About three years ago, writer Jeff Parker began exploring what happens to the villains of the Marvel Universe when they're forced into or find themselves in positions where being heroic is beneficial. He started that exploration as the writer of "Thunderbolts", a title and team with a history of forcing villains to look at heroism in a different light. Shortly after he took over the title " Parker reestablished a more heroic status quo for the team, transforming the Thunderbolts into a U.S. government-sanctioned that allowed incarcerated villains a chance to reenter the world and redeem themselves by engaging in heroic missions.
Under Parker's pen the book's cast became quite large and eventually half of the team found themselves bouncing back and forth through time on a desperate quest to get back to the present, while the half who remained in the present day searched for their time lost and fugitive members. Beginning with #175 earlier this year, "Thunderbolts" morphed into a new title also with an established history of villains doing heroic things, "Dark Avengers," as the present day incarnation of the team welcomed members of Norman Osborn's latest and most twisted version of the Avengers into their ranks. While that was going on, the the time lost Thunderbolts continued their adventures as the dangers plaguing them escalated.
Over the next few months the present day Dark Avengers and the temporal fugitives of the Thunderbolts will come face to face in a story with an explosive climax that sets the stage for a new era for the the title beginning in December's "Dark Avengers" #184. The book's new direction was announced by Marvel yesterday at their "Avengers Vs. X-Men" panel at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto, and CBR News spoke with Parker and new series artist Neil Edwards about the new era which includes new characters and a dangerous new status quo for the team.
CBR News: Jeff, you're moving toward a new direction in "Dark Avengers" that begins in December, which means the next few issues are going to be especially huge. What can you tell us about the stories leading up to "Dark Avengers" #184? Will these tales wrap up the saga of the time lost T-Bolts? And how important will the legacy of the Thunderbolts be to this book come December?
Jeff Parker: Yes, the Timebolts come to a definitive conclusion that bookends the run from the time Luke Cage came on to run things. As you'll see, "Thunderbolts" will shape what "Dark Avengers" becomes, the one grows out of the other.
Neil, you begin your run on "Dark Avengers" by helping Jeff set up this new direction and you're primarily known for your work on lighter, more heroic characters like the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. How does it feel to get a chance to play with some more morally ambiguous and in some cases down right monstrous characters in "Dark Avengers?"
Neil Edwards: Working with Jeff on "Dark Avengers" is absolutely awesome and it's really pushing me as an artist. I love that the line-up is huge and everybody gets a chance to shine! It's a real honor to be allowed to play with such fantastic characters such as Hyde and Ghost!
What can you tell us about the new status quo you'll be establishing in "Dark Avengers" #184? How different will the book be to "Thunderbolts" and the status quo that was established when the series recently morphed into "Dark Avengers?"
Parker: It's going to be very different, but trust me and Neil. I know readers are anxious about the focus shifting, but remember when the Underbolts first arrived and no one wanted the focus to go to them? We're keeping with our organic hand-offs. The tone and the types of thrills will feel familiar.
It will have much the dynamic that "Thunderbolts" had, it's still bad people being thrust into the role of heroes. I'm not so interested in the idea that they want to become better, but that sometimes circumstances give you a chance to go that way. You see this in the conclusion of the Thunderbolts super-arc, some characters that were pretty heinous when they arrived are doing some very noble things by the end.
I know some of the line up is being kept under wraps, but we do know that a new USAgent will be part of the Dark Avengers and that Moonstone will be there clad in the Ms. Marvel guise she wore for Norman Osborn's team in the original "Dark Avengers" series. What sort of roles will these characters play in the book? Is one of them a team leader?
Parker: Well, now the role to take is Captain Marvel! Moonstone likes to keep up with the times. We can change the books and go in wild directions, but she always finds the way to come along. And yes, USAgent will charge into the leadership role, but the question is, does he answer to just himself?
Neil, what can you tell us about the look of the new USAgent? Did you get a chance to redesign this character? Which of his qualities do you really want to capture and convey in your art?
I wanted to give USAgent a real world but advanced look and to give Captain America a run for his money! Hope everybody likes it!
Can you hint at the identities of the other characters in this new Dark Avengers line up? How big will the team be and what sort of dynamic will they have when they're brought together?
Parker: The team gets separated at the beginning and really at that point wouldn't care about being a team, but will have to to escape where they find themselves. This is a break-down and rebuilding foundation story where we start seeing what they're really about.
In terms of plot and themes what is the story that begins in "Dark Avengers" #184 about?
Parker: The DA end up in a place where they're not the worst people standing, and their chances of getting out look hopeless. Our current Marvel heroes are the most vile figures there. They think they've been exiled to some alternate reality, but don't understand where they really are, or what the purpose of the place is.
Sounds like a fascinating and dangerous world. Neil, how would you describe the look of this world and the look of the book overall? How does it compare to some of your recent work?
Edwards: It's a whole lot darker than "Spidey," I can tell you! My style has come on a long way since "FF," and "Dark Avengers" has given me the chance to flex my creative muscles. Jeff and [editor] Tom Brennan push you on the book and each issue is a fantastic challenge in a good way, but well worth the effort!
Let's touch upon the "Dark Avengers'" relationships to the other Avengers teams for a bit. Your new status quo begins right around the time things are changing for the main Avengers team. Will "Dark Avengers" have much interaction with Jonathan Hickman's "Avengers" and "New Avengers" books? Or Rick Remender's "Uncanny Avengers?" Would the cast of the Dark Avengers be able to fight alongside those teams if a mission called for it? Or does the nature of the characters and their missions mean they'll be less likely to mix it up with other Avengers teams?
Parker: Not at first, they won't be able to interact, but soon. And that will be open-ended: will the Dark Avengers emerge as a positive force, and if they do, will anyone actually trust them to help?
Sounds like you guys have some interesting plans for the book. Jeff, how does it feel to carry out those plans and continue your long running story about the line between heroism and villainy in the Marvel Universe?
Parker: I'm so happy with the conclusion to this big story. It's a big finale that brings together many threads we've had going for the past three years in what I think you'll find a very satisfying way. Someone big and unstoppable is about to return and there are surprises with the Boss Cage character in the future. If you've been reading all along, there's some big payoffs for you.
And Neil, how does it feel to be given the chance to be part of this story?
Edwards: It's going to be AWESOME!!! There's some unbelievable action and adventure lined up you lucky things--oh, and theres Man-Thing and Troll!
"Dark Avengers" #184 by Jeff Parker and Neil Edwards kicks off the new era of "Dark Avengers" in December.