[SPOILER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR "AVENGERS" #21 & "NEW AVENGERS" #11, AVAILABLE NOW]
Actions don't just ripple across time and space in the Marvel Universe -- sometimes they impact other dimensions as well. A good example of this are the "Incursion" events that have been appearing in writer Jonathan Hickman's "New Avengers" and "Avengers" titles, which begin when two versions of Earth suddenly occupy the same space and end with the destruction of one of those Earths six hours later. A new version of the clandestine super hero think tank known as the Illuminati recently came together to solve the mystery of Incursions and protect their Earth by any means necessary, but when Marvel's "Infinity" event began they found themselves forced to deal with another problem, the invasion of Earth by the forces of the alien tyrant Thanos.
Thanos and his armies became the Illuminati's concern when the Avengers headed into space at the beginning of "Infinity" to intercept the armada of the mysterious Builders, an ancient alien race intent on destroying Earth. In "Avengers" #21 and "New Avengers" #11, Hickman and artists Leinil Yu and Mike Deodato showed readers the Illuminati's original mandate and the Avengers' current battle with the Builders are more connected than anyone realized. The New Avengers dealt with the first Incursion event to arise since "Infinity" began and the Avengers and their allies launched several major onslaughts against the Builders. In today's installment of THE INFINITE WAR REPORT, Comic Book Resources examines those events and more as Marvel Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing, Tom Brevoort, who also edits "Infinity," joins us for some insight and commentary into "Avengers" #21 and "New Avengers #11.
CBR News: Before we dive into these latest issues, I wanted to ask you a question a CBR reader raised. I imagine we'll learn more of the story reasons behind this when the "Guardians of the Galaxy" tie-in arc to "Infinity" kicks off, but can you comment on why the Guardians aren't major players in the main "Infinity" books and are off on their own tie-in adventure?
Tom Brevoort: The Guardians have a fairly specific mandate, which is to keep the Earth out of the hands of aliens, and most of the doings in the main books are concerned with the Builders being way off over there out in space. That doesn't mean it's a story the Guardians couldn't get involved in, but it's not really their bread and butter in terms of what they do every single day. You will see them get involved to deal with the threat Thanos and his followers pose to Earth once we hit the "Guardians" tie-ins and in later issues of "Infinity."
Thanks for clarifying. Let's start our discussion of "Avengers" #21 and "New Avengers" #11 by chatting about the work done by the books' artists, Leinil Yu and Mike Deodato. Which sequences do you think they did an especially great job on?
Both guys did and continue to do wonderful work throughout "Infinity." Leinil did a particularly nice job with the scene in "Avengers" #21 where Captain Universe is revived and confronts the Builders. And I thought Deo did a great job capturing the scale of the alternate reality Builders and their world killing ship in "New Avengers" #11. I thought those scenes looked really, really nice as well.
Both books feature a major revelation: the motivation of the Builders for embarking upon their destructive path. It appears that they feel that Earth -- and perhaps all versions of it -- are responsible for the illness that has infected the Marvel Universe and that they see themselves as surgeons ready to remove that infection by cutting out the tumor that is Earth. Is that correct?
That's close to correct. I don't know if they believe the Earth is responsible, but it is clear that the Earth is the pivot point of what is going on with the Incursion events. It's the intersection point. Whenever there is an Incursion, two Earths come together. So their solution to this problem is pretty simple. If you get rid of all the Earths, empty space passes through empty space, and two universes do not collide and get destroyed. It's a pretty simple and elegant solution to the problem from their point of view, but it's not so wonderful if you happen to live on Earth.
They're coming here in direct response to what's been going on in "New Avengers." We saw that signal transmitted to them in the "Prelude to Infinity" issues of "Avengers." So their whole trek and tear in this direction is really motivated by a good thing. They want to save the universe and presumably other universes, but they’re quite willing to blow the Earth up to do it. Our heroes of course are not too happy about that strategy.
The Builders appeared in "Avengers" #21 and an alternate reality version of them were seen in "New Avengers" #11. Beyond the visual appearance of their agents, the Gardeners, how similar and how different are these versions of the Builders?
I'd imagine that they are quite similar. You get variations as you traverse different alternate universes in the same way you'd get a variation of who Tony Stark is in the universe next door. Some of those are minor variations. Some are more catastrophic. There might be a world where Tony Stark is a squid man because squids are the dominant life forms. [Laughs]
So I don't imagine that the Builders of next door are too terribly dissimilar from the Builders of our own universe. They might be a little more directly communicative. They're not quite as remote, removed, or aloof from the things that they've built as we see them call the Illuminati to them and then they have this conversation where they lay out what they're doing, what's going on, and what they feel the Illuminati should be doing.
