The Avengers come together to battle the threats no Marvel Comics hero could face alone -- and that involves more than just deciding to be a team. They must set aside their differences and animosities and work together to save the world. What happens when a team of Avengers can't seem to do that? Writer Rick Remender has been exploring that very question in his "Uncanny Avengers" series which chronicles the struggles of the Avenger's Unity Squad, a team composed of both veteran Avengers and X-Men as a way of honoring the late Charles Xavier's dream of peaceful coexistence between man and mutant.
Thus far the Unity Squad has been anything but unified, allowing past conflicts to color their judgments and making snap and rash decisions about their new teammates. In the series' current arc, "Ragnarok Now," that inability to cooperate has been exploited by their adversaries, the villainous Apocalypse Twins, and led to dire consequences including the deaths of three of their members. CBR News spoke with Remender about the fallout from those deaths and where he plans to take the title next including a planet of mutants and an all-new Marvel Universe.
CBR News: Rick, you've been promising that the Unity Squad's inability to work together would lead to some dire consequences, and in "Uncanny Avengers" #14 you and artist Steve McNiven delivered on that promise with the deaths of three of your cast members: Rogue, Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man. In the wake of these deaths some readers may be looking to point fingers and some of them may be pointing them at Rogue since she wasn't able to set aside the animosity she felt toward the Scarlet Witch, but is that fair? Is she most responsible for what when down in issue #14? Or do other team members have some culpability as well?
Rick Remender: I'm writing from continuity here, so it's mandatory that you look at the chain of events that led to this. Rogue had tried to forgive Wanda as had most of the mutants after "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" and into "Avengers Vs. X-Men." Everybody was trying to forgive her, but until then they hated her! She was the one who came around and erased the majority of their ranks.
Hatred is born of fear more often than not; so you've got these mutants who are so hateful and fearful of the Scarlet Witch, but many of them try to do the heroic and right thing and forgive her as she tries to redeem herself. She's still a ticking time bomb though. She's still this being where if you give her enough power she can warp reality.
Then in "AvX" the mutants lose Professor X. I wanted to show the repercussions of that in one particular person and that was Rogue. Like many of us do when we're experiencing guilt or mourning she reverted back to who she was, which was an angry person. So for me, as I analyzed that, it made sense for Rogue to be the one because of her past, whereas Logan is trying the road of the samurai. He's trying to make good because of the responsibility on his shoulders. That was why I always said Rogue kind of becomes the Wolverine.
She's the one who's fighting those demons and she's reeling and really damaged from the loss of Charles. Now you've got a situation where she thinks Scarlet Witch is about to do something again. She pulls Wolverine off a wall where he's been tortured by his son and he tells her, "Go stop her. She's up to something again." So at that point Rogue has had enough and she decides she's going to do what all the mutants wanted to do for years and years after M-Day and that's put an end to the Scarlet Witch. She's not going to let her do it again. She sees her as a weapon of mass destruction.
So she sees what she's doing as not only necessary, but as a way of stopping Wanda from messing around with the lives of innocent mutants yet again. When you look at it from that perspective it makes sense to me. Now of course what she doesn't know is Wanda is planning an old switcheroo on the twins, and that lead to the "Three's Company"-like antics of issue #14 [Laughs]
[Laughs] It does sound like Wolverine should bear some blame then, too.
Yeah, obviously Wolverine's example had something to do with Rogue's actions. He's one of her role models. He's trying to change his ways, but that's a recent development. The responsibility Logan has taken on and the way he's adapted to stuff has just been in the last couple of years, which in terms of the Marvel Universe is only months. This is something where Rogue is at fault and has to take responsibility, but given what the Scarlet Witch is capable of and what she had done to mutants in the past it made a good deal of sense I think.
And yeah, I do think that Wolverine is partially to blame here because she reverts to a lot of what she saw in Wolverine back when she was new to the X-Men and he was still the guy who would go out and do the murder.
Wonder Man sacrificed himself for his love, the Scarlet Witch, but did he sacrifice himself so Wanda could live? Or so she could complete her summoning spell?
It was so she could complete the spell. They had gone through all this trouble and reached this point. They saw how powerful the Apocalypse Twins are and what they're capable of and Wanda wanted this. She wanted to use her last chance at redemption to prevent the mutants from being scooped up against their wishes.
She wasn't going to be their savior, but she was going to draw them together as an army to deal with the Apocalypse Twins. That would allow them to choose their own fates as opposed to having segregation forced on them by these twins. So this was a chance at redemption for Wanda and I think that Simon, who loves her very much, saw that.
One of the things we've seen in this series is that, as time has progressed, Wanda has realized that Simon is the human version of the Vision. He's the Vision with the human frailties and failings. I didn't want to put too fine of a point on that. I just wanted to build into it. So she realizes she does love Simon, but she's afraid. Their love is then rekindled and as tragedy befalls them Simon sacrifices himself in order to give her a shot at redemption.
So another doomed romance in a Rick Remender book?
[Laughs] If you look at what I've done it always has kind of a happy ending. That often gets overlooked though. Even my darkest stories have kind of happy endings. "Uncanny X-Force" had a happy ending for Fantomex and Betsy. They were sharing a kiss and their character arcs for that story had completed. There was a happy ending of sorts in "Fear Agent" too.
