The Marshall Plan for the Marvel U: Bendis talks "Civil War: The Initiative" & "New Avengers"

Tue, December 12th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

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"Civil War" has torn apart the old order of the Marvel Universe and come February, the war will end and the rebuilding begins. One of the architects of the post Civil War Marshall Plan for the Marvel Universe is writer Brian Michael Bendis. With co-writer Warren Ellis, Bendis is penning "Civil War: The Initiative," a one-shot special hitting stores in February that sets the stage for a new Marvel era.   Bendis also continues to pen the monthly adventures of a team that "Civil War" disassembled, the "New Avengers." CBR News spoke with him about both books.

"The Initiative" was born when the post "Civil War" plans for the Marvel Universe were being formulated. "I was heavily involved," Bendis told CBR News. "My books 'New Avengers' and 'Mighty Avengers' comprise many of the characters involved in 'Civil War,' one way or another, who survive. I was there for 'Omega Flight' because me and Mike Oeming do 'Powers' together, so we we're talking about 'Omega Flight' a lot. Also, I had just read Warren Ellis' first few 'Thunderbolts' issues and loved them. I'm a big Warren Ellis fan.

"So, someone, it might have been Tom Brevoort, told me that because I prequeled 'Civil War' with 'The Illuminati' we really have an opportunity here to do a genuine all new special that bookends 'Civil War' and sets everybody up," Bendis continued. "It would serve as sort of a, 'here is where we are' and also it's a nice primer for those interested in the new series, for those who want to get a feel for them, or those who can't wait and want to see how they all connect. This is the perfect special to do it."

Bendis was happy to take the assignment of writing "The Initiative," but he had one caveat. "I said, 'I don't want to write Warren's Thunderbolts,"' he stated. "Mike was cool with the little idea I had for 'Omega Flight' and we kind of worked on it together and he let me go with it, but Warren's 'Thunderbolts' is really Warren's book. I was like, 'Let Warren write his, but I'll do the rest.'"

Once the writers were selected for "The Initiative," an artist was needed to depict the dawning of a new era in the Marvel Universe. "I have been working with Marc Silvestri on this unannounced project for awhile," Bendis explained. "They were like, 'Boy he would be the perfect guy for this because it's so big.' It's got these big images and its all about these iconic new ideas. He said yes so, that was really exciting. I really want this to be special. I thought that Warren and Mark definitely made it that. Even if I completely screwed it up, it would be special."

"New Avengers" #26, page 2

The word "Initiative" has a few meanings. One refers to the process in which citizens can change laws without the legislature. Another meaning of the word is "ready to embark on a new journey." Bendis had to stay mum about the significance of the special's title, but he was able to reveal one thing about the special. "One team of Avengers is the sanctioned above ground team that you could on some level see as the winners of 'Civil War,'" Bendis said. "The other team has lost the war. Each team has a very specific agenda in this world that is very heroic and very necessary for the new Marvel Universe. They may be in direct conflict even though their goals are the same."

Bendis was also able to give some details about the other groups that play large roles in "The Initiative." "I think everyone has a good sense of what the 'Thunderbolts' is now that you've read about them in 'Civil War.' As crazy as you think the book might be, it's crazier," Bendis stated. "But 'Omega Flight,' this is very unique because it expresses a new idea for the Canadian super team. It really is a new group of characters with new interactions. Mike came up with some really good things. So, what you get here is this genuine prelude chapter to this team. It shows how a couple of them are selected and what they're all doing together."

"The Initiative" will feature some very different teams, but all of the action in the book is tied together. "It's all wrapped around the idea of the Initiative. They're all chapters of this much bigger idea which is the Initiative," Bendis said. "It's so big that many of the ideas can't even fit into this book. But these are some of the headline stories of the Initiative and they're all being expressed in these first chapters in this special."

The action and the big ideas of 'The Initiative" won't focus solely on teams. "Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel both have an important chapter to their solo stories and their places in the teams that they are going to be in," Bendis explained.

Since "Civil War: The Initiative" features a large cast of characters dealing with a new status quo, it might remind some readers of the "House of M: Day After" special, which dealt with the fall out from that mini-series. "'The Initiative' is similar in that it's kind of the day after, but it's completely different in technique, what the characters are up to and what's going on," Bendis said. "The day after 'House of M' was literally like the day after a horror movie. Something horrible had happened to a species. That's what the day after was in that book. Here, it's like the day after a war. There are winners and losers; some people are triumphant and some are not and there is rebuilding. So, there's very different techniques being used and the theme and tone are different.

