Sumerak and Panosian Ready the GOD SQUAD for CHAOS WAR

The GOD SQUAD Prepare for CHAOS WAR

Marvel Comics has long been known for putting together high-profile superhero teams — your Fantastic Fours, your Avengers, your X-Mens — but to face the terrifying threat posed by the Chaos King in this fall's Chaos War, things are going to have to get taken up a notch. Specifically, the "every member of the team are gods" notch.

With the dead rising, alien slave gods attacking and existence as the Marvel Universe knows it threatened, Thor and Hercules — plenty godly in their own right — assemble a new version of the handily rhyming God Squad in the main Chaos War miniseries co-written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, with art from Khoi Pham. 

A team this big — consisting of Damion Hellstrom, Silver Surfer, Sersi and Venus — can't be contained in one series, thus they're also getting the spotlight with December's Chaos War: God Squad one-shot written by Marc Sumerak (Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius) and illustrated by Dan Panosian (X-Factor Forever). In the comic, the God Squad lend a helping hand to the Kami of Japan, who once trapped the Chaos King in the Japanese underworld of Yomi — and sure would like to again.

Newsarama consulted with Sumerak, Panosian and series editor Mark Paniccia on what's at stake for the powerful cast of Chaos War: God Squad, why Silver Surfer qualifies as a "god" despite his mortality, and where the God Squad and the Ted Nugent-led early '90s rock outfit Damn Yankees fall in the pantheon of supergroups.

Newsarama: Marc, we've all heard about rock bands who can't really get along because the egos involved are too big to work together. One can only imagine that a team made up entirely of deities is bursting with strong personalities — what's the God Squad dynamic like? Are they able to get along for the sake of the gravity of the situation at hand?

Marc Sumerak: There have been a lot of "super groups" in the history of rock — Cream, Bad Company, the Traveling Wilburys, Damn Yankees, Velvet Revolver — and the God Squad is definitely the super hero equivalent. Our lineup is chock-full of characters who are serious heavy hitters in their own right, and puts them together for the ultimate gig — saving reality itself from extinction!

Like any group full of big talent and big ego, there's bound to be a bit of friction along the way. But the Chaos War is bigger than any single God, so our heroes know that they have no choice but to put aside their differences and work together for a common goal. Still, just because they all want the same thing doesn't mean they all have the same ideas on how to make it happen … and that may lead to some major tension within their ranks.

Nrama: From what's been revealed so far, it looks like the God Squad will play a pretty big role in Chaos War as a whole. How does this comic fit into the larger landscape of Chaos War?

Sumerak: Greg and Fred definitely have big palns for the new God Squad in the pages of the main Chaos War series … and I was fortunate enough to get to expand upon their adventures in this one-shot!

There comes a time in the larger battle where the newest members of the God Squad find themselves on a different path than their leaders, Hercules, Thor and Amadeus Cho. But their path is a very promising one, as it leads to the only place in the universe that has ever managed to hold the Chaos King hostage: the Japanese Underworld known as Yomi. They hope that they can lure him there and imprison him again … and this time, their good intentions really do pave the road to Hell!

Nrama: Not asking you to necessarily play favorites, but is there one member of the God Squad you're especially excited to be writing?

Sumerak: This was my first time writing any of these characters, so it was a real blast to get to explore each of them. I've been a Silver Surfer fan for as long as I can remember, so getting to use him as a focus character was an opportunity I couldn't pass up!

Honestly, I figured Daimon Hellstrom would be my favorite Squad member to write, just because he offered a touch of cynical humor to a very dark situation... but I was surprised to discover that it was actually his polar opposite, Venus, who really came to life for me while I was writing this story!

Oh, and one of our godly guest stars was an unexpected joy to write as well!

Nrama: Dan, do you have a favorite member of the God Squad to draw?

Dan Panosian: When Mark Paniccia sent me the character list I was immediately excited. I'm hard-pressed to pick a favorite. I guess I'd have to say Hellstrom. I've always been intrigued by him since I was a young kid. He kinda scared me, to be honest. You know that feeling you get when you first start reading comic books and you discover a character you aren't familar with? Maybe it's just an ad or teaser art for another book — but you see a character that you want to know more about? For me that's always been Hellstrom. There's more to him than what you can see on the surface. He's dark but he has a sense of humor.

It's hard not to enjoy drawing the Silver Surfer either! He's always been a favorite of mine too. Then again, Sersi and Venus are a pleasure to draw. Does that answer your question? Sorry about that. I blame Marc Sumerak for my pathetic answer.

Nrama: Let's look at the main characters one by one. It looks like the plot takes the characters to Hell — is that how Hellstrom gets involved?

Sumerak: Not quite. By the time this one-shot arrives, Daimon will have already served alongside the God Squad for a large chunk of the battle over in the main Chaos War series. You'll discover that his motivations for joining the battle are different than the rest of the Squad members, but that doesn't mean he won't fight just as hard to save all of existence from blinking away.

And, hey, if you're going on a road trip to Hell, having the Son of Satan riding shotgun is a pretty sweet deal. Hellstrom's intrinsic connection to the powers and forces of the Underworld will definitely help the Squad along the way.

