The Avengers are the world’s most popular heroes in the Marvel Universe, but in the shadows there’s a black ops Avengers squad operating behind closed doors and under the radar. And they’re the Secret Avengers.
In this December’s Secret Avengers #12, the “chickens come home to roost” in the series according to incoming co-writer Ales Kot. This up-and-coming writer of Image titles such as Zero and Change joins series writer Spencer to tell this new arc titled “How To Maim a Mockingbird.” In it, longtime S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Mockingbird is under lock and key of the scien-terrorist group known as A.I.M. while Maria Hill, Hawkeye, Nick Fury and others out on their own mission. Kot promises double agents, dirty deeds, and a “game-changing offer” Maria Hill may not be able to refuse.
Newsarama: Ales, Marvel recently announced you were recruited to work side-by-side with Nick Spencer on detailing these stories of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team that isSecret Avengers. Your first issue is issue #12 in December, so what’s it about?
Ales Kot: Chickens come home to roost. Frail agreements start backfiring. Double agents are having a hard time. And a very important – and well-loved -- character enters the scene with a game-changing offer.
Also, Butch Guice on top of his drawing game.
And a wonderfully coordinated fight between Hawkeye and Shang-Chi.
And...I am having fun. I suspect it shows.
Nrama: The title on this issue is pretty gripping: “How To Maim a Mockingbird.” How far are you going down this Harper Lee route? Atticus Finch as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent? Boo Radley as the next Marvel villain?
Kot: Seeming destruction of innocence and inequality between people in general are definitely themes I am keeping in mind. Connective tissue of sorts. To tell you more would be to spoil things.
Nrama: Mockingbird’s really in a tight spot, but people say it’s the worst moments that bring out the best in people. What kind of shape is Bobbi in here?
Kot: When #12 begins, she's outsmarting the High Council of A.I.M. – and by the end of #13 she wreaks some havoc. So where we begin...she's in a great shape, mentally and physically, but what does that mean in a story where everyone gets played, sometimes by many protagonists at once?
Nrama: A.I.M. has really been ramping up their actions in recent years – what are they doing in this issue that’s got them on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar?
Kot: This goes back to everything Nick established so far. Andrew Forson, the Scientist Supreme, established a new High Council, created an independent state, committed acts of aggression against various states and organizations, is developing their own army and weaponry...A.I.M. never left S.H.I.E.L.D's radar. A.I.M. are the movers and shakers. And they are getting hungry for more.
Then there's the whole Entropy cult connection...I mean, weapon developers/smugglers are already people you likely don't want to deal with, but what happens when you merge them with a death cult?
Maria Hill has her hands full, that's for sure. And then there's the mysterious stranger with a great offer that might just somehow play into this...
Nrama: Working with you on this is a real artist’s artist, and a veteran to boot – Butch Guice. You mentioned he’s on top of his game, so what’s that like being on the same team?
Kot: Pure bliss. Butch is channeling Jim Steranko, classic 70's spy comics...but with added NSA-infused angst and a very entertaining psychedelic adventure vibe. We have a very free-flowing collaboration – I trust Butch so I keep the pages open to his ideas on layout, amount of panels per pages...when I have a specific scene in mind, I go further and describe it all in more detail, but usually I leave these choices to Butch because I know that what he will come back with will blow my mind.
Nrama: This book has a very eclectic cast – Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury, Mockingbird, Taskmaster among others. How would you describe the team at this juncture?
Kot: Sheep to slaughter.
The team is very competent, but has to work hard to keep it together. Maria Hill's human resources skills leave something to be desired – as expected when she deals with her problems by erasing the team members' brains after every mission. Plus her career trajectory is going upwards and A.I.M.'s resurgence clearly surprised her. All of this means pressure. Leaving Mockingbird behind means more pressure. Dissatisfied team members. Problems. Problems. Problems. Karma police bouncing back repercussions of past decisions.
Nrama: Ales, in this issue you’re bringing the team back to the A.I.M. Island; since this is your first visit, what do you think of this independent state A.I.M. has set up?
Kot: The island a great place for a party. Or a writing retreat. Or both.
The independent state: I'm all for less borders, not more.
Nrama: Speaking of borders, how would you describe the co-writing relationship you have here with Nick Spencer?
Kot: It's rather simple: Nick & I plotted the arc together and I am writing the scripts by myself.
Nrama: And you have a background in this kind of wetworks action. You’re coming into this after doing some secret ops missions before in Suicide Squad and your own series Zero. What’s your fascination with cloak-and-dagger type stories like these?
Kot: That's what I am exploring by writing them. I am interested in history, politics, sociology, anthropology, in ways governments and terrorist organizations often function as two sides of the same coin...I am interested in how the world we live in is affected by the decisions made by criminal conspiracies, whether they proclaim themselves legal or not. I am interested in ethics, in exploring the role violence and peace play in our world and stories...I am interested in exploring that on a personal level, in terms of understanding my own impulses and behavior, I am interested in seeing how the personal relates to the universal.
That said, I am fascinated by stories in general, and the cloak-and-dagger/spy genre is just one of many possibilities I am choosing to work with. The projects I worked on in the past, like Wild Children and Change – and the projects I am preparing for 2014 and beyond – are not nearly as easy to define, and that's the way I prefer my fiction most days. So, even with Secret Avengers and Zero, there is an overlap. I fully intend to give the readers spy fiction and superheroes set in the Marvel Universe, because that's the root of Secret Avengers. What I am interested in writing is building on the existing mythology and continuity and putting my own interests in, therefore delivering something new, a hybrid story that will grab your brain and heart.