Fred Van Lente Brings Out the DEAD AVENGERS for CHAOS WAR
Fred Van Lente On the DEAD AVENGERS
A little more than a month ago, Fred Van Lente announced on Twitter that he was writing an Avengers comic book. What the Iron Man Legacy and The Incredible Hercules writer didn’t announce was which title it was, and when it would be coming out. His comment that the series was “the most ‘Van Lentean’ Avengers title ever” led to a whole lot of speculation about what it might be — Cosmic Avengers? Avengers Legacy? International Avengers?Silver medal try, but no. The frequent Marvel Zombies writer is unearthing the Dead Avengers for three issues starting this November, illustrated by Superboy and Thunderbolts veteran Tom Grummett. Officially titled Chaos War: Dead Avengers, it's a tie-in to the October-debuting Chaos War, which Van Lente is co-writing with Greg Pak. As a result of Chaos War, The Vision, Captain Mar-Vell, Yellowjacket, Swordsman, Deathcry and Dr. Druid find themselves not only back to life, but also the best line of defense against one of the Chaos King’s allies — who happens to be a rather formidable Avengers villain. Newsarama talked with Van Lente and series editor Mark Paniccia via e-mail on assembling this team of Dead Avengers, keeping Twitter followers in suspense, and making it abundantly clear that this team of resurrected superheroes are not zombies. Newsarama: Just to clarify — Chaos War: Dead Avengers is the Avengers title you were hinting at on Twitter about a month ago, right? Fred Van Lente: Yup, this is the one. Tom had just turned in his pencils for the first issue cover at the time and I couldn't contain myself. Nrama: How fun was it watching people speculate what it might be? Van Lente: It was a blast. I challenged my followers to guess the title and I got an avalanche of hilarious responses. My favorite was "Ranch Bacon Avengers". It was cool to see it race around the 'net. No one got it right initially on my Twitter feed, but I know I saw someone posting "Dead Avengers" here on the Newsarama blog. I'm sure it showed up plenty of places elsewhere too. My Twitter address, incidentally, is "http://twitter.com/fredvanlente." Cough, cough. Nrama: There are a good amount of dead Avengers to choose from. Obviously some of the more high-profile ones like Wasp and the Sentry are not here. How did you go about selecting who was going to comprise the roster of Dead Avengers? Van Lente: The Sentry I thought was a little fresh, death-wise (ew, there's an image for you) to include and Ares plays too big a role in the main title to use. As the readers of Dan Slott's Mighty Avengers know, the actual status of Wasp's mortal body/immortal soul is not very cut-and-dry at the moment. I'm also a strong believer in one shrinking person per hero team.That's an ironclad rule for me. And I preferred the female Yellowjacket. Sorry, Scott Lang. Not personal. Nrama: Are they all characters that you were a fan of a reader? Van Lente: Definitely. I am a huge Avengers fan. That was my book when I was a kid. I got hooked on the Thomas/Buscema run in the reprint title … Marvel Super-Action, I think? (I had to do some Googling to recall that title.) So you know the Vision was going to be a huge part of it, the android who was married to the Scarlet Witch and got blown up in “Disassembled.” Mar-Vell is a character I became a huge fan of just last year, researching a title that ended up not coming to fruition. That first volume of stories is really compelling, with a terrific hook (alien invader switches sides and fights for Earth instead), Carol Danvers in the Lois Lane role, and fun science fiction stories by one of the unheralded greats, Arnold Drake, who created Doom Patrol and the Guardians of the Galaxy. So expect lots of Mar-Vell here. Nrama: Since so many of these characters haven't been seen in years, is there any consideration given to re-educating —or, just educating — readers during the course of the series as to exactly who these characters are and why they're significant? Van Lente: Most definitely. That's half the fun. In fact, in each issue, we have, for the lack of a better word, Lost-style vignettes of each member when he or she was alive. The Dead Avengers initially don't understand why they've come back, and why they've come back together, as a group, so we have to orient the reader in ways the characters themselves don't have access to. In the first issue, we see what makes Swordsman and the Vision tick, then we get two more characters per issue after that. Nrama: Are these "dead" characters going to appear pretty much how they were the last time we saw them are they going to be