The latest Marvel Comics event may just be wrapping its arc through the Marvel U, but as "Fear Itself" ends, there are, of course, more stories to be told. Unpacking the ins and outs of the publisher's "Shattered Heroes" era was the goal of the day Saturday at the 2011 New York Comic Con at the "Avengers: Shattered Heroes" panel, and to help unveil the next phase of stories for Marvel were writers Matt Fraction ("Fear Itself"), Chris Gage ("Avengers Academy"), Cullen Bunn ("The Fearless") and Kieron Gillen ("Uncanny X-Men") were joined by Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, Editors Tom Brevoort and Lauren Sankovitch and Director Of Communications, Publishing & Digital Media Arune Singh.
Things got started as Singh introduced the panel, noting as he did that Gage had a big X-Men-related announcement coming Sunday at the show. From there, talk jumped right into "Fear Itself" with the fact that all seven issues of the series ultimately shipped (or in the case of #7 will ship) on time.
"Tony comes back...with toys for the Avengers...Thor and Odin have had it all out at last, and the Serpent is at full strength so all hell breaks loose in Oklahoma," said Fraction of the last issue of the event, to which Brevoort replied "that gets you to about page four."
The epilogues for the three core Avengers came up next, starting with "Fear Itself" #7.1, the Captain America issue by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice. "Everybody that was really, really angry at Matt for killing Bucky without Ed, this is where Ed finally gets to address Bucky's death and what it means to Cap," said Brevoort as Fraction added that the issue really dealt with the character's demise in an emotional manner.
Next up was issue #7.2, the Thor comic to which Fraction said, "I have a personal bugaboo with event books where the last issue is eight pages of fight scenes" followed by a few panel unpacking what the story meant. The Thor issue drawn by Adam Kubert is the place where the Asgardian thread of "Fear Itself" – a fairly significant one – will be completed in full.
Finally, #7.3 – by the "Invincible Iron Man" team of Fraction and Salvadore Larocca – will focus on Tony Stark and the Gray Gargoyle fighting in Paris as the hero rails to the gods about why life is unfair, or as the writer put it "What comics are made for." Fraction also note that "There's also a scene where Tony eats a sandwich!"
From there on out, the aftermath talk got more involved as Bunn discussed the twice monthly series "The Fearless" describing the path the book would take following where the hammers of the Serpent end up. "It's kind of a travelogue of the Marvel U" where Valkyrie and the new Red Skull break off on separate quests. Co-written by Fraction and Chris Yost, the book is a unique experience for Bunn who had never collaborated with other writers that way. Brevoort noted that in the planning stages for the event, the team discovered that there was too much story in their notes for one book, and so the comic "Battle Scars" was born which will introduce Marcus Johnson – an every day soldier returning from the war of "Fear Itself" who "comes home to find out his whole life has been blown up" as Fraction said. The just-arrived C.B. Cebulski noted that the comic was the point where artist Scot Eaton would start turning heads for fans as the series represents a major turning point in his style.
Fraction's continued post-"Fear Itself" work saw a spotlight as the new "Defenders" series with Terry Dodson came up. The book will center on a lot of internal team dynamics like Hulk dealing with Doctor Strange's assistant Wong in some interesting ways on the path to reuniting the team. "We learn very quickly that they are literally defending us from this impossible threat," the writer said. "It's a new kind of storytelling for me, a new kind of storytelling for Terry and everything we love about the Marvel Universe." He said there's a stunning cameo in issue #1 that's "the smallest thing in the world" but has a very big impact on the book. "By the time it's done, I promise you will know why everything in the Marvel Universe has ever happened...this is the thing the Defenders discover."
Brevoort said the series "takes the best pieces of what had existed" from the franchise and twists them in a way that makes the team stand apart from the Avengers. "I was never a big Defenders guy," Fraction admitted "but then, they were like 'It's all your favorite guys in one book' and I was like 'You're right!'" The writer noted that with his return to writing Iron Fist in the comic, "Danny creates Zero-G Kung Fu in the first issue."
Shifting to other marquee comics, Brevoort called Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness' "Avengers: X-Sanction" the "first brick in what we're building in 2012." The X-Man known as Cable returns with 24 hours to kill the Avengers in an attempt to salvage the world and mystery X-character Hope. "At the core, it's really a story about a father trying to protect his daughter," the SVP of Publishing said.
