SPOILER WARNING: This article discusses major story points in "Vengeance" #1
In the Marvel Universe, good and evil have been battling for centuries. The usual agents of this conflict are heroes and villains in colorful costumes and there are often a number of unspoken rules about how the battle is to be waged. However, some of the younger heroes and villains have issues with these rules and they're out to change them. In the six issue miniseries, "Vengeance," by writer Joe Casey and artist Nick Dragotta, readers will meet this next generation and travel along with them on a strange journey into the meanings of chaos and order, good and evil.
"Vengeance" #1 is in stores now, and in the issue, Casey and Dragotta introduce readers to new heroes Ultimate Nullifier and Miss America Chavez as well as their allies in the new Teen Brigade. Readers also got to see the titular characters from Casey's 2009 miniseries "The Last Defenders" in action again, while being given cryptic hints about the current schemes of the villainous Young Masters and Doctor Doom's ward Kristoff, who is currently serving as monarch of Latveria. We spoke with the creators about the issue and their plans for the series moving forward.
CBR News: Guys, in "Vengeance" #1, we spend quite a bit of time with Ultimate Nullifier, Miss America Chavez and their Teen Brigade allies. We also get some glimpses of the current Defenders team as well as Egghead and Executioner of the Young Masters as they try to recruit some new villains to their group. Going forward, will the focus of "Vengeance" remain on Ultimate Nullifier, Miss America Chavez and the Teen Brigade? Or do you guys plan on spending equal time with all three of these teams?
Joe Casey: I don't look at it so much as spending time with different "teams" as I do with different factions of the Marvel Universe. The Teen Brigade and the Young Masters represent the next generation, both good and evil, and to a certain extent, Nighthawk's crew is representative of the old heroic guard. All these areas are important to cover when you're telling a big story like this.
Issue #1 is where we first meet Ultimate Nullifier and he spends most of it fighting Magneto who is trying to reign in the behavior of the mutant known as Stacy X. At one point in their dust up Nullifier laments that Magneto is no longer a villain. Why does this upset him? Is it because he wanted to take the former mutant terrorist down?
Casey: I think when you can't depend on Magneto, of all people, staying true to his evil mutant terrorist roots, what can you depend on? Any young hero would get his rocks off if he had a shot at one of the classic Marvel villains, but the fact that the confrontation wasn't at all what Ultimate Nullifier was expecting is the first step toward him facing up to not only what the Marvel Universe has become, but what it could be in the future.
While Nullifier was battling Magneto, his comrade, Miss America Chavez, was infiltrating a secret detention facility. Nullifier named himself after the legendary Marvel Universe weapon. What was the inspiration for Miss America Chavez's moniker? Was it the Golden Age Miss America? Or something else?
Casey: The new Miss America is just a reflection of what America is. It's not the lily white, suburban superhero dream that mainstream comic books have traditionally shown us for the past, oh, sixty years. I guess the only thing she's missing is one of those high collars, right? Bang!
Miss America Chavez's break-in was aided by Angel and Beak, two characters who debuted in Grant Morrison's highly acclaimed "New X-Men" run. In "Vengeance" #1 the characters appear to be highly skilled computer hackers. What made you want to include them in this series? And why did you cast them in these roles?
Casey: I loved those characters back when Grant first introduced them, but since then, they've been really run through the mill in different books and in different incarnations. I wanted to try and get them back to the versions of them that I personally liked best, the versions that I think readers might've liked best. I actually think the mileage they've put on -- being mutants, being stripped of those abilities, then being weird superheroes -- gives them a certain kind of gravitas as characters that really works. Having said that, I do think the Teen Brigade is where they belong.
Beak and Angel help Miss America break into the detention facility so she can liberate its only prisoner, a strange teenager who appears to be an adolescent version of the cosmic being known as the In-Betweener. What was it like designing and bringing to life this character? As a cosmic being, he would be plugged into the larger universe, but is this version like many teens in that he sees himself as the center of the universe?
Casey: I've said this before, but it's just too clever not to repeat -- we're putting the "tween" in the In-Betweener! And I suppose there's kind of an emo vibe happening there. Beyond that, it's what he represents that's most important to the story -- that delicate balance between order and chaos. Something worth saying, I think, is that saying "order and chaos" is not the same thing as "good and evil." That distinction is something that can be confusing to a hero, but it's extremely important in how the Teen Brigade in particular deals with heavy hitters, like Doc Ock in issue #3.
