very big movie starring very big movie stars, and Marvel has asked me to think about what I could do to capitalize on that. I have quite a few things on my plate, including some things that haven't been announced yet. Some of these things are going to be very exciting for a lot of people. We're going to break some molds. We're going to do things very differently coming up through the spring and summer. The fallout of the H.A.M.M.E.R. story is going to set up a great deal of what is coming forward; a season that I see as the Summer of the Avengers."

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