Inside the New Mutants-Infused Marvel NOW! AVENGERS Lineup

 

Last week, Marvel released the covers of Avengers #1-#3, giving readers the first look at the composition of the team in the Marvel NOW! era.

Illustrated by Dustin Weaver, the three interconnecting images revealed many of the stars of the series, which relaunches with a new #1 in December. There are the six main team members of this year's massively successful Avengers movie (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye), familiar faces to the roster (Falcon, Carol Danvers in her recently adopted Captain Marvel guise), additions from the soon-to-wrap Brian Michael Bendis era (Spider-Man, Wolverine, Spider-Woman), two New Mutants (Cannonball and Sunspot) and one character from new Avengers writer Jonathan Hickman's Secret Warriors series, Eden Fesi— now known as Manifold. According to Hickman, there are still eight more members to be added.

With the debut of the twice-monthly series still months away, Newsarama talked to Avengers editor (and Marvel senior vice president of publishing) Tom Brevoort to get some insight about what the addition of Sunspot and Cannonball means to the team, why Spider-Man and Wolverine work as Avengers and the latest steps in removing the "invisible fence" between the worlds of the X-Men and Avengers.

Newsarama: Tom, when the first three Avengers covers were released last week, the most striking thing among fans was likely the presence of two characters best known as New Mutants, Cannonball and Sunspot. What can you say about the decision to include them in the lineup, and the role they'll be playing on the team?

Tom Brevoort: They're going to be playing the role of Avengers. [Laughs.] Members of the Avengers team who avenge things on a cosmic and global scale.

Marvel 1st Look: NEW MUTANTS #12 Finch
Marvel 1st Look: NEW MUTANTS #12 Finch
 

The real answer to that is at least trifold. We've talked about this a little bit going into Marvel NOW! — we're making a concerted effort to erase the invisible fence that exists around the world of X-Men. By the nature of those books, and it goes back 20-25 years at this point, the X-Men, while they exist in the Marvel Universe proper, tend to sit in their own corner a lot. We're actively looking not to make everything the same, but to erase those boundaries; erase that feeling that it's strange or weird when an X-Men character shows up in a non-X-Men book, and vice versa.

In the same sort of way that in the adjectiveless X-Men book they've been doing a lot of work to try and get the X-Men out interacting with other heroes in the Marvel Universe, and fighting villains that are not just the same core of X-Men mutant villains that they've always battled, we're going to be trying to do the same sort of thing in a more global sense. It's not like we're going to be forcing X-Men or X-Men villains into Spider-Man, or whatever, but we're trying to make it a little easier if there's a Spider-Man story to be told that involves some aspect of the X-Men, for people to feel like, "Yeah, that's easy." It's like using anybody else. It's all one place and one Marvel Universe. So the fact that we're bringing in some other characters from that corner just serves to underline and reinforce that a little bit.

It also sort of shows that the movement taken in Uncanny Avengers and the motivation for that team is not simply a token outreach. The impel that will drive the world to have a more comingled Avengers and mutant and non-mutant set-up is not limited to one crew of folks. Plus, as usual, we wanted to bring some new faces in. Jonathan wanted to bring in characters that he was interested in and likes, and he really loves Cannonball and Sunspot. It's good to have some relatively younger characters in the Avengers mix, that always makes for a good dynamic. They are a good two-hander comedy act in the way of Ben and Johnny or Ben and Spidey over in the FF books. It just puts them on a different playing level. Plus, they're storied enough characters now — they go back to 1982 — that they feel legitimate as Avengers. It's a funny thing, and I really didn't codify it even for myself quite until Brian was doing New Avengers, but once characters have been around in the Marvel Universe a certain amount of time — it's a vague amount, there's no set time, it's just a feeling — you put them in the Avengers, and they feel legitimate. Luke Cage being an Avenger, nobody really blinked at that. He goes back to the '70s, he's a quote-unquote "real" Marvel character. He's not a Johnny Come Lately or a fly-by-night or a new fangled idea. He's real Marvel. Spider-Woman is real Marvel. Iron Fist is real Marvel. And at this point, Cannonball and Sunspot are real Marvel. You see them there, and you go, "It's interesting, it's different, it's odd, I'm not used to seeing them hanging out with those people" — but they don't feel like they haven't earned their place. They're still youthful characters in relation to the other characters around them, but they're storied enough that you can look at them standing in the midst of all of those other guys and go, "Yeah, OK, I buy it."

