Earlier this month, Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña's Avengers #1 was released to rave reviews from the comic book cognoscenti, including a perfect 10 out of 10 from the site you're currently reading.
Readers won't have to wait long for an encore: Not only is Avengers #2 out next week, the new volume of companion title New Avengers debuts in January, from the creative team of Hickman and artist Steve Epting. This New Avengers is a definite departure from the book Brian Michael Bendis wrote for the past eight years, though it has its roots in something introduced in that run: The Illuminati, the secret group of powerful and influential Marvel heroes that were revealed back in 2005's New Avengers #7 to have been working behind the scenes for years.
Hickman's excitement about the book — headlined by Captain America, Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Black Panther, Namor, Beast, Doctor Strange and Black Bolt — is clear. He describes it as his "dream corporate comic book job," and calls it "the most important book" that he's writing. (Yes, that includes Avengers proper.) Newsarama talked to the writer for more on the series and his collaboration with Epting, whose history with the Avengers dates back two decades.Newsarama: Jonathan, for New Avengers, it's been established that you're running with the Illuminati concept that Brian Michael Bendis introduced, in New Avengers, years back. What inspired you to go in that direction? Obviously, for a main focus, it's a different take from what people have come to know as "New Avengers." Was the Illuminati simply a concept that you loved, and wanted to explore in-depth in an ongoing series?
Jonathan Hickman: New Avengers is the book I always wanted to write at Marvel. Tom [Brevoort] and I sat down a couple of years ago, and I talked to him about this concept — "What are the components of Jonathan Hickman's dream corporate comic book job?" This is that book that hits all those notes. It wasn't always going to be the Illuminati, it wasn't even always going to be Avengers, but the endgame of it — which is where we're headed for everything with Avengers — was always the same story that I wanted to tell.
In addition to that, I know some people did not like it, because they felt that it was playing around with continuity and stuff like that, but the idea behind superhero Illuminati secretly ruling the world? That's kind of in my wheelhouse. [Laughs]. So when Brian didn't close the book on that — and I asked him not to close the book on it, when it became obvious that I was going to do this — that would be the "not team" that I wanted to use. They're not a team, they're just egos inhabiting a bunch of bodies. It all got kind of mashed together into this thing that is happening underneath my entire Avengers run. New Avengers is the other side of the story that I'm telling, and people don't know this, but it is going to be the most important book that I am writing, and I am the guy that is writing the big Avengers book. It's a massive book, and we're not telling anybody why. It's going to be awesome. The concept behind it is killer, and it gets more insane after that.New Avengers
#3 cover.Nrama: So there's definitely correlation between the two books, but maybe a subtle one at the start?
Hickman: It's literally telling the same story, from two different sides. It won't seem that way at first, of course. But read in tandem, they obviously mean a lot more, but you do not have to read them both.
Nrama: New Avengers is also notable because you'll be writing several characters you used in Fantastic Four and FF — Reed Richards, Black Bolt, Black Panther, Namor.
Hickman: Yeah. All of the big egos, absolutely.
You can actually go back and read my last year of FF, and there are all these hints sprinkled into every time those characters showed up.
I love writing Reed Richards. I'm going to have Tony Stark, Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, Namor, Black Panther, Beast — what could go wrong, right?
#3 cover.Nrama: What about Captain America? He's a part of the Illuminati, now, too. Hickman: He's still in it. He's there in the beginning, yeah. They've got all of their Infinity Gems. The world is their oyster.
Nrama: So, just by the fact that all of the Infinity Gems are in play, one would guess that this story is, like what you're doing in Avengers, similarly big in terms of scale and scope?
Hickman: Yeah, I think we're going to surprise some people, how that all goes. All of that kind of stuff immediately jumps into the forefront in like issue #3, and it's pretty much insane after that.
Nrama: It's notable that there are unique dynamics between many of the main characters in the book — especially Namor and Black Panther, given Namor's invasion of Wakanda during Avengers vs. X-Men.
Hickman: Some of them are friends — sure, Reed and Tony would probably consider themselves friends, and same thing with Captain America and Iron Man. The white hat heroes would obviously consider themselves not just professional acquaintances. But to pretend that Captain America and Iron Man haven't had massive, massive disagreements? See Civil War, for example.
These guys all do what they think is right. And that includes Namor, and that includes Black Bolt, and that includes Black Panther. They just really don't agree on what the right thing is very often. If the stakes were raised to a certain extent that their entire experience together was always a pressure cooker, the ego and the necessity of working together for a common goal — I don't know if it would hold, because they all think that they know the answer. So I think things could get interesting.Nrama: Also, you're working with Steve Epting again, who you launched FF with in 2011.
Hickman: Yeah, Steve's great. Steve and I live in the same state, we have very similar sensibilities in general.
Steve's interesting, because he did Avengers years and years ago. If you look at how he's evolved as an artist over the years, he's just so on top of his craft, and so good. He's just killing this. He's just a really impressive guy, and I love working with him.
Nrama: Though the book evolved over the years, under Bendis, New Avengers took on a very specific meaning — basically a more tight-knit, street-level group of Avengers. You're clearly doing something very different here — what would you say is the current significance of the title "New Avengers"?
Hickman: I think there are a couple of different correct answers to this. One is, it's an Avengers book because we say it's an Avengers book. [Laughs.] You know they're Avengers, because they're in a book called "Avengers." That's the Tom Brevoort answer.
Another answer is, New Avengers has become a companion book to Avengers. Our readers and our retailers know that Avengers and New Avengers are kind of a family. We wanted to keep that, because that's what's really going on here.
The third thing is that this is "new" Avengers, this is Avengers in a new direction, and the title could not be more appropriate. And I'll just leave it at that.More from Newsarama:
- The 10 Biggest Changes of the Brian Bendis AVENGERS Era
- Jonathan Hickman Brings the World to Marvel NOW! AVENGERS
- Best Shots Advance Review: 10/10 AVENGERS #1 Marvel NOW!