Marvel’s all-new volume of ‘Secret Avengers’ declassified

(CBR) In order to keep track of and take action against some of the Marvel Universe's more fantastic and bizarre threats the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. needs both metaphorical and literal super spies. In the previous volume of “Secret Avengers” they assembled a unit of the latter and tasked them with assignments like keeping New York safe during Thanos' recent invasion and foiling the schemes of the high tech terrorist group turned nation state, A.I.M.

The team's clashes against A.I.M. turned into an extended and bloody campaign against its Supreme Scientist and his forces which came to a close in “Secret Avengers” #16 by writers Ales Kot & Nick Spencer and artist Luke Ross. The final battle of that campaign forced S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill to forge a strange new alliance with former A.I.M. leader M.O.D.O.K. and activate the group's memory implants, which wiped her super agents' memories of their activities with S.H.I.E.L.D.

Hill still needs super agents to keep the world safe, and on March 12 she'll send a new incarnation of her “Secret Avengers” back out into the field when Kot and artist Michael Walsh kick off a new volume of the series as part of All-New Marvel NOW!. CBR News spoke with Kot about the fallout from the Secret Avengers' final battle with A.I.M. and how it impacts his new volume of the series.

CBR News: Ales, when you first got your “Secret Avengers” assignment did you know that you would also be writing the next volume of the series? If so, what was it like writing “How to Maim a Mockingbird,” the final arc of the previous volume, with Nick? It felt like essentially you were most interested in bringing the Secret Avengers' battle against A.I.M. to a close, while still keeping a lot of the same characters and ideas around to play with in the next volume. Is that correct?

Ales Kot: I didn't know I would be writing the next volume. I knew the series would likely be relaunched, and I knew that writing the ending well would be something that would get me closer to the gig, but at the end of the day, I want to make the best story possible whether it could be leading to another writing assignment or not.

Nick and I plotted everything together with our then-editor, Lauren Sankovitch. I essentially came up with the first draft, we refined together — thankfully throwing out at least one idea of mine that would likely not work — and then I finalized the outline. After that, I wrote the script by myself, finding out that I was quite tuned in.

In terms of what we were pulling off with “How to Maim a Mockingbird”, the essential idea was “What if 'The Empire Strikes Back' turned out reasonably well, considering everything?” — and that's what I went for. I understood that there were previous actions and forces that clearly attracted consequences. I also wanted to give the season a proper finale — something that would stay open-ended and true to the story and the characters at the same time. I'm glad we succeeded.

One idea that I'm especially curious about whether or not it will return in the next volume is the memory implants. At the end of issue #16 Maria Hill says the operation will have to change radically, but then she uses the mind wipe code word and activates the team's memory implants. Can you comment at all on whether or not the memory implants will be an element of your new volume? Or would that be tipping your hand?

Everything Maria Hill has done up to this point will come back to haunt her. Some things won't come back in a perfectly clear form, because that's not how things always work — but the cumulative force of her decisions certainly will hit.

One character we know will be back in your new volume of “Secret Avengers” even though he quit the team at the end of this volume is Hawkeye. Can you talk about why that is? In “Secret Avengers” #16 and in the past he's mentioned his distaste for espionage missions, yet here he is again a part of another super hero spy team. Is there a part of him that actually enjoys being a spy? Or is the Secret Avengers a way for him to keep an eye on people he cares about like Black Widow, Mockingbird, and in this new series Spider-Woman, who all happen to be spies themselves?

Hawkeye likes to hang around people he likes. And he likes to forget about himself. That means he sometimes launches into ridiculous missions precisely because they give him a chance to show off and also stop thinking. Because, in the back of his head, there's this voice that says — “you're not doing enough.”

There's also a part of him that genuinely enjoys being a spy. And a part of him that enjoys hanging around with Black Widow and Spider-Woman — even though, or especially — because they are usually quite annoyed with his man-child ways.

Is he keeping an eye on people he cares about? That's an interesting idea. I wonder why Hawkeye does these things. I wonder if he eventually finds out that he might have a larger interest in all this, or if things go completely another way. Time will tell.

Back in the first issue of this now-wrapped volume of “Secret Avengers” we saw that one of the reasons Hawkeye and Black Widow agreed to the memory implants was because S.H.I.E.L.D. was going to give them a shot at a particular threat, but the identity of that threat was kept secret. Is that a mystery that will continue in your all-new volume of “Secret Avengers?”

This won't be explored in the all-new volume of “Secret Avengers,” at least not in the foreseeable future. However, there's no telling when that particular storyline reappears — or in what form.

Two other characters we know will be back in the new volume of “Secret Avengers” are Nick Fury Jr. and Phil Coulson. What do you find most interesting about these characters? What kind of roles will they play in this series? Will they be in the field? Or in a more administrative role?

