The ninth and final issue of Rick Remender's "The End League" is in stores now from Dark Horse, featuring art by Andy MacDonald and Mat Wilson and revealing the final fate of a world overrun by supervillains while being threatened by a death god from beyond. The first eight issues found Earth's remaining heroes, most notably Soldier American and Codename Black, preparing for their last stand by searching for Thor's mighty hammer, which could bestow a pure altruistic soul with the power to save the world. But Black's arch-nemesis, the Smiling Man, grasped the hammer first, at which time his true identity as Loki was revealed. Coupled with devastating revelations about the fallen hero, Astonishman, the last glimmer of hope might finally have been extinguished. CBR News spoke with Remender about wrapping up the series.
The final battle of "End League" is actually several smaller skirmishes, taking place on multiple fronts and with featuring a number of reversals - the throwdown with Loki promised at the end of #8 is only the beginning. Remender said of the climactic battles, "they've been building for some time, so it was a lot of fun to get to finally write them. Some of them I wanted to solve without fists - the Loki issue, mostly. It seemed better to have at least one problem solved with cleverness and manipulation, and given [that] Loki has the hammer of Thor, his seemed like the best choice.
"The biggest issue for me was art. This stuff was giant, and a lot happens in a short amount of time. Andy MacDonald and Mat Wilson came in and dumped so much love on this issue. When you've got something this battle-oriented, it's mandatory you have the art to back it up. This thing is worth the price of admission just to see what they did with it."
"End League" #9 also reveals more about the secret origins and final fate of Soldier American, who emerged from a traumatic childhood in Nazi Germany to become one of America's leading heroes. "I think the state of the world affected him the deepest," Remender said of the character's central role in the series' final moments. "It was important that he be conflicted. His motives in becoming the ultimate American soldier come from a need to overcompensate for his past as a Nazi youth. By overcoming his own fears and his own past, he was able to play the hero at the most crucial moment. When all the villainous types thought he was off the board, it was his rise to the occasion that defined him as a hero. His sacrifice at the end of the series solidified that."
Throughout the series, heroes and villains alike have wrestled for control of Thor's hammer, an artifact that grants its bearer the power to reshape the world. But one must be altruistic to wield Thor's hammer, raising curious questions about Loki's ability to swing Mjolnir, as seen in issue #8 and carrying over into the finale. "The idea is that you must believe your motives to be selfless, more concerned with the good of others than your own desires," Remender explained. "Since 'good' is a perspective, this comes down to the outlook of the character. This played a big role in how the power of the hammer could define characters' true motives, and it was an Achilles heel to the user of this supreme weapon."
"End League" was originally planned to have a longer run, but the conclusion of issue #9 should satisfy readers looking for a solid ending to the story. Remender has stressed that his recent Marvel-exclusive contract, which sees him working on "Punisher," "Doctor Voodoo," and other projects, did not force him to end his creator-owned series "End League" and "Fear Agent," but that both books had reached a good point to leave the characters to focus on other projects. In the case of "End League," especially, the writer said he was able to accomplish what he wanted with the end-of-the-world epic.
"I got to where I wanted to be with the story. It ended how I'd always planned," he told CBR. "I had more story planned for Soldier American, Blue Gauntlet, and Arachnakid that I didn't get to flesh out, but seeing the final [work], I think those missing chapters can be filled in by the reader's mind fairly easily. So in that regard, the few issues I trimmed from the story served to make it more concise, while still getting us to the same conclusion with hopefully the same emotional beats. Not everyone's death should be this giant big moment - in reality, in war, some players will be taken out quick and without a grand moment. This was a theme I started with the death of Astonishman and played out through this last chapter."
Remender said that if he did return to the "End League" universe for a one-shot or mini-series, he would most likely focus on Soldier American and the remaining heroes living on Olympus, as well as the villainous Wolfangel's continued threat. "Wolfsangel is still out there. He had a bigger plot than what we saw, and it's still wide open for another story," Remender said. "The Astonishman clone has fled to a distant world that could also serve as fertile ground for future stories."
Looking to his current work at Marvel, Remender is in the midst of rocking the Punisher's world, with Frank Castle being dismembered in the "Dark Reign: The List - The Punisher" one-shot, and chronicling the adventures of the new Sorcerer Supreme in "Doctor Voodoo," the second issue of which is in stores now. "Frank Castle's return is the focus now [in 'The Punisher'], we are deeply focused on making this next year as wild and imaginative as we can while remaining true to the integrity of the character," the writer said. "The first few issues are done, and I couldn't be more proud of them. If you thought the events of 'The List' were wild, just wait.
"We also have the big supernatural war with Nightmare coming up in 'Doctor Voodoo.' This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, and I think the results are Awesometown, USA," Remender continued. "We have an army of the supernatural taking a side in this war; one no one will expect which side they take. The events in issue #1 and #2 come crashing down on our new Sorcerer Supreme, in issues #3-5, in a big way."