(CBR) With the end of Marvel Comics’ “Age of Ultron” came the planted seeds for a new team of Avengers — and today’s “Age of Ultron” #10A.I. clarified the new world order for Hank Pym that pushes him to make more of a difference. In July, Pym forms a new automaton Avengers squad consisting of longtime Avenger the Vision, Runaway Victor Mancha, a Doombot and more. Along with the 616 version of Ultimate Universe fan-favorite character Monica Chang, Pym is out to combat robotic threats with a robotic response. Assembling the new team of Avengers is “Uncanny X-Force” and “Ultimate Comics Ultimates” writer Sam Humphries, who spoke with CBR News about his upcoming series launch with artist Andre Lima Araujo, the current status of Hank Pym following “Age of Ultron,” the first major threat the Avengers A.I. need to combat and more.
CBR News: Sam, you’ve spoken in the past about the concept behind “Avengers A.I.,” but now that “Age of Ultron” is over, readers have seen what the catalyst was for Hank Pym to create this team. How much will you be exploring Hank’s reaction to learning that he almost caused the end of all things?
[Check out exclusive new artwork from “Avengers A.I.” #2 in the embedded gallery below.]
Sam Humphries: “Age of Ultron” is a turning point for Hank. It’s a double-edged sword. Not only did he learn that he’s brilliant enough to endanger the world, he learned that he’s brilliant enough to save the world too. Not many can pull it off both ways! For a scientist like Hank, that’s both terrifying and empowering. In “Age of Ultron,” Hank created a self-replicating virus to take down the robot. What he didn’t predict was that the virus would continue to live beyond that moment. The artificial intelligence he created has been replicating, evolving, growing — without human assistance. It’s a new life form on planet Earth! Hank is thrilled that he managed to cross one of the major barriers in scientific achievement. But after seeing what he saw in the “Age of Ultron,” he knows that every achievement has a consequence — and this genie most definitely cannot be put back into a bottle. Now Hank takes it upon himself to deal with the good and the bad that comes from that achievement — and assembling Avengers A.I. is part of the way he’s taking responsibility for his actions. One of the first threats we’ll see is Dimitrios — a bad guy with a very unique and dangerous perspective on the world.
One of the big characters in this series is 616 Monica Chang, who you’ve admitted a preference for while you were writing “Ultimate Comics Ultimates.” How much does this Monica Chang differ from her Ultimate counterpart?
They differ in some pretty significant ways — the Marvel U Monica is a bit younger, she’s not the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., she’s never had a relationship with Nick Fury, she’s never been the Black Widow. But they’re the same in fundamental ways, too. Both are razor-sharp intellects with a fierce dedication to protecting global security — even if it means making hard choices and standing up to intimidating superheroes.
Victor Mancha, Vision, a Doombot — these aren’t really names that one normally sees on a superhero team. Considering that all the members of this team (save Hank and Monica) will be sentient A.I., was there a challenge in making the danger real? After all, most of the team are synthezoids that could conceivably just get new bodies at the drop of a hat.
The unique properties of our robot characters does not spell the end of high stakes — it portends the evolution of high stakes. If you don’t have to worry as much about physical damage, what more could you achieve? You’ll see these heroes do things no human-based heroes can do, right off the bat in issue #1. This book will go places the other Avengers books can go, such as inside the Diamond in issue 3. By the same token, the threats they face will have the same elevated advantages as well. And if you are a villain — how much more nefarious could you be if you can inhabit any synthetic body? We see how Dimitrios takes advantage of this in issue #2. And of course, these guys are Avengers. They are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It is their duty to make sure life on planet Earth does not come to harm. The planet, and its people, are still very vulnerable.
While you haven’t yet written Doctor Doom, a Doombot seems like it might be pretty close. As such, it seems like he’d be the most conflicted of the team. How does the Doombot reconcile his order to do good from Pym while struggling with his inner Doom?
Pym made it very simple for the Doombot. He has implanted a micro black hole in Doombot’s chest. If Doombot goes rogue, or goes too long without an infusion of Pym particles, the black hole will suction him out of existence. Doombot chafes at the indignity of taking orders from an Avenger, but like any other intelligent life, he values his existence. But don’t forget that Doombot is patterned after one of the greatest geniuses of the Marvel Universe. Do you think Doom would just accept this fate — or would he use whatever leash he’s given to secretly scheme against his captors? What Would Doom Do, Steve?
This series seems poised to bring Vision back to the Marvel stage in a major way. Although Pym seems to be the driving force behind the team, what is Vision’s role on Avengers A.I.?
Thanks to Hank’s virus, the Vision is no longer a novelty. He’s no longer the one A.I. in the room — he’s on a planet that is home to both humans and A.I. After the traumatic events he’s endured over the past few years (death, for example) the Vision has upgraded himself to a new body, and he’s ready for a new role in the Marvel Universe. This is his time to step forward and decide his own destiny. Is he a protector? A leader? A robot? An Avenger? Or something else entirely that no one else would predict?
The one character that doesn’t seem to be recognizable on the team is the blonde-haired woman in blue, Alexis. Anything you can tease about her identity and how she might have a connection to Hank Pym?
Alexis has a direct connection to Pym. A connection similar to the connections that Vision, Victor and Ultron have to Pym. She also has a connection to the Diamond, and Dimitrios, and the new A.I. rapidly making its presence known on Earth.
When the team is initially assembled, what kind of threats does Pym hope they’ll stop? It seems like a pretty specialized strike force.
When artificial intelligence is the threat, you need to fight fire with fire. A.I.s don’t think like humans — they strike quickly and precisely. They play the long game — twelve steps ahead, along multiple branching lines of strategy. And they can be carelessly brutal. Not for the sake of being brutal — but their priorities and values can be different from ours. Sometimes that shakes out in favor of the humans… sometimes not. But all that aside, how do you fight any foe that employs homogenous thinking? With diversity. That’s why Avengers A.I. will use both human and machine intellect to combat these new threats.
That said, what’s the difference in writing a team like A.I., and the other specialized team of heroes you write in “Uncanny X-Force?”
Uncanny X-Force lives in the shadows, Avengers A.I. lives in the spotlight.
Hypothetically, if the Avengers A.I. were to encounter Ultron, how would that fight go for them?
The answer to this might constitute a spoiler. I’m going to quote a great philosopher of our time, Tom Brevoort, and say, “Wait and see!”
“Avengers A.I.” #1 by Sam Humphries and Andre Lima Araujo hits stores July 3.