It's true that "what you don't know can kill you," but the heroes of Marvel Comics' "Secret Avengers" series are working hard to change that. That's because the team is a proactive super hero strike force tasked with taking down threats before they become public knowledge. A new era for the team began recently when writer Rick Remender and artist Gabriel Hardman took over the book. The creators ushered in that era with new members like Hawkeye, Captain Britain, Venom, and the original android Human Torch, Jim Hammond. They also pitted the team against a dangerous new enemy.
That enemy is the villainous despot known as Father and his army of sentient automatons, the Descendants. The Secret Avengers' initial clash with the Descendants comes to a close in #25, on sale April 11th, and Remender kicks off an "Avengers Vs. X-Men" tie-in arc this May that sends the team into space and pits them against an even bigger threat, the destructive cosmic entity known as the Phoenix. CBR News spoke with Remender about both stories and more.
Remender and Hardman breed mistrust in their newly formed "Secret Avengers" roster
In "Secret Avengers" #22 Hawkeye and Captain Britain were welcomed into the ranks of the team. Captain Britain mistakenly believed he was being asked to be the group's leader. Hawkeye, the team's actual leader, made sure to rub Captain Britain's mistake in his face which created a dynamic of dislike and distrust between them.
"Captain Britain thinks that he's been invited to lead, which would make more sense in terms of power levels, but in terms of personality it might just be a boys' club thing. Hawkeye's been an Avenger longer," Remender told CBR News. "We've all been in that sort of situation where somebody's been promoted above us and we feel like, 'Why not me?' I like that we were able to give Captain Britain that very human, but sort of baser moment. It puts him in a vulnerable situation having been embarrassed in front of the group in his first outing. That's something he's going to have to deal with, but I've got a big arc in mind for him."
The other members of the Secret Avengers are not happy with the way Hawkeye has acted towards Captain Britain or his attitude in general since taking command of the team. In "Secret Avengers" #23, on sale now, Beast expresses his displeasure to Hawkeye directly.
"I think there's been a real distaste for what's going on with Hawkeye and Captain Britain, especially among Black Widow and Valkyrie who are there to do work and not watch two guys jockeying for the alpha male position. It definitely leads to confusion and chaos in their first outing and continues to in the big adventure that runs through issues #23-25," Remender explained. "I don't like it when these teams come together and they start off working really well. That's something that takes time. I like the chaos and I like that they would break into factions of who they're comfortable with. Things would be tense and the new guys like Jim Hammond, Venom, and Captain Britain don't really have much history together. So it's everybody trying to get to know one another and hopefully overcome their differences to walk out of this alive. Unfortunately not all of them will."
Remender is referring to the final page of #23, which suggested the current Ant-Man, Eric O'Grady, had been murdered by a member of the secret society of robotic life forms known as the Descendants. In "Secret Avengers #24, on sale now, readers will learn if O'Grady is indeed dead.
"We will lose a member and we might even lose two. I'm not known for ending stories on a high note," Remender said with a laugh. "It's a safe bet that I'm going to mess these guys up pretty badly as I'm wont to do. I just come from that Indiana Jones school where you see how far down you can take your heroes and then how they find their way back up again."
O'Grady's apparent murderer was a being known as the Urn who belongs to a sub group of Descendants known as the Adaptoids, who are evolved versions of the old Avengers foe, the Super Adaptoid. In "Secret Avengers" #22 and #23 readers saw that the Urn and his fellow Adaptoids -- The Ideal, The Origin, and The Swine -- each have their own distinct set of super abilities.
"I wanted each one of these characters to have very different versions of the Adaptoid's power. I just didn't want it to be, 'I can do what you can do.' If the Urn grabs you he actually steals part of your knowledge and in doing so steals .04 of your being. So in the Urn's head are small residuals of every person's power he's ever absorbed, which means he's kind of crazy. He's got all these different voices in his head buzzing all the time, but he's also stored dozens and dozens of powers. That's why he's called the Urn. We've seen him fly, use eye blasts, and now he's got Hawkeye's skill with a bow," Remender said. "The Origin has these sacs on her back and when she comes into contact with a hero she basically gives birth to these diminutive Adaptoids who take the form of everyone they're fighting. I thought it was a very cool visual. All of the sudden you're fighting six tiny versions of your friends with their powers.
"There's also the Swine who can adapt to what you can do and do it way better, and The Ideal who can adapt and summon up a hero's antithesis," Remender continued. "So I just wanted to make sure they all had very different powers that made them unique."
At the end of "Secret Avengers" #22 Remender introduced the Adaptoid's masters, the Descendants high council. "The High Council of the Descendants is made up of an Emperor Doombot; an Ultra Vision Commander; Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers; Max Fury representing the Life Model Decoys; Wasp representing the Deathlok Legion I introduced in 'Uncanny X-Force;' and the head of the High Council, Father," Remender said.