noticeably, um, dead? Van Lente: Let's get this out of the way right upfront: they’re not zombies. Not all dead people are zombies. (And, come to think of it, having seen 28 Days Later, not all zombies are dead, either, but I guess that starts a completely different argument.) In Chaos War, the Chaos King is systematically destroying every dimension in the mutliverse, including the afterlives. So the Dead Avengers have all been involuntarily resurrected — booted out onto the mortal plane when the afterlives they were habitating are wiped out. Gathered together by a mysterious force — the identity of which is the big #1 reveal — the Dead Avengers find themselves the only Avengers team in existence (thanks to other events in Chaos War), and have to take on one of the Chaos King's most powerful lieutenants — an amped-up Grim Reaper, Eric Williams, one of the Avengers' greatest foes. (C'mon, who else would the Dead Avengers fight but the Grim Reaper?) Nrama: Let's look at some of the characters individually. The Vision — is he going to be coming into contact with the current, Young Avengers Vision? Van Lente: A bigger question would be: is the Vision going to come into contact with the Scarlet Witch, the love of his life … and the woman who "killed" him? Nrama: Captain Mar-Vell is arguably the biggest "name" of the Dead Avengers. What's his attitude going to be like coming back from the dead? Van Lente: He's an interesting case. He's the only one of this bunch who died non-violently, in bed, of cancer. Plus, he has "cosmic awareness" that makes him a more serene type to begin with. However, he is the most heroic hero of this bunch — he has an innate nobility that makes helping others in need second nature to him. So there's some conflict there. Nrama: Yellowjacket was murdered by Iron Man — a mind-controlled Iron Man, but still — during “The Crossing.” Is she going to be looking for any revenge? Van Lente: Yellowjacket is the most down-to-earth of the group, the one least impressed by all the cosmic insanity of Chaos War going on around her. Considering the state Iron Man is in when Dead Avengers begins, she's certainly in an excellent opportunity to get her revenge, I'll say that much. Nrama: Guessing this is the Jacques DuQuesne version of the Swordsman. What part does he play in the series? Van Lente: Swordsman is the one character that will surprise everybody at how much of a badass he is. He's the X-factor everyone will be talking about. Swordsman died, in essence, by accident — he got hit by a stray ray blast from Kang — and so he, almost more than any of the other DA, is looking for redemption. His attempts to reform and be a hero as an Avenger were cut short, and he sees this as a second chance. Nrama: Deathcry is the most recent death of the Dead Avengers. What's she looking for upon returning from the grave? (Well, since she exploded and all, it's probably not technically a grave that she's returning from.) Van Lente: Her death was particularly inglorious — a double death, in a sense, for an honorable Shi'ar warrior. She let her berserker tendencies get the better or her, and she was blown up by Captain Universe in Annihilation: Conquest. In many ways this book is about second chances: the Dead Avengers all find themselves thrust in a situation to prove themselves heroes again. Some will simply repeat the mistakes they made in life. Others will rise to the challenge. Which one will Deathcry be? Read and find out. Nrama: Doctor Druid is one of the oldest characters in Marvel history — what are his goals now that he's back? Will he be interacting with his son at all? Van Lente: Druid is an interesting case. As one locked into the Natural Order (or so he believes), he's inclined to believe that the Chaos War is the natural ending to the universe and the Dead Avengers are making a huge making by trying to start it. (Plus, he vastly prefers being dead.) So he's got the Dr. Smith-in-Lost in Space role here. As to which living characters our dead ones interact with, all I'll say is that the connection between the living Avengers and their fallen members is the single most important aspect of this story. Oh, and one last thing before I forget: They're not zombies. Nrama: Mark, any comments on the series? Mark Paniccia: Fred’s written a script that had us riveted from the get go. You can tell how much he enjoys writing all these characters and his love for their place in the Marvel Universe. He’s got great bits with everyone but the Swordsman scene is intense! Trust me! The Vision stuff is mysterious cool and leaves you wondering just where this is all going and if there’s a fate even worse than death for these guys.