In January, it was revealed that Storm of the X-Men will join the Avengers in issue #21 as written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Daniel Acuña. Gillen laughed that "she's going to be very busy coming up" as the character also appears in "Uncanny." The introduction of the weather-powered mutant to the team takes place during the incoming "
Fraction earned a laugh from the audience when a slide promoting "Secret Avengers" noted the current team of "Warren Ellis & Friends" prompted him to declare "Warren Ellis has no friends!" But soon, the panel turned to new news of the black ops Avengers team as writer Rick Remender and artist Gabriel Hardman will take over the title in the new year. "As people reading 'X-Force' and 'Venom' know, Rick Remender is a madman," said Brevoort noting that the writer's ideas amount to "a fruit salad of crazy." He added, "This is Rick doing what he does best. It's all the best parts of X-Force only with an Avengers team...everything he's been building with his Venom work and X-Force work will also crop up here." The book will introduce a new Masters of Evil team amongst other twists.
Gage's work on "Avengers Academy" earned applause as the panel revealed that the teens of the Avengers training team – including new member X-23 – will move to the West Coast in issue #21 to live in the former Avengers West Coast compound and open their doors to any teen heroes...which will include the Runaways. "In issue #22, some X-Men pay a visit so we get the Quicksilver/Magneto drama in the mix," he said. #23 will introduce X-23 as a full time member while #24 will bring in the Runaways with covers by former "Runaways" cover artist David LaFuente. "It's just to be really fun and awesome," Gage said, thanking the fans for their support and the letters the write in. One of those letters noted how Runaway Victor Mancha was essentially Hank Pym's grandson, which is where the story in the coming issues starts.
Alan Davis will come on to "Captain America" soon for a story in place of series regular penciler Steve McNiven. Brevoort described the story as dealing with "another issue that cuts to Cap's core aside from the death of Bucky." The book will continue to juggle big villain teams including a new Serpent Society.
In "Mighty Thor" #8, the book will introduce the Mighty Tanarus – the new god of thunder who is born in "Fear Itself" #7.2. The panel joked that the hero was "maybe the fourth most popular Marvel hero" who is a founding Avenger and just had a move come out.
For "Invincible Iron Man," a new arc called "Demon" starts which will juggle many issues in Tony Stark's life including his recent falling of the wagon in "Fear Itself" and the combined threats of the Mandarin and Zeke Stain. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but things get worse for Tony Stark," said Fraction who will introduce a new villain in almost every issue with Larocca. With their new arc, the pair will break the record for longest consecutive Iron Man run.
Gillen spoke to the Loki-centric "Journey Into Mystery" series, saying, "Going forward, there's some nightmare-ish stuff coming up involving my version of weapons-grade plutonium in the world of Asgard."
Jeff Parker will soon bring "Thunderbolts" into a different type of story as the current team crosses over with the original T-Bolts in issue #177 as the team travels back to the present from where they landed in the past. The issue, which takes place "circa 1997," is meant as a celebration for the one new Marvel titles form the '90s to run largely unbroken into the present.
Fan questions then started up as Alonso called for a young reader who ran to the line to step up to the mic first. In the excitement, the boy forgot his question so he went second.
First was a fan who wanted to more about the villains of "Iron Man" as Fraction said he wanted to go "back into the toybox" and let Larocca go wild redesigning classic villains including the Living Laser. The new arc involves Mandarin launching a war across the globe that Iron Man could never stop.
The young fan then stepped up to ask if Tenarus, who he learned on the internet was a Celtic god, would draw on that background in the series. Fraction said, "Yes...he is a traditional figure of legend that people built statues to."
A fan threw out his preference for Iron Man villain The Melter, to which Fraction said, "Oh yeah...he's in there."
Brevoort pointed a fan towards Novembers "Point One" one-shot as a place to learn about where Ultron will be next as the book is the "Rosetta's Stone" of where Marvel will go in 2012. He noted the book functions as the cave wall from Bendis' "Avengers" issue last year except in the form of "a 64-page chock-a-block of comics." The book's story with Nova will be "the first step to bringing the cosmic world back in line with the regular Marvel U." The editor noted that even now in the current "Annihilators" series, those two parts of the Marvel U are coming back together.
A reader who took issue with some of the dialogue in "Fear Itself" – particularly the scene where Thor calls out the Hulk with some judiciously placed curses – had Fraction respond to him saying, "My Thor doesn't talk like Walter's Thor, and Walter's Thor didn't talk like JMS' Thor, and JMS' Thor didn't talk like Stan's Thor." Brevoort added that war time can do much to the lives of characters and "sometimes it's all about context."
On the "Defenders" front, Fraction said that part of why he believes he got the book was his pitch for Ant-Man which involves the team finding the heroes skeleton in the jaws of a T-Rex. "So spoilers: he died six million year ago," laughed the writer.
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