(CBR) In freshly wrapped Marvel Comics event “Infinity,” writer Jonathan Hickman plunged the cast of his “Avengers” and “New Avengers” books into a massive, two-front, intergalactic war. The ensuing battle changed the political landscape of the alien empires that populate the cosmos of the Marvel Universe, transformed countless denizens of the planet Earth into superpowered Inhumans and gave the secretive superhero Illuminati new insight into the mysterious and destructive phenomenon known as Incursions — events which begin when two Earths from different realities occupy the same space, and end only when one of those Earths is destroyed.
As huge as these events were, they were only the opening act for an even larger epic. Now that the Avengers have saved the Earth from the Builders, the Illuminati are forced to get their hands dirty to save their planet from its very own Incursion Event. Hickman will explore this danger in the coming months as he sets the stage for act two of the long-form story he’s telling in “Avengers” and “New Avengers.” We spoke with Hickman and “Avengers” editor/Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort about their plans for both books.
CBR News: The Avengers books are in an interesting place in the aftermath of “Infinity,” and “Avengers” #24.NOW, by Jonathan and artist Esad Ribic, will be available later this month. The fact that it’s a “Point Now” issue suggests that this will be a good jumping on point, so, how new reader friendly is this issue? Jonathan Hickman:
It’s a terrible jumping on point. I don’t think I’ve written an issue 20something of anything that I’ve done that is a good jumping on point. With the way you can download all the books now and everything is collected in trades, I’m not even sure I buy into the validity of the argument that every issue should be able to be read as if it was somebody’s first issue. That, of course, may be a complete construct to prop up my inability to do that. [Laughs] So yeah, it’s a terrible jumping on point —
Tom Brevoort: I don’t know about that.
Hickman: You think it’s a good jumping on point?
Brevoort: I would argue that it is. #24.NOW is effectively a single issue story. It introduces a new character. It shows you the Avengers doing the stuff that they do. It also shows us a little bit of where they are in the aftermath of “Infinity” and how they’re going to be moving ahead. The Avengers have 50 years of history, now, so whether we have a #1 on the book or not, there’s always going to be stuff hanging. But issue #24.NOW is a way easier entry point than issue #23 was. [Laughs]
Brevoort: So on that level, it does what it needs to do. It shows you who and what the Avengers are, what they’re all about, and it does huge, spectacular things. It is another brick in the road that we’ve been building all along, so it’s not divorced from the other 23 issues, but it’s a single issue story. It’s very similar to a lot of the issues we did towards the end of Jonathan’s run on “Fantastic Four.” On that stand point, I feel that it’s an issue where I’d very easily be able to give to someone and go, “Start here. It will ease you in.”
Hickman: So there you go. I didn’t even mean to, but there it is.
For the past several issues, the Avengers have been off-planet dealing with the threat of the Builders, and the final issue of “Infinity” suggests that things have become even more complicated and dangerous in the aftermath of that war and the battle with Thanos. Will these first post-“Infinity” issue explore that cosmic fallout, or are they Earth-based?
Hickman: I think the best way to describe what happens in the next couple of issues of “Avengers” and “New Avengers” is, up to this point and through “Infinity,” we kept the two books pretty separate. This begins the ramp up to people finding out what secrets have been kept, why, what it means for both teams and which philosophical differences will become more pronounced. This is the slow roll into that. By “slow roll,” I mean over the next five to six issues.
Brevoort: It’s a little bit of both. Certainly, issue #24.NOW is a big cosmic scale story. It’s different than “Infinity,” but it’s not on a smaller scale than “Infinity.” Subsequent issues will be slightly more Earth-based than what we’ve seen with the team out in a war at the edge of the galaxy. Having taken that step up and gone from an Avengers World to an Avengers Universe means the Avengers are going to be operating on a fairly large scale, and that’s not really going to change any time soon.
The solicits suggest that one of the things we’ll see is a team comparable to the “All-New X-Men.” Can you talk about the emergence of these characters and what sort of effect this team — which appears to be made up of the original Avengers — will have on the book?
Brevoort: We’re very tired after “Infinity,” so rather than coming up with any new ideas of our own, we thought we’d just steal from what Brian [Bendis] was using because it was lot easier and it seems to be working for him. So what the hell? Let’s just do that.
Hickman: Yeah, we asked for permission and Bendis was graceful enough to let us ride on his massive coattails.
ickman: As we are prone do from time to time.
Brevoort: It’s true [Laughs]
Hickman: There’s a royalty structure in place, and we owe him money, as usual. But it will all work out.
[Laughs] OK, since you obviously that you can’t talk about that without spoiling anything, let’s talk about something different, like some of the other characters, obstacles and adversaries we’ll see in upcoming issues of “Avengers.”
Hickman: In “Avengers” We’ll see the Atemporal Avengers, and we’re going to do a rogue planet story, which is the jumping on issue. Then, over in “New Avengers,” we’re going to touch on a lot of the multiversal threats. We’re going to explain who the adversaries out there are and get into where each of the characters are after “Infinity.” All that is a structure to lead us to those two teams smashing together.
And there’s now a third Avengers series, “Avengers World,” which launches in January. When I talked with Nick Spencer about the book, he told me he was working with Jonathan, but he’s doing the bulk of the writing. How does “Avengers World” fit into the larger story you’re telling and what kinds of stories will see there versus the ones we’ll see in “Avengers?”
Hickman: Nick and I are pretty close. We get along very well and we work together very well. He’s completely aware of everything that’s going on and what our end point is. So with that in mind, the mandate was for him to go off and do a little more character-driven stuff, but for it to still feel like the larger scale of the “Avengers” book. So we talked about what to do with the book and where to take it. He’s run with that and done a great job. I’m very happy. Wouldn’t you agree, Tom?
