With Iron Man 2.0 in stores today (preview here), we talked with now London-based writer Nick Spencer via the magic of Skype to learn about why the comic isn't called War Machine, what readers can expect to see in the first arc, the comic's artist situation, how the series ties-in to Fear Itself and whether James Rhodes will be sticking around Secret Avengers — a comic that Spencer was announced as taking over as of April's #12.1 issue.Newsarama: Nick, last time we talked Iron Man 2.0 was still titled “War Machine.” Does the new title mean that James Rhodes will no longer be called War Machine in the comics, or is it more of a thematic change?
Nick Spencer: For all superhero intents and purposes, the codename is still War Machine. But there is going to be some talk over time about how the Pentagon is maybe not all that comfortable with that moniker. In an era in which wars are fought on a PR battlefield as much as anywhere, they might not be terribly thrilled with that kind of terminology.
Nrama: And marketing wise, it can’t hurt to have the words “Iron” and “Man” in the title.
Spencer: I think that the new title succeeds in reminding people that this book very much attempts to exist on the same block as Matt [Fraction]’s Invincible Iron Man, which I think was a big goal of all of us when we were putting this book together. I think that anything that suggests or reinforces the sort of close relationship between the two books is a good thing.
Nrama: On the subject of working closely with Matt, the book’s tying in to Fear Itself coming up, right?
Spencer: Yep. We’ve got some special guests coming by — we’ve got Iron Fist and the Immortal Weapons. It’s going to be a lot of fun getting to finally play with those characters. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time. I was a huge fan of Ed [Brubaker] and Matt’s Immortal Iron Fist run. It’s gonna be a blast. It’s been a little while since we’ve seen those characters, and I’m really eager to play around with them.
Nrama: And Ariel Olivetti is on art for those issues?
Spencer: Yes, sir!
Nrama: What does that mean for Barry Kitson, who was originally announced as the artist on the title?
Spencer: Unfortunately, Barry did come down with pneumonia during the production. As such, the book has as couple of other artists spotting him in scenes. The book still turned out great, and everybody’s really happy with how the final product came together.
Nrama: And you definitely sound exciting about working with Olivetti.
Spencer: I am really thrilled to work with Ariel. I have been a huge admirer of his work, particularly the Punisher stuff that he did with Matt. He just has a beautiful, beautiful style.
I’ve seen some of what he’s going to be doing — he’s on issue #4 as well, which is not a part of the Fear Itself/Iron Fist/Immortal Weapons tie-in. He’s doing sort of a standalone issue before that. When they told me he was coming on board, I was elated, and I proceeded to write an issue that is almost the exact opposite of what you would write for Ariel. When you think of Ariel, so often — at least for me — I think of those amazing, like, Frazetta-esque figures. I gave him a script that was a million miles away from that, and everything that I’ve seen so far has just sent me jumping through the roof with excitement over what he’s going to do. It’s really going to be something that people have never seen from him before, and I just think people are gonna lose their minds once they get their hands on it.
Nrama: So is it safe to assume that the first arc will focus on the same concept we talked about a few months ago: Rhodey adjusting to the way war is waged in the 21st century?
Spencer: Yeah. The first mini-arc really sets up the big story that we’re going to be coming back too at issue #6. It’s a long-form story; it’s a very ambitious story, and this really sets the stage for it. As Fear Itself sort of takes hold across the Marvel Universe, Rhodey’s gonna be part of the all-hands-on-deck response there, and it’s going to pull him away from what he’s been facing in the first arc. But then when Fear Itself wraps up, he’s gonna be back on the job and we’ll resume that story.
Nrama: Will War Machine remain a part of Secret Avengers as well?
Spencer: Yeah! One of the really nice, cohesive moments for me in terms of getting settled in here at Marvel is that the solo character that I’m writing is also part of the team book that I’m writing.
Nrama: Nice when that works out.
Spencer: Yeah, it’s nice when it happens that way. [Laughs.] It’s going to be a lot of fun. Part of my goal is to remind people that Jim is a full-time Avenger now, and that’s a big part of his life, and that’ll be reflected in both books.