Nrama: It's reminiscent of when Firestar and Justice were Avengers in the Busiek/Perez "Heroes Return" era, except Cannonball and Sunspot aren't a married couple.

Brevoort: Not yet. [Laughs.]

 

Nrama: Also notable is the inclusion of Spider-Man and Wolverine, who Brian Michael Bendis introduced to the Avengers back in New Avengers #1, but removed from the main team in the past year.

Brevoort: At this point, they've both been Avengers for seven or eight years. The obvious older fan instinct is, "Brian is going away, therefore everything that Brian did will now be undone, and it'll be back to being 2003 again." And that's not necessarily going to be the case. It's not like anybody said, "You must use these characters, Jon," and Jon's no dummy, certainly.

The reason to bring Spider-Man and Wolverine into the Avengers, apart from the fan agita that it caused — which I understand, because I felt it myself to a certain degree — still holds. You want the Avengers to be all the best guys in one book. This should be all of your biggest and best characters in one place. At this point, Spider-Man and Wolverine are two, if not the two, biggest Marvel characters there are. Over the summer, everybody I know asked me the same question: Is Spider-Man going to be in Avengers 2? They saw Avengers, and then two months later, the Spider-Man movie came out, and they went, "Oh, yeah, he should be in Avengers." Everybody thinks it, and at least at the moment, it's not easy for Spider-Man to be in Avengers 2, but Spider-Man can certainly be in Avengers #1, and the same thing for Wolverine. And why not take advantage of that? Especially since you've been there already.

Nrama: With Cannonball and Sunspot on the main Avengers team and Uncanny Avengers near on the horizon, it's clear that Marvel is working towards the long stated goal of blurring those lines between the X-Men world and everything else in the Marvel Universe. But there might be some readers out there who liked having something of a separation — there are X-Men fans out there who only read X-Men books, and having mutants in something of their own world and somewhat insular within that world is, it can be argued, what some tend to like about the X-Men to an extent. Even though the X-Men and the rest of Marvel will interact more than before, in what ways they remain distinct entities? And will there be some titles that still feel more like mutants handling mutant business?

Brevoort: I think absolutely. First of all, I think the fear that having mutant characters appearing in Avengers or other books is going to water everything down or destroy the X-Men is a baseless fear. It's a fear that stems from literally just fear itself. "You're going to break this thing that I love by mixing it up with this other stuff that I don't care as much about."

 

The premise of X-Men is that it's a book about a demographic. It's a book about these people, and their struggle of their existence. They wake up at a certain point and they have wings, or they have fur all over their bodies, and they have to deal with that, and adjust to that, and that's the world they live in. In the same sort of way that Spider-Man being on the Avengers didn't mean the average Spider-Man adventure was about him rocketing to the moon to fight cosmic bad guys over the Infinity Gauntlet, having X-Men in the Avengers doesn't mean that every X-Men story is now going to be an Avengers story.

In some ways, it may hopefully mean the focus of X-Men stories can be more concretely about what that series is about, what that premise is, and the ongoing soap opera of those character relationships, and dealing with one another, and dealing with being part of this particular minority who's hated and feared by a world that doesn't understand them. Those themes always work for the X-Men, and they're really the heart of the X-Men. The fact that the X-books sort of became segregated; that I don't think had anything really to do with the heart of their appeal. That was just something that happened, and then everybody kind of got used to it, and it's "the way things are, therefore, it's the way we like it." But I don't believe there's any real relationship between the books staying to themselves, and that is why people like them. I think people liked them why they didn't, I think people liked it was just one comic book, and it was just done really well, and people dug the characters and dug the conflicts that they were doing through — and the soap opera, and the romance, and the life or death struggles. I think all of that stuff can, should, and hopefully will be maintained on the X-books going forward. Certainly Brian's not coming on X-Men to take a half-hearted stab at doing great X-Men stories.

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