[SPOILER WARNING: THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR "AVENGERS" #23, AVAILABLE NOW]
Being a member of the Avengers means committing yourself to standing up to tyranny and evil no matter what. That' something the people of Earth understand. It's something several intergalactic great powers in the Marvel Universe understand as well thanks to the events of the currently unfolding Marvel Comics event, "Infinity," which finds them standing side by side with the Avengers in their war to end the threat of the alien race known as the Builders. With the event heading toward its big conclusion, the time has come for cosmic mass murderer Thanos and his followers, who invaded Earth while the Avengers were battling the Builders, to learn that harsh lesson as well.
In "Avengers" #23 by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Leinil Yu, the battle for Earth began as the Avengers and their alien allies attempted to break Thanos' blockade of Earth and retake the Peak, the heavily armed orbital headquarters of the espionage and extraterrestrial counter terrorism agency known as S.W.O.R.D. In today's installment of THE INFINITE WAR REPORT, CBR News examines those events and more as Marvel Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort, who also edits "Infinity," joins us for commentary and insight into "Avengers" #23.
CBR News: Tom, "Avengers" #23 is Leinil Yu's final "Infinity" issue and Jonathan gave him a heck of a sendoff. Let's talk about Leinil's contribution to this issue and "Infinity" as a whole. The event is in large part a massive space opera and it seems Leinil was a crucial component in bringing to life those outer space set chapters of the story. Is that correct?
Tom Brevoort: That is absolutely correct. No more so than here, and point of fact, Leinil didn't just pencil this issue, he inked it as well. So he did the full job on his final issue and he did it, as we've talked about in several of these interviews, under what only could be considered battlefield conditions. And he did the work marvelously and miraculously to have it come out on time and looking as outstanding as it does.
We talk about the art every time and I feel like I say the same things, but especially here on this issue I want to give my thanks to Leinil Yu who came through for us in a big way doing the six issues of "Avengers" that tied into "Infinity." None of them were easy. Of all of the guys who were involved with this story, he probably had the toughest stuff to visualize. He was brilliant on the page, though, and lightning fast.
Plus, he always went above and beyond what he was asked to do. There's a sequence in this issue that Jonathan plotted in such a way so as to make it easy for Leinil. It was the Iron Man and Captain America conversation and Jonathan basically said, "All you need to do here is draw me a Cap figure and an Iron Man figure. We'll stat them back and forth and we'll drop in the dialogue for it." But Leinil said, "I don't want to do that. I'd rather draw the whole page. I've been giving it my all and I don't want to half-ass this sequence." So he drew that scene as a full on sequence.
This was the kind of commitment to excellence that Leinil had all the way through this story. I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out and I'm very grateful for the work he did on it.
Let's kick off our discussion of the events of "Avengers" #23 by looking at that conversation between Cap and Tony at the beginning of the issue. Two especially interesting things happen in it. The first was that I got the sense Tony doesn't want Cap to ask about the kinds of doomsday weapons Thanos got his hands on -- or how he got his hands on them. Is that correct?
That is very correct, given that the weapons Thanos has are the antimatter bombs that the Illuminati were putting together in the eventuality that they had to blow up other earths that were incurring on to our Earth. That's not something that Iron Man or the other Illuminati members want Cap or the other Avengers to know about at this point. In fact, they've erased Cap's memory of it once. So that's a deeply held dark secret on their part.
Is that something Cap would have normally asked Tony about if he wasn't dealing with high pressure situations like breaking the blockade of Earth and retaking the planet?
It might be, and it certainly might be something that he'll ask about later when things are not quite so frantic. On the other hand, though, it's not like he and Iron Man don't have a relationship that goes back many, many years. If Iron Man says he's got it and he's on it Cap really has no reason to question that. This may very well not be the end of this conversation though.
The other especially interesting element of that conversation is when Cap says, "I don't think any of us are completely whole after what we've been through." That caused me to stop and reflect upon the fact that the Avengers fought and won a war where they were vastly outnumbered and outgunned and they did that in a few days. I know the war is not over yet, but will there be some psychological fall out from what they experienced in the Avengers titles that follow up "Infinity?"
I think there will certainly be fall out. We've seen some fall out already touched on in previous issues. We had that little bit with Manifold and the moments with Cannonball, Smasher and Sunspot.
We'll probably see more things as we move ahead, but I don't know if it will be center stage. Once "Infinity" is done the Avengers are going to move on to the next problem, and being an Avenger means living an existence that goes from crisis to crisis. So I don't know how much down time we're going to take for that introspection. When it comes up and impacts what's going on in terms of the crisis of the moment, then yes, it will come to the fore. And none of the guys who went through this will come out completely unscathed. But I don't know though if we'll be dwelling on it terribly much either.
