The Avengers exist to protect the Marvel Universe from impossible threats. When multiple threats arise simultaneously across the globe, the Avengers must split their forces to figure out a way to save the day. That exist situation has come to pass in the massive "Trouble Map" storyline in writer Nick Spencer and artist Marco Checchetto's "Avengers World" ongoing series, in which Earth's Mightiest Heroes and their international allies are tangling with three very different threats in three different corners of the world: the mystical forces of Morgan le Fay in Europe; Gorgon and the Hand, who are using a giant dragon to ravage the city of Shanghai; and the forces of A.I.M., who are attacking North America.
The series' current "Uprising" arc finds the Avengers and their allies locked in desperate final battles to end these various threats before they destroy parts of the world and imperil the planet as a whole. CBR News spoke with Spencer about the arc, the international allies he's assembled to help the Avengers, and the upcoming "AXIS" tie-in arc that stars a new team of lesser known Avengers assembled by Doctor Doom!
CBR News: Nick, one of the things "Avengers World" allows you to do is spotlight individual Avengers who might not always get a major focus. These last few issues have shown how much fun you're been having with another element of the book, adding toys to the larger Marvel Universe toy box in the form of new characters and concepts. Let's talk about some of those starting with China's super team, the Ascendants, and the European super team Euroforce. What inspired the creation of these two teams?
Nick Spencer: That's something that I've always been passionate about; the idea of traveling the map and showing different parts of Marvel Earth. I always enjoyed seeing international characters and teams in Marvel books, but with the exception of the UK and a few other parts they've been few and far between, especially in this day and age with Marvel being what it is and events being what they are.
You look at the box office of Marvel Studios films and you see that these are characters that are resonating on all parts of the map. So I thought, what could be better than giving some of those countries heroes of their own that they could connect with and respond to.
These teams feature a number of new characters created by you, but they also have some established Marvel characters as well. The Ascendants have the Monkey King and Euroforce has the Black Knight.
I wrote the first Monkey King stories back in "Iron Man 2.0." He's a character that I really fell in love with and had a blast writing. So when we began developing a Chinese super team he was one of the first names that popped into my head.
â€¨When you're introducing characters like that and letting them out into the world you hope they'll pop up elsewhere, but that's something you can't control. So I just put the camera in front of him and his teammates and hopefully they'll catch on with other readers and writers.
Then the Black Knight [AKA Dane Whitman] has always been one of my top five favorite Avengers. I was part of the generation where Dane was a core part of the team. So it was fun to bring him back into an Avengers story.
You also introduced a new espionage agency in the form of the Chinese organization S.P.E.A.R. How similar and how different are S.P.E.A.R. and S.H.I.E.L.D.?
This is an idea that I had the very first time I read Jonathan Hickman's "S.H.I.E.L.D." miniseries. Very early on he established the concept there, and in "Secret Warriors," of "The Shield in the West and the Spear in the East." As soon as I saw that I thought of a Chinese S.H.I.E.L.D and that's carried over into the now.
So it's one of those ideas that I've been dying to get out there. I almost put it in my run on "Secret Avengers," but it just wasn't critical to the rest of the story at that point. So this was a good time to go ahead and introduce them to the world.
S.P.E.A.R.'s director, Xian Zheng, reminds me a bit of the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Nick Fury, especially in the issue where we saw how he and his organization assemble the Ascendants. Was that your intention with the character?
Yeah, I don't believe I'm allowed to say who I wanted to "cast" in that role, but there's somebody I had specifically in mind that would be the perfect analog to the Sam Jackson iteration of Nick Fury. So it was definitely inspired by a real world person and he's a fun character. I hope I get to write him a bit more.
If I were to cast him I would say Chow Yun-Fat.
You said it, not me! [Laughs]
Let's move to another element you seem to be having a lot of fun with in "Avengers World," genres. It feels like the three different "Trouble Map" locations have allowed you to tell one big story made up of three very different stories.
Yeah, I wanted them to all have their own feel, tone and vibe. I think we were pretty successful in that regard. It gave us a chance to do an interconnected story, but one that had a lot of different flavors to it.
One of the interesting things was it seemed like with the audience milage varied in terms of which part they were most excited about. You had people that were really fired up when you got to the A.I.M. stuff and then you had people who were really excited when they got to Madripoor. So it was cool to be able to spread things out and do many different things in the same book.
The thing that really blew my mind is you setting up a confrontation between a giant Shang-Chi and a dragon!
[Laughs] Right! It's just one of those comic book moments where you say, "Okay, I dropped a giant dragon on Shanghai and I have to figure out how the good guys can win here." And earlier the Shang-Chi story ended on very much a down note for him and with defeat. So I thought, "How can we possibly even up the odds here? How can he possibly be credible in a rematch?" Then pretty late in the day I cam up with what I think is a pretty fun setup, which is, yes, through the magic of Pym particles Shang-Chi now has giant, deadly hands of Kung Fu. So he's going to go toe-to-toe with the dragon.