"New Avengers" #26, page 7

"What you also get in the book is what we tried to provide in 'New Avengers,' which is some new interactions with some old friends," Bendis continued. "You put Spider-Man on the team and all of a sudden everyone is kind of reacting differently. You're going to get a lot more of that here; a lot of romance, a lot of new hook-ups, a lot of post-War cuddling and all that starts here."

In addition to providing new interactions, many of the scenes in "The Initiative" will address some of the left over burning questions from "Civil War." "You're going to read 'Civil War' and see what happens there. Then right away you're going to go 'what happened to them?' Bendis said. "Almost every page of 'The Initiative' hopefully answers some kind of question like that."

One question that won't be addressed in-depth in "The Initiative" is "what does the new post Civil War era mean for the villains of the Marvel U?" "That's forthcoming,' Bendis explained. "I'm happy to say that you do get a very rare appearance by the Grey Gargoyle. But what will be dealt with all year is, other than the ones we have seen, there are about 600 major Marvel villains that we haven't heard a peep from all summer long. We're going to hear from all of them for the whole of next year. Now that we know who the heroes are, we will set up for the villains.

"I'll be talking later this year about some things going on in 'New Avengers,'" Bendis continued. "Particularly, someone rising to the occasion. In the real world, after any war, the mob really has a field day; Murder Inc, the Jersey rise after the first Gulf War. After every war someone profits greatly and we're going to have someone step up dramatically after 'Civil War.' It will be dealt with in the Avengers books."

With the cast of Bendis' "Mighty Avengers" book revealed, some readers might be wondering if "The Initiative" reveals the cast of his other Avengers book, "New Avengers." "The New Avengers line up debuts in 'New Avengers,'" he stated. "But you'll know someone from 'New Avengers' because they're dealing with something in this book."

A long time Avengers member, Hawkeye, returns in the pages of "New Avengers #26 which hits stores on December 20 th . "We get to see step-by-step what he has done since the moment 'House of M' ended and where he's been through all of this," Bendis explained. "It's a trek that may or may not lead him right to the Scarlet Witch to ask some burning questions that he doesn't have the answers to. That's issue #26."

"New Avengers" #27, page 6

For some fans, one burning question is what are Hawkeye's (who was often known for speaking his mind whether people wanted to hear it or not) feelings on "Civil War." Readers of "New Avengers #26 will find out. "He was definitely the guy that was in Cap's face about a lot of stuff and at Cap's side for a lot of stuff," Bendis said.

Hawkeye's feelings on the current conflict in the Marvel U is just one of the questions that will be addressed in "New Avengers" #26. "It deals with the lofty questions from the very unique experience of being dead in a comic book and having come back to life not once, but twice," Bendis stated. "A question for a lot of fans is why did the Scarlet Witch do this?   He comes back and goes, 'I really need to know. I need to ask her. I need to know if she's alive. I need to find out why she did this.' He goes to see Dr. Strange who tells him, 'You're not going to like the answers. They won't make you happy.' There's not going to be closure, but it doesn't stop him from the trek."

In addition to answering questions about Hawkeye, "New Avengers" will also provide answers to some questions about the Scarlet Witch that have been lingering since the end of "House of M." Bendis revealed that readers will learn where the Scarlet Witch is and if she still has her mutant powers after the massive mutant depowering that took place at the end of "House of M." Bendis also said that the Witch's state of mind will "...hopefully be surprising to readers."

Fans of Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch will also be happy to know that the characters will be making appearances after "New Avengers" #26. Bendis revealed that the characters will play roles in upcoming issues of the Avengers books.

Readers who enjoyed Bendis's run on "Daredevil" might want to give "New Avengers" #26 a look because Alex Maleev, who illustrated Bendis's "Daredevil" run is the artist bringing the action to life in this issue. "What's great about having finished 'Daredevil' together is now I think people can see that there's very little that Alex can't do," Bendis stated. "'Daredevil had a look to it and we wanted to hold it the whole time, but now he's been able to draw differently for the 'Illuminati Special' and issue #26, which is drawn almost like a fairy tale book. He's doing fully rendered art work. There's no colorist, it's all him.

"We definitely wanted that 'I was just dead yesterday' look and to show how the world would look if you woke up from a long sleep and don't know who the fuck you are, but ten times over," Bendis continued. "The book shifts tone two times in the issue and it really is beautiful.