They will be in the field, but there's more to it. For example, Fury Jr. knows about M.O.D.O.K.'s current involvement with S.H.I.E.L.D., but no-one else on the team does — including Coulson.

To circle back — I dig their dynamic. They're good friends. They have each other's backs. But there are other developments coming. You'll know what I mean, in one sense, by the end of the first issue. They fall.

And — I am really sorry. Some terrible things will happen. One of them includes PTSD, the other — I won't tell.

The fates of Taskmaster and the “Free Agents” group of Mockingbird, Daisy Johnson and the Winter Soldier were kept slightly ambiguous at the end of “Secret Avengers” #16. Is there a chance we'll see these characters again in your new volume of “Secret Avengers?”

Winter Soldier is currently appearing in the “All-New Invaders,” so look for him there — he won't be appearing right now. Daisy Johnson won't be reappearing. Mockingbird won't be reappearing. At least not in the near future.

As for Taskmaster — wouldn't that be something? And how about Deadpool?

We mentioned earlier that Spider-Woman would be joining the “Secret Avengers” with this new volume. What do you feel she adds to the book?

Jessica Drew is a spy who is rather talented and also a little bit disturbed. What I mean is she hardly knows how to relax. She's constantly putting herself into her work, she's always figuring out what the next thing is. In that way — she's a bit like Hawkeye.

And that's where Black Widow comes in. She essentially takes Jessica under her wing. We see this the first time they appear — Russian baths in NY, caramel gelato, massage. Black Widow enjoys it. She knows relaxation is important for you. She's got the years and the knowledge. Spider-Woman? She's learning all that. And now she's got a friend.

Also: there's a rather interesting gift that will show itself as the story progresses. Spider-Woman gets a new power.

As you mentioned, the other major new member of the book is M.O.D.O.K. who is in a very interesting role as a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. The current incarnation of A.I.M. is a recognized member of the United Nations with a seat on the Security Council. It's probably safe to say this is the group's most successful iteration yet and instead of being part of that M.O.D.O.K. is part of S.H.I.E.L.D., traditionally an enemy of A.I.M. Do you think that bothers him on a conscious or subconscious level? Or is M.O.D.O.K enjoying working for Maria Hill when your new volume of “Secret Avengers” begins?

What a great question. M.O.D.O.K. is a blank page. He lets you see what he wants you to see. There's no telling what his true agenda is. He could be the Heisenberg of this group — or its savior. Or, maybe things are not so black and white? I really look forward to you all finding the answers within the story.

You're working on this book with Michael Walsh who is no stranger to espionage stories or the fantastic having both worked with you on “Zero” at Image Comics and on IDW's “X-Files: Season 10.” This is his first Marvel work though, correct? Which characters and elements of the Marvel Universe does he seem to really enjoy drawing? Which of his character renditions are you especially impressed by?

Yes, this is Mike's first Marvel work. The great thing about Mike is that he's utterly engrossed in drawing the comic, and also in collaborating with the team. We're a tight ship. I am genuinely impressed by everything he draws. He delights in experimentation while at the same time working in the tradition of artists such as Sean Phillips, Michael Lark and David Aja — and if we go further back, Alex Toth. What Mike does is he co-creates worlds, universes. That's why we're working together so well — we're interested in giving you something that is lived in, a universe that breathes and doesn't end when you finish reading it.

Finally can you hint or tease some of the plots of the stories that await readers in this new volume of “Secret Avengers?” I understand that this is a book that will be structured where the stories will be easily accessible for readers who want to jump on later, but it will also reward long term readers with plots that come back and build. Is that correct?

You are completely correct. I will give you five teasers.

1) Lady Bullseye goes after Black Widow.

2) The Fury will be back. And it won't be the same as it ever was.

3) In issue four, someone dies. In issue five, someone else gets hurt real bad.

4) M.O.D.O.K. is in charge of the lab. This means — I think the correct word here is “unconventional” — science.

5) Pay attention to everything. There are multiple plans happening from the first issue. Multiple alliances you might not quite see.

This is a comic I would buy with my own money. I believe it feels like nothing else in the Marvel Universe — and I believe it's true to its core statement and to its characters while taking them somewhere new. I believe the coloring — the late Tony Scott influenced filter-like mixing and matching performed by Matt Wilson — is also wholly unique and it contributes to the adrenaline-heavy Michael Bay directing “Avengers” meets “Arrested Development” by the way of “Breaking Bad” vibe.

I can tell you that it's a comic that surprises us as we make it. We're taking chances. We're inventing new scenarios and possibilities. We're exploring new ideas. And we love the comics medium. I'm delighted with what we're doing. I want everyone to come see why.

“Secret Avengers” #1 by Ales Kot & Michael Walsh goes on sale March 12.