With Marvel’s big event Fear Itself drawing to its conclusion, it’s time to enter the next phase of the Marvel Universe. That means its also time for another one of the company’s Next Big Thing calls – this time with Marvel Architect Brian Michael Bendis, and Marvel Contractor/Editor Tom Brevoort. Kidding about the contractor part.
The call specifically to discuss the future of The Avengers franchise, which currently includes the Bendis scripted New Avengers (the more street level team), and plain ol’ Avengers (the big guns); as well as Avengers Academy, by scribe Christos Gage, and Secret Avengers, currently by Nick Spencer, and upcoming by Warren Ellis. So what’s coming next for the assemblage of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?
How a big, old school style crossover? Kicking off in New Avengers #16.1, Bendis will be scripting “H.A.M.M.E.R. Wars,” which featured the return of Norman Osborn, the debut of a new Dark Avengers, and one of the biggest threats the assembled teams have ever faced.
While Norman was away in prison, those of you reading the comics know, a cult formed around the Green Goblin’s legacy. So HYDRA, AIM, disgruntled SHIELD agents, and The Hand all band together in the cult of Osborn. “The difference here is that Osborn is out of the loop he created,” said Bendis on the call. “He gets out of prison, and is surrounded by his followers.”
And in fact, Osborn might be more uncomfortable with what’s going on than The Avengers, as the new group is led by villains Madame Hydra and Gorgon in his name. But that doesn’t mean he won’t take advantage, as he uses the opportunity to create a new Dark Avengers.
“Dark Avengers was very successful for Norman,” continued Bendis. “It was a good second life for Norman. There will be something cool in AIM that will allow him to put together a new Dark Avengers... His Dark Avengers will have a Thor, and a Hulk, and a Hawkeye, and a Spider-Man, and some things that are even more technologically advanced than Tony Stark has any idea about.”
And while the New Avengers are – initially – dealing with these Dark Avengers, The Avengers (yeah, this won’t get less confusing any time soon) will be dealing with the greater threat of HAMMER. Said Bendis, “It’s a battle being fought by smart people. They’ve learned from their mistakes, and come together to really let them have it… As the story builds towards our springtime, and we’re going to be in the midst of The Avengers movie craze, we’ll bring them together.”
That said, the teams won’t be the same as they are now, going into the new event. Bendis hesitates to spoil who will be on the main team, as it will spoil the end of Fear Itself, but he would say that, “Avengers is a taking a huge line-up change. Two of the characters will be as classic as classic gets. And one of them will be a relatively new character.”
We asked how the two teams would be different then – and Bendis clarified that it’s a bit more complicated than just “Big Hitters” versus “Street Level.”
“The New Avengers is kind of the gathering of friends and family, while The Avengers is an appointment – or a call to arms, if that makes sense,” said Bendi. “It’s Steve Rogers making a call. New Avengers, it’s more of a flexible thing, where they show up and eat each other out of house and home.”
Continuing, Bendis said that, “there’s going to be a lot more comings and goings between the teams... Steve will gather whatever bodies he can, and say, let’s go. A lot more duos and trios on separate missions together. Much like we did in Fear Itself with Hawkeye and Spider-Woman. So you’re going to see smaller teams going to do things, and larger teams doing things… In my ongoing attempt to not just have people standing around not doing anything.”
A few other bullet points about the crossover:
- Neal Adams is drawing, and Tom Palmer is inking… Palmer hasn’t worked on Avengers since the Kree/Skrull War, so Brevoort sees this as a bit of a homecoming for him and Adams.
- Victoria Hand’s loyalties will continue to be in question going forward, particularly during this upcoming storyline.
- “Spider-Man is the lead, front and center in the middle of this,” said Bendis. And Brevoort has chatted extensively with Spider-Man writer Dan Slott about how this will affect his books. “If Norman is out of prison, every day of his life he’s under more pressure than he is normally,” said Brevoort. “That’s got to carry through into the Spidey books, as well as The Avengers books going forward.”
- Asked whether Secret Avengers characters would return, since Madame Hydra and Gorgon were both villains in that book, Bendis said Daisy Johnson is in Avengers #17, which is out this week.
- Secret Avengers and Avengers Academy won’t tie in directly, they’re doing their own thing for the next few months. However, there will be tie-ins with Moon Knight.
While this is going on, Bendis is also scripting a series of annuals which pits the teams against The Revengers, a team of ex-Avengers who hate the main teams for one reason or another, led by Wonder Man. We asked whether there was any chance for redemption for fan favorite Simon Williams at the end of this, or if he was a villain going forward, to which Bendis responded, “I wouldn’t use the word villain that strongly… I don’t’ see him so much as a villain so much as, ‘I’m a person who have made some mistakes, and the Avengers is one of them.’ There is a very interesting road ahead for Simon. I promise, I’m not trying to ruin the character.”
As for the future of the Franchise past HAMMER Wars? Bendis was mostly mum, though he did drop a few teasing hints:
- There are two or three huge Avengers projects coming up that will, action wise, top Hammer Wars.
- Age of Ultron, which was teased at the end of The Avengers point one issue, comes after HAMMER Wars. Bryan Hitch is drawing it; there are already a number of issues in the can.
- John Romita Jr. is off Avengers, so he can work on something for Bendis that will be coming out down the line.
To sum things up, Bendis reemphasized that this is the beginning of a big year for the franchise, which will crest next Summer: “We really are building to the summer of the Avengers. It’s really going to be something special, so we’ve dedicated ourselves to telling the biggest stories we can tell.”