So many of the Avengers haven't had a chance to fully process what they went through? It's just go, go, go and then go again?
As soon as they finished battling with the Builders this problem with Thanos and the Earth has turned up, and that's very much the lot of life for an Avenger. So they're immediately off into this scenario, and in all likelihood, because we publish comics every month, once the Thanos problem is wrapped up there will be some other problem that requires their attention. It's a fairly unforgiving existence.
They do have time to process things. It just happens to usually fall on the 29 days in between one issue and the next issue. [Laughs] When those after effects materially affect the story that we're telling then you'll see the effects of these things on the printed page, but the reality is we have an Avengers cast in excess of 16 members and we have 20 pages an issue.
So right there you're going to be making storytelling choices, and you're not necessarily going to be able to show every effect a situation, encounter and engagement has on somebody. Except for when whatever that after effect is is so significant that it becomes a thing to be dealt with as the characters are dealing with whatever the new situation of the moment is.
In this issue we see that the Avengers have recruited the Guardians of the Galaxy to help them take back the Peak, but we only see Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon. Are they the only members there? Or will we see the rest of the team as well in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" issues that tie into "Infinity?"
If you've seen the "Guardians" tie-ins, and the first one will have shipped before this issue, you'll see exactly where everybody is. All of the Guardians are involved but it's really only Rocket and Star-Lord that go into the station. Drax is on the outside. Groot is on the outside. Gamora shows up at a certain point. Angela is involved at a certain point, but all of that is told in the two "Guardians" tie-in issues. We see a little of the specifics in this issue of "Avengers" and a little more in "Infinity" #6 next week, but that story is mostly told in the two "Guardians" tie-ins.
Refresh my memory -- where are Agent Brand (the director of S.W.O.R.D.) and her staff during this? Did we see them evacuate the Peak and I just forgot? Last I remember seeing her in the core "Infinity" books was when she got rid of Thanos' team that infiltrated the Peak.
In "New Avengers" we saw Black Dwarf and his guys come back to the Peak and we saw them setting up their defenses. Brand is still on the Peak, though. She appears in "Guardians" as well. We'll see what's left of her staff and what they have been doing in those two "Guardians" issues.
In the scene right before he departs for Earth, Captain America stops and thanks the remaining members of the Galactic Council for all they've done and all the help they've given him and the Avengers. Those guys are all leaders of empires that have tried to conquer or destroy Earth at some point. Are there any other Marvel heroes that come to mind that might be able to do what Cap did in "Infinity?"
I think it depends on the situation and circumstances. Over the years we've certainly seen, whether it was Cyclops or Thor or Iron Man, similar cosmic situations where heroes gain the momentary grudging respect of particular worlds. That said, Cap was the battlefield leader of the war against the Builders. So he's in a better position here and now, and by extension all who fought with him. He's sort of the embodiment and personification of that in the eyes of the folks around him.
He's certainly earned a level of acclaim and notoriety among these great galactic powers. I don't know if that will remain a solid state situation though, because now that the threat of the Builders has been vanquished the Kree are going to go back to wanting what they want, and the Shi'ar are going to go back to wanting what they want. All of these guys are going to go back to handling their own personal affairs of their empires. Those desires and agendas may no longer be simpatico with those of the Avengers.
As of this moment though, it's like they're the Allies of World War II and everybody has had a feel-good win. So they're all unified and can be deployed for one more fight together before they go their own separate ways and inevitably wind up sniping at each other.
It's interesting that Annihilus is one of the members of the Galactic Council that's remained a member of this coalition throughout everything. He even goes with the other heads to battle the Black Dwarf. I imagine part of the reason he goes into that battle is because he's spoiling for a good fight, but can you talk about what else has been motivating him during "Infinity?" Because of the single minded nature of his people and the way they revel in destruction it's easy to think of Annihilus as a guy who's not interested in emotional things like respect or diplomacy, but is that true?
I think Annihilus is mostly about self-preservation. At his core, when you strip away everything else, his agenda is essentially described in his nom de guerre. He's Annihilus, the Living Death that Walks. Philosophically his take on existence is, "Anything else that is alive is a threat to me. Therefore my ultimate agenda is to get rid of everything else that lives so that I don't have to worry about anything anymore." [Laughs] So in the case of the situation with the Builders he's established for himself a toehold in the positive matter universe out in galactic space. He's reached accords with various other galactic powers, and he's been part of the Galactic Council. He still fights for self-preservation though.
That having been said he goes along with the rest of the Galactic Council to beat on Thanos and the Black Order on Earth, which is not necessarily something that he has to do. Whether it's due to his blood lust being up and everyone else is heading that way, some feeling that Thanos might pose a threat to him and his at some point and now's a good time to strike at him while he's standing side by side with millions of other guys, some quirk or whim, or a combination of all of those he definitely commits to this as well.
