When writer Mark Waid returns to his Hunter-Killer series this summer, he'll be relaunching the Cyberforce characters that Top Cow fans know so well.
"It's a combination of wanting to get back on board with the Hunter-Killer characters, but also getting a chance to work hand-in-hand with Top Cow to develop the Cyberforce characters to give them the sort of purpose and direction they've sort of been lacking for the last couple of years," Waid said of the series, which was previewed in a Free Comic Book Day issue (prview here).
Starting in July, the five-issue Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer mini-series by Waid and artist Kenneth Rocafort will unite the two teams after both had taken a bit of a break. In 2005, Waid and artist Marc Silvestri created Hunter-Killer, a team of superpowered trackers who find rogue "Ultrasapiens" for the government. In 2006, the Cyberforce characters, also originally created by Silvestri, saw a return to comics in a series by Ron Marz. But neither team has gotten much attention since.
"They're the same existing characters from Cyberforce, but where we left them at the end of Ron Marz's last mini-series, which was a very good story, there wasn't any follow-up to it," Waid explained. "So the characters have been bouncing around in limbo for awhile without any specific purpose. I called Filip somewhere during the development of this thing and I wasn't really sure what their purpose was as a team right now. And Filip said he wasn't sure either, so let's go figure it out. So a big, giant part of this series is to relaunch Cyberforce with a specific direction and a specific mission statement."
The Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer series, Waid said, is just what the title implies – a team-up. The Hunter-Killers believe Cyberforce is a group of rogue Ultrasapiens, so they attack. But there's more to it than just two teams fighting each other and then working together.
"There's a reason the Hunter-Killer characters were dispatched to take out the Cyberforce characters before realizing who they were. And so that all plays into the villain's plan," the writer said. "It's a matter of what happens when their chief antagonists sort of tag-team and decide to ally themselves. In this case we have a brand new Cyberdata company that has arisen from the ashes of the old, and in doing so, they've recruited one of the Hunter-Killer's great antagonists. That's what draws the two teams together, although I use the term 'together' very freely because they don't like working together."
Hunter-Killer is based on the idea that the Cold War was not fought over nuclear weapons, but over superhumans. "Years and years ago, a sort of crafty mastermind named Morningstar had put into motion a program called the Ultrasapien Act, which was using his technology to give ordinary people superpowers back during the World War II days and shortly thereafter," Waid said.
When other countries followed suit, a "Cold War" began. But when the U.S. program was abandoned in the 1960s, many rogue Ultrasapiens disbursed all over the world. "Generations have passed, they've had children of their own, they're still in hiding, and now the Hunter-Killers are tasked with the job of trying to find them one by one and account for them. In this day and age, the government is less comfortable with weapons of mass destruction walking around the world without accountability," the writer said.
The team's crossover with Cyberforce will see the return of Ellis, who had left the Hunter-Killer team at the end of Waid's last story with the characters.
"Ellis is their point man,. He is the one guy who has, encoded in his DNA, where the locations of the Ultrasapians are," Waid explained. "But he's been off the team for a few years when we pick up with Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer. So without their divining rod, they're relying on second-hand intel. They're still very good at what they do in tracking rogue Ultrasapiens, but without Ellis, there's a little bit of hit or miss to it. So the team's in disrepair, and some of the old members have gone missing or have retired or whatever. So Ellis' return to the team is pretty important."
Waid said that although there may be people who aren't familiar with Hunter-Killer or Cyberforce, he wrote the crossover in a way that will be easy to understand for new readers.
"I know that's what everybody says, but I really mean it," he said. "And I pride myself on the idea that you can read this stuff fresh and cold and not have any experience with either of these teams or this continuity. I went to great pains to make sure that's the case. You can read the Free Comic Book Day edition and that will tell you everything you need to know about who the Hunter-Killers are, and as we get further into the story, then the Cyberforce team has their chance to explain to the readers and the Hunter-Killers who they are and where they come from. We tell concisely what their origin is and what their motivations are. So I promise you that you'll get caught up very quick."
Previously, Hunter-Killer existed separately from other Top Cow characters. But the fact that Silvestri helped to create both of the teams was part of the decision to bring the two teams together, Waid admitted.
"It made sense, but I also thought they were a good fit because one is very superhero-y in a grand sort of 'colorful-costume' sense – the Cyberforce guys – and the other is more clandestine in a sort of secret agent way," Waid said. "So it wasn't so much sticking two teams of superheroes together as it was mixing the secret agency with the colorful costumed characters and seeing what you get out of it."
But Waid said one of his biggest attractions to combining the teams in Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer was the appeal of having all these characters drawn by Kenneth Rocafort. "He's phenomenal. He is a break out superstar," Waid said. "I remember when he first did a few issues of Hunter-Killer a few years ago. It was the first time I'd seen his work and I knew we had caught lightning in a bottle. I mean, he's really, truly going to be a break-out star of the 21st Century, if he's not already. There's something about his style that's unlike everything I've ever seen. But it's compelling and it's interesting and the storytelling is good, and the characters are really fascinating to look at. So that was a huge part of the sell for me. And it should be for readers too."