WWPhilly: Pak, Hickman & Aaron on "Dark Reign: The List"

Earlier this weekend, CBR brought news of Marvel's upcoming "The List" one shots. Eight stand alone issues tying in to the publisher's "Dark Reign" status quo by the current crop of Marvel's rising writing talent and A-list artists, the concept for the stories was conceived by writers Matt Fraction and Brian Michael Bendis, the latter of whom described the set up saying, "Now that Norman is in charge what is he going to do? He's not going to just try and hold onto his power. He's going to sit down and make a list of what's wrong with the Marvel Universe...Some of the stuff that makes it to his list might involve the status quo of things like why is the Hulk allowed to live? Or why is Nick Fury allowed to run around and do whatever the hell he wants? These are pretty important questions if you're in charge and they're things you'd want to take care of immediately."

Diving deeper into the stories that will comprise the publishing initiative, CBR caught up with writers Greg Pak, Jonathan Hickman and Jason Aaron for their plans involving the Incredible Hulk, the Secret Warriors and Wolverine.

"I've had the good fortune to use Norman as a major supporting character in both 'War Machine' and the 'Planet Skaar Prologue,'" Pak explained of his one-shot story of the Hulk with artist Ben Oliver. "Norman's involvement in 'The List: Hulk' absolutely picks up on some threads from the 'Planet Skaar Prologue.' So folks who have been following that story will get some sweet payoffs. But new readers should have no problem picking up and enjoying the heck out of 'The List: Hulk.' Incidentally, fans of Norman definitely won't want to miss his final showdown with James Rhodes in "War Machine" #9 and #10, coming in August and September."

While each side of the story's equation remains pretty mentally unstable in general, what drives the clash between the Green Goblin and the Green Goliath is Osborn's hopes to use gamma-irradiated heroes for his own ends. "The idea of a Hulk in your back pocket must be kind of attractive," said Pak, noting more than just Bruce Banner's alter ego will pop up in the pages. "Three strong women play huge roles in this book. Keep your eyes open for someone incredibly close to Banner, someone incredibly close to Norman, and the wildest of the wild cards who might just have the ability to get under the Hulk's skin like no one else."

Of course, more than a solo clash, "The List: Hulk" will also help set up storylines Pak will be exploring in his recently announced return to Earth-bound action in the pages of "Incredible Hulk." "This story actually fits right in the chronology between 'Incredible Hulk' #601 and 'Incredible Hulk' #602. It works just fine as a stand alone while providing a great introduction fir new readers to the characters and status quo of the 'Incredible Hulk' book. At the same time, there's real meat in there for 'Incredible Hulk' readers - a few key elements introduced in this book will pay off hugely in the next few months," the writer said, adding of his artist "Ben's amazing. He brings a special kind of grace to his layouts. I'm trying to give him elegant action sequences that play to that strength - but then give him room to cut loose with some gamma-powered savagery. I think that contrast is going to blow more than a few minds."

Across the field from Norman's antagonistic moves with the Hulk, Hickman explained his plans to flip expectations with his entry in "The List: Secret Warriors." "It's really a Nick Fury/Norman Osborn story," the writer behind the latest Marvel ongoing series said. "It's the head of H.A.M.M.E.R. and the ex-head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Something happens where they have to work together for a short period of time. Shit happens after that."

Slotting in well between issues #9 and 10 of "Secret Warriors," Hickman explained that he wanted to take the chance to open up the massive plan behind his conspiracy epic to new readers while things weren't too complicated. "You can read 'The List,' and it stands by itself. And it ends in a way that makes you want to go and check out the regular 'Secret Warriors' series. We're nothing if not capitalist. But there's a very logical place that it fits in," he said.

"You want your book to stay relevant, of course. So you're always fighting that battle between relevancy and what's going on company-wide and the personal, self-contained story you're telling. This is kind of a hybrid of the two. There are a lot of moving pieces like Ares and Phobos [in the main series] and things like Norman leading H.A.M.M.E.R. while Fury used to lead S.H.I.E.L.D. There's a lot of crossover that functions very well with the 'Secret Warriors' premise. We tried to make 'The List' completely self-contained, and I'm sure I failed because I just can't not seed stuff that's going to happen and tease other story points. But I think its subtle enough or diluted enough that it doesn't mess up the story. It's a cool little book."

Teaming with superstar Ed McGuinness for 22 pages proved a new kind of experience for Hickman, who remains used to crafting stories for his own drawing table after years releasing comics through Image. "Writing for other people is still a relatively new thing for me. I got some of Jeph Loeb's scripts and read them before sending anything to Ed. And I have a tendency to write really dense, so I have to try to reign it in for someone like Ed because he's so good...I hope I have given him something that's fun, and he enjoys doing it."

The final phase of Osborn's run through the Marvel U brings the members of the X-Universe into conflict with the villain in a different way than the upcoming "Utopia" crossover, as Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic get into Weapon Plus territory with "The List: Wolverine." "I jumped at the chance [to do this,]" said the scribe. "I love what I'm doing with the 'Weapon X' series, where we're kind of staying in our own little corner of the Marvel Universe - doing stories that are in continuity but aren't burdened by it. It's a new reader-friendly kind of book. So I love those stories, but it's also fun every once in a while to step up to the big plate and play with the big toys. This is a great chance to tie in to the big events in the Marvel U and tell a cool story with Wolverine.

"In my story, the item on Norman's to-do list to tick off is that he wants control of the Weapon Plus program. He wants the resources of Weapon Plus at his disposal. Weapon Plus is the program that's created everybody from Captain America to Wolverine right on up to the super Sentinels like Fantomex. Norman wants to control that, and Wolverine is obviously going to step in to stop him. Also embroiled in this is Fantomex and Marvel Boy."

Aaron expressed a desire to more firmly establish the role of the Weapon Plus characters within current X-Men continuity in a way he felt they hadn't fully been integrated yet. "It's a big, crazy, very frenetic action story where I get to play with some super cool Grant Morrison toys. The whole thing takes place in The World, which is the super cool laboratory we saw in Morrison's 'New X-Men' run. We have all these characters kind of fighting to control The World but at the same time fighting to keep the all new Weapon XVI from escaping out into the outside world. I think a lot of the stuff Morrison did on X-Men, the people that came after him didn't know what to do with it. Not everybody is a big fan of characters like Fantomex, but I know that Matt Fraction was talking about ways to try and bring him back into the X-Men universe. We've been jockying to see who could get to him first, and thankfully I was able to jump ahead and bring him back. Hopefully, what I'm doing here will bring him back in play and make him a character that people want to use again. There are a lot of fans out there like me and Matt who love that run and would love to see those ideas back in the forefront of the Marvel U."

And in Ribic, Aaron found a partner that allows him to play with the toys he wants while still maintaining his own writing voice. "The stuff he's been doing the last few years has been amazing - the 'Namor' book, the 'Loki' book, the Silver Surfer stuff - it's all beautiful stuff. And in this story, he gets to cut loose and draw a lot of craziness that I'm throwing at him. The way I approached this writing-wise is that I'm not Grant Morrison, would never presume or pretend to be Grant Morrison...I can't write like Grant Morrison. But I'm a huge Morrison fan ever since I first read his 'Doom Patrol' years ago. So it's a big thrill for me to play with some of these toys he created for the Marvel U. But I can't pretend I'm going to do my best Grant Morrison imitation. It's still me and the kind of stuff I do, just getting to play with some different tools."

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