From its inception under writer Ed Brubaker, Marvel Comics "Secret Avengers" title has been the place where the marquee super team goes dark with missions often focusing on "black ops" style adventures. But with the ongoing Marvel NOW! relaunch hitting the heroes of the publisher, the title is going even further underground.
Launching in February, the book will be written by returning "Secret Avengers" writer Nick Spencer and drawn by Luke Ross, and the writer spoke with the press alongside Editors Tom Brevoort and Lauren Sankovitch for a conference call.
"In the Marvel Universe, there's a new S.H.I.E.L.D. that's been reconstituted," he said, naming off major players Maria Hill, Agent Phil Coulson and "Nick Fury, Jr." formerly known as Marcus Johnson. The group are tasked in the series with building their own
"All of these new Avengers will be giving memory implants so they have no knowledge that they've been on this team...that's the workaround they've come upon [to keep this a secret.]" The writer said the first issue would focus on Hawkeye and Black Widow as the first recruits while Taskmaster would shake things up in issue #2. Soon, more characters would join the fray including Iron Patriot, the Hulk, Mockingbird and the Winter Solider – the latter playing a role without joining the team.
Spencer also said that he was excited to bring Coulson fully into the Marvel U along with the new Fury. Asked whether he'd also be crashiing Helicarriers, he said, "I think it's the first page of issue #3."
Sankovitch said that Ross brings "enthusiasm above all" to the project as he evolves his style from the photorealistic forms fans have seen him do on books like "Captain America" to a similar one with more dynamism.
"He's the guy who's on the ground with the team, which is different from the Nick Fury we've seen over the recent decades," the writer said. "It's fun to have a Nick Fury who's out there on the mission and in the thick of it. It's also fun to write a Nick Fury where this is all new to him...he's got a lot to learn about [this world]. Getting to write that journey is a blast." Brevoort added that "You can sort of think of Nick as the Captain America of 'Secret Avengers.' He fills the role of the lead guy in the squad on the field." The editor noted his point of view is different from Steve Rogers, but his take charge attitude will link the two's roles.
Spencer said that the tone of the book will be a "mix and match" of more realistic black ops stories and superhero action. Brevoort said, "While every one of these missions is a caper...it happens within the context of the Marvel Universe. There's no mission you could pull out of that context and play it as a James Bond movie or a 'Mission Impossible.'" He said the book was "intrinsically linked" to the Marvel U and compared it to a louder version of Jonathan Hickman's "Secret Warriors."
The run of "Fear Itself" tie-in issues to the last "Secret Avengers" series came up, to which the writer noted, "I'm really proud of those issues and had fun doing those stories, but they came with a very specific mission statement. I wanted to tie into 'Fear Itself' as closely and coherently as possible. I tried to make those issues feel like a part of 'Fear Itself' and took my cues from elsewhere." He added that he knew Warren Ellis would follow him on the series so he didn't want to screw anything up. "My role was to be caretaker for a few issues. This assignment is a world apart in that it's my book now, and I need to put my stamp on it." He added that the Black Widow issue was a good build up for his time on the character now, but his "Point One" issue was closest to what he'll do in the new "Secret Avengers," however it really is its own thing.
Brevoort chimed in to say that he wanted this new series to have the best of Spencer's own style from the espionage stories of "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" to the wild science fiction of "Jimmy Olson." "To me, this is where we can have a real quintessential Nick Spencer run on a Marvel title," he said.
The Iron Patriot armor was brought up as a controversial piece of the Marvel U. "I think we came up with a pretty cool way to introduce this new Iron Patriot," he said, teasing that the person who did take on the role will have a journey that people don't expect.
The core hook of the series being that the team would be "mind wiped" of their missions was brought up, to which the writer said, "This is something that every member of this team signed up for of their own volition," he said, noting that as the series goes on they may forget that they agreed to it. Spencer's take on S.H.I.E.L.D. is a bit more shady take. "That said, WHY everyone signed up for this has yet to be seen." As the book goes along, the motivations of both organization and team will get more complex, and they won't be strangers each time they team up.
The regular Avengers teams in the Marvel U will not know about the existence of the Secret Avengers at the start of the series, and that will allow for a lot of conflict down the line.
Taskmaster's role in the book came up next. "He's got a pretty unique role in the book, and by the end of issue #2, that'll come into focus," Spencer said. "When we were coming up with the roster, he was the last addition. I felt like something was missing...and as soon as he came up, it was so perfect. He's got some history already with Nick, which was a big draw for me. It was fun to bring somebody else in who was part of his early adventures already. The chemistry between the two of them has been fun to write. I like 'gum in the works' characters, and Taskmaster is that for us. He's the guy who's there for the paycheck, and that makes for some fun story turns."
Brevoort said that the sometimes villain will serve as a contractor as he did in books like "Avengers: The Initiative," but threads of his past from Fred Van Lente's series have established him as having a long history with S.H.I.E.L.D. And unlike, say, Hawkeye, he will be a character who's ability to do the right thing will always be in doubt.
Finally, Spencer talked about Maria Hill's central role in the series and how her key role in "Indestructible Hulk" would bring that character into this book. "His use in the book is very judicious," the writer said. "He's a cannon. He's a bomb when they need it. People ask, 'How is the Hulk on a stealth team?' Obviously, he's not involved when stealth is needed, but when it's time to blow things up, he's there." The editors called the green one the Secret Avengers "distraction."
Overall, Brevoort said that this version of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a bit down and dirtier from previous iterations. The need for a Secret Avengers comes from the fact that the organization is now living in a more dangerous universe and will need to fight threats on earth and from space with smarter weapons.
Spencer agreed, saying, "There are also some political interests in terms of who runs it and who has oversight...this S.H.I.E.L.D. will be throwing a lot of hail Marys and will be taking bolder steps. Some will work, and some won't. But this Secret Avengers team is just one of them."
"Secret Avengers" #1 ships in February from Marvel Comics.