Some Assembly Required: Bendis Talks Avengers

Wed, September 12th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

"New Avengers" #34 on sale this week

There may be two teams of Avengers in the Marvel Universe these days, but that doesn't mean life has gotten any easier for Earth's Mightiest Heroes. In "New Avengers," Luke Cage's team must contend with both the recent revelation that the shape shifting Skrulls have begun a "Secret Invasion" of Earth as well as the Hood's rise to power in the super villain underworld. Meanwhile, over in "Mighty Avengers," Tony Stark's newly formed team have their hands full with the threat of Ultron and will also have to deal with the bombshell of the Skrulls' sinister plans. CBR News spoke with writer Brian Michael Bendis about the escalating evil in both books.

If their reaction to Elektra's being a Skrull doppelganger is any indication, the Skrulls won't have to worry too much about destroying the New Avengers -- the team just might destroy themselves. "The current state of mind of the team overall is that a few of them are completely unraveling under the weight of the conspiracy they've discovered, and because they've not yet dealt completely with the tragedy of losing Captain America and the Civil War or the fact that they're living in Doctor Strange's fucking basement instead of living the lives they had, which were going pretty well prior," Brian Bendis told CBR News. "So they're unraveling emotionally and not in the best place and here comes the fucking Hulk! So, I do like writing them at their wit's end emotionally yet still hanging together and looking for that moment where they can just go 'whew!'

"New Avengers" #35 on sale in October
"They do get to a place where they really kind of believe they can trust each other and then are faced with the Hood's rise to power," Bendis continued. "Now they finally have something they can point at and hit, which is nice. They need a punching bag in this instance."

After the discovery the Skrulls' plot, Wolverine seems to have become the emotional glue of the New Avengers; doing his best to hold the team together. "How about that?" Bendis remarked. "First of all, there's a funny little history with [Wolverine] having been replaced by a Skrull many years ago. So he may have a little guilt there. It's funny how Logan became a teacher to the X-Men; that's not who he was but he became that and he's become this other thing to the Avengers just because of the nature of the team.

"This is also certainly a place where his experience and world view is a bonus and he's using it," Bendis continued. "Plus there was a lot of deeply felt respect between him and Captain America that I think he's living out by helping to keep the team together and helping them deal with this because it was Cap's team that he's on."

Pages from "New Avengers" #35 by Leinil Yu
In "New Avengers" #33, Parker Robbins AKA the Hood stepped out from the shadows to begin his climb to the top of the super villain underworld. If Robbins' sick mother ever came out of her vegetative state, she certainly would be shocked to learn of her son's latest scheme -- at the end of the "The Hood" miniseries, he told her he was going to help people. "He lied to his mom in every single issue of that miniseries," Bendis said. "But also, there's another element to him, it's where he got his powers; who that hood originally belonged to or what that hood is channeling and how demonic it is. All that was just hinted at by Brian K. Vaughan and I got permission from him to let loose on some of that stuff. If there was anything of Parker Robbins that was noble it may have been eaten away by whatever that hood is doing to him.

"My feeling is that there wasn't much nobility to him in the first place. He was a bit of a weasel. They showed you that in the mini-series," Bendis continued. "What I like about that miniseries is that it sets his story up to go either way and I think it's much more interesting that his story goes this way."

Pages from "New Avengers" #35 by Leinil Yu
Parker Robbins is embracing his role as a super villain, and his goal is to become one of the most powerful members of the villain community. "The Hood's agenda is very clear," Bendis said. "In issues #34-35 of 'New Avengers,' he puts this group together and basically tells them, 'With the heroes beating the shit out of each other this is our chance to make some money and really get away with some nasty stuff and do some major damage. Instead of waiting for them to hit us, let's hit them first! Break the cycle of nonsense that always ends with us in a jail cell with laser beam bars.'

"The Hood assembles a pretty juicy team of what I consider to be A-List villains, who are just sometimes not seen that way," Bendis continued. "Sometimes they get put back into the toy box for awhile but they're excellent toys. The Wrecking Crew gets a lot of face time and so does Madame Masque, Dr. Jonas Harrow, the Wizard, Jigsaw and some other really excellent villains that haven't been in vogue lately. So it's a good group of villains who all need the work."

"Mighty Avengers" #5 on sale in October
The Hood and his gang are just a few of the many players in "New Avengers" #34. "We see Wolverine versus the Hood, which is a lot of fun," Bendis stated. "We see the Avengers kind of deal with each other and their trust issues. We get Night Nurse's return to Doctor Strange's life after the events of 'The Oath,' she's his girlfriend now. Then it comes down to the Avengers versus the Hood. That will also spill out into the 'New Avengers Annual' that comes out in January. That will have a big exclamation point to the Hood storyline that's been going on all year."

The "New Avengers Annual" will be a big story for Doctor Strange as well. In the Annual, the Sorcerer Supreme will find some of the desperate actions he took during "World War Hulk" coming back to haunt him. "This book will also serve as a huge exclamation point on that part of Doctor Strange's story, as the Hood's gang actually descends on his house," Bendis explained.

