Sumerak's "God Squad" Opens the Gates of Hell

During Marvel Comics' "Secret Invasion," the alien Skrull Empire attempted to invade and conquer the planet Earth. It was an assault that occurred simultaneously on the physical and metaphysical levels because when the Skrulls enslave a planet, they also enslave whatever deities are worshiped there. So while Earth's heroes were fighting back against the Skrulls, a special "God Squad" of divine beings penetrated the reality of the Skrull gods and destroyed them.

The God Squad was successful in their mission, but the events of that battle will come back to haunt them in the form of the member of the team, Amatsu-Mikaboshi, who was left behind after the war. There, he found an army of gods that the Skrull deities had enslaved and quickly took control of them. Since then, he has quietly grown stronger, consolidating his power by attacking and enslaving other pantheons across the Marvel Universe.

This fall, Mikaboshi, now called the Chaos King, arrives back on Earth and prepares to destroy all of reality. Standing in his way are Earth's heroes and an all new incarnation of the "God Squad" composed of Hercules, Thor, Sersi of the Eternals, Venus of the Agents of Atlas, Daimon Hellstrom, Galactus and his herald, the Silver Surfer. The God Squad takes center stage in the "Chaos War" miniseries by writers Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak and artist Khoi Pham, but come November, writer Marc Sumerak and artist Dan Panosian swill end several members of the team on a dangerous but vital mission in the "Chaos War: God Squad" one-shot. CBR News spoke with Sumerak and his editor Mark Paniccia about the project.

CBR News: Marc, As a writer you're mainly known for your work on Marvel's all ages titles like "Power Pack," "Franklin Richards" and the "Marvel Adventures" books. With "Chaos War: God Squad," you're telling a story set firmly in the mainstream Marvel U. How does that feel? Is it more difficult than crafting an all ages story, or are both equally difficult in different ways?

Marc Sumerak: It's always an honor to get to write any of Marvel's characters, whether they are inthe mainstream Marvel Universe or any of its many variations such as "Marvel Adventures" or "What If?" Whenever I approach an established character, I simply try to write them as if they were the "real deal." After all, no matter what costume he's wearing or what universe he's living in, at his core, Spidey is still Spidey. For me, it's all about finding what's at the heart of each character and bringing it to life within the set parameters of that story or series.

Where this one-shot really differs from my all-ages work is in terms of tone and content. None of my "Franklin" or "Power Pack" stories ever had the kids heading to the gates of Hell to prevent the end of all reality! The "Chaos War" is no light-hearted super hero slugfest! This is the brink of oblivion! The end of all that is! The stakes are very real and very dire - and the tone of the issue reflects that appropriately. That doesn't necessarily make it more difficult for me to write, it just flexes a different muscle - one I'm really excited to use as a part of this epic crossover!

With "Chaos War: God Squad," it sounds as though you've got a great cast of characters to play with and explore. Who is on your team and what do you find most interesting about these characters?

My story focuses on the newest recruits to join the God Squad: Sersi, the Silver Surfer, Venus and our newly-announced addition, Daimon Hellstrom! I couldn't be more excited about this updated roster that Herc and his teenage pal the Prince of Power, Amadeus Cho (and Fred and Greg) put together! It may be their first time on the same team, but these are no rookies. This is a line-up of heavy hitters, and they're gonna have plenty of hitting to do!

What makes these characters really stand apart from Herc, Thor and the other deities fighting the Chaos War is that these four aren't technically gods. Sure, they're darn close. Sersi is an Eternal. Silver Surfer is a Herald of Galactus. Venus is a mythological creature. Hellstrom is the Son of Satan. But when you boil it down, they all walk the line between God and Man. It's something that makes them unique in this particular scenario, and something that may give them an unexpected advantage. Plus, their hint of humanity gives them a wholly different perspective, which is a lot of fun to explore as a writer.

How would you describe the dynamic between the titular team in this one-shot? From what I understand, this story takes place around "Chaos War" #3. Has the new God Squad had time to bond and come together by the time this story starts?

By the time we get to my one-shot, the God Squad has already found itself facing unfathomable odds and some wholly unexpected enemies. Trust me, even I was shocked by who shows up to the fight! The new Squaddies had to hit the ground running when they were called into the conflict and have barely had time to breathe since, a situation that has forced them to become quick allies. Even though they may have joined the battle for different reasons, they have managed to come together for a common goal.

That doesn't mean there won't be some friction between them, though. Even though they all seek the same ultimate outcome, they will have different ideas on how to get there. While some may be ready to sacrifice everything to prevent the spreading chaos, others may not be quite so eager.

