[SPOILER WARNING: WARNING THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR "INFINITY" #5 AND "AVENGERS #22, AVAILABLE NOW]
Marvel's Avengers are known as Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and as such they've sworn an oath to defend their planet against any threats that arise, be they homegrown or extra-terrestrial. Though there's typically a lull between cosmic-level events, sometimes they do find themselves completing one epic foray and then immediately confronting another conflagration that erupted while they were attending to the previous danger. That's exactly what has happened to the team in the current "Infinity" event.
The opening chapters of "Infinity" saw the Avengers travel deep into space and join with a coalition of intergalactic great powers to take on the armada of the mysterious and powerful alien race known as the Builders. The mad tyrant known Thanos learned of the team's absence from Earth and exploited it by invading the planet with his army of bloodthirsty followers.
In "Infinity" #5 and "Avengers" #22, writer Jonathan Hickman and artists Jerome Opena, Dustin Weaver and Leinil Yu depicted the attempt of the remaining defenders of Earth to hold the line against Thanos and his followers. Meanwhile, the spacebound Avengers and their allies ended the war with the Builders and began to make plans to break Thanos' hold on Earth.
In today's INFINITE WAR REPORT, CBR examines those events and more, as Hickman and Marvel Senior Vice President of Publishing and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort join us for some commentary and insight into "Infinity" #5 and "Avengers" #22.
CBR News: Let's start off by talking about the work done on these issues by "Infinity" artists Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver and "Avengers" artist Leinil Yu. Which of their sequences in these issues really stand out for you?
Jonathan Hickman: I think up until issue #5 of this series -- and this is my fault -- Dustin hasn't had as much of a chance to shine as Jerome, just because of the material. I think this is probably the first issue where he got to cut loose a little bit. I thought he had a really strong issue.
I also love all of Jerome's flipping from world to world scenes. I thought it was really important that we get a sense of different places and different times; that everything is not happening in one place all at once. Those are the kinds of subtle sequences that Jerome is really good at.
This issue of "Avengers" was generally a pretty quiet issue for Leinil, especially when you compare it to what's coming in issue #23. The scope and scale of these space stories are extremely difficult capture and Leinil continues to do a really, really good job with those aspects. When we go wide and say that there's a giant armada of these ships headed towards a space station that's around Earth and surrounded by all these other ships? I think he does a great job with all of that.
Tom, anything you want to add?
Tom Brevoort: No, I think that covers it pretty well. People have heard me say the same thing week in and week out at this point. Jonathan says different things. [Laughs]
Let's move into our discussion about "Infinity" #5, then, by talking about exactly what the Avengers accomplished in the first half of this story and how the galactic powers feel about what they've done. It appears as though the Avengers have helped liberate many of the galactic great powers and those great powers have not forgotten that deed.
Brevoort: Yes, and they show their appreciation by making giant letter "A"s . [Laughs]
Hickman: They do
Brevoort: In the intergalactic language, that's not actually an A. It means, "Screw you," but the Avengers don't really realize that. So it's all good
Hickman: [Laughs] You're right, but it actually says, "Humans go home."
[Laughs] Does the end of hostilities against the Builders mean that Earth's position within the power structure of the galactic powers has changed? Is the planet's status comparable to America in the aftermath of World War II?
Brevoort: It remains to be seen, as we wrap this thing up and head into the next few months, if Earth will be in a position as extreme as America after World War II, which was sizable paradigm shift. At the moment, though, the Avengers have some good mojo going on. Enough to convince their allies to use their remaining forces to assist them with their problem on Earth: Thanos.
As you said, there's still a lot of story left to be told, but is being admired this much by the various galactic powers necessarily a good thing?
Hickman: I think all of that stuff is fodder for what we're going to do next. From day one, the fallout from this is something we were really invested in. Is it a good thing that everyone sort of has their eyes turned towards Earth? I don't know that it would be. It could be argued that it's a bad thing. We'll see where things are headed after "Infinity" is over.
Brevoort: It is probably better than them constantly wanting to bomb us or invade us.
It seems to me, though, that one of the dangers is that the Avengers have sort of lost control of how their legacy is interpreted in other parts of the galaxy; that other aliens could form their own Avengers groups based on how they think the Avengers should operate.