I'm building into something and it's not all haphazard. I'm not making this book up month by month as I go. I've got it outlined up until issue #25. It's the same with my "Captain America" work.
We're getting to the point now where I've done all the foundation. I've set the characters up. I've got their arcs in progress. Now we can start hitting the giant fireworks shows in both of those books where all of the huge things can start happening and they've actually been earned.
While the Twins and the Avengers were having their big clash, their mutual enemy, Kang the Conqueror, was making some big moves as well. In issue #14 he began to put together his own team of super powered characters. Can you talk about your reasons for choosing these characters and Kang's story based logic?
There's a reason why he chose them. Kang has a plan. We have yet to get to the juicy bits of "Ragnarok Now," which are coming in issues #16 and #17. That's where I'm setting up something that will create a whole new Marvel Universe. What that leads to is something that seems completely insane and disconnected, but eventually comes back around to the Kang of it all and leads into changing every member of the cast who's still alive in such a drastic way that when the Red Skull and the Onslaught stuff begins they're a team in a completely different place and things are insane.
The Kang stuff is definitely going to play a big role and he's selected each one of those characters for specific reasons, and we'll start to see more of what's going on with him in issue #18.
One of the members he selected was a Deathlok from an alternate future that appeared to be Hulk foe the Abomination. Is that correct?
Yep, gotta love the Abomination.
What can you tell us about the dynamic of Kang's team? Its ranks include the Arno Stark from 2020, Doom 2099 and Stryfe. At first glance it appears to be a team full of characters who are not exactly team players.
Well, their timelines are being erased and their entire universes are being rewound. They're in a situation where Kang shows up and offers to fix things or maybe do something else that could benefit them. So it's all about the person and the situation that they're in and the dilemma versus the opportunity. In this case the opportunity that they're offered is basically salvation or destruction. So they basically decide to work together toward this goal that Kang has concocted, which we'll reveal in issues #19-20.
Okay, so these guys are motivated to set their egos aside then?
Through selfish reasons, but yes. They have a reason to be working together.
You opened issue #14 with a dark page featuring captions where an unknown narrator addresses someone named Katie. Are you able to tell us anything about that page? I assume it's a seed for something further down the line?
Yeah, it's a seed for issue #18 and the next arc that's coming after "Ragnarok Now." I wanted to seed it and start things off in issue #14 to show people that when I do what's seeded there that there was a plan set in place. It's not just a haphazard thing. This has all been part of the plan from the beginning.
If people do some research and look at the captions they can figure out whose captions they are pretty easily. Then once you figure out whose captions these are you can start to figure out who Katie is and you might get an idea of what this is. The clues are there for someone willing to do some hunting. Beyond that it was intended to be a little nondescript. It was a little color to set things off.
Let's move from the beginning of issue #14 to what comes next. #14 ended with a heck of a cliffhanger. How much story time passes between #14 and #15 and where do you pick things up? Do you pick things up with the survivors of last issue's events, Wolverine and Sunfire?
Wanda completed her spell at the end of issue #14. So in #15 we'll see the results of her completed spell. We’ll see the remaining cast members dealing with that. Then we see the real escalation that I seeded going back a good ways in the series now. Something I did going back a little while now, that nobody paid a whole lot of attention to, was really the heart of this entire story and I'm going to reveal that in issue #15.
What I've seen so far and the solicits suggest that these last few issues of "Ragnarok Now" will be packed full of guest stars and cameo appearances. Wanda completed her spell to summon Earth's mutants and I understand a whole lot of Avengers will join the fray as well. Is that correct?
The scope and the size of what's going on here mean it's time to rally all the troops. So, yes, there will be many guest stars, and by issue #17 things get even crazier. Things will seem so out of control by that issue that I don't think anybody will be able to speculate exactly what we're doing. It's exciting to finally get here; to have the Apocalypse Twins and their plan earn them so many big wins because the heroes were not working together.
We know that after "Ragnarok Now" the next chapter in the long form story you're telling is an arc titled "Planet X." What can you tell us about the arc? The covers for issue #18.NOW suggest that this will be a story where you'll have a lot of fun with some science fiction trappings?
For sure, and the "Planet X" title is a temporary title. The real title for the story is being held back because it might tip our hand on some of the big events that are taking place. It does have a very sci-fi leaning though.
I don't want to say too much about who succeeds and who fails in "Ragnarok Now," but some of the mutants do end up on a new home world. We're going to shift forward in time a little bit to live with some of them on this home world, and we'll start to see what would happen if some of the mutants got what they wanted, a world populated entirely by mutants.
So we'll start to see some of holes in the methodology and philosophy of guys like Magneto as he starts to obsess over the last few humans that might be hanging out on this planet. We start to see a number of things that should help unearth the failings of a character with Magneto's perspective.
In what is now known as the "Planet X" arc, Magneto comes into your narrative in a major way, correct?
Yeah, the situation with Wanda plays a major role with Magneto. Then Magneto becomes a major component of this series and everything I'm doing from issue #18 forward.
