THE INFINITE WAR REPORT: Ewing Explores "Mighty Avengers"

The fantastic happens on an almost a daily basis in theMarvel Universe, which makes it difficult to imagine it having a "day unlike any other." Those days do happen however, and when they do the citizens of the Marvel U look back upon them fondly even though they usually begin with something frightening and destructive happening. It's the end of those days that make them special -- by the time they're over a heroic legacy has been continued and several individual heroes have banded together to form a new incarnation of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers.
That type of day is currently unfolding in writer Al Ewing and artist Greg Land's new ongoing "Mighty Avengers" series. The series' inaugural issue kicked off a tie-in to Marvel's "Infinity" event and saw Luke Cage and several other heroes band together to form their own version of the Avengers to protect New York City from the marauding armies of the intergalactic mass murderer known as Thanos. It also introduced one of the book's major mysteries. In today's installment of THE INFINITE WAR REPORT, we'll examine that mystery and several other events as Ewing joins CBR for a discussion about "Mighty Avengers."

CBR News: So Al, the end of Mighty Avengers #1 sets up Proxima Midnight to be the first major villain the Mighty Avengers to face. I know from talking with editor Tom Brevoort and "Infinity" writer Jonathan Hickman that she and her fellow Black Order members were designed to be formidable enough to take on entire super teams by themselves, but what else made you want to pit her against your new team? Why did you choose Midnight instead of the Ebony Maw or one of the other members of the Black Order?

Al Ewing: Honestly, I just looked through the list and picked the one that wouldgive the Mighty Avengers the best fight. I figured her light-spear would go nicely against Monica, for a start. Later, I found out that Proxima Midnight was going to be in Atlantis and Ebony Maw was taking New York, but I thought it would be a good idea to have the Mighty Avengers go up against them both -- make it a real baptism of fire. So the first three issues of "MA" take place in a very short time window, the first twenty minutes of the Thanos Invasion. But in that window we cram in some very big stuff.

The Ebony Maw did not confront the Mighty Avengers in issue #1, but there was a scene with him bending Doctor Strange to his will. Was that scene primarily to add to the flavor and themes of the story? Or do you have plans to come back to the Maw and or Strange in this arc or even upcoming ones?

Well, the Maw becomes increasingly important. To get back to the 'baptism of fire' -- it occurred to me at some point during the process that for this to stick as an opening arc, the MAs needed a convincing victory. As in, they needed to put someone away rather than simply beat them back to a different part of the crossover. So I had the idea to use the Ebony Maw to open the door to a threat that's worse than Thanos -- we hear a lot of big talk from the bad guys about murdering the entire Earth, but the villain introduced in "Mighty Avengers" #2 might actually be able to do it. Readers will have to pick up the comic to find out who that is and how the team deals with it.

It wasn't just powerful villains like Thanos and the Black Order that had a presence in "Mighty Avengers" #1. We also saw some low level guys like the Plunderer and a revived Blue Streak. Will we continue to see more of these small time villains with big dreams and career super criminals in "Mighty Avengers?" As a writer, how interesting do you find those types of villains?

Oh, I love small time villains. I like to empathize with my bad guys, and the larger-scale they are the harder that is to do. Plunderer, for example, is just a guy who really, really, really loves his job. He loves the performance of it, the camp factor, he loves having henchmen and volcano bases and what-have-you, and most of all he loves plundering stuff. Plunderer's the feeling you get when you do your job really well. As for Blue Streak -- anyone who has done anything insane and brilliant in a video game empathizes with that guy. His whole life is an endless string of those moments, at least until the game beats him, because that's what always happens in the end. No streak lasts forever.

So yeah, basically every time I try to write a villain I try and find that thing in them that makes them relatable and fascinating and sympathetic. While it might be fun laughing at a 'loser' for a minute or so, at the end of the day we're all losers and it's more satisfying to have a little part of you cheering them on.

Let's move from antagonists to protagonists starting with your most mysterious one -- the character who charged into battle wearing a Spider-Hero costume. I assume this is the character that will become Ronin? It also felt like you dropped some important clues to the character's identity. Let's see if I interpreted them correctly. First we know he's a male who has some kind of past relationship with Spectrum. Next he's uncovered something very dire and what ever he's uncovered has made him the enemy of someone or something with a long reach that could attack him if he pops up in a public way. Did I interpret those clues correctly?

Spot on. The Man Who Will Be Ronin has indeed made, or met up with, some enemies with a very long reach, and he does know Monica from a previous encounter. And she doesn't like him much, which is another clue. I'll be dropping more hints as the series continues -- #3 is full of them, and I expect after that those who know their Marvel characters will have a pretty solid idea of who it is. But the mask won't come off until -- probably issue #9? #10? Somewhere around then. And there'll be all kinds of other revelations happening about the same time.

