An Unusual Team Hunts for the RED SKULL in SECRET WARS' Battleworld

'Red Skull #1' cover by Riley Rossmo
Credit: Marvel Comics

Red Skull is arguably one of the most renowned villains in Marvel lore, but in Secret Wars he’s said to be dead – but the rulers of Battleworld want to make sure.

In July, Marvel is launching a new three-issue limited series titled Red Skull with Joshua Williamson and Luca Pizzari. Featuring covers by Riley Rossmo, Red Skull follows a unique team of characters as they venture into the Secret Wars dominion known as the Deadlands to find out, once and for all, if rumors about the Red Skull’s death are true.

“Well, The Red Skull should be dead. That’s what the powers that be in Battleworld wanted. The Red Skull led a revolt, breaking boundaries and causing all sorts of problems…so he was sent over the Shield to die,” Williamson tells Newsarama. “Some time later there is a rumor… a movement… that the Red Skull lives, and is quietly planning a revolution. There are actually people wearing ‘The Red Skull was right’ t-shirts in Battleworld. He’s becoming more powerful in death than he ever was in life. A team is forced to go find his body and prove that he is dead. This team however doesn’t normally have the best intentions.”

The team is comprised of Winter Soldier, Magneto and Lady Deathstrike, as well as Electro, Jack O’Lantern and Moonstone, in a Thunderbolts-esque paradigm inside Secret Wars.

“Essentially it’s a team of villains… and past villains with nothing left to lose,” says the writer. “Going over the Shield is a death sentence. This team was chosen because the mission has to be off the books. No one can know that Red Skull could actually be alive. This team could keep it quiet… if they survive. The Red Skull’s legend needs to be buried… and this is the best team to do it. If you need to go kill a villain… who better than a bunch of villains?”

Although when Bucky Barnes was initially re-introduced as Winter Soldier he was considered a villain, most people now peg him on the side of heroes so seeming him categorized this way might be a shock to some readers. Williamson tells Newsarama that he’s conflicted, with revenge pulling him down a darker path.

“[Winter Soldier is thinking about] revenge. Plain and simple,” says the writer. “He’s conflicted by his hate and has a one track mind. I wouldn’t really call him a villain here… he’s just determined to get what he wants, even if it means teaming up with a bunch of bad guys. One of the best parts of the having the Winter Soldier is that he’s one of Luca’s favorite characters. So he’ll do some kick ass work there.  Luca did some sample pages for Marvel years ago that featured the Winter Soldier and they were amazing.”

Williamson says this motley crew of characters will traverse a couple dominions before making it over the Shield and into the Deadlands, facing battles to get there – but even more once they’re there.

“After they make it over the Shield they have survive all of the nasty things that live on the other side. The Deadlands are a very scary place. No one ever comes back. They know that. And will do anything to be the ones to make it back,” Williamson says. “But then they have to deal with each other. You can’t have that many villains in the same place without a bit of back stabbing going on. They all have their own motivations and that causes conflict. It’s going to be hard ride for this group.”

Williamson compares this Red Skull series to other classic stories of “bad guys forced to work together,” and says the tone is akin to Heart of Darkness.

“This team is angry and has nothing left to lose,” says Williamson. “They are forced to hunt down one of the most evil figures in Marvel’s history. Any story about the Red Skull will have a disturbing feeling.“

Given all the different realities plunging into the crucible of Secret Wars and forged into the patchwork Battleworld, the first question to arise is which Red Skull it is they’re after – the one from 616 last seen in Axis, or perhaps one from an alternate reality such as “Old Man Logan.” Williamson is keeping his cards close to his vest on this one, but says the identity of Red Skull is a big mystery of the book.

“The Red Skull’s identity is part of the mystery of the book, so I can’t say just yet. He’s still one of the most evil bastards in the Marvel Universe. Still someone to hate. A master manipulator with a black heart,” says Williamson. “Which works for me because I love writing dark stories with characters that lean more to the sinister side. And Luca Pizzari’s skills make him awesomely suited for this gig.“

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