A black ops team culled from various specialties and sent on suicide missions against unknown super science in order to save the world; in broad terms, Marvel Comics' "Secret Avengers" series sounds an awful lot like a Warren Ellis comic. And as it turns out that's exactly what it was conceived to be and what it will become this July. The publisher announced today at WonderCon in San Francisco that Ellis would be taking on the writing reigns of the undercover Avengers squad starting with issue #16 for a six-issue run of done-in-one adventures, the first of which will be drawn by Jamie McKelvie.
"I already knew what Ed [Brubaker] and Mike [Deodato] had done," Ellis told CBR News about his preparedness to step into a new mainstream Marvel U title. "Ed, especially, is a good friend, so I'd been keeping an eye on the book from the start, as I do with most of my friends' work. I had, actually, been lightly mocking Ed about 'Sekritly Avenging On Mars' – 'What's blown up on Mars stays on Mars.' 'Mars: because no-one can see it.' – That sort of thing. So this was his act of revenge on leaving the book – telling Tom Brevoort that it should be given to me."
Although, friendly revenge wasn't the only reason Ellis was tapped for the book. As the writer explained, parts of Brubaker's original take of the comic went hand-in-hand with Ellis' past work. "Ed told me that 'Sekritly Avengering' was, in his conception, a fusion of the Marvel Universe with 'G.I. Joe' and my own 'Global Fequency.' And that's exactly the approach I'm taking with it," he said, noting that the single issue story format for his run was not a reaction to the long-arc compression popularized by his early '00s superhero work. "Well, if it was inspired by 'Global Freq,' then 'Scantily Angling' needed to go the full nine yards and be executed as a sequence of done-in-one issues, just like 'Global Freq.' Which was done in 2002. So it's not really a response to anything, so much as a perverse purification of Ed's original aims on conceiving the book."
The cast for the run will remain consistent with what's been established in the early issues of the title, including team commander Steve Rogers. "I don't know that I'd ever write Captain America, really," Ellis said. "I guess I did the Ultimate Comics version a few times, but that's a different guy. The thing about Steve Rogers is that he's adaptive. At this point in the series, he knows what he's doing. What's different is the kind of threat, and the ways to deal with it. He's still capable of being surprised.
"The cast changes every issue – I'm not changing the overall cast, just picking and choosing smaller teams from within that cast for each mission. Matching skillsets to mission targets," the writer added, noting that the book will focus on action and intrigue rather than broad character developments. "There's really not a lot of room for that sort of thing in self-contained single issues. If they want to be on the team, they take the missions, and each issue is about the mission, not their personal lives. The problem – the problem the book embraces – is that these are either not team players, or people very used to working with different teams. They have the skills, but not necessarily the group cohesion. Which makes their jobs more difficult."
As for the missions themselves, they'll remain as much a secret as anything in the title for now. "I dunno if fans would be readily familiar with the likes of The Secret Empire, or weird bits of Doctor Doom tech from early 1960s issues of 'Fantastic Four.' I'm not particularly interested in explaining the story before it's published. I realize you news sites thrive on that sort of thing, but every now and then I think it's nice if someone can pick up a comic and be a little bit surprised by it."
Ultimately, readers will be able to pick up any issue of the run on its own since "My six issues of 'Sanskrit Ankles (On Mars)' will not form a story arc. They're in sequence, but there's no uber-arc connecting them up. I'm just trying to tell six fun stories within the established premise and parameters of the book. That said, you saw what Ed was aiming for. I really want to crank it up to eleven. Give that readership more of what they like, in a concentrated dose. It's like what Denis Leary said about the guy who invented crack: 'you know, this cocaine's pretty good, but I want something that's going to make my heart explode.' Like that. Only with funny bits."
And for now, McKelvie is the only official artist on the run, though others may follow for subsequent issues, though Ellis is happy to focus on taking the artist fully into the Marvel U. "Jamie hasn't, to my knowledge, done a full issue of a full-on mainstream superhero comic. And it was time someone took the poor boy's virginity. And oh, how he wept. It wasn't manly at all, I can tell you."
"Secret Avengers" #16 by Warren Ellis and Jamie McKelvie ships this July from Marvel Comics.