Strange isn't the only New Avenger whose actions are catching up with him. Spider-man's activities over the past few months have resulted in the current "One More Day" storyline, which promises to change Peter Parker's life in a big way. It's still unclear what changes "One More Day" may bring but "New Avengers" fans can rest easy. Spider-Man isn't going anywhere. "He'll be in every single issue," Bendis said. "I'm not crazy. The book is doing well. His dynamic in the book remains the same. His relationship to some of the villains is unique and very interesting so he's absolutely needed. Also he's Peter Parker! He's the voice of a lot of us. His opinion on the Skrulls and a lot of other things is vital."

Pages from "Mighty Avengers" #5 by Frank Cho
The New Avengers did lose another Spider themed member, though, in issue #32, when Spider-Woman defected to the other Avengers team. Howver, This isn't the last "New Avengers" fans have seen of Jessica Drew. Ff the cover of issue #36 is any indication Wolverine plans on having a "delicate" talk with her.

Spider-Woman won't be the last Avenger to change sides. A "Mighty Avenger" will defect to Luke Cage's team soon. "Also, you haven't seen the last 'New Avengers' member to defect before 'Secret Invasion," Bendis confirmed.

It was revealed on Monday that current "New Avengers" artist Lenil Yu will be leaving the book to draw Bendis' "Secret Invasion," leaving fans wondering who will be drawing the book next. "We're actually going to do a couple of spotlight issues," Bendis explained. "I think some of the stories are going to be more than one issue so we may be having a guest artist here and there but we have some really special people lined up and I'm very excited about it. I don't know which order we're doing them in so I can't tell you who's involved yet.

"New Avengers" #37
"What's going to happen in both 'New Avengers and 'Mighty Avengers' during 'Secret Invasion' is that when we reveal who's who and what's what, we'll show you exactly how each Skrull switched, what they did and how they did it," Bendis continued, "We'll show you exactly where Nick Fury has been since 'Secret War' We'll show you everything. There won't be any guess work or leaving things to your imagination. So I'm very excited about that."

"Secret Invasion" is a threat that's in the not so distant future of both Avengers teams, but another alien menace is in the immediate future when a Venom Virus (which infects people with alien symbiotes similar to the one linked with Venom) hits New York in a story beginning in "Mighty Avengers" #7 and also infecting "New Avengers" #35-36. "For those looking for connections between the two books, you'll see the same scene, which directly affects both titles, from two different angles," Bendis explained.

Before Tony Stark's "Mighty Avengers" can tackle the Venom Virus, they've got to save the world from Ultron. "The Ultron story will finish up with issue #6," Bendis said. "It features some amazing art by Frankie [Cho], who's during the work of his career. Then in comes Mark Bagley who will be doing the second storyline that starts with the Venom Virus."

"Secret Invasion" promo artwork
"Mighty Avengers" #7 would appear to be a reunion between Bendis and his "Ultimate Spider-Man" partner Bagely, but in fact the pair never stopped working together. "It's funny, right from 'Ultimate Spider-Man,' Mark and I got hired to do a comic book that's going to be in the 'Spider-Man 3' DVD," Bendis explained. "From that we went right into 'Mighty Avengers' and then to another project that we've already signed on to do. So there's been no break. The only sad thing is that Mark left 'Spider-Man' to go draw Spider-Man. Then he finished that Spider-Man job to draw about fifty pages of [the Venom Virus storyline]. I do feel very bad because I know there are specific things he wants to draw but he keeps getting wrangled into Spider-Man. He handles it like a trooper though. He's having a good time. I love working with Mark.

"Bagley is coming on because Cho needs the time to get his pages done," Bendis continued. "But what's exciting is after issue #6 comes out the book gets right back up to schedule because Bagley's already got a couple of issues in the can."

The latter half of Bagley's story for "Mighty Avengers" will feature the villain responsible for the Venom Virus, someone who's been laying low for the past few months, Doctor Doom. "One of the things I'm excited about is this storyline has a Doom ending we haven't really seen," Bendis said. "I got to go somewhere with Doom that's not been done before, which is really a big deal for me. The reason I hadn't really touched him all that much in my time at Marvel was because all those 'Stand still; let's agree to disagree' style endings with Doom have been done before. This story has got an ending to it. We have something here that is going to be satisfying. It's certainly a good end to the first year of a book."

"Mighty Avengers" #6 and #7
The stars of "Mighty Avengers" haven't had a good year. In a recent issue, Ultron murdered the wife of the Sentry, and upcoming issues will show exactly how that loss is affecting the fragile psyche of the Golden Guardian of Good. But while 2007 may not be a good year for the emotional well being of the Avengers, it's proving to be an enjoyable one for fans and Bendis promises more thrills in the months ahead.

"Over in 'New Avengers, on top of all the machinations with the villains; big, life changing emotional events hit more than one character," Bendis said. "So there will be relationship stuff both good and bad and what Doctor Strange is going through is pretty huge.

"And the arrival of Spider-Woman in 'Mighty Avengers' is going to be a big thing that I think people will enjoy," Bendis continued. "In Issues #6 and #7 the story goes boom! Right from 'New Avengers' to 'Mighty Avengers'. We see her arrive with the Skrull body and get her story and Tony's reaction to it."

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