In terms of genre it feels like the Madripoor story with Shang-Chi and the other Avengers has been inspired by Asian cinema, the City of the Dead story has been fantasy-horror, and the A.I.M. story has been science fiction. Is that correct?
Yes, that's exactly right. It's really liberating and nice to be able to do all of those things in the same book. You just never really get tired of it. Some times when a book is kind of stuck in one place after awhile you find yourself hoping for a change of pace. That wasn't the case here.
The battle between Shang-Chi and the dragon is the climax to the Madripoor story. What can you share about how the other "Trouble Map" stories conclude?
You've gotten some hints on where the City of the Dead stuff is going, but thankfully I haven't seen too many people piece together how we're going to end that story. So I don't want to say too much. Then with A.I.M. they were dealt a big blow when the Next Avengers kids managed to stop them going open source with all their technology. So they're kind of already in a bit of disarray, and now it's going to be up to the Avengers to come and seal the deal there.
Does this confrontation with A.I.M. and its Supreme Scientist, Andrew Forson, mean you're coming to the end of the big A.I.M. epic you began telling back in your "Secret Avengers" run?
Yeah, issue #14 is the end of this story. A lot of "Trouble Map" stuff was in my initial plans for my "Secret Avengers" run. Then when the opportunity to do "Avengers World" came up there was a lot that was easily repurposed and refocused. One of the things we wanted to do with this book was give it a global look and feel and I had already mapped out these ideas. So it was an obvious and easy marriage and this very much is a continuation and conclusion.
I think if you did read my "Secret Avengers" run it's been an especially rewarding story particularly with the A.I.M. stuff. If you go back all the way to "Secret Avengers" #2 we showed the Gorgon, and the City of the Dead. We hinted that those things were to come. So hopefully people can sit down and read everything together and it will give them a nice pay off.
We know from reading "Avengers" #35 that the conclusion of the "Trouble Map" story doesn't mark the end of A.I.M. Their story goes in a completely new direction thanks to Sunspot's purchase of them. Might we see that or some of the other details writer Jonathan Hickman hints at in the current time jump issues of "Avengers" and "New Avengers" in "Avengers World" in the months to come?
I'm certainly excited to see A.I.M.'s story carry over there and obviously Jonathan and I have talked a lot about this iteration of A.I.M. and what to do with it. This story though obviously happened in a very compressed time frame. It took us 14 issues to tell it. So we're a little behind that stuff and right now we're handling the stuff prior to that and I think the timelines will make a little more sense when it's all said and done.
Marco Checchetto has become the regular penciller of "Avengers World" and he'll return to help you close out the "Trouble Map" story. You've given Marco a lot of different things to draw over the course of this tale.
Marco is a superstar. The guy is incredible and only getting better. His stuff in issue #12 and especially in #14 is next level stuff. I think he's officially a headliner. He's somebody who I think is going to be very, very big and his work here is just jaw dropping. It is a beautiful, beautiful book to look at.
The two of you will kick off the next major story of "Avengers World," "The Availables" with issue #14. Let's conclude by talking a bit about that arc, which is an "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" tie-in. What made you want to tie into that event?
"AXIS" is going to be a really fun event. I'm really excited to see what Rick [Remender] has planned there, and it's a fantastic concept. So I was eager to have some fun with it.
I'm going to be joined on those issues by Frank Barbiere. He's going to be co-writing them with me, and I think we've got a really fun story that plays with a lot of characters that we've seen infrequently over the last few years. It's a good chance to do one of those kind of C-list Avengers stories, which were pretty common for me growing up and you don't quite see as much of anymore.
â€¨So it's always fun to get to come up with a new team and play that game where you're putting together your roster. I've got a big soft spot for Stingray. So I'm fired up about him getting some page time. We'll also see U.S. Agent, Valkyrie, Elsa Bloodstone and 3-D Man. It's a great crew. So it's going to be fun to see them rise to the challenge.
Leading the team you and Frank have assembled is Doctor Doom!
Yes, these are Doom's Avengers.
What's it like writing Doom? Have you written him before?
I have. We almost did a teen Doom miniseries with Becky Cloonan. So I've written a couple scripts worth of a young Doom. He's a character I have some experience with even though people didn't get to read those issues, and he also had a cameo appearance in "Superior Foes of Spider-Man."
He's such a fantastic character because you can go terrifying with him or you can go ridiculous with him. I like that versatility.
"Avengers World" #14 goes on sale October 15 from Marvel.