Brevoort: That's certainly a possibility, sure.
Hickman: Yes, and I'm pitching Imperial Guard stuff all the time and nobody seems to bite. I can't tell you how bad the public is clamoring for a new Imperial Guard series. So we'll see
Let's move away from the outer space action in "Infinity" #5 to some of the action on Earth, starting with the transformation of Thane. What are we seeing, here? Did Terrigenesis really transform Thane into a being that radiates lethal toxins, or an "aura of death" for lack of a better phrase?
Hickman: Yes, like all of the other Inhumans that had not been transformed yet and were hanging around all over the Earth and have a fantastic story about them coming up -- Thane is a new man; a new Inhuman.
Like is often the case with Inhumans, sometimes what you're transformed into isn't necessarily what you thought you were going to be. In this case, that's very true.
Is what he become comparable to former Avengers Academy student Hazmat? Does he need a suit to contain his power?
Hickman: We'll see. I don't think we're going to get completely into the ins and outs of all of that Thane can and can not do until next issue.
Before his transformation, Thane was a healer, but was he a pacifist as well? What does it mean to him to be transformed into a being like this?
Brevoort: Well it's not the best day of his calendar year. I don't know if we've established anything about him being a pacifist per se, but he was a healer. His life was about making people better, and now, just by his very presence, he tends to make people not so good. It's not the best turn of events for him. He's wasted his training. Getting to the point to where he was as a healer is now wasted time.
Hickman: Now, he's left with all that death.
Has he also become a little more similar to his father, Thanos?
Hickman: He is aware of who his father is, and aware of all the awful things he's done. It's one thing, though, to talk abstractly about someone you've never met. Actually encountering them is something else entirely. Perhaps something like that will happen here.
Brevoort: [Laughs] Perhaps.
Thane is captured by the Ebony Maw, who started off as one of the mysterious members of Thanos' Black Order. As "Infinity" has gone on, we've learned more about him and he almost feels like a stage magician, in that he has no powers, but he's always prepared with the right device or word to create the illusion that he's powerful.
Hickman: He's a guy that looks weak, but is possibly more dangerous than anyone else in the room. He's a schemer and a planner with an insatiable appetite. Throughout the "Infinity" miniseries, and in "New Avengers," especially, we've gradually been given better glimpses of who he is. I think people will be surprised by what the Maw has going on and where he's headed
Let's move to the Illuminati, who are joined by Maximus and Lockjaw in "Infinity" #5. How did Maximus and Lockjaw know to pick up the Illuminati at that exact location? Can we assume that Maximus knows about the Incursions phenomenon?
Hickman: I think it's fair to assume at this point that Black Bolt, unlike the other members of the Illuminati, has not kept his mouth shut.
Brevoort: [Laughs] Ironically enough.
Hickman: Right, he just can't stop talking. [Laughs]
Black Bolt has other motivations that are different from the very direct and very linear desires of the guys in the Illuminati. We'll see that at the end of "Infinity," and moving forward in "Inhumanity" and "New Avengers." He's brought Maximus into the fold. Maximus works as a tangential Illuminati member because he builds awful machines, which seems to be the go-to business of those cats. And, yes, Maximus knows about the Incursions and is aware of what's going on.
I don't want to get too much into the events of "Infinity" #6, but Maximus and Lockjaw were able to find the Illuminati because they had a mechanism that pointed them in the right direction.
At one point during his adventures with the Illuminati, Maximus remarks that he's having fun. Why do you think that is? Does he enjoy being a super hero with the Illuminati on some level? Or is he enjoying slinking around Wakanda with them?
Brevoort: I think Maximus enjoys anything that's outside of the norm and chaotic. The situation on Earth at this particular moment, the revelations the Illuminati are dealing with and the creation of Thane all mean that he's a pig in poop. There's a lot of crazy stuff going on all of a sudden against the backdrop of which he, himself, doesn't seem quite so mad.