Nrama: Silver Surfer is the biggest “name” of these God Squadders. How does he come into the mix?

Sumerak: When Herc and Thor assemble the Squad, the Surfer isn't exactly on the roster … but let's just say he comes as part of the package! That being said, he's a perfect fit for the team, as he has viewed things on a much larger, more cosmic scale than most other Marvel heroes. And while he may not technically be an immortal, his years as the Herald of Galactus have forced him to play God more than he would care to remember. Choosing which planets live and which die — what's more godly than that?

Nrama: As of late, Sersi she has been seen content to live a "normal" life. Does it speak to the severity of this threat that she steps into action here?

Sumerak: Sersi is the one member of the Squad who really understands the severity of the situation. She's sacrificed herself before, been stranded in limbo, and stared into the void. She knows more than anyone what it means if they lose this battle... and she'll do anything to make sure that doesn't happen! If that means stepping up and fighting alongside her old Avengers allies Herc and Thor, then so be it!

Nrama: How does Venus play in — and will we see any of her Agents of Atlas teammates?

Sumerak: While we won't see the other Agents of Atlas, Venus will definitely hit some high notes in this story. Nothing like a couple power ballads to liven up the biggest war the Marvel Universe has ever seen, right? But remember, even though Venus may wear the mantle of the Goddess of Love, deep down she's still a naiad — a mythical creature who once lured sailors to a watery grave. If her love songs don't work, her darker side might have to surface again... whether she likes it or not!

Oh, and wherever Venus appears, you can bet that there's bound to be a little bit of romance as well …

Nrama: Mark, from your perspective as editor, how has Marc equipped himself to writing such an unconventional team?

Mark Paniccia: This story shows how well Marc can write an ensemble, especially one as unique as this team. There's a great sense of the epic stakes of this conflict with characters who are used to being immortal and now faced with non-existence, not just for the world but themselves. There's important stuff here for our cast. Things that will affect them on their human level. Consequences none of them saw coming and some great surprises for the readers.

Nrama: Dan, how fun is it to be able to illustrate such larger than life characters? The whole concept sounds like an opportunity for lots of cool, unique visuals.

Panosian: Was it fun? It was terrifying! These are some of my all-time favorite characters, all packed into one issue.

Visually, there are quiet moments and in a blink of an eye — epic battles! I haven't drawn a boring panel yet. Each aspect of the storytelling is very layered. Marc does a great job of infusing character within such an action packed adventure. Not an easy task but he does a seamless job!

Nrama: What other god-types might we expect to show up in Chaos War: God Squad?

Sumerak: There will be plenty of godly guest-stars in this one-shot. First and foremost, we'll be visiting the Kami — the pantheon of the Far East. They'll be there to guide the God Squad to the gates of Yomi and will play an unexpected role in their battle against the Chaos King's forces.

We'll also see an army of enslaved alien gods, a horde of hellish beasts, a familiar (and furry) Marvel deity from deep in the African continent, and even a big, hungry guest star who is closely linked to one of our Squad members …

Nrama: Yomi, the Japanese Underworld, looks to be the setting of this comic. Marc, how do you, as a writer, characterize an abstract, mythical place like that?

Sumerak: Just because our heroes' journey is taking them to the gates of Yomi, the Japanese underworld, there's no guarantee that they'll ever make it through the door! But throughout the issue, we'll see a number of Marvel's celestial realms — or rather, what's left of them after the Chaos King has had his way!

There's a certain amount of research that goes into properly portraying a realm that is based on an actual religious concept. But fortunately, a great number of heavenly locations have been seen before in other Marvel stories. From the Egyptian Heliopolis to Greek Olympus, they've all been visited before by Marvel's finest. So for the depiction of Takamagahara, home of the Kami of the Far East, I relied heavily on what came before in issues of Ares and Incredible Hercules — as well as some non-comics readings on the Shinto faith, of course!

Nrama: Dan, what’s your take on Yomi? The setting seems to be very much open to artistic interpretation.

Panosian: Since there is a quite a bit of Yomi that hasn't been represented yet, I have free range to incorporate my own ideas. I'm a big research buff, so this is the fun part for me. That said, I'm very interested in creating mood within Yomi. I like that it's unexplored. I want that feeling present in the pages. The less we can ascertain about it, the less we can calculate and feel comfortable with. "Haunting" would be a great way to describe Yomi.

Nrama: Mark, on your end, how's it been working with Dan on Chaos War: God Squad thus far?

Paniccia: Dan's doing some absolutely great, dynamic stuff here! This dirty nearly-half dozen of deities are on a pretty intense mission and it wasn't until I saw his pages that I realized how much of a classic war story this is. And Dan handles all the scenes — claustrophobic, big action and tense, personal moments — effortlessly. His story telling is spot on and he's mastered every one of these very diverse characters to a point where I hope we can see more of them down the line.

Nrama: Sounds like everyone’s having a lot of fun — any chance of seeing more of the book beyond the one-shot?

Panosian: For now it's only a one-shot but I really think this is a tight team unlike any other out there. They deserve a title! Let's let the fans decide!

 Who's your favorite member of the GOD SQUAD?

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