Father made his debut in that same "Uncanny X-Force" arc that introduced the Deathlok Legion, but at at the end of that arc he was decapitated by Deadpool. As the current story in "Secret Avengers" progresses readers will discover how Father survived Deadpool's attack and what his ultimate motivations are. One character who will remain a bit more mysterious is the sentient Nick Fury Life Model Decoy and long time Secret Avengers foe, Max Fury.
"I like the idea that if you're a villainous Life Model Decoy of Nick Fury why wouldn't you be engaging in espionage with a number of different villain groups? You'd be manipulating them all to achieve your own mysterious ends," Remender remarked. "We'll see Max play a pretty big role in this series because he obviously had a hand in forming the new Masters of Evil and forming their own nation, which we saw in issue #21.1 He's obviously with the Descendants down in their city in the Earth's core, and he's obviously one of the top operatives of the Secret Avengers first foes, the Shadow Council. I've got a plan on how that all comes together, which will hopefully taste like a delicious souffle of spy-fi craziness."
Much of the action in "Secret Avengers" #23 unfolded in the Descendants' home, a sprawling metropolis located in the iron core at the center of the Earth. "It's a new setting like Tabula Rasa, which I set up in 'X-Force,' and is now being used in all kinds of different books. I like to create new characters, ideas, and locations. If people pick them up that's great. If they don't it was still fun to create," Remender explained. "It's one thing to take what other people did and revive it, which I've done so much of. I like to flex my creator-owned muscles a little bit too, though, and add to the Marvel Universe along the way. So Father, the Core, and the Descendants were all born out of something I started in 'Uncanny X-Force.' They fit really well here and they're a big part of why Jim Hammond is now a part of the team. It's a rich tapestry that we're weaving and Gabriel Hardman did a mind-blowing job designing the Core. It's sexy, sexy business."
Remender's second arc of "Secret Avengers," an "Avengers Vs. X-Men" tie-in , sends the team off to another exotic locale, outer space, where they must confront the awesome might of the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix. "The 'AvX' tie-n story that I'm doing with amazing artist Renato Guedes spins directly out of developments in the first issue of that miniseries," Remender said. "In that issue, special teams are put together for some very specific reasons. So we'll have some of our regular cast members in the form of Captain Britain, War Machine, Beast, and Valkyrie. Then also on the mission we've got Thor, Vision, the Protector, and Ms. Marvel. It's a big team, but they've got a big job. They're the people that have been asked to stop the Phoenix! So they're going to take quite the terrible ass beating as you can imagine," Remender said with a laugh.
An "AvX" tie-in won't derail Remender's long term plans for "Secret Avengers." "My first arc is four issues and then we take a side trip into space for our 'AvX' tie-in, but I'm going to use it in the same way I used our 'Spider-Island' tie-in over in 'Venom,'" Remender said. "Venom was dealing with the death of his father, and I tied it into 'Spider-Island' using the change in NY as the backdrop for the conflict. His dad was still dying in a hospital bed across town and him being part of the crossover didn't derail the story. So expect some developments in ['Secret Avengers'] #26-28 as we focus on Mar-Vell and Captain Britain."
The outer space back drop of the "AvX" tie-in also afforded Remender the opportunity to do something he's been wanting to do for awhile, bring back the deceased Kree hero, Mar-Vell, the first Marvel Universe character to adopt the identity of Captain Marvel. "To prepare for this I reread 'The Death of Captain Marvel' three times and I've gone back and read a bunch of book's from his original series," Remender explained. "I wanted to make sure that I got it right and that this felt like Jim Starlin's voice for the character.
"I came up with something when talking with [editor] Tom Brevoort that really gave me big, ideas for Mar-Vell. So what happens here is a fun story that I don't want to spoil by giving too much away. It was a great opportunity and an organic way to bring him back,"Remender continued. "He's got a natural part in the story that was an idea born out of the story I was writing dealing with the Kree on Hala and some of the shenanigans that they're up to. They're trying to draw the Phoenix to their home world for various reasons."
Remender's story will emphasize the iconic and cosmic elements of Captain Marvel's character and past. "He's got a rich history with all the cosmic stuff. He was this very noble character, a lot like the Silver Surfer in that way. He came to Earth to scout it out for a Kree invasion and ended up falling in love with the people and the planet. He had an arc, he learned, he grew into a hero," Remender remarked. "Then there was just this crazy cosmic sci-fi arc that he was on. He was trapped in the Negative Zone for a time and would have to clang together his Nega Bands to trade places with Rick Jones. I love that free flowing imagination that was going on with Starlin and those guys back then. I like the character and the insanity of his missions. Plus, I love that he's Thanos' real arch nemesis. Everyone hates Thanos, but Mar-Vell is definitely his arch-enemy."
In "Secret Avengers" #29 the team returns from space and moves from dealing with the honorable legacy of Captain Marvel to the treachery of their many foes.
"We're still keeping the spy thing going. When we come back the word of the day is paranoia as they realize someone in their midst is a spy, but they don't know who," Remender explained. "Plus we pick right back up with more of the Masters of Evil, the Descendants, and Max Fury. So there's a lot of fun stuff coming up."