WC12: Parker & Shalvey Cage the "Dark Avengers"

Luke Cage believes in redemption. It's how he became the man he is today. When Cage was still a young man he began running with street gangs. He later went to prison, for a crime he didn't commit, but Luke still wasn't an innocent. While imprisoned he volunteered to take part in a strange experiment that endowed him with super human strength and nearly unbreakable skin. The experiment went awry and led to Cage's escape. Once freed he didn't return to a life of crime, though. Instead he put his super powered gifts out there for hire to anyone who needed a hero. Eventually Luke cleared his name and today leads both his own Avengers team and the U.S. Government's Thunderbolts program which tries to rehabilitate super criminals, by sending them on super heroic missions.

Luke is used to dealing with crime and criminals and tries to not take their actions personally. This summer, he'll be forced to deal with a set of criminals he does have a personal grudge against, Norman Osborn's latest incarnation of the Dark Avengers, who tried to kill him and his family in a recent arc of "New Avengers." It all begins in June when "Thunderbolts" morphs into "Dark Avengers with starting with #175, by the "Thunderbolts" creative team of Jeff Parker and artists Declan Shalvey and Kev Walker. CBR News spoke with Parker and Shalvey about their plans for the book, which was announced yesterday at the "Marvel: The Next Big Thing" panel at WonderCon 2012 in Anaheim, CA.

CBR News: Jeff, since "Dark Avengers" is written by you, features artwork by Declan and Kev, and debuts with issue #175, does that mean "Thunderbolts" will morph into this title? Will you have wrapped up most of your threads from "Thunderbolts" by issue #174 or will plot threads, elements, and characters carry over into "Dark Avengers?"

Jeff Parker: The story keeps rolling on, it's just the Dark Avengers have book-jacked things to add another level of crazy. We're not dropping anything!

Declan, how does it feel to be moving with Jeff and Kev from "Thunderbolts" to "Dark Avengers?" Which aspects of this book are you most excited about?

Declan Shalvey: It feels good. I originally came on this book as a fill-in artist for an arc but now I feel like I've been a real part of this amazing run that Jeff and Kev have created. This new "Dark Avengers" really makes sense considering what's been happening in the regular Marvel Universe of late. Where else should a team of outcasts end up, but in "Thunderbolts?" I'm really looking forward to drawing all the Dark Avengers team. It's a big switch up from the regular T-Bolts team.

Since you're not dropping any elements of "Thunderbolts" when it becomes "Dark Avengers," one of the things that will carry over is Luke Cage as a leader of a team of villains on super heroic missions. Luke didn't seem to have the best of luck or best time leading the Thunderbolts. Why is he back in charge in of another group of villains in this series? And since the Dark Avengers recently attacked his friends and family in "New Avengers" how does Luke initially feel about being the leader of the Dark Avengers?

Parker: "Thunderbolts" was hard enough for Luke, and now they've been turned into these people he absolutely despises. He's starting to feel like the universe is against him -- and it might be. His first thought is "screw this."

Shalvey: Luke is definitely not comfortable with this situation. He's very, very protective of his family and the Dark Avengers really messed with his personal business. I'm sure Luke is ready for some payback. My sense of Luke Cage in "Dark Avengers?" ANGRY. And angry characters are fun to draw.

The Dark Avengers that Luke is in charge of include Dark Spider-Man, Dark Scarlet Witch, Trickshot, and Ragnarok. That's a pretty bizarre and eclectic team. How would you initially describe the dynamic between these guys and their leader once Luke takes charge?

Parker: This is the most adversarial combining we've done. What's interesting is that in his non-Avengers team, he's suddenly surrounded by a twisted mirror version of The Avengers. Avengers who don't have the motivations he's used to.

Declan, which elements of the Dark Avengers do you find most intriguing? What aspects of their characters do you really want to capture and bring forward in your art?

Shalvey: I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a kick out of drawing old-school Thor, even if it is just his clone. Dark Spidey will also be fun: the black costume is my favorite of all Spidey costumes. I never thought I'd actually get to draw it professionally. My main aim will be to try and portray them all as very creepy characters. To me, they are all flawed/corrupt takes on the original heroes. They're not heroes.

Most of the Dark Avengers are villains or have a villainous bent to them, but Skaar is a little more complex. We understand he has a role in this series too, correct? Can you tell us what kind of role he'll play? And how does Luke feel having a character who's essentially a teenage boy in a team full of villains?

Parker: Skaar's role is not unlike what it is in the current Avengers story. If Luke can tolerate and work with anyone, it's him.

We've talked characters. Let's talk missions! What can you tell us about the inaugural mission of the new Dark Avengers? In terms of plot and themes what is this first story arc about?

Parker: The people who issue Thunderbolts missions have a very clandestine one to be carried out, and don't believe Luke can ever bring back the time-lost escaped team. They think the DA are well-suited for this infiltration into a possibly hostile country. Which you would be familiar with if you read "Hulk of Arabia" by me and Patrick Zircher -- it's Sharzhad, home of The Sultan Magus!

Who are some of the important supporting players in "Dark Avengers?"

Parker: One character who's been missing or rather developing -- Man-Thing -- returns! And Mach-V is going to have to pull off some serious feats to help Luke.

So your cast from "Thunderbolts" will be active and vital characters when the book becomes "Dark Avengers?"

Parker: We're still dealing with the current Thunderbolts, and Kev will be drawing their side of the story, while Declan draws the Dark Avengers end. It may seem like these are two separate plots, but they come racing towards each other and collide soon enough.

Shalvey: Yes, I'll be handling the scenes featuring the Dark Avengers. Kev will be handling scenes that feature the T-Bolts in their continuing trawl through time. It will be similar to how we worked on "T-Bolts," but I believe Kev and I will be working much closer together than the separate arcs we've been doing lately.

Parker: There seems to be no end of what Kev and Declan can do. I can hurl Jack the Ripper at Dec, King Arthur at Kev, and they don't break a sweat. I feel like we've got to step into more genres than most super hero (or villain) books because of these artists. I'm certainly lucky to work with them this much!

"Thunderbolts" transforms into "Dark Avengers" with #175 this June.

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