In the aftermath of 2012’s “Avengers vs. X-Men,” Steve Rogers wanted to honor fallen X-Men founder Charles Xavier’s dream of a peaceful co-existence between man and mutants. Thus, he created a special “Unity Squad” of Avengers: a high-profile team whose membership was made up of mutant and human heroes that would work together to solve larger problems, as depicted in Marvel’s “”Uncanny Avengers” series.
Since then, the Unity Squad has undergone a number of changes, including adding Inhumans into their ranks. Unfortunately for them, their founder has rather famously undergone some changes, too — most notably having his history altered by a cosmic entity so that he was now a lifelong deep cover agent for Hydra.
The original Captain America’s machinations and power grab have been a prominent part of the “Captain America: Steve Rogers” series by writer Nick Spencer, but they’ve also spilled into the latest volume of “Uncanny Avengers.” This spring, Rogers clandestine plotting for Hydra will morph into a full-scale assault on global freedom, as Marvel Comics kicks off its latest summer event, “Secret Empire.” In June’s “Uncanny Avengers” #24, the series’ new creative team of writer Jim Zub and artist Kim Jacinto will kick off a new tie-in arc to the event that finds the Unity Squad firmly in the crosshairs of Rogers and his Hydra followers. CBR spoke to Zub to learn more about his plans for the series.
CBR: Jim, your first “Uncanny Avengers” arc will be a “Secret Empire” tie-in, which means the team will be facing a reality where the man who brought them together, Steve Rogers, has transformed Hydra into a major global power. So what’s their sort of collective emotional state when you pick up with the team in issue #24? How personal is this “Secret Empire” story for them?
Jim Zub: The team starts off “Uncanny Avengers” #24 caught off guard and on the defensive. Steve knows what the former Unity Squad is capable of and he’s determined to “keep them out of play” so they don’t ruin his plans.
Our team is going to struggle right from the get-go in terms of figuring out what’s happened and what they can do about it. Beyond that, I don’t want to say too much or else it may give away bigger elements happening within “Secret Empire.”
One of the things I love about working on “Uncanny Avengers” is the sense of history the book carries, with long running characters from the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and X-Men in the mix even while it’s moving forward and building something new — new adventures, new relationships, and new challenges. The team is sort of a misfit family pulled together from different corners of the Marvel Universe who have found shared purpose. They support each other through good times and bad.
Let’s talk about the individual members of your misfit family starting with the Wasp, Janet Van Dyne. What can you tell us her role in the group? As a former Chairperson of the Avengers it seems like she’d be a natural fit for team leader, but do you think that’s a position she would want?
Janet has been a leader in the past, but it’s not necessarily where she wants to be moving forward. This team dynamic is quite different and far less formal than what she’s used to, so she’ll need to understand what makes this group tick and find her place within it.
You predecessor on this volume of “Uncanny Avengers,” Gerry Duggan, established a fun and interesting dynamic between the Human Torch and Rogue in that they were romantically involved at one point, and in the aftermath of “IvX,” Johnny is once again single since Medusa broke up with him. So what’s your sense of the dynamic between Johnny and Rogue when you pick up with them? What do you find most interesting about their dynamic?
I like the way Gerry teased their relationship without recapping every little aspect of it. It’s playful and full of potential. The whole team is going to get put through the wringer during “Secret Empire” so both Johnny and Rogue will be looking for safety and protection in the near future. Will they find that by getting together again? Keep reading.
You’re no stranger to magic users, a seen in your work on IDW’s “Dungeons & Dragons” comics; plus you write an all-powerful, reality warping character in Kobik over in “Thunderbolts.” So, what’s it like writing Doctor Voodoo here in this title? How are you approaching his abilities?
Doctor Voodoo is the former Sorcerer Supreme and a skilled practitioner of both the mystic and voodoo arts, so that’s obviously something I’m pumped to play with in the series. The magic and supernatural side of the Marvel Universe is near and dear to my heart. I want to show what Doctor Voodoo “sees” and how that colors his views on life and heroism. That said, beyond his formidable abilities, I also want to dig in to who he is as a person as well. There’s a lot of untapped potential in Jericho Drumm.
What do you enjoy most about writing Synapse, the sort of rookie member of the Unity Squad? Which aspects of her character are you especially interested in exploring?
You’re absolutely right that she’s the “rookie,” but that role gives her the ability to see things with a fresh set of eyes. She isn’t pulling hundreds of stories and continuity behind her, so it’s fun to trail blaze and reveal new elements to her character. In this group of veteran superheroes she wants to prove her worth, but that’s going to come with experiencing the difficult aspects of the job too. She’s in for a rough ride.
What else can you tell us about the action in your “Secret Empire” tie-in of “Uncanny Avengers?” What kind of mission does the Unity Squad embark on? Can you hint or tease some of the antagonists they’re up against?
It’s really hard for me say anything without tipping Nick Spencer’s hand for reveals in the “Secret Empire” Free Comic Book Day Special and issue #0. The team is under attack almost immediately in issue #24 and struggling to get in front of the freight train of bad stuff happening all around them. It’s an invasion and they’re in the thick of it.
I want to say more, but I can’t. Sorry! “Secret Empire” is full of secrets.
[Laughs] Fair enough. You’re working with Kim Jacinto who Marvel fans probably know best from books like “Venom: Space Knight” and “Uncanny Inhumans.” One of the things I’ve enjoyed about his work is the real sense of physicality in his action scenes and his character acting. What do you enjoy most about Kim’s style?
There’s an intense “gravity” to every panel in Kim’s work. It’s elegant, nuanced, and even though he’s using existing character designs, there’s an extra dose of reality he puts into them that’s all his own. Knowing that he’s on board gives me confidence we’ll be able to pay off some of the big moments coming in the story.
Finally, when you’re writing multiple Marvel titles you want to make sure they stand on their own, but you also have the opportunity to provide a little something extra for people who read both of your books. So, moving forward might we see some connective tissue between “Uncanny Avengers” and your other Marvel book, “Thunderbolts?”
“Thunderbolts” is being pulled into “Secret Empire’s” gravity well in some really cool ways and that’s been the plan right from the beginning when I was brought on board to launch the book after “Avengers Standoff” wrapped up. That said, the Thunderbolts cast and Uncanny Avengers team are operating in two different “spaces” as part of “Secret Empire” in ways that will become clear to readers once “Secret Empire” #0 and #1 are released. I would love to have them intersect, but that’s not in the cards just yet.
Jim Zub’s run on “Uncanny Avengers” starts with June’s issue #24.
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