This one-shot follows the God Squad as they journey to the home of the Kami - the Japanese Gods - with a promising plan to stop the Chaos King once and for all. Before he became the Chaos King, Mikaboshi was once held prisoner in Yomi, the Japanese underworld. The new God Squad has reason to believe that they can trap Mikaboshi there again with the help of the Kami - and this time, they'll be sure to throw away the key!

Thematically, this one-shot really explores the vast difference between death and oblivion and what that means to our heroes. In the Marvel Universe, there is definitively an afterlife. We've seen characters go there and we've even seen them come back more than a few times. But if the Chaos King has his way, there will be nothing at all. No life. No death. No afterlife. Just eternal emptiness. That's a possibility that all of our heroes, divine and mortal, are trying to prevent from happening.

In the past, life and death have never really been a permanent issue for Marvel's godly characters. Those that aren't immortal seem to be caught in an endless cycle of death and rebirth, such as Ragnarok. Now, for the first time, all of these Gods are realizing that the cycle is about to be broken. If the Chaos King succeeds, they may not ever return from the icy grip of the abyss. While most of them will fight with all of their power to prevent that, there are those who may see the finality of it all as a welcome change.

Hercules and Thor may not be playing starring roles in this story, but even without them, the God Squad is a pretty powerful team. What types of obstacles and adversaries are you pitting them against?

The Chaos War itself is an absolutely epic scale conflict, so I had to make sure that this story lived up to the threat level presented in the core series. In this issue, the God Squad will have plenty of powerful foes in their path. They'll be facing an army of enslaved Gods, a horde of ancient beasts from the bowels of Yomi and even a few of their own personal demons.

Who are some of the other important supporting players in "Chaos War: God Squad?"

While the main focus will be on the God Squad, we'll also have an important appearance by the Kami, the pantheon of the Far East. They will help our heroes gain access to Yomi and will serve as a crucial piece in the God Squad's battle against the Chaos King.

We'll also have a few very special guest stars from Marvel's roster of deities and mythological monsters - but whether they'll arrive as friends or foes has yet to be seen. Oh, and a certain "devourer" linked to one of our Squad members will be showing up as well - but not necessarily the one you're thinking of.

How important is setting in "Chaos War: God Squad?"

The setting of this story is actually one of the most important elements. Only one place in all of existence has ever managed to hold Mikaboshi captive - the gates of Yomi. Our heroes have to make a long journey through a number of decimated pantheons to reach those gates - and when they find what is waiting for them when they arrive, they may wish that they had taken a vacation with the Polynesian Gods instead!

Your collaborator and artist on the book is Dan Panosian - what has he been bringing to the creative process?

Dan is one of those artists that you dream about working with on a project like this. He handles larger-than-life action moments with such dramatic flair, yet he also has a real handle on the unique personalities of the characters he draws and the emotional weight that they each bring into the struggle. I really couldn't have asked for a better partner to bring this story to life!

What can you tell us about the tone of this one-shot? It sounds like a story that involves elements of action, epic fantasy and even some horror.

This one has it all! While there's definitely plenty of epic action throughout, the unique individual backgrounds of our lead characters allows us to spin off in a bunch of other cool directions. Venus brings in some mythological fantasy. Surfer and Sersi both provide a taste of the cosmic. Hellstrom is always glad to bring the horror to the forefront, especially when he's being attacked by an endless army of hellspawn! Oh, plus there's even a bit of romance! What do you expect when the pseudo-Goddess of Love is on your team?

The "Chaos War" is shaping up to be one of the most legendary battles in the history of the Marvel Universe! I'm completely in awe of what Greg and Fred have put together and am thrilled to be coming along for the ride. This particular one-shot gives readers the perfect chance to take a closer look at some of the most important players on the field of battle as they make a desperate play to end the War once and for all. It's a story full of triumph and sacrifice, but if that isn't your thing, it's also a story of giant Japanese monsters and flaming pitchforks! Either way, you're in for a Hell of a time!

And now a quick word from editor Mark Paniccia:

One of the things that's got me most excited about this issue is the sheer, awesome imagination that Marc and Dan are unleashing upon the readers. We'll see some pretty far out corners of the Marvel Universe as battlefields to possibly the biggest war comics has experienced. As Marc mentioned, the stakes couldn't be higher. This story has a great cast that both creators excel with on a story telling level. I would love to see more of this team by Marc and Dan - if the God Squad survives what they put them through!

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