Following next week's Uncanny Avengers #8AU tying-in to Age of Ultron, the "Ragnarök Now" story continues in Uncanny Avengers, escalating story threads that writer Rick Remender started in Uncanny X-Force.
In July's Uncanny Avengers #10, the threat of Kang and the Apocalypse Twins looks to get very personal with the introduction of the new Horsemen of Death — consisting of the formerly deceased Grim Reaper, Daken, Sentry and Banshee. Given that Grim Reaper is Wonder Man's villainous brother and was recently inadvertently killed by Rogue; Sentry is a former Avenger that was killed by Thor; Daken was killed by his dad, Wolverine; and Banshee is a former X-Man killed by Havok's brother Vulcan, it's a messy situation for the team.
For the second part of our interview with Remender, we discussed his choices for the four new Deaths, the dramatic potential they represent, and working with new Uncanny Avengers series artist Daniel Acuña.
Newsarama: Rick, something that got a lot of people talking was the cover to July's Uncanny Avengers #10, featuring the Four Horsemen of Death. With Grim Reaper and Daken involved, clearly it's at least partly an extension of stuff you've been doing in Uncanny Avengers and elsewhere. Wanted to start with Daken: Obviously he had a huge role in Uncanny X-Force — and got killed there by Wolverine. Did you always have further plans for him at that point?
Rick Remender: I did. I didn't know if I was going to be able to get to it. They wanted to step him towards the role of a villain for a while, and it was something that was coming out of Jeanine Schaefer's office with Rob Williams, I believe. It's a great idea. When the book was canceled and that was derailed, I liked the idea of picking it up, and not only making him a villain, but making him a big villain, and putting him in a situation where he was running the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. That felt right to me. That felt like he's earned a general's stripe at that point.
But because of future Logan telling past Logan, "If you don't kill the boy, he's going to go to the school and slaughter them" — where Daken was going to try and prove himself, and to try and get back at the old man, was getting darker and darker, and he was going to eventually go to the school and make some mischief. So Wolverine had, in his mind, no choice. He had nothing but evidence that, "If I don't put the boy down once and for all now, more lives will be lost." That was kind of the crux of X-Force — finding those quandaries, and making them as difficult as possible for the cast.
In that case, when I was putting that together, that was before I knew that I would be entirely done with the book and when, so I'm still working up ideas, and I still had this escalation — this Apocalypse Twin thing that I seeded when Warren Worthington slept with Pestilence. It seemed to me that would be a great opportunity to do what happened with Warren Worthington when he became Archangel, where that transformation into this bigger, more powerful thing really helped Angel become a more interesting character.
I think that it works well for Daken, and escalating him well as a relatable villain. All the Horsemen have different reasons for having personal vendettas against people in our cast, which makes the fighting better.
Nrama: The Sentry is another big inclusion — the character hasn't been really mentioned much on panel since he died more than three years ago in Siege. And it's such an interesting character, to me — both how he was first introduced, and then how he was used later in the Avengers books, and became such a polarizing character in his last couple years in rotation. Did you find that there was a lot of dramatic potential with having him back in the mix, too?
Remender: I did. Tom Brevoort and I went back and forth between Ares and Sentry for months, and we had settled on Ares. The more I got into in what I could do with Ares, the more I realized, Ares is super-cool, and Ares as war — this was before the idea of turning them all into deaths, when I was still just considering the Four Horsemen — made a lot of sense, obviously, but it didn't interest me as much. It just didn't.
Then I realized I've got Thor on my team, who was responsible for killing Sentry, and that there's a real animosity there. Then I got into the aspect of, "What happens to a resurrected Sentry, who doesn't have The Void in his head anymore?" Who is still this mentally ill Superman who's got powers of a thousand exploding suns, but instead of The Void taking up space in his head, it's a Death persona from a Celestial, from an Apocalypse?
The twins are breaking all of the rules that have been set up, basically, because the way that these things work is — the Death Seed, basically you're choosing your successor. You create a Death, and then if you die, then the person you made as your Death becomes the next Apocalypse. If that doesn't work, then it goes to your actual kin. It's a hierarchy of the way these things work. So what they've done is to go around the cosmos, and collect Life and Death seeds from various areas of the universe, and various time periods, to cheat, and to create four Deaths.