Ronin makes a stand with Luke Cage, Spectrum and Spider-Man at the end of issue #1 when Luke declares them Avengers. Earlier in the issue Luke thinks about putting together an Avengers-like organization, but at the end they come together like many other Avengers line ups: a group of individual heroes that band together in the heat of battle to face a larger menace. How important to you as a writer was that formation of the team? And how important was that formation to Luke? Will it give his team a bigger sense of legitimacy?

I kind of wanted to avoid the "sitting around a table swapping polaroids" method of team formation -- you know the kind of thing: "I don't think Chupacabra King is ready to join the Power Club! He's not alpha enough! Instead we need Wheat Lass and Mushroom Man and The Sneeze and also a magic user and let's put all the rest of the mana points into blah blah blah blah blah." I hate that -- it immediately makes the team into a collection of employees rather than friends. Which is fine if they are employees, like it's a S.H.I.E.L.D. team or one of Tony's concerns, but it wouldn't work here. This needed to feel more natural.

In terms of legitimacy -- that's a bit of a loaded word in some ways, but I suppose since that's how the first Avengers team formed, there might be that element of fate or destiny at work. And that's certainly something that will have crystallized Luke's thinking -- he was having some vague ideas about super teams and what they could achieve, and ten minutes later an ad-hoc super team forms around him. That's got to be a bit of a tap on the shoulder from a higher power.

Some team members were not there on that last page of #1, so I'd like to talk about the mission ones starting with White Tiger and Power Man. It seems like they both stormed off from Cage's Heroes for Hire for opposite reasons. White Tiger left because she felt like Cage's team wasn't making a difference in a larger way and Power Man left because he thought Cage wasn't concerned about the street level community aspect of super heroics. Is that correct? And can you talk about what pulls them back into this series? Will we see them again in this initial arc?

We will see them again -- in #3, we find out what they were up to when the invasion hit and see their next move.

You're correct about the motivations -- essentially, they both walked away for the same reason. These are kids who want to do more and are frustrated that more isn't being done. Vic's got a history of shooting his mouth off and storming out of situations to do what he thinks is the right thing, while Ava has a history of second-guessing what she's doing and taking herself and the legacy she's holding very seriously, so both their reactions to what was happening seemed in character to me. But at the end of the day their desire to do the right thing trumps that, and they've got a lot more in common in the respect than maybe they think they do.

The Falcon and the Blue Marvel were not in this issue at all. Will we see either of them in this initial arc? Is Falcon out in space with the other Avengers as this story is taking place?

Falc's in space. We'll see him for the first time in #4, during an interesting conversation which sets up some of how the team is going to work. SPOILER: they're not for hire. Let's step on that right now -- if this is a Heroes For Hire book under another name, Green Lantern is a comic about test pilots.

As for Blue Marvel -- he wasn't in issue #1 because there just wasn't room. That's an ongoing problem for me -- to get the level of characterization I like to have, I'm finding that some issues I need some characters to take a back seat and make room for others. But everybody gets their turn in the spotlight. Adam gets some character work in #2, and he'll get more in #6.

Let's start to wrap up by talking a little bit about what artist Greg Land brings to this series. With this arc it seems to me he has the complicated job of blending the worlds of street level and world saving heroics along with the alien and high tech elements of Thanos and his forces. Would you agree with that?

Greg's been doing a terrific job with the storytelling -- working Marvel Method with him is a lot of fun, and sometimes leads to some interesting moments I wouldn't have gotten to by working full script. For example, the fight scene early in #1, with the tilted panels, came right out of nowhere and was absolutely beautiful. There's more cool beats like that as the series goes on. And yes, taking the realistic and the fantastic and blending it together is definitely one of Greg's strengths.

Finally, what else can you tell us about the rest of this first arc? Maybe some clues as to your next "Mighty Avengers" story?

Hints and teases -- well, by now people will have seen the end of #2, so I won't say more about that -- beyond that fact that Spider Hero, Power Man and White Tiger will be integral in the fight against them. After that -- lots of calls are made in #4. Spider Hero calls an old teammate. Otto calls a leadership contest. Luke calls his lawyer. CORTEX calls in the professionals. Oh, and fans of a certain blond guy who Luke used to hang around with all the time will be very happy with me.

I'm having a blast writing this book! And thanks to everyone who picked up issue #1 and raved about it. There's more where that came from.

"Mighty Avengers" #2 is on sale now, #3 arrives October 14.

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