It started with the almost painfully high concept miniseries, "The Truth," in which Kyle Baker and Marvel Comics asked "What if the first person to test the Super Soldier Formula that would eventually create Captain America was black?"
Well, what if?
This May, Christopher Priest, Joe Bennett and Danny Miki start looking at the 21st century implications of the events of "The Truth," putting one very familiar face at center stage.
"'The Crew' is about three guys initially bound together out of self-interest who become inspired to a higher cause in defending the residents of a dangerous no-man's land," series editor Tom Brevoort told CBR News on Wednesday. "The tone is similar to the film 'Three Kings,' a Gulf War film about three guys pursuing their own agenda who end up becoming heroes.
"Just as the Kings crew was not a team, neither is our Crew: James 'Rhodey' Rhodes, formerly War Machine, anchors. The senior guy, our tech guy, the savvy commander. Rhodey's War Machine experience has changed him somewhat from the gung-ho adventurous yahoo to a more intense George Clooney type: eyes that lock on you and a steel trap mind that's always working the angles.
"Rhodey's young crew consists of two men in their early twenties: Danny Vincent, aka Junta, and Kasper Cole, who is currently impersonating The Black Panther. Danny is an ex-spy who is constantly looking to exploit Rhodey's Crew for his own personal gain. Kasper is an NYPD narcotics officer obsessed with getting promoted to Detective.
"Although he doesn't appear until issue #4, the entirety of the first arc, 'Big Trouble In Little Mogadishu,' is, essentially, the origin of Justice, the son of Isaiah Bradley from TRUTH: RED, WHITE & BLACK. Though, initially, Rhodey will appear to be the leader, Justice will eventually take center seat -- likely without realizing it.
"These guys are, initially, not terribly likeable or heroic, but they become both heroic and sympathetic when they trade off their individual agendas to save the lives of the residents of Little Mogadishu."
But while "The Truth" might set up a thematic starting point for the series, Brevoort says the actual ongoing came from a very different source.
"Mostly it came out of wanting to do another series with Priest; we had worked together on 'Black Panther' a few years back. Priest is one of those writers who's really beloved by a small, hardcore audience, but who hasn't been able to connect in the same way with a mass audience. So he and I were talking about what it was that we thought might be preventing more people from making the same connection with his work, and what he could do to make it appealing to a wider range of people without losing his very distinctive strengths. And 'The Crew' kind of grew out of that.
"Beyond that, not that I want to pigeonhole 'The Crew' as a black book or an ethnic book, but there's a real lack of diversity across much of the Marvel Universe. If you're a blond white guy, there are plenty of super-characters who look like you (and we've got one in 'The Crew' as well.) It's much harder to find strong, saleable black characters, or Jewish characters, or Muslim characters, or fill-in-your-favorite-background characters. So part of the theory behind 'The Crew' was to build a more ethnically-diverse group of heroes, and see if we couldn't make them A-players.
"The Crew' isn't really a team book per se -- it's not 'West Coast Avengers,' nor is it 'Black Avengers.' It's a buddy book, with multiple buddies, a character paradigm that Priest writes extremely well. Probably the closest thing to it in terms of structure that's out there would be 'Birds of Prey' (though we've eliminated any T & A appeal -- possibly to our regret in the long term ...)."
Also not present in the series is any penalty for not having read "The Truth" prior to picking up "The Crew" this May.
"If we've done our jobs right, somebody reading 'The Crew' need not ever have looked at 'Truth,' or even been aware of its existence. We'll cover the pertinent events when they become pertinent in the course of the first 'Crew' story arc. So while we love you if you read 'Truth,' it's not necessary to have done so to be able to read and appreciate 'The Crew.'"
And while Rhodey has starred in his own series once or twice, he's best known for his interaction with the other big guns in the Avengers families of books. Don't be surprised to see some of them interacting with the Crew later on down the road.
"Actually, for the first four issues or so, our guys won't even much be interacting with each other. But it's possible that down the line we'll see other Marvel characters turning up -- certainly there are natural touch-points with Iron Man, the Black Panther and Captain America, among others ..."
But as for antagonists, Brevoort is playing his cards close to his chest.
"Wait and see -- I don't really want to say too much about that at this point."
"The Crew" hits the streets this May.
Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.