Hickman: Yeah, Maximus doesn't lean towards middle class entertainment: movies, date night and that kind of stuff. This is right up his alley. The world is burning and people are building giant bombs. That's a good Saturday night for him
"Avengers" #22 gives us a little more insight into "Infinity" #5 and the Avengers' trip back home to Earth. The issue starts off with the reveal of a relationship between teammates Smasher and Cannonball. This feels natural, given that both characters hail from rural backgrounds and have been forced to confront some cosmic things. Was that the initial attraction and draw between these two characters?
Hickman: Oh, who knows what draws two people together?
Hickman: I don't think anybody has cracked that code yet, but even though Sam has been around forever, he's still "young" in Marvel years. So him and Smasher are two kids that have been thrust into unfamiliar territory with high stakes. People respond to that stuff differently. Cannonball and Smasher have liked each other for a while, but things fully bloomed here, in the middle of a big, giant, life-and-death space war.
Does Sunspot sort of feel like a third wheel now that he knows about Cannonball's relationship with Smasher?
Hickman: I don't think Bobby cares . [Laughs] I think he's messing with him. I think he's perfectly happy for the two of them, but he can't just say that. He has to get in one last dig . [Laughs] He's a very simple lad.
We see how the team takes Thanos' homeworld, Titan. What does that mean for Thanos? Is this an insult to him? Is this a psychological victory for the Avengers in their war against Thanos?
Hickman: I think it's first base in their quest to get home. I don't think it's really anything more than that. They just wanted to make sure there wasn't going to be a bunch of dudes sitting around Thanos' base that could come up behind them for a sneak attack.
They were essentially cutting off Thanos from any reinforcements.
Let's talk a little a bit about the leadership styles of Captains America and Marvel and Thor in that scene with Manifold. Did Steve Rogers and Carol Danvers tell Manifold the truth and Thor tell him what he needed to hear?
Brevoort: I think everybody in that scene told Manifold the truth as they understand it, and in terms of their own particular point of view and perspective. It just so happens that what Thor is saying is closer in sync to who Manifold is than what Cap and Carol are saying.
Hickman: Tom is exactly right. Nobody was lying and telling him what they thought he needed to hear. The reality is we're all different people and we all respond to different types of encouragement. If you want to have somebody talk to you about what it all means, and they're a romantic, a god is not a bad person to have a conversation with.
Are there any final comments you want to share about "Infinity" #5 or "Avengers" #22 as a whole?
Brevoort: "Infinity" #5 represents Jerome's last issue. He's done as of this issue. He gave a virtuoso performance on some very difficult scripts. There was a ton of stuff to draw under grueling battle field conditions, and he drew it all masterfully.
Dustin is almost done. He's actually doing some pages in "Infinity" #6. So we're not quite finished with Dustin yet, but we're very close. So we'll say nice things about him at our next one of these.
Hickman: Yeah, he thought he was done. He thought he was out and we pulled him back in
Brevoort: [Laughs] Poor guy.
Hickman: He was clawing at the door to get out, but he had to get back to work. [Laughs]
As for my final thoughts about the issues? I think "Infinity" #5 is the worst issue of the miniseries.
Brevoort: [Laughs] Boy, you know how to sell these!
Hickman: I know. I think that issue #4 was really cool. It moved along and had a lot of stuff that people will bring up when they talk about the series. Issue #6 feels like a success. We're not finished with it yet so I can't say it's a done deal, but it feels like a really strong conclusion. It does all the things we wanted it to do. I think it's my favorite issue of the whole series. I love it.
Issue #5, unfortunately, has the job of getting us from issue #4 to issue #6. It's workmanlike. I just wish it was a bit cooler, maybe had more room to breathe.
The only "Infinity" book coming out next week is Al Ewing and Greg Land's "Mighty Avengers" #3. Tom, could you leave us with some hint and teases about that issue?
Brevoort: In "Mighty Avengers" #3, somebody gets poked in the eye in a big way. There's a big battle in Manhattan as there has been for two issues now. The Superior Spider-Man is kind of a jerk, and it all wraps up with a really strong Luke Cage moment.
I told Al, once we sent the issue out the door -- and you can take this as a compliment or not, depending on who you are -- but I think it's a compliment. It's the most Kurt Busiek-feeling issue of Avengers that we've put out in maybe ten years.
Hickman: There you go. That's a big compliment!