Greasing the Gears: Greg Pak Talks 'War Machine'

War Machine Preview, page 3
War Machine Preview, page 3
War Machine Preview, page 3

In July, we spoke with writer Greg Pak and Editor Bill Rosemann about a little project they have coming up – the new War Machine ongoing series, launching in December.

Illustrated by Leonardo Manco, the new series will feature Jim Rhodes (aka “Rhodey”) in his armor, stuck somewhere between man and machine thanks to…well, thanks to stuff that will be coming up. The series will pick up from the new status quo set up by writer Christos Gage in his three-issue War Machine, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. arc that ties in to Secret Invasion, that is, Rhodey will be operating from an orbiting satellite, ever vigilant to stop violence and evil before it grows.

With the debut of the new series a month away, we spoke with Pak again to see what else we can find out about Rhodey, his suit, his mission and his new status quo.

Newsarama: Greg, we're a little further down the road from when we last spoke about the new ongoing War Machine series and you couldn't say much, but judging from the preview of the first issue that's up at Marvel.com, it looks as if you're going to be continuing with the status quo shift Christos Gage introduced in his three issue Secret Invasion tie-in. Was setting Rhodey up in a satellite your idea from the beginning? Why does that work for him, in your view?

Greg Pak: I first heard about the idea of War Machine headquartered in a stealth satellite from editor Bill "Rockem Sockem" Rosemann during the last Marvel creative summit. Given Rhodey's new mandate, it's a perfect set up -- it gives him a high tech headquarters from which he can have a global reach. At the same time, it helps hammer home how isolated Rhodey's new mission has made him from everything he knew before. It represents one part of the sacrifices Rhodey's making and helps us build this theme of heart versus hardware, man or machine.

War Machine preview, page 4
War Machine preview, page 4
War Machine Preview, page 4

NRAMA: For those who may not have followed War Machine in Avengers: The Initiative, where is Rhodey these days? More importantly, what is he these days?

GP: As Dan Slott and Christos Gage revealed in a shocking panel in Initiative #15, Rhodey has a cyborg eye. And Christos Gage's Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Secret Invasion crossover reveals considerably more about the extent of that tech. But exactly what circumstances led up to these developments and what the consequences are remain to be explored -- in the pages of the War Machine ongoing, natch! I'll just say it contributes to some of our key conflicts and builds up to a shocking reveal or two that will have a pretty massive impact on our hero.

NRAMA: Gotta say, Rhodey in his Secret Invasion arc and Rhodey in your first issue…they seem to be somewhat different guys. Is it safe to say that there's something bad coming up for him that shuts his human side down?

GP: It's the same hero -- it may just be that Rhodey's turning from fighting Skrulls to dealing with atrocities native to the human condition right here on Planet Earth. Now Rhodey's making life and death decisions not about alien invaders, but fellow human beings. That raises the stakes and alters the tone -- and thrusts our hero into a whole new world of hardcore challenges.

NRAMA: Talk about the role Suzi plays in the series, or at least, the opening arc...

GP: Suzie Endo, aka Cybermancer, plays a key role as Rhodey's home base operator in Christos's storyline. She also plays a huge role in the 8-page preview story at Marvel.com that leads into the War Machine ongoing. For fear of spoilers, I'll just say that the decision she makes in that eight page story sheds some light on the high stakes of Rhodey's new direction and sets the stage for the launch of the ongoing series.

NRAMA: Let's talk about why he's doing what he's doing. From the preview, it would seem that Rhodey is his own man, and not taking orders from SHIELD, SWORD or anyone else. Is that the case...that is, he's found his own "mission?" And how would you describe that mission?

War Machine Preview, page 6
War Machine Preview, page 6
War Machine Preview, page 6

GP: Every day we open the newspaper and read about some new, horrific, overseas atrocity that no power on Earth seems willing to stop. Until today. Because now Jim Rhodes, aka War Machine, is on the job, a one-man army operating from a stealth satellite, free from the laws that have protected dictators and madmen for generations, and armed with all the authority a suit of vibranium/titanium armor and a pair of giant shoulder-mounted rocket launchers can muster!

NRAMA: The enhanced bears in the preview were reminiscent of the tech-adaptations Matt Fraction has been using in Invincible Iron Man. Are you and he working together to make sure there's at least a common touchpoint in that regard?

GP: We're actually dealing with different technologies here. There are a few hints in the captions in the eight page War Machine preview about the specific technology involved with those pesky bears. I won't spoil anything other than to say there are some pretty neat hooks to some classic War Machine/Iron Man stories that will play out in surprising new ways as the series progresses.

NRAMA: Going back to how Rhodey sees things now, in the preview, whether the terrorist Aubuisson was right or wrong, Rhodey killed him in cold blood. That's something even Tony doesn't do. Is Rhodey headed into a confrontation with Tony, not to mention other heroes?

GP: For what it's worth, those darn bears killed Aubuisson. But yes, Rhodey appears to have a very different conception of the proper use of force from the average Marvel hero, and that could lead him into unexpected conflicts -- or maybe even shocking new alliances. I'll just say dontcha dare miss War Machine #4, sports fans!

NRAMA: With your work on Planet Hulk and World War Hulk, you've become associated with the epic story, the larger than life setting an action. Are you heading that way with War Machine, or are you looking at a "smaller" story in a sense with Rhodey?

GP: We may be approaching epic in terms of scope and emotion and even mythic scale. But one difference between the Hulk/Skaar stories and War Machine is that War Machine is very much set in the real world. Or at least, the Marvel Universe analogue to the real world. If you strip away some of the superhero trappings, almost every story we're telling has an antecedent in real world conflicts and atrocities. We're not using the names of actual countries -- mainly because I don't want to pretend a superhero can or has resolved the horrific conflicts from which actual human beings are suffering around the globe. But Rhodey's new global mandate means we have a shot at investing his stories with a level of immediacy, realism, and relevance that's deeply compelling to me both as a writer and a fan.

War Machine Preview, page 8
War Machine Preview, page 8
War Machine Preview, page 8

NRAMA: Something that you pointed out in our earlier chat, and Christos has brought up in his arc - Jim is very much a "real" person...from fighting in battles he knows he can't win, and always looking out for those who can't help themselves. Is there some small voice inside him pushing back against the "machine" that seems to have taken over?

GP: In the fullness of time, we'll learn just what the "machine" is and what it seems to want. But maybe a suit of armor is just a tool. So if Rhodey's ingrained determination to fight for the underdog inspired him to put on the armor, he's still the same man he's always been -- he's just fighting more efficiently and effectively. Then again, if technology becomes so advanced that we can actually achieve all of what we say we want, we might just uncover some truths about ourselves and the world that we're not quite prepared to handle...

NRAMA: We can't let you get away without some teases...any names you can drop in regards to who's coming up?

GP: Let's see... In the first few issues, we just might see... A fabulous redhead! Jim Rhodes' other best friend! Another classic Marvel character with "War" in his name! And, most importantly, the insanely great art team of Leonardo Manco on pencils and inks and Jay David Ramos on colors! Seriously, check out the eight page preview story -- these guys are tearing this story to pieces.

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