Brevoort: Yeah, I would agree with all of that. As opposed to the issues that Nick co-wrote with Jonathan on the core “Avengers” book, which essentially were more Jonathan with Nick helping to keep the wheels on the cart, “Avengers World” is more Nick. It’s still a sister title that fits intimately into what we’re doing in “Avengers” and “New Avengers” and still has the input from Jonathan, but it’s much more Nick’s book than it is Jonathan’s.
So like the other Avengers titles, “Avengers World” can be read on its own, but if you read it along with the other titles you get a larger story.
Brevoort: Certainly, and if you’re interested in the cast that we’ve built up, you’ll see and learn a lot more about characters like Star Brand, Captain Universe, Shang-Chi, Smasher and all the other new faces, along with all the existing Avengers favorites. It’s another book devoted entirely to giving them space and screen time.
At the end of “Infinity,” Illuminati member Black Bolt and his brother Maximus are off on their own. These are two guys who know all about the group’s secret mission and their whereabouts are currently unaccounted for. Can you talk about how that will affect “New Avengers?” Will Black Bolt continue to play a role in the book?
Brevoort: He’s on the cover to issue #13.
Hickman: He intimately knows what’s going on, and once you’re aware of what’s going on and what the stakes are, there’s no divorcing yourself from the situation. He may be involved with some new situations now, but that doesn’t mean the world’s not going to end. So of course he’s going to still be involved.
Brevoort: He’s in a very similar situation to the one that Namor is in and the Black Panther is in. His city wasn’t bombed, and he hasn’t been cast out for conspiring with the enemy — he blew his city up and scattered his people to the wind. It’s definitely a huge cultural change for the Inhumans, and yet, if you stand him next to Namor and the Black Panther, you can see that they all have something in common. There’s a commonality of place surrounding the Illuminati in that all the things they have been doing have brought them to where they currently are.
Hickman: I don’t think we’re being subtle with the idea that all the kings have lost their castles.
Thanks to Black Bolt, Maximus now knows many of the Illuminati’s secrets. So is he now part of the equation in this book? Is he sort of an unofficial member of the team?
Hickman: They’re not really a team, so it’s not a case of official or unofficial. You either know the secrets or you don’t, and Maximus knows. Because it’s Maximus — that might not be for the good.
Another person with a complicated moral compass who has started to wonder about the secrets the Illuminati are keeping is Doctor Doom. At the end of the first “New Avengers” arc, you hint that Doom was curious about the Incursion that happened in his country. Will he have a role to play in this series moving forward?
Hickman: Sure. I don’t want to elaborate any more on that, though. I have nothing to say in the third person, today. [Laughs] I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll be keeping things pretty close to the vest for the next five months or so because of where we’re going and what’s going to happen.
What you said earlier suggests that we’ll get more clues about the larger mystery of the Incursions and some of the threats that the Black Swan alluded to.
Hickman: Yeah. One of the things that happened in “New Avengers” because of “Infinity” is that we really pushed the entire series back four to five issues. We had to, because of what was going on in the larger story between all the books. The stuff that you’re about to get was originally going to happen a little bit sooner. You’ll get a whole bunch of Swan and the broader elements that we’ll be using, like the Mapmakers. They’re going to matter a lot for the next couple of years.
Artwise, who will be working on the Avengers books in the immediate future?
Brevoort: Esad Ribic does issue #24.NOW of “Avengers” with a little bit of help from some other folks. Then, Salvador Larroca is on the next bunch of issues that involve the All-New Avengers. After that, around next spring or next summer, Leinil Yu will be back.
Over on “New Avengers,” it’s the fabulous Simone Bianchi doing the next three issues, #13-15. After that, Rags Morales is doing at least two issues, #16-17. Then after that? We’ll tell you about it when we get there.
It’s Avengers, so we fight hard to keep the quality high and to bring only the best and most storied of our Marvel artists onto the book. We’re going to slow our shipping pace down a little bit after “Infinity” to catch our breaths, but because these books ship so frequently, we have a tendency to go through artists very fast. It becomes almost a baton relay, as one artist does their three to four issues and then hands off to another, because there’s just no way that anybody is fast enough to do all of it. It makes these book trickier beasts than other books, but so far, it seems to be working. People find the work of these artists excellent and they’re engaged by the story. It doesn’t seem to be hurting us too bad.
Finally, from what you’ve told me and what I’ve read, it sounds like “Infinity” was book one of a larger “Lord of the Rings”-style saga running through the Avengers books. It was a complete tale, but also part of a larger story that will unfold over the course of a number of acts. Is that a fair assessment?
Brevoort: I think that’s entirely accurate, and really, nothing is going to get any smaller or easier from here. As massive, crazy, and epic as things have been up to this point, it’s only going to become more so in both “Avengers” and “New Avengers” as we move forward. It’s leading to the maddest thing possible at the end of a road that we’re only now really starting to wrap our hands around as an actual story as opposed to something that was hypothetical. It was like, “We’ll do this! And then we’ll get to this big thing!” Now we’re at the point where we’re delving into things and figuring out how it will all work, and it’s absolutely mind boggling and ridiculous.
I’ve said this since we launched, and I don’t know that people always take me seriously when I say these things, but “New Avengers” is the most crucial book to what is to come that we are publishing right now. “Avengers” is important too, but “New Avengers” is phenomenally important.
There’s a lot of hyperbole about a lot of things since it’s comics, and that’s what we do, but genuinely, a few years from now, people are going to look back and go, “Oh yeah. ‘New Avengers!’ That was important. I better go back and read all those back issues, collections and digital copies. I wish I had been following all along.”
Hickman: Right, because you sure as hell can’t jump on the book. [Laughs] I’m sorry!