"I did have to warn him, though, because for a lot of people online, me writing Hawkeye or the Scarlet Witch is kind of a hot button issue. Since this is the most beautiful thing Alex has ever done, I hope some people can get past their wanting to kill me and just really enjoy the illustrations for the beauty they are."

"New Avengers" 27, page 8

"New Avengers" #27 will also answer questions about an Avenger that fans haven't seen for awhile. "Issue #27 is about a few different things, but it does address the question of, 'Where the fuck is Ronin?'" Bendis explained. "'What has she been doing? And why is she in the man suit?' All these questions will be answered very succinctly in this issue. The issue also answers the question of, 'While all the American heroes are beating the shit out of each other, what's going on in other countries?' We also find out what Elektra has been doing since Mark Millar's 'Wolverine,' which set up some intriguing ideas. All of these things get brewed up in issue #27, plus the debut of a whole new team."

Looking at Hawkeye, The Scarlet Witch and Ronin are just some of the big plans that Bendis has for upcoming "New Avengers" issues. "In future 'New Avengers' storylines there will be somebody new in the Ronin costume that isn't Echo," Bendis revealed. "Also, there's going to be a new Kingpin of sorts, but it's a completely different type of crime Kingpin. It's not just someone being the Kingpin. There's a new agenda for someone running large parts of the crime in the Marvel Universe. That's going to be a big part of the book. Also there's going to be massive trust issues with all the heroes in the Marvel Universe and the Avengers books are going to be the lynchpin, where the trust issues are coming from."

Future storylines of "New Avengers" will also deal with some plot threads that began way back in the book's first story arc. "Once the dust settles from 'Civil War' you'll be wondering, 'Does the 'Civil War' have to do with the corruption in S.H.I.E.L.D. and what happened at the raft, which released those villains at the start of 'New Avengers?' No plot thread is being left undone. It's all being put together."

With "Mighty Avengers," also written by Bendis, set to launch next year, some readers might wonder about the difference between that book and "New Avengers" and if they'll have to buy both books to understand the storylines. "There will be different storytelling techniques from me and the art styles, from two different artists [Lenil Yu and Frank Cho] at the top of their games, couldn't be more different," Bendis explained. "I've seen complete issues by both artists and if I'm being braggy, consider me ready to back it up. These are the best books that both artists have produced.

"What I'm attempting with the Avengers books and what I'm really excited about is if you want to read one or the other, you can read one or the other," Bendis continued. "But if you read both books you're going to get a very unique storytelling experience.   It's going to take a little time to do it, but both books are kind of on a collision course heading towards the same story without realizing it. It's an interesting juggling act, but I'm pretty excited about the event. Oh, and some players are going to switch teams."

The team line-up in "New Avengers' has yet to be revealed, but the line up for "Mighty Avengers" has been revealed and it appears to be: Iron Man, Ares, Ms. Marvel, The Black Widow,   Wonder Man,   The Wasp and the Sentry.   This line up may have given some fans some misconceptions about what the book is going to be about. "There seems to be a feeling from some online and other places that 'Mighty Avengers' is supposed to be the classic Avengers team," Bendis said. "Those are some classic Avengers on the team, but if anything we're trying to be as fun, progressive and new on this book as we are with 'New Avengers.' So it's not supposed to be like a harken back to the Roy Thomas days. I love that stuff, but I'm not doing that. For people looking to buy that I don't want to falsely sell you that. We're trying to do modern stuff that's really important to us and that's the focus for both teams. Both teams have new Avengers and classic Avengers on them."

With the "Civil War" spotlight stories on individual characters and other developments, it's been a year of big stories in "New Avengers." "I'm really, really happy with the response to 'New Avengers' this summer," Bendis stated. "It's been a really wonderful experience to have people react so fondly to the Sentry and Jessica and Luke Cage in particular. A lot of these characters are being reintroduced or they're relatively new. We're trying to add things to the toy box. I know that when people heard Wolverine was going to be in 'New Avengers,' many thought it was going to be Wolverine and Spider-Man in the forefront just zipping around. It's nice that not only did we not do that; the book didn't have to be that either.   It's nice to see readers open to new characters and new interpretations of characters.

"The art has also been amazing on the book," Bendis continued. "You have these dreams in your head about things that you want to do in comics and then you have a summer like this, where you go, 'God Damn! These are the best artists in comics.' Also I didn't have to take any shit for 'Civil War' (laughs). So it was nice to have the summer off."

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