At this point, the question most Marvel Comics fans may be asking themselves about Ed Brubaker and Mike Deodato's upcoming "Secret Avengers" comic may be "How many did you guess right?" With the lineup for the military-focused superteam being announced at yesterday's Cup O' Joe panel at the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (or C2E2), the speculation created by Marvel's blacked-out teaser images ended. The final lineup of players includes Steve Rogers, Sharon Carter, Black Widow, Nova, Valkyrie, Moon Knight, The Beast, War Machine and the Irredeemable Ant-Man.
However, there are still plenty of secrets left to be revealed about Steve Rogers new team, and Brubaker explained to CBR News exactly what made "Secret Avengers" so secretive from the mission statement of the group to new revelations about each heroes unique role. According to the writer, the high-concept for the Heroic Age status quo he and Marvel talent including Avengers architect Brian Michael Bendis struck upon for how the Marvel Universe would be organized was "Steve Rogers becomes the new Nick Fury of the Marvel Universe." And as that role for the former Captain America took shape, Brubaker said, "He's a character in the 'Captain America' series, but he's not the star of 'Captain America.' Bucky is. So this is my chance to do [explore his character]. I wasn't going to let anybody else write the Steve book, you know? It's the Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter book while it's also this high-concept, espionage Avengers idea."
Brubaker added that bringing the team concept to Rogers status would help drive new interest in super espionage comics that hasn't been around in a long while. "Outside of the '60s, Nick Fury has been a supporting character. He hasn't starred in his own series since the '60s, and it was really with the Howling Commandos stuff where he was in the field working. And we felt Steve Rogers would really be a guy in the field" as opposed to a support character standing in the Helicarrier overseeing operations.
But what the writer promised was that with a cast like this in place, "Secret Avengers" would not feel like any Avengers series readers have seen before, nor would it be like any team book he'd done before. He thinks of this team more as a force who break off for individual missions and tasks that require the highest security and secrecy. "That's the idea behind it. And when you read a lot of old team books, they have that component where they go in to do something and they have to divide up into sub teams. They go into some complex and go, 'You guys go down there, and we'll go down here.' And then we follow them. That was always my favorite part of the team book anyway, because when there's six or eight guys standing in a panel, invariably five of them are not speaking."
With that in mind, each character plays an important role in the book, such as Sharon Carter being the liason who runs operations for the Secret Avengers, often coordinating the team as they go on their missions. "She's a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. From the first moment we met her, her elderly aunt was a secret Agent from World War II, and Sharon followed in her steps to become a secret agent. Even from those early days, she and Steve had problems because in the '60s – well, I don't recommend a lot of women go back and read '60s superhero comics because they're fairly offensive. There's a lot of scenes of Reed Richards going, 'You wouldn't understand, Sue. You're just a woman!' And [back then] Steve wanted Sharon to retire from S.H.I.E.L.D. and she never would. She always chose the job over him, which I thought was so cool. She's pretty kick ass.
"Interestingly, [her role] fits in with how Brian is running Avengers and New Avengers. Both those teams are under the purview of Maria Hill and Victoria Hand. It's like 'Steve's Angels.' I think Steve Wacker called it that. Three hot ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who are each in charge of a different Avengers team."
Black Widow may have moved into her own ongoing series of late and will continue to play a role in "Captain America," but Brubaker said she'll find a way to make it all fit in. "There's a scene in Cap in May where Bucky wakes up from a nightmare, and there's a note on the pillow next to him that says, 'Had to take care of some Avengers business,'" he laughed. "It's a perfect fit, and I like the fact that's there's crossover between these books to a certain extent. I'm hoping to make it so that you don't have to read one to understand the other, but so that they feel like they operate in the same universe. And she's all over the place now."
The common thread of all the Secret Avengers, the writer explained, was their paramilitary backgrounds which make them perfect for a strikeforce-focused approach to superheroing. "Black Widow was basically raised in the Red Room and by Department X in the Soviet Union to be a solider/warrior/spy. Nova is the last survivor of an entire corps of intergalactic space cops. It's one of those things where even Valkyrie was a sword maiden of Asgard. How cool is that?"
And some of those heroes will split between those kinds of actions in the book and their own specialties such as the "science team" of War Machine and The Beast. "Hank and War Machine really run the science lab on the roving headquarters," the writer said, noting a fondness for Beast's previous turn as an Avenger. "There was talk early on that Beast might be leaving the X-Men books, and I jumped in to say, 'Put Beast on my team!' That's perfect. They have history, and he's a science genius. We need someone like that on our team, and I already had an Ant-Man that's not Hank Pym. I needed a science nerd, and Bendis took Thing for the New Avengers, but I don't think they'd let me take Reed Richards for the Secret Avengers."
Other members of the group are less known for their team dynamics, though in the case of Moon Knight, Brubaker is finding ways to make the solo star participate that doesn't get in the way of his monthly comic. "This is Moon Knight in a team book, and I'm using their current version and coordinating with Gregg Hurwitz to make sure nothing I'm doing conflicts with his plans," he said. "He is crazy, but he's also trying to reform, so this fits in with his new 'I'm going to be a hero' mode. He thinks, 'Okay. I've been invited to join an Avengers team. That makes sense.' Of course, it's a totally messed up, weird Avengers team. It's not the Avengers team that's on TV, but all that works into the story too.
"Also, he has history with Valkyrie because they were both briefly in the Defenders together. He just briefly had some time with her on the Defenders. I'm re-reading a lot of that various stuff right now for some research on all the good guys and bad guys, and I had totally forgot that they were on the Defenders together. Conveniently, I hadn't yet written them in a scene together where they speak."
Speaking of the Asgardian warrior, Valkyrie was "one of the last ones I came to. I thought, 'I kind of like Valkyrie as a character.' She's been in the Defenders, but the way she's been in a lot of books isn't necessarily how we'll be seeing her in this book. It's a case where we say, 'We need a couple of powerhouses? Who can we get? Valkyrie and Nova!' They don't necessarily jump out as Avengers, but they work on a team like this."
And while some fans may not immediately think of Nova as an undercover kind of operative, the role he plays in "Secret Avengers" is quite different. "It totally fits in with who he is and his history. This team and Steve's initiative stretches out into the idea that...let's not forget while he was gone, the Skrull's invaded. And it turns out they were invading while he was still there, too. Nova's not a guy who's going to be in every issue of the book, but he's a key ingredient" in fighting targeted threats of a bigger nature.
Finally, the Irredeemable Ant-Man may be the most surprising member of the squad, though Brubaker will Avenger him up a bit by giving the character the classic Hank Pym Ant-Man helmet. "He makes total sense on a team like this. He can shrink to microscopic size and go anywhere, and he can fly now too.
"One of the things about team books. The real character development in team books and the real personally tends to come from characters who aren't in other books. Hawkeye became a star by being the coolest character in the Avengers for 20 years. It's not like Hawkeye's ever maintained a monthly series on his own, but we know him because we watched his entire character evolution through the Avengers. And Ant-Man can be a character like that. That's one of the things Cap did on the Avengers when he took it over – he brought in three reformed bad guys to become the new Avengers. Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were all bad guys before that."
And readers will be able to see what changes Rogers latest collection of Avenging heroes will go through when "Secret Avengers" #1 hits comic shops this May.