It's noted in these issues and in earlier issues of "Avengers" that the Builders have the ability to traverse dimensions through the "bleed." Is it possible that these different versions of the Builders have met and interacted before?
I think it's entirely possible. It may in fact be that they're all one race. There's nothing per se that rules that out.
We see the Builder who escapes in "Avengers" #21 show up in "New Avengers" #11 having traversed the Bleed and come out the other side, but not in the best of shape. He went to his Builder brethren in the next universe over. The Builders of that reality don't seem particularly nonplussed to find a Builder from another universe, and they don't really treat him any different from themselves. So they all may very well be a multiversal race rather than a universal race.
On the final page of "New Avengers" #11 the Builders send all of the Illuminati back to Earth except for Reed Richards. Why is that? Why did they choose to talk with Reed a little more and dismiss the rest?
I think this is a case where because of the way we ended the story you're slightly misinterpreting things. Reed's conversation with the alternate reality Builders does go on a little bit longer than everybody else's, but by the end of the issue he is not with them. He's back on Earth with the rest of the Illuminati as well.
So he is in one the pods that touches down on Earth on that final page?
Yes, he is in one of the six pods that end up back there and you don't see him in the shot, but he does witness the explosion of that other Earth.
In "New Avengers" #11, the alternate reality Builders tell the Illuminati the threat of the Builders in their world has come to an end. On the final pages of "Avengers" #21 we see Captain Universe is the being responsible for shutting down the Builders, but we also see the Builders aren't content to surrender peacefully and that they've programmed their automatons, the Alephs, to destroy everything in sight. So essentially the threat the Builders posed to the Marvel Universe is over, but there's still the immediate threat of their rampaging Alephs?
Yeah, that does seem to be the case at this point. Really the biggest lingering threat beyond the "Infinity" of it all and the fact that Thanos is still there doing what he's doing, is the fact that this information has come to light, at least to the Illuminati. They have a greater sense of context as to what is going on with the Incursions and it puts a little more pressure on them.
When the Builders ask Captain Universe why she's standing against them she says she lost something and needs to find it. That's a cryptic quote that has me wondering if her human host might be influencing her actions. Refresh my memory -- didn't her human host lose her family in a car accident?
She was in a car accident. She was and has been in a coma for many years. She had a daughter. We don't know what's happened to that daughter. So it's entirely possible that's what's going on. That line could also refer to something else. It's all very mysterious!
Let's move away from the Builders to some of the other players in these two issues, starting with Ronan and his Accuser Corps. In "Avengers" #21 we learn Ronan struck the Supremor and defied it by joining his Accuser Corps with the Avengers and the Galactic Council. What does it mean for Ronan to do this? Essentially isn't he a guy driven by duty?
He's very much a guy driven by duty, although this isn't the first time we've seen him go rogue or defy the Supreme Intelligence. Ronan didn't want to step down and stop the Kree's fight against the Builders in the first place. Ronan only did so because the Supreme Intelligence pretty much said this was the only way that the Kree were going to survive. Ronan accepted those calculations as correct.
Now having witnessed firsthand Thor's defeat and destruction of one of the Builders the notion that a victory is achievable feels a little more legitimate to Ronan. So he does not put as much faith in the Supreme Intelligence's mathematics as much as he does the Ultimate Weapon in his hand and the Ultimate Weapons in the hands of the other members of the Accuser Corps. So he's gone back out to rejoin the fight alongside Thor and the Avengers despite the fact that the Supreme Intelligence thinks it's a bad idea.
Are the Accuser Corps the only members of the Kree who joined with the Avengers and the Galactic Council?
I believe it is only the Accuser Corps proper, of which there are plenty. So it's not like it's four guys.
Let's move from the Kree to a member of the race they created, the Inhumans. In "New Avengers" #11 we're given a brief scene with Maximus and Lockjaw. In the past we've talked about truthfulness in the dialogue between characters, but Maximus is not your average character and neither is Lockjaw. So is Maximus being truthful when he says, "He would die for nothing but his brother"?
My reading on that line is a little different than yours. My reading on that line is, "Maximus would die for nothing, but his brother..." So it's not that Maximus would die only for his brother. He's saying that he would die for nothing at all whereas Black Bolt would only lay down his life for things like this.
Which begs the question of how important Black Bolt is to Maximus? And how important is it to him to complete the mission that his brother tasked him and Lockjaw with?