Joe, if my count is correct, you and Nick introduce six brand new characters in the first issue alone: the teen In-Betweener, Ultimate Nullifier, Miss America Chavez and the three villains being recruited at the end of the issue, Mako, the Radioactive Kid and what appears to be a new version of the Black Knight or Dread Knight. In your last Marvel project, "Dark Reign: Zodiac," you also introduced a couple of new creations. When you do Marvel books, how important to you is adding to the toy chest of the larger Marvel Universe?
Casey: I really don't see these characters as "new creations" as much as they're radical updates and new takes on pre-existing characters. Sorry to say this, but Dragotta and I don't gain much by creating all-new characters that we're not going to own and control, but coming up with a new Miss America for the 21st Century is more in line with how creators should approach the Marvel Universe. That kind of approach is definitely important for these long-running superhero continuities.
Nick, how much fun was it designing these new takes and updates? What was it like putting some of those designs into action in issue #1?
Nick Dragotta: Thankfully, Joe had the foresight to make sure we do the preliminary design work before I started drawing the actual pages. It was a blast getting Joe's descriptions of each character, and he knew exactly what he wanted. The fun was in tweaking the little details that can make such a big difference to the character. Should the In-Betweener wear skinny jeans or sport a droop? That kind of stuff goes a long way.
As for putting the characters into action, that's what it's all about. The truth of the matter is, I'm still getting to know these guys, and the more I draw them, the easier it gets and the more natural they will appear on the page.
"Vengeance" #1 wasn't just an introduction to new characters, it also introduced several mysteries, like what is the Teen Brigades ultimate goal and what does it have to do with the In-Betweener? And how do Kristoff, the Red Skull, the Young Masters and the homeless guy at the beginning of the issue tie into everything? So as the series goes forward, will there be a progressive payoff on the book's many mysteries, or can we expect one massive payoff near the book's end?
Casey: Originally, I had pitched a version of this series where there were absolutely no payoffs whatsoever. Just a bunch of random cool shit happened. I thought that was an interesting approach, but Marvel didn't seem to agree. Oh, well. So then I came up with this huge event-style epic that involves all these various characters -- and even more that haven't shown up yet. I suppose there's a massive payoff for anyone who might be interested in the fate of the Marvel Universe (that doesn't involve a bunch of hammers). We're out of the spotlight, and that freedom allows us to approach this in a way that doesn't have to appeal to some perceived massive audience that some folks think is out there. And we certainly have the will to be weird. So, there'll be plenty of payoffs, dénouements and happy endings to go around.
Joe, we're also curious about connections to your other Marvel work. The Defenders lineup in this book first appeared in your "Last Defenders" miniseries, and the teen In-Betweener makes his debut and says, "The Ankh is Dead." That seems to indicate a connection to your "Dark Reign: Zodiac" series, especially since that book ended with the title character gaining possession of the Zodiac Key, a weapon that hails from the In-Betweener's Ankh dimension. Can you reveal if there are ties to "Zodiac?" Or are we just reaching?
Casey: I'm not sure if it's such a reach, but I can say that the new In-Betweener and his role in the story picks up directly where we saw the character in its last appearance, if any Marvel zombies want to go back and find it.
With ties to previous series and the introduction of new characters and mysteries "Vengeance" #1 was a book jam packed with characters, actions and ideas. Nick, what was it like bringing this issue to life?
Dragotta: We're making comics, so this is pure fun. Starting from a number one has allowed me to draw the Marvel U as I and Joe see it. Joe and I have shared a bunch of comics that get us jazzed. Most of these books are from the '80s, and we are going to start bringing some of that into it. And I'd say by issue three or four, we'll be racing deadlines and then it will be purely subconscious, instinctual comics -- and that is when the really good stuff happens.
Casey: Having seen the finished product, I think Dragotta knocked it out of the fuckin' park. It's not easy drawing one of these sprawling, million character series, but he's nailing it. We're pushing ourselves to do a book unlike anything seen at Marvel, and the first issue is truly just the beginning. It gets much weirder from here.
Dragotta: Thanks Joe. Likewise, it's been rad to work with Joe Casey. He loves making comics (maybe even more than me), and with all his years experience, I'm learning a bunch from this guy -- and the work is much better for it. This series is gonna be a fun ride!
Finally, any hints or teases you would like to leave us with about Vengeance #2?
Casey: For fans of sex, death and as much cool shit as we can pack into each issue, this is the under-the-radar book you've dreamed about all your lives.