It sounds like one of the themes of this upcoming arc will be that mutants are just as flawed as humans?
It's more that we're all just humans. There's no greater metaphor here.
In his early incarnations Magneto would be pretty open to wiping out humanity to make way for the mutants. He's developed since then and gone back and forth. You had Claremont do such a wonderful job with building him. I think the character is trapped between his philosophy and Charles Xavier's. Both sides of that argument have pros and cons, but I wanted to explore what might happen if Magneto got what his classic desire is. I wanted to explore what might transpire at that point and maybe flip the script on the dynamic between humans and mutants.
It sounds like Magneto plays a somewhat antagonistic role in this arc. The cover to "Uncanny Avengers" #18.NOW suggests Havok and Wasp will be sort of the spotlight protagonists in this story. Is that correct?
Yes, some of the other cast members will definitely be involved as well, but those are the two that we'll really start to focus some attention on.
The first issue of this arc, #18.NOW, is marked as a good jumping on point for new readers. Is it challenging to provide access points like this when you're telling a huge story that unfolds over 25 issues?
It's the beginning of a new arc and it builds off the fact that "Uncanny Avengers" is a 25-issue story. So is my work on "Captain America." They're both 25-issue stories. So the stories themselves and the major beats remain the same, but my approach is a bit different when I have something where Marvel is doing an initiative to get new readers on board.
I still like dropping people into the middle of a story though. People who read "Black Science" [Remender's new creator-owned series from Image Comics] a couple weeks back had a taste of what it's like to be dropped into the middle of something and then caught up, which is how I'm handling that.
I'm handling this upcoming arc in a similar way. It's something where we've jumped forward in time and you're dumped into a situation where you'll get caught up as you go. I'll make sure to catch you up via the characters' dialogue and their internal captions in ways that hopefully doesn't feel like exposition or information dumping, and is instead the characters processing the situation that they're in and reflecting on it in a way that informs you how they got here and what happened. So my hope is that it's entertaining and reminds you of their motives and their state of mind.
Let's start to wrap up by talking about the art on this upcoming arc. I understand many of the characters will be sporting redesigned costumes?
Yeah, we've jumped forward in time and into an entirely new situation. So we wanted to denote that passage of time by showing their future costumes.
Who designed those costumes?
It was Daniel Acuna who is coming back to the book for issue #18.NOW. It's been really wonderful to have Steve McNiven jump in for this current arc, and my hope is to have him come back some time soon, but it's also nice to have Daniel Acuna coming back. Because he’s worked on so many issues of "Uncanny Avengers" he brings a feeling of consistency and glue to the series. His art on issue #18 is some of the best he's done. It's just breath taking. We get to see some old favorite mutants and some new mutants.
Acuna is one my favorite artists. Working with him is such a treat and we were really, really glad that he was able to come back. His new design for Havok is sort of a Buck Rogers Havok, and that makes me happy. His design for the Wasp is great as well. Those characters are two of my favorites on the team, and it's great to be able to tell a story that focuses on them.
Finally, is "Planet X" the beginning of the third act of this epic story you've been telling?
Because it's 25 issues it really does break down into more than just three acts. The Red Skull stuff is almost like an inciting incident that brings the team together, but then it also sets up a B-story that's bubbling the whole time and then becomes the A-story around issue #22.
So there are too many act changes for it to just be three acts. "The Apocalypse Twins," "Ragnarok Now" and "Planet X" could be broken into three acts pretty nicely. So it's all a rich tapestry of insanity and comic book fun and one does connect with the other.
I liked the idea of setting up the Red Skull stuff in the first arc and getting somebody as great as John Cassaday to design the S-Men. Then after getting them on the board in such a huge and powerful way showing the repercussions of what they're going to do in the future through the eyes of the Apocalypse Twins who lived in that future, and then to use them to continue to build the threat.
If I were to use "Game of Thrones" as an analogy I would say that the Red Skull and his S-Men are the White Walkers making their way towards the Wall. So we tell our story with the Apocalypse Twins and "Planet X" and then we circle back around to the repercussions with Red Skull and Onslaught.
So the end of this 25-issue story is starting to come into sight then?
At this point we've still got 10 issues of it. So we're a little over the half-way point. Then after issue #25 I've got even bigger plans. I know what happens after that issue and it's all the repercussions of the past 25 issues. So it's the kind of escalation and scope that I feel you really have to earn.
I got the ideas approved and everybody at Marvel wanted to do these stories. They didn't even put a clock on things. I did. As I crafted the rest of this story I kept thinking, "How do I get to this point?" And a lot of what happens in the first 25 issues is seeding what's going to come up after that. It's all going to continue to feed into bigger and crazier things.
So if everything goes according to plan you'll be on this book for some time? You've got plans beyond these first 25 issues?
Yeah, who knows how long any of these things will last? But I know right now the story I've got done is 34 issues. 25 is the big set up and then the next eight issues being the biggest thing I've done. I know how it all breaks down and what the effects are on the cast and other characters in the Marvel Universe. So I would say that you could definitely expect at least 34 issues from me.
"Uncanny Avengers" #15 is on sale Dec. 18 from Marvel Comics.