In Sentry now, you've got someone who is basically a human being with the power of a thousand exploding suns, who is mentally ill, and instead of having this villainous Void in his head, now he's got a Death persona, which is screaming for him to move forward evolution — which is a very confusing thing for a guy who's not a mutant. Maybe he comes up with a different interpretation of his mission… when I thought of that, well, it just excited me way more. There's so much more potential there for this guy who's dealing with real and sad mental illness, and to put him in this situation, and to put him against Thor in the way that I have, it became way too cool not to do it.
Nrama: Banshee is kind of a wildcard, one would think, because that's a character that really isn't associated with any kind of darkness or death. So him being there is seemingly much more of a gut-punch for the X-Men involved.
Remender: And that's why they chose him. And not only that, but he was killed by Alex's brother. There's going to be context in regards to the consequences of what your family has done. Banshee is going to represent another consequence of what the Summers family has done. To Alex, trying now to stand up and be a big public hero and move things in a more positive direction, that's going to be a pretty big gut-punch as well.
Nrama: It's been established that Daniel Acuña will be the main Uncanny Avengers artist going forward, for the near future; and you're also working with John Romita Jr. for at least the first 10 issues of Captain America. From your perspective as writer, what does it mean to have that sort of consistency there? Does it change your outlook on writing such a long story? Uncanny X-Force had lot of talented artists, but a lot of different ones — what kind of freedom or clarity do you gain from a more long-term partnership?
Remender: Learning how to write for somebody is a very tricky thing. Some people you just click right in. I've experienced with Acuña, a very easy transition. We just work together.
In other cases, when you have a lot of different artists coming and going, every artist will have a different degree of how they translate your script, and how much they adhere to it. I'm comfortable with working in a lot of different ways, but it's always finding that adjustment with a new artist that can lead to, "OK, this guy'll do this or this." It takes a few issues before you really understand how to write to somebody's strengths, and how things work out. So it's nice to not have a lot of artists coming and going.
The unfortunate reality is that the kind of work that people are doing these days, the kind of quality that you're seeing Acuña produce, takes a tremendous amount of time. It's possible that there might need to be other artists coming and going — I don't know, Marvel gets to juggle all that fun schedule stuff. I love working with him. He's insane. He's a professional, we communicate very well — any question he has, he hits me with it. We talk back and forth. We collaborate.
As for the freedom that it offers — I think it's more comfort that you find. As you go through your career, you're like a ball rolling down a hill, and things that you agree with will magnetize and stick to you. Creators I work well with, we end up doing more things in the future. That's the upshot of being in a system where you're going to have rotating artists coming and going and people changing things up, is that you get to find new collaborators, and people you work well with. I definitely feel that with Acuña and I, we're a nice pairing.
The same for Cap. Having the consistency, now that John and I have figured out our work method — I know how to write those scripts. Once you've figured out how to write for somebody, it's very nice. You can imagine how they're going to proceed with something better than you could when you haven't worked with them. For John, tight scripts aren’t really going to work. He’s going to do a lot of changing of stuff, so I work in a loser method. For Acuña, he’ll draw exactly what is scripted, so he needs very tight and well thought out art direction.
But yeah, it's definitely cool to have guys on for longer stints to find that level and get in a groove.
Nrama: The last interview we did was following the Uncanny Avengers #5 "m-word" controversy with Havok. Now that there's some distance there, did you have any positive takeaways from the experience?
Remender: I realized through this experience that I'm no longer just an indie kid who is doing pulp horror, and pulp science-fiction, and punk rock comic books about robot-headed skate punks fighting Jerry Garcia and Eazy-E. I'm now on a different stage, and the way that I conduct myself, and the way that I usually enjoy conducting myself, is going to be seen through a spectrum of people who do not know me, and do not know my sensibility, or appreciate my sense of humor, and that I must endeavor to be a little more… "Political" in my online response — or lack there of, which is probably the preferred method of dealing with people throwing rocks at me in the future.