SPOILERS for the AVENGERS ARENA finale! Read at your own risk!
This March, a rag-tag group of teen heroes are jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Announced Friday as part of Marvel’s “Avengers” panel at New York Comic Con, Avengers Arena’s Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker are taking the survivors of Arcade’s deadly Murder World out in the open – with a deadly new mission. Launching this March, Avengers Undercover sees teen heroes Hazmat, Bloodstone, Death Locket, Cammy, and Anachronism jump back into normal life by volunteering to infiltrate the deadly villainous organization known as the Masters of Evil as villains themselves. The Masters of Evil are one of Marvel’s classic supervillain teams, and were last seen ruling over an underground city called Bagalia in Rick Remender’s Secret Avengers. Hopeless and Walker’s Avengers Undercover sees the Avengers Arena survivors trying to join the likes of Baron Zemo, Madame Masque and even the all-too-familiar Arcade.
Newsarama: Undercover superheroes – sounds great! Given the title, the creative team and these characters, I can’t help but ask – does Avengers Undercover tie in to Avengers Arena, which will be concluded before this new series begins?
Dennis Hopeless: Absolutely. The main Avengers Undercover cast is made up of Murder World survivors. Avengers Undercover isn’t a sequel to Avengers Arena but it definitely picks up and runs with a lot of the character work we did there. We’re taking these damaged teenagers who’ve just survived hell and telling a brand new story with them. I think Arena fans will like what we have planned here but this is a self-contained story with a different tone and high concept. And we’re taking care to make sure new readers can jump in with Avengers Undercover #1 without knowing anything about Avengers Arena.
Nrama: The idea of superheroes being sent undercover to infiltrate villainous organizations sounds great, but these heroes are still teenagers for the most part. Why were they chosen, and more importantly, who chose them?
Hopeless: I’d say they pretty much chose themselves. These kids survived 30 days of hell during which they wanted nothing more than to go back home. But it turns out Murder World fundamentally changed them. Most of these kids don’t fit into their old lives anymore. Nothing feels like it used to. They can’t relate to their old friends. They’re families and teachers don’t look at them the same anymore.
The decision to infiltrate the Masters of Evil is an excuse to run away. It’s a change of scenery and a shot-in-the-dark chance at redemption. Maybe if they bring down a massive underground super-villain community, they can rewrite public perception. Maybe they can be heroes again instead of just celebrity survivors.
Nrama: This team is a great bunch of heroes. Can you tell us about them as a group, and maybe preview how they work together here?
Hopeless: The thing that ties these kids together is their shared experience. Nobody out in the world can relate to what they’ve been through but the other survivors can. They all understand why it’s impossible to sleep lying down. They know what it feels like to be famous for the worst thing that ever happened to you. They get feeling like a stranger in your own life and not being able to unclench your fists. That’s an intense bond to share. The loyalty and kinship these kids have with one another is the heart of the story.
Nrama: Some of these heroes have been villains before, or at least been suspected of being one such as Hazmat from Avengers Academy. What’s the danger in some of these heroes finding life as a villain too much to give up?
Hopeless: That question is one of the book’s primary themes. How broken are these kids? Is it possible to survive what they have and come out the other end a normal, well-rounded human being? Let alone a super hero? There’s a real danger that these damaged kids who don’t fit in with the heroes anymore will get a look at super villain society and realize they have more in common with the bad guys. It’s a pretty safe bet that at least one of the survivors “goes native” by the end of our story.
Nrama: The Masters of Evil are one of the original big teams of super-villains in the Marvel U, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in Avengers #6. Can you tell us about the team as it stands here in Avengers Undercover and who are the prominent members?
Hopeless: We’re picking up some ideas Rick Remender set up in his Secret Avengers run. The Masters of Evil has grown into a massive super-villain community headquartered in an underground nation-state called Bagalia. We’ll be fleshing out the different factions and rivalries within the MoE and expanding the “world” of Bagalia quite a bit. After spending 18 issues with a single villain, it’s been a lot of fun picking a whole cast of villainous characters. I don’t want to give too much away but you can definitely expect to see Baron Zemo, Madame Masque, Constrictor and (obviously) Arcade.
Nrama: For Avengers Undercover you’re re-teaming with your Avengers Arena partner, Kev Walker. What’s it like getting back with him – and getting off that island?
Hopeless: I’m so happy to have Kev on this story. He’s one of the best collaborators I’ve ever had and brings so much to every page. Kev’s a natural storyteller who elevates the game of everyone around him (which is an elaborate way of saying he makes me look good). After spending a year watching Kev flesh out every nook and cranny of Murder World, I can’t wait to see him set loose on the seedy underbelly of the Marvel Universe.