As just announced at New York Comic Con, writer Nick Spencer and artist Luke Ross are launching a brand new take on Secret Avengers, with an emphasis on the "secret" part. And the "Avengers" part, too, but it's how they end of being secret that will probably be the most surprising. Let's dive right in:
Nick Spencer: Right? Crazy. Here’s the deal-- S.H.I.E.L.D. wants an Avengers team to call its own. The problem is, Avengers aren’t S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents. They’re independent operators, they’re loose cannons, they don’t take orders well. You certainly can’t just give them highly classified intel-- they don’t have the necessary security clearances, they haven’t been vetted, etc. Bottom line, they’re not yours. So there’s a lot of risk. Too much risk.
But if you could wipe the memory of those missions and that intel at any time from these Avengers, well, there’s a lot of risk minimized right there. And yes, the last time it was tried, it did end disastrously and basically started off a chain of events that eventually destroyed S.H.I.E.L.D.-- but hey, not everyone learns from their mistakes, right? In the end, the opportunity to get their hands on weapons like The Hulk proves just too tempting.
Geek: Okay, step back: who is this team, and how do they get put together?
Nick Spencer: The team roster is big, and fluid. You’re going to see a lot of Hawkeye, Black Widow, Taskmaster, and Mockingbird, as well as the new Iron Patriot. But you’ll also see The Hulk and few others with more specialized, or shall we say, high-impact power sets. Sometimes S.H.I.E.L.D. will recruit them for just one mission, sometimes they’ll be a more permanent fixture. That’s a big part of the fun in the book for me-- anyone can get the call.
Geek: What's your take on Fury and Coulson? Clearly we all love them from the movie theater, but what makes 'em unique in the Marvel Universe?
Nick Spencer: I’m a sucker for the ‘normal guy in an extraordinary world’ thing, and Coulson just fits that bill perfectly. And it’s a fun voice to write-- there’s a reason he became such a fan favorite in the films. He embodies a lot of what S.H.I.E.L.D. is all about, humanity’s response to a world gone mad.
With Nick, it’s a slightly different approach. It’s all about legacy. His father’s name is on the building-- but even more than that, it’s the father he never knew. So he’s been suddenly dropped into this world that in some ways is his birthright, but that he had no knowledge of just a few months prior. It’s a lot to process.
Also, Nick’s own background-- as a soldier, his service in Afghanistan, that informs a lot of what he’ll do here. He’s spent a lot of time in a very bloody, very nasty conflict that’s miles from what the average superhero deals with. He sees the lines differently. He’s very much his father’s son in that regard-- he’s willing to do what needs to be done. But he’s also new to this and he doesn’t have the experience, so it’s all a bit rougher around the edges.
Geek: How about Maria Hill... How does she play into all of this?
Nick Spencer: Maria’s arc is, in many ways, the book’s arc. She’s one of my favorite Marvel characters, period, so I was excited to get her for the book. She’s in a very interesting place when the book begins-- remember, this is a new S.H.I.E.L.D., very different from the one she used to be a part of. She’s serving under a very young director, one who was a protege’ of Nick Fury, Sr., and has limited, if exceptional, experience. So she’s got questions. She’s got concerns. And she knows how important it is that S.H.I.E.L.D. re-asserts itself on the world stage-- so if things start going wrong, she’s going to take things into her own hands.
Geek: With Hawkeye/Mockingbird and Winter Soldier/Black Widow on the team, can we assume Hulk will be hooking up with the Iron Patriot? Or already has?
Nick Spencer: Ha, yeah-- lot of relationship drama in the air here, right? Past, present, and future. That’s good. It wouldn’t be an Avengers book if the personal dramas didn’t overlap with the big, explosive stuff. Some cool plans there.
Geek: I was surprised to see Winter Soldier on the team, what with his whole, "I'm dead" business... Is that going to be dealt with here, or with the potential mind wiping, are we going to be seeing his team-mates shocked he's alive on every adventure?
Nick Spencer: The Winter Soldier has a very important role to play in the book, but it’s not as a member of the team, per se. That’s about all I can say about that right now. We’ll certainly see a lot of him here, but he’s not one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s operatives.
Geek: Luke, what kind of look are you going for with this? Secret Avengers has always erred on the "darker, murkier" side of things, is that what you're hitting here again?
Luke Ross: I plan to keep the look I've been doing on the Ultimate Comics Ultimates, but of course I need to respect the essence of the book. When the story needs a sequence with a dark mood, you will surely see more shadows in the pages. But I don't think that will be the most important aesthetic appeal of my style.
One of the first notes that Nick gave me in the first script was about place, he says that location is very important to this book and a strong sense of place is a important part of that. So I'll definitely dedicate some time to research the location, to bring a possible realism to the events in the book.
I also plan to use more widescreen panels in the book, It's a useful storytelling tool that I love to do in my books and I think will fit very well here when it asks for more cinematic sequences - Besides, they also read very well in digital comics.
Another aesthetic idea that Nick asked me to bring to the book are the black gutters, it's something that I believe will also reinforce the murky side of the book. We know that in comics the action we don't see in the panels happens in the gutters, in this case the conclusion occurs in black/dark gutters.
Geek: With so much craziness going on in the Marvel Universe on a daily basis, why is it important for some missions to be secret? What's so bad they can't tell the general public, who probably call destruction and alien invasions "Tuesday."
Nick Spencer: This was a major point of focus for me when I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the book. To me, there has to be a reason this team gets these missions, something that sets them apart. It can’t just be ‘these guys are bad and want to blow something up, shut them down.’
S.H.I.E.L.D. operates very, very differently from The Avengers. They’re global peacekeepers. They’re targeting rogue states, terrorist groups, intelligence leaks. They have a political agenda. A lot of these missions are diplomatically sensitive, in terms of where they’re going and who they’re targeting. Sometimes the operatives are being asked to do things that aren’t easily defined as heroic. You hesitate to use terms like “real world” in regards to this stuff, but this book definitely takes place in a very different sphere than your average superhero team book.
Bottom line, rest assured-- the book is called “Secret Avengers” for a reason.
Geek: Any last thoughts? Things you can't wait for fans to see?
Nick Spencer: It’s a S.H.I.E.L.D. book. This is nearly every Marvel writer’s dream book, you know? And it’s coming at a time when S.H.I.E.L.D. could not be bigger in the public consciousness. Plus it’s got some of my favorite Avengers in leading roles. I’m excited about the whole thing, and very grateful to Tom and Lauren and everyone at Marvel for giving me the chance to do it.
But in terms of things I’m most excited for fans to see? The Ascendant are gonna go over big, I think.
Luke Ross: It's a golden opportunity for me, this book will give me the chance to draw some of my favorite Avengers playing the the role of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. It's very exciting for me and I think fans will feel the same!
I also want to thank Tom and Lauren and the Marvel guys for this great opportunity. I'll do my best and give my contribution to help Nick to make this a true Black Ops/Spy book.
Secret Avengers #1 hits comic book stands from Marvel Comics in February, 2013... OR DOES IT?