Black Bolt and Maximus have a fairly quintessential Marvel brotherly relationship in that they're brothers who don't get along. There are a number of those sorts of guys in the Marvel Universe; everyone from the obvious Thor and Loki to guys like Ka-Zar and the Plunderer. That's a relationship that's generated a lot of fodder for Marvel stories over the years. Maximus is also not 100% there all the time. So he has better days and worse days where he's more psychotic and less psychotic depending on where his biorhythm happens to be at.
That all having been said, I think Maximus has some allegiance, even if it's only a personal loyalty, to his species. He wants to rule the Inhumans and be better than his silent brother, Black Bolt. So as long as this duty he's been tasked with seems to be in the best interest of doing that I would expect that he would carry it out. He doesn't particularly love or care about human beings, but Inhumans as a group and species he does.
From Maximus to another group of unusual characters, let's talk the Black Order. Over the course of "Infinity" they've shown themselves to be vicious, cruel and blood thirsty. It's interesting to note that there appears to be genuine affection between Corvus Glaive and his wife, Proxima Midnight. We've know for a while that they're married but the scenes between them in "New Avengers" #11 suggests it's a marriage driven by mutual affection and not convenience. Is that correct?
It certainly seems that way, although it's a very alien and different sort of affection than that which you or I might experience. They come from a very different culture, and beyond that, they live in very different circumstances. So their relationship and what it involves is by extension probably significantly different than most relationships on Earth, hopefully. [Laughs]
When Corvus and Proxima's master Thanos enters the Illuminati's headquarters in "New Avengers" #11 and sees what it contains he says he's beginning to like these humans. Can you explain why he says that?
I think he's admiring what appears to be their pursuit of death, nihilism and destruction. Within that room there must be 20 or 30 bombs designed to destroy planets. That's something that Thanos knows a lot about and recognizes as a worthwhile endeavor at least in terms of his own personal morality. So there's something about that which he finds worthy of recognition.
As readers we know that the Illuminati's intentions are good, but the fact that someone like Thanos is admiring their tools and methods suggests things are nowhere near as black and white as they want them to be.
I don't think they've been black and white to the Illuminati in the pages of "New Avengers." Up to this point the Illuminati have been very lucky. They've been fortunate. In this issue the alternate reality Builders blow up their Earth. We don't really get into the question of whether or not there's anybody on that Earth, but even if it's not empty that's not an action that the Illuminati themselves have had to take. They've been pragmatic and built these weapons, but a situation has not arisen yet in which they've had to wipe out another populated Earth, home to billions of people, in order to protect our Earth.
So far they've been lucky. Galactus has eaten an Earth. Then there was the Earth that was exploited to death by the Mapmakers. So they recognize that this potential conflict is in the offing if they can't find some other way to stop what's going on. They have not yet reached that do or die moment though. So what will happen when they reach that moment will be interesting. No matter what you do in that situation you're in a very dark gray morality.
Thanos didn't just discover the Illuminati's bombs. He also found their prison and decided to leave the Black Swan imprisoned. Can you talk about why he does that and what he senses about her?
I'm content to let that scene sit and let individual readers take from that what they will. Thanos has plenty of experience dealing with a number of different sorts of characters and entities. He's also smart enough and savvy enough to leave well enough alone in certain instances.
My take on that scene is he looked at her and thought she was much more trouble than she's worth.
Certainly, as I said she was probably better left as is.
We've reached the end of our discussion of these two issues. Any final thoughts on them as a whole or what comes next in "Infinity?"
We're getting down to the nitty gritty and the big explosive wrap up. We're not that far away from the climax. So events are beginning to accelerate. Patterns are becoming clearer, and if nothing else some underlining and punctuation has been added to the story that began back in "Avengers" #1 and "New Avengers" #1. And things are just going to accelerate from this point on.
In next week's INFINITE WAR REPORT we're moving away from the cosmic big picture and toward the human, boots on the ground story of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents defending Brooklyn with a look at writer Ed Brisson and artist Luke Ross' two-part "Infinity" tie-in story arc in "Secret Avengers." Can you offer up any hints or teases about that story, which kicks off in "Secret Avengers" #10?
The focal point of those two issues is a new character; an analyst who is at the crux of a particular battle and thing that are going on, and their sort of ground level first hand account of dealing with the sort of craziness that S.H.I.E.L.D. deals with every day, and the craziness that "Infinity" has reigned down upon the world.
"Avengers" #21 and "New Avengers" #11 are on sale now.