‘Uncanny Avengers’ journey through space and time in ‘Ragnarock Now’

(CBR) Rick Remender’s most recent issue of “Uncanny Avengers” had a lot of references to the vast continuity of the Marvel Universe — including shout-outs to “Earth X”, 2099 and even Remender’s own work on “Uncanny X-Force” — and the end of “Uncanny X-Force” #14 certainly left a lot up in the air for fans to speculate about. With “Uncanny Avengers” #15 scheduled to hit stores December 18, there are a lot of unanswered questions — fortunately, Remender and Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort were on hand for a special press conference call to discuss the future direction of “Uncanny Avengers,” the plan and rationale behind spanning the time/space continuum of the Marvel U, the fate of certain members of Havok’s Unity Squad and more.

After introductions by Marvel PR Guru Christopher D’Lando, Remender discussed what it was like working with incoming artist Steve McNiven. “The dude is insanely talented,” said Remender. “We’ve had a string of brilliant artists and I think there’s something about Steve where you know something big and epic is happening in the Marvel Universe. … Basically, he’s one of those guys who hits every single criteria for superstar. Having been fortunate enough now to work with him, I can see why. Given the scope and the crazy stuff we have coming up in the ‘Ragnarok Now’ chapter of the story, we were lucky to get Steve.”

The first few pages of “Uncanny Avengers” #14 went through Kang’s recruitment drive, and Remender teased a bit of what he has planned, which has been going on since issue #5. “The question with a story like this is when you have somebody like Kang in the background, and you’ve seen him manipulating history, … how much of this is the Twins getting one over on Kang and how much is it Kang getting what he wants?” said Remender. “Kang is such an amazing character and he’s so powerful. The only thing that he’s tethered to is his sense of honor; wanting to be a conqueror, but wanting to do it with honor. What he’ll do sometimes is set things up and they’ll go sideways on him. The question here is how much of it is going sideways on Kang and how much are his machinations are coming together.”

The writer said Kang will become more of a central focus following “Ragnarok Now.”

Brevoort, joined by Daniel Ketchum, said it was “shocking” the characters that died in issue #14 because “they were solicited as dying in issue #12.” Jokes aside, Brevoort described Remender’s story as “big.” “Why just Kang when you can have Kang and Stryfe and Iron Man 2020 and Doom 2099 — why would you stop with just Kang?” Brevoort said. “When you’re painting on a canvas that’s that big, … things like this issue are bound to happen. That said, if people go back and look at it with fresh eyes back to ‘Uncanny Avengers’ #1, it’s not difficult to see that this trajectory was there and seeded and set up from the very first pages. We’re only now getting to that as a springboard to all the things that are coming afterwards.”

“I feel upset for Wonder Man because nobody was upset that he died,” Brevoort continued.

The Unity Squad was a fragile entity to begin with, and Remender stated that the unity of it all “had not been earned” and “didn’t feel natural” after the events of “AvX.” “My instinct was to continue to shatter and break,” said Remender. “Between ‘Civil War’ and ‘Schism’ and ‘AvX’ and all these events we’ve had with heroes fighting heroes — we haven’t seen a big true shazam in terms of ramifications for this behavior. It’s so unheroic of them to be fighting each other … that what I was coming to was they continue to be distrustful.” However, considering the depth of the current threat, there will be consequences for the team not getting along and not uniting.

As for the characters depicted on the “Uncanny Avengers” #18.NOW variant, Remender said the conclusion of “Ragnarok Now” is “pretty shocking” and there’s “some form of a mutant home world established in space.” “As for what is going on on this planet, I think it’s going to be an examination of the mutants getting everything they didn’t know they wanted,” said Remender. “When there are no humans, save for Wasp, they perhaps continue to break into factions … it’s something we’re going to examine.” A lot of that story will be told through the eyes of the last human on the planet: the Wasp. Havok will also play a large role.

“Without being unrelentingly depressing, things do not get a lot better — issue #14 is probably the uppest issue,” said Brevoort.

“Issue #14 is the feel-good issue!” said Remender.

As for the time-hopping at the beginning of “Uncanny Avengers” #14, Remender said there’s a slow burn that he’s got prepared in terms of story.

“You still don’t know what it is that’s going on,” said Remender of the Twins’ stated “victory” a few issues back. “As far as what it is the Twins are accomplishing, if you count the number of timelines and go back to some of the things Immortus told Captain America in an earlier issue, you’ll get some of the clues. What we’re doing here is pretty big in scope. We’re still in the second act of the overall story, which is going to back to the first arc with the Red Skull getting Xavier’s powers and his S-Men. You’ve got that percolating in the background, and all of it combines into the biggest thing I’ve written for Marvel, for sure. … When you see where it all leads and we see our remaining team members facing Kang and his Chronos Corps — things don’t get much better.”

Remender also stated that they’re going to be dealing with the Onslaught tease in issue #4 at some point, and that they haven’t forgotten about the appearance. “It still happens, but it doesn’t show our hands in any of the deaths we’ve seen,” said Remender.

Wasp’s increased role in the book is partially due to Remender’s experience growing up with the character leading the Avengers. “That’s something I think whether or not she’s conscious of it or intending it that she’s doing in a natural way,” he said. “It leads to her making decisions that put her in an interesting predicament. … Wasp is a huge part of the story, I don’t want to give away too much, but we’ve found an interesting position to put her in as one of the few humans that are on this Planet X. Perhaps Magneto wants to get all the humans off Planet X and has his own X-Force squad that looks a lot like the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.”

The writer also said that what the team has in store will build off of the events of “Uncanny Avengers” #14. “The team’s reaction is obviously coming. The way we’ve structured this, these deaths are revealed to some of the other cast members at moments in time that serve to hinder them further,” he said, “and definitely don’t help the overall morale.”

Rogue has also been in a “deep depression” since the death of Charles Xavier in “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” according to Remender, and the lack of trust she had of the Scarlet Witch is demonstrative of the lack of actual unity on the Unity Squad.

“Ragnarok Now” has been building since the days of “Uncanny X-Force,” but the original plans for those stories aren’t exactly the same as the one that’s been reworked for “Uncanny Avengers.”

“Had Rick done another year of ‘X-Force,’ these are not the stories he would have told,” said Brevoort. “That said, there are roots to and backgrounds that go back to ‘X-Force’ and other things that go back to Rick’s cannon.”

“The story is very different,” said Remender. “While the Twins go back to ‘X-Force,’ all the stuff with Kang, it’s based on this cast, it’s meant for this cast.”

“Uncanny Avengers” has been somewhat unique in that it hasn’t tied in very directly to any recent Marvel events — something that Brevoort said was a result of the massive scope of the story.

“I think that has everything to do with the fact that we’re doing an 18 issue story,” said Brevoort. “Because it’s an 18 issue story, there’s not a lot of time to stop and have our guys stop and fight the builders of Thanos. We did participate in ‘Age of Ultron’ because we were able to do an issue there that fit and propelled the story of Kang and the Twins along in the way. I’d say it’s in the same place as any other Avengers title. The characters have appeared in other books, it’s been easier for that to happen than in other places because in issue #5 we started a really big story and there hasn’t been time.”

As for where the story falls in the greater history of the Marvel Universe, Brevoort said, “Until the story is done, I’m not going to tell you.”

“Uncanny Avengers” does have a story that involves Angel and involves Evan, said Remender.

Remender said in terms of continuity, he wanted to make a book that you could go back after five years and read that book. What the creative team is doing now will likely turn into something on the scale of a major event. “When you see where we’re going with it, it’ll be a nice payout for that.”

“Uncanny Avengers” #14 is on sale now.