So he's a lot more cunning than some people give him credit for?
I think so. He's very simple on the one hand, but especially having been reincarnated, shall we say, as a new Annihilus, the previous one died and this new young Annihilus was hatched, he's got more nuance perhaps than he's had in the past.
Let's talk about the battle that Annihilus and the other leaders get into with the Black Dwarf. It ends with a pretty intense scene of Ronan smashing the Black Dwarf's head with his hammer. It's not as gruesome as, say, the Sentry ripping apart Ares, which we saw in "Siege," but it has me wondering, what's your position as an editor when it comes to really intense scenes of violence like that?
Well, obviously I print them. [Laughs] I think that there's a time, and a place, and a context. I don't like doing that sort of thing willy-nilly. I believe we've talked in the past about the scene with Ares in "Siege." That was way further than anything else we had done and I in fact expected somebody along the way to raise a concern that we would have to pull back from it. It didn't happen. For whatever reason, that week everybody felt like, "Yeah, let's tear Ares apart! That's great!" And Olivier [Coipel] drew it so beautifully and so horrifically. It's not the kind of thing I would do typically though.
So this scene and this moment was a big moment. We don't have a lot of these scenes in the course of "Infinity." It's not like you need to have a certain number, but for this particular instance that moment felt justified, at least to me. It felt of a magnitude that warranted that visualization.
It's completely a gut level thing. I don't know that I want to shy away from it when it's called for, and I don't know that I want to do it gratuitously or overdo it so that every fight involves someone putting a fist through somebody else's chest or something like that. These are serious characters with serious stakes though and people are going to get hurt along the way.
Annihilus, Ronan, Kl'rt the Super Skrull and Gladiator take down the Black Dwarf, but that doesn't mean the Battle of the Peak is over, correct? Are there still moments we have not seen?
Yes, you'll see more in "Infinity" #6, you'll get a resolution there. You'll also see more in the two "Guardians" issues, especially the second one which is issue #9. The full end of the Battle of the Peak plays out there.
Let's talk about that last panel of this issue. Cap and four of the Avengers' heaviest hitters are headed down to Earth to rendezvous with the remaining defenders of Earth, right? Or are there more Avengers in that ship than what we see in the panel?
Theoretically all of the Avengers are headed toward Earth, but there's still the blockade focused around the Peak to be dealt with and there are members of Thanos' forces scattered around the world. Beyond just the Black Order members we've seen in a bunch of different places there's the rank and file space pirates and the ne'er do wells that have to be dealt with. "Infinity" #6 will sort of spell this out and show you more or less what's going on with everybody as these climactic fights are going on. So everybody kind of gets accounted for.
So that group on the ship is essentially Cap's vanguard in the battle to liberate Earth?
Yes, they're heading down on Iron Man's vector toward the center of the problem, which is theoretically where Thanos is.
You've already offered up a few hints and teases about next week's climactic "Infinity" #6. How big is the scope and scale of the issue? And how many characters are going to be involved in this climax?
Once again it's an oversized issue. I forget the exact page count, but I believe it's 40-45 pages, all by Jim Cheung. It's a glorious battle sequence. It's possibly the best full-out brawl that Thanos has been part of in a long time, if not ever. I think it will be supremely satisfying to people who feel like over the past five issues Thanos has been around, but he's been more of a commanding figure, and it's been the Black Order, the Builders out in space, and other guys who have commanded most of the attention.
The Avengers certainly get their licks in, and there are a lot of characters who have big, supreme moments. So there's plenty of climax to be had here. There's not a lot of monkeying around. It's a fairly massive engagement. Then we have the fall out and shake down where we see where all the pieces lay at the end. We'll see what kind of shape the world and the Marvel Universe at large is in when everything is said and done.
Next week also sees the release of "New Avengers" #12. I understand that's an epilogue and should be read after "Infinity" #6. Is that correct?
Yes, that comes after "Infinity" #6. If you look at the little chart we've been running in the back you can see it comes directly after. So please read "Infinity" #6 first and then "New Avengers" #12. And even though it's an epilogue or aftermath, it's not really a quiet or introspective issue. [Laughs] A lot of big things have happened and a lot of consequences have transpired from the previous issues of "New Avengers" and "Infinity" proper.
A lot of what's gone on in "Infinity" has had a lot to do with the situations that the Illuminati of "New Avengers" have been dealing with for 12 issues. That's really going to reach a head and propel them into the next cycle of stories in "New Avengers" #12. In essence, our enormous galaxy spanning event series was only the prologue to something more that's on the horizon. You'll begin to get a sense of what that is in "New Avengers" #12.
"Infinity" #6 by Jonathan Hickman & Jim Cheung and "New Avengers" #12 by Hickman & Mike Deodato are both on sale November 27.