When the nefarious Norman Osborn seized power in the Marvel Universe, the New Avengers made a vow to bring him down. Osborn’s legal position in the U.S. government as well his near limitless resources means that the Avengers are outnumbered and outgunned, so if the heroes are ever to succeed in ending Osborn’s "Dark Reign" they can’t allow any of their ranks to go missing or get captured. So when one of their flock disappears the women of the New Avengers head out to find their teammate and bring him home. This is what December’s “New Avengers Annual” #3, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mike Mayhew, is all about. CBR News spoke with the creators about the book and just what fans can expect.
This year's “New Avengers Annual” spins directly out of the events of the upcoming “Dark Reign: The List- Avengers” special. “Something major happens to Ronin AKA Clint Barton in 'The List' , which is coming out very soon, so I'm going to be a little vague.” Bendis told CBR News. “What is great about 'New Avengers Annual' #3 is that it's a very big chapter for Mockingbird and Jessica Jones and their places in the Avengers.
“I know ever since 'Secret Invasion' and 'New Avengers: The Reunion', the Ronin and Mockingbird mini-series, there's been some questions about what Mockingbird's status will be. People have wondered just how cool she's going to be. She's going to be very cool and you'll see it all come to bloom in this Annual, which is a very big Dark Reign chapter as well. It's the fall out from all of the 'The List' specials, but it's also very self contained.”
Bendis wanted the Annual to focus on Jessica Jones and Mockingbird because of the similarities in their places in the Marvel Universe. “They're both romantically linked to iconic men in the Marvel Universe and the Avengers,” Bendis said. “They've both had adventures with and without their significant others and it seemed that it was time not only for them, but for the other women in the New Avengers as well to step up and establish their places on the team.
“Plot wise and thematically this story is about the ladies of the New Avengers going on a big, big mission against things they can't fight against; things that they're overwhelmed by,” Bendis continued. “I think it's a great opportunity to see these characters bloom, blossom, make some major sacrifices and do what needs to be done.”
While Mockingbird, Jessica Jones and their other team mates are all affiliated with the Avengers, that doesn't necessarily mean they all like each other and get along. “New Avengers Annual” #3 will explore the dynamic between the characters. “People have already discovered in the most recent issue of 'New Avengers' that the team is starting to crack a little. Some members think that Norman Osborn should be handled in a permanent manner and others believe they should rise above things and do what must be done as heroes. Throughout the summer that divide will widen to very desperate areas,” Bendis said. “In our earliest conversations about Dark Reign we talked about what having someone like Norman in charge would do to these characters. Peter Parker can handle this stuff but other people of certain temperaments wouldn't be able to handle it. They would start going down roads they might not normally. 'Dark Reign: The List-Avengers' and 'New Avengers Annual' #3 are big chapters in this storyline. A lot of big questions are going to be asked in this book.”
Bendis is very happy to have artist Mike Mayhew assisting him in posing the big questions of “New Avengers Annual” #3. “He did the covers for 'The Pulse' and he was one of the artists I always wanted to get in here to do interiors,” Bendis stated. “He's been busy working on some creator owned stuff, but his schedule recently freed up and I was like, 'I've got something for you!' I think this is one of those opportunities that will show him in a new light to some people.”
Mike Mayhew was very happy to get the invite from Bendis and his editor Tom Brevoort to work on this year's “New Avengers Annual”. “I think what Brian has done with the Avengers franchise is just incredible,” the artist told CBR News. “Growing up I never really liked the Avengers, I was more of an X-Men fan, but Brian has made the Avengers so much more complex and the characters he's brought in have made things so much more dynamic.
“I'm super excited to be drawing the Avengers. It's an honor really,” Mayhew continued. “I've done a few things at Marvel but nothing this big. So I really plan on showing people a side of me they haven't seen before.”
At the time of this interview, Mayhew was still in the early stages of his work on the book and was completing the cover which prominently featured Mockingbird and Jessica Jones. “I have a history with Jessica from 'The Pulse' covers. I always liked the character. She's got a unique place in the Marvel Universe,” the artist stated. “And Mockingbird I remember from the 'Hawkeye and Mockingbird” mini-series which came out around 1986. They've redone her a little bit. I really dig her new costume and it will be cool to see her start to play a bigger role in the Marvel Universe.”
Spider-Man is generally thought of as Marvel's premier “everyman” superhero and Mayhew feels Jessica Jones is his female counterpart. “Guys can imagine themselves as Peter Parker and I try to think of Jessica Jones like that. She's relatable and I think a woman reading this issue could project herself into Jessica's situation,” the artist explained. “You know how Peter Parker is handsome but he's kind of quirky and not the catalog model like Steve Rogers is? That's how I look at Jessica. She's pretty but down to Earth. For a character like Spider-Woman I'm going to go with more of an ideal look, like a super-sexy Victoria Secret model, but Jessica has got to have more of a complex look.”
Mayhew is still getting acquainted with Mockingbird's current status quo, but his initial impression of the character is that she shares some qualities with The Bride, Uma Thurman's character from the film “Kill Bill.” “It's that she's super hot but also just as lethal. That's a combination which is tricky to make believable,” Mayhew remarked. “If she's too hot it's not right but if you tone things down a little and play them just the right way I think she will look really cool.”
Now that his work on the cover is complete, Mayhew's next step is to finalize the styles he plans on employing in “New Avenger Annual” #3. “I do a lot of different styles. Most people either know me from my painted work or my full penciled work but I've even done some inked work in the creator owned book I did called 'Savage' [from Image Comics] and lately I've also done a lot more with black water color,” the artist explained. “I know there are some flashback style sequences in the story so I think I'm going to pick two different styles; one for the present and one for the flashbacks. The flashbacks will probably be a lot more like softer, fuzzier pen rendering and the present day sequences will be a little darker, edgier and have more spotted blacks.”
When readers finally get a chance to pick up Mayhew and Bendis's work on “New Avengers Annual” #3 in December, both creators hope fans will like what they see. They've been working overtime to make sure the book is truly something special. “I grew up on big double sized Annuals that were a step above already awesome series. They were real mini-sized events like 'Avengers Annual' #10 with Michael Golden or the X-Men Annual with the X-Babies,” Bendis said. “So Annuals should be very, very special and I try to make them that in terms of emotion, the level of action, or what's actually happening. It's got to feel like a major chapter in the lives of these characters. I don't ask to do an Annual unless I've got a great idea for one.”