Thanks to the "Avengers Disassembled" arc of Thor which ended in October of 2004, Marvel Comics' favorite God of Thunder is currently MIA. Marvel's Hercules has tried to fill this void, but there's only so much one Greek god can do. This January, however, his half-brother Ares decides to take up residence on earth, and things will definitely not be the same in the Marvel universe.
"Ares" is a five-issue miniseries penned by the same scribe who wrote the aforementioned Thor arc, Michael Oeming. This is one writer-artist who is no stranger to swords, sorcery, and gods. In addition to a long list of "non-god" related books, he's co-written "Hammer of the Gods" (along with doing its art), and is currently writing Dynamite Entertainment's "Red Sonja" as well as Marvel's "Thor: Blood Oath."
Projects such as these have placed Oeming's name at the top of the list when companies are looking for writers of this genre. And in the case of this miniseries, it even saved the writer the trouble of going through the "song-and-dance" pitch process.
"They (Marvel) came to me with 'Ares,'" Oeming explained. "It was something they tried to get going before. I had handed in a Hercules pitch that didn't go through, and I did two Thor runs and a Beta Ray Bill thing, so when they asked, I was ready. I think between those, 'Red Sonja,' and 'Hammer of the Gods,' I'm kind of a mythology/fantasy guy and I'm happy with that. I feel like I'm walking in the steps of Roy Thomas and Jim Starlin."
For those not familiar with Marvel's Ares, the character has appeared in the company's universe previously. His first modern appearance was in "Thor" #129. Since that time, he has tussled with his half-brother Hercules (naturally), and has also butted heads with Namor. Aside from these showings though, the character hasn't been seen too much in the Marvel U, and Oeming prefers it that way.
"He's actually not had a lot of play, and I like that I can build the character. I'd much rather do an obscure character like Ares than do a well-known book where I'd feel fenced in. My dream project is for Marvel to hand me one of their 'failing' books or a book about to get chopped, and give me the chance to do anything with it and turn it around."
When working on a character whose roots lay in mythology, quite a bit of their background is already laid out for you. Ares is the Greek God of War, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. However, this does raise an interesting question: just because someone is a god of war, does this necessarily make them good or evil? The writer shared his take on this with CBR News.
"I think he's been evil. No doubt about that - he's been a villain. My view of him is to turn him from a force of conscious evil to just being a force. Maybe a bit more of an antihero, but I don't even like that term."
While the story does take place in the Marvel Universe, Oeming indicated that the series will still delve deeply into Greek mythology. "It's all about it," he said. "We'll see lots of characters we haven't even seen before. A lot of themes are based on Zeus killing his father. Ares is the son of Zeus and now he has a son of his own (which we learn about in the miniseries). There's a father-son story here that spans generations…even eons!"
According to the book's solicitation, it says that Ares wants to "begin life anew on Earth with one goal: to raise his child." This one sentence alone leads to a dozen questions, two of which include: Who is the child's mother? And is Ares moving to a townhouse in the suburbs to raise his kid? The second question was asked in jest, but it turned out not to be too far from the truth.
"Yeah, it sort of starts out in the suburbs," Oeming responded. "Ares' son is Alex, named after his favorite human, Alexander the Great. His mother's identity is a secret for now, but Ares basically abandoned the mother because he didn't want the 'weakening influence' of a woman on his boy. Again, he's trying to change - do the right thing by his boy - but he's still stuck in his old ways. He's still the God of War, and he's a bit of a jerk too, but that's because he has a very different background then you or I."
Part of this background includes his relationship with Hercules. As the two have had their differences in the past, the scribe indicated that readers shouldn't expect hugs and playful noogies. He explained, "There's bad blood between them. Ares is the black sheep, Hercules is the golden child, and now Zeus is calling on Ares for help. Herc won't like that. Not to mention, Ares hates his father and brother - there's all kinds of bad blood there that's going to clash. Hercules plays a major part in the series."
As mentioned, Thor is "gone" as far as the other heroes in the Marvel universe are concerned. With this in mind, it would be interesting to see them try to recruit a major power like Ares to do the "hero" thing. When asked about this possibility though, Oeming quickly dismissed it.
"No way. There won't be much chance for that either. I'm hoping Marvel wants to see more of Ares in the Pantheon world. Ultimately, I'd like to see Ares continue into a Pantheon series that covers that whole area, so we can see more of those gods and characters like Ares, Hercules, Beta Ray and others on a more regular basis."
In talking about Thor, Ares, and Hercules, it could be confusing to some readers to see how all these characters are related. After all, Thor comes from Norse mythology, while Ares and Hercules come from the Greek myths. In response to how all of these gods are connected, Oeming offered the following: "Offhand, and I may have this wrong, Gaea is a character in both Pantheons, and therefore Thor is actually related in some way by blood with the Greek characters. I think Gaea, Thor's mother, is actually Hercules' grandmother. And now that Asgard (home of the Norse gods) has fallen (which also occurred at the end of Thor's "Avengers Disassembled" arc), the Greek gods have lost their greatest allies and the dark gods of the east see this as a sign of weakness, so that's how all this trouble starts."
With this miniseries, Ares will be making a big splash in the Marvel universe. However, the book's writer views this as something larger than just the introduction of a character; Oeming hopes this book opens up the possibility for even more myth-based books at Marvel Comics.
"I'd like to see (this book) as an introduction to a world that has actually been there all along. I'd love to do a Pantheon series with one central character - be it Ares, his son, Beta Ray Bill, whomever - who travels between all these (mythological) worlds. And I'd love to introduce new worlds, such as the African and North and Pan American Pantheons. Those worlds should 'dip' into the modern world from time to time - it's part of the Marvel Universe, not separate from it."
Although he keeps extremely busy as a writer, his art on "Powers" (written by Brian Bendis) keeps Oeming occupied as well. While there have been delays on recent issues, he assures fans that "we're kicking ass on getting books out (despite the hold up of issue #12 - Brian lost an eye so I drew a double-sized issue, etc.) and we are taking the story into new and unexpected territory - even to us!"
Regarding his writing projects, he said, "I'm writing 'Red Sonja' monthly. I have another creator-owned book I co-wrote with Dan Berman called 'Blood River' - it's drawn by 'Weird NJ' artist Brian Quinn and comes out in December from Image. I'm also hard at work on my next two creator-owned things; I'm actually drawing these.
"One is called 'The Cross Bronx' - it's co-written by Ivan Brandon of 'NYC Mech' and it's four issues. I'm about halfway finished with that. Then comes a pretty big project - it's called 'The Mice Templar.' It will run like eighteen issues or so. It's created by myself and Bryan Glass, and Bryan is writing the script. I'm going to pull back on some of my writing assignments to do this. Very excited about it. And in December, my issue of (Marvel's) 'What If?' is coming out. I just finished it today and it's written by Robert Kirkman."
As "Ares" is yet another book in a long list of myth-oriented books for him, CBR News ended our talk with Oeming by asking what appealed to him about these kinds of stories. "Gravitas!" he replied. "Seriously, the escape - the opera to it. Superheroes are fun, but fantasy/mythology feels like something very real to me. Maybe because a lot of it is based on real people or events, or even psychological reactions to the environment (the Norse gods certainly are), that makes it feel more real - like a lost history. On a stormy day, I feel like I can walk into the woods and I'll find a sword sticking out of a tree or a rock with a magic door on it. Then again, maybe I just drink too much."