Heroes fighting heroes. It’s big business in the world of comics, but if you’re living in that world it has some real consequences. And Rick Remender & Daniel Acuña will be telling that story beginning this week in Uncanny Avengers.
In Wednesday’s Uncanny Avengers #11, Remender will be closing out the “Apocalypse Twins” arc and setting up a confrontation that’s been building since Civil War, Schism and AvX. In the last issue we saw former friends and family of the books’ Unity Squad come back as dark versions of themselves in a new iteration of the Horsemen, and we talked with the writer about Marvel NOW’s flagship book and the treacherous waters it’s heading into, as well as checking out some debut art from Acuña.
Newsarama: Rick, in last month’s Uncanny Avengers, we saw the introduction of a brand new set of Horsemen – not your first set of Horsemen, but these are profoundly different in both intent and membership. How’d you deliberate to come up with this group?
Rick Remender: Well, we went through a number of iterations. It was mandatory that each member already have something personal against the team; so we didn’t want to create new characters whole cloth. We wanted immediate context because with a cast of nine heroes, then Red Skull, Kang and the Twins we had no room. It was very important to me that these new Horsemen have previously existing grudges and personal ties to the team.
Daken for example, was one of the things that was planned way back in the third year of Uncanny X-Force – he was always going to be a part of this. Daken’s return as a Horseman plays into the role of paying Wolverine back one last time for what happened in Uncanny X-Force – one last sort of consequence for all of the decisions Logan made and his methodology.
For Banshee who died at the hands of Vulcan, he sees the Summers family as a real problem for mutantkind.
For the Sentry, his real issue is with the Avengers and with Thor in particular, who killed him in Siege.
The Grim Reaper has a lot of context with Rogue, who used some of Wonder Man’s powers to kill him earlier. Reaper also has a long history with Scarlet Witch as she brought him back to life, and also his brother Simon, Wonder Man.
I made sure that these choices were all characters with personal connections to the team instead of coming in with new people we’d have to build from the ground up.
Nrama: These new Horseman have reasons to hate the Unity Squad here in Uncanny Avengers, but they were all once heroes in one fashion or another; how much of what’s going on is them and how much is it the Twins thinking for them?
Remender: As we’ve seen with Archangel and with numerous others, once someone is given the Death Seed then there is an additional persona added to you. While you still have many of your memories and what not, you have a whole new set of motives and a whole new DNA bonded with you. This Death Seed DNA brings with it servitude to the current Apocalypse. These characters have their own motives, but they’ve been tainted and quite manipulated overall in serve of the current Apocalypse – the Apocalypse Twins’ – bidding.
Nrama: Uncanny Avengers #11 comes out this Wednesday. What can readers expect?
Remender: This is final chapter of the “Apocalypse Twins” arc, introducing that duo and also showing that the differences in methodology and the heroes’ own petulant squabbling going back to Civil War through Schism and AvX have consequences. This issue sets up the goal and the methodology for trying to accomplish that goal. We set up what role each cast members are playing, and it’ll also end with a nice big cliffhanger. We’re going to be getting to something here that’ll be a sort of ‘act break;’ this is the end of the first chapter to our broader storyline, setting up the second chapter, “Ragnarök Now” which starts in Uncanny Avengers #12 and goes through #17.
Nrama: As you mentioned, this Unity Squad of X-Men and Avengers aren’t living up to their “unity” brand. What would you say about the state of the team right now?
Remender: Well, they’re failing. That’s what we’ve been seeing in the Marvel Universe for some time; heroes failing to act heroically on some level. From Civil War to Schism to AvX we’ve had heroes fighting each other rather than focusing on evil. That is a big part of what my story is; we haven’t gotten to the punch line yet, but we’re getting close to where that consequence will become clear. The heroes aren’t working together; they have disagreements, they see things differently, and they continue to be sort of incapable of overcoming those differences and seeing eye-to-eye enough to work together.
“Ragnarök Now” is the ultimate consequence of Civil War, AvX as well as Wolverine’s actions in Uncanny X-Force – it’s the ultimate consequence of heroes not acting heroically. The point of the first 22 issues of Uncanny Avengers is that there’s consequences when these heroes don’t work together.
Nrama: Although they’ve been having some trouble getting along, there are a few bright spots you’ve shown here. I particularly enjoyed the banter Rogue and Thor have been having in recent issues. Is it too much to hope for some magic there?
Remender: I’m setting up a lot of things here; some of them will pay out and some are misdirections. In terms of relationships developing, I hate to show my hand.
Having this entire story broken down up to issue #22 has been great. I’ve been able to make a lot of choices to seed relationships in ways that you might not initially see, as well as introduce more overt misdirections that play out in other ways. Part of the fun of comics is guessing at what happens next, so I’ve tried to give people plenty to guess about. People will see in the next ten issues how it will payout.
Nrama: Another thing I noticed developing in Uncanny Avengers is the Wonder Man character. From trying to deal with his feelings with Scarlet Witch to coming back to the ties he has to his brother, the Grim Reaper. Is Simon a character you’ve been a fan of for awhile, and can you talk about your thoughts on him as a featured player?
Remender: Wonder Man is like Fantomex to me in a way. With the size of the cast at nine in Uncanny Avengers, it’s less manageable than the group I had in Uncanny X-Force so I haven’t been able to give as big a focus on each individual. But as I developed these first 22 issues, I planted character arcs for everyone including Simon, and every scene is important; everything has a reason for being there. And as I sat down to write the actual issues, Wonder Man became a character that quickly demanded more time on screen than initially planned; we haven’t seen all of that yet, but by issues #12, #13 and #14 he really takes center stage.
I always knew the role Wonder Man would play, but it’s not until writing it that I realized how he’s the heart of the team. When I was a kid reading West Coast Avengers I always liked him, but he wasn’t top on my list. But as I learned from writing Uncanny Avengers, there’s something pure Avengers about him. In terms of how his character has been contorted over the years, I’m the kind of writer who likes to take those contortions and build on them instead of throwing them out with the bathwater. The challenge is to find interesting and smart ways to build on that continuity.
With Uncanny Avengers, I take what’s happened with Wonder Man from Kurt Busiek’s run and what Brian Michael Bendis did with him, and take it to that next stage of evolution for him. I like him quite a bit. The way I’m building him now is that he’s this pacifist with the power to move worlds. Sort of like how with Venom we took Flash Thompson and Venom and put them together, it opened up a new dynamic to tell many interesting stories. For Simon, I think by Uncanny Avengers #14 fans will begin to see a big payout.
Nrama: In #12 you have Salvador Larroca doing a guest issue, then Daniel Acuña back for one and then Civil War artist Steve McNiven coming aboard. You’ve worked on the art side before, even doing the art on Avengers with Kieron Dwyer in the past. What’s it like to have his high caliber talent coming up to draw these stories for you?
Remender: Well, I always say the art is 80% of a comic book. Art is the acting, the mood and the tone, so if you don’t have someone who has a similar approach in storytelling then the comic can fall apart and readers will notice. It’s important to me to work with guys who could take these visual ideas and translate the script in a way that is exciting. And I’ve been very lucky at the talent Marvel has assigned the book.
I’ve been so lucky to be able to work with John Cassaday, Olivier Coipel, Daniel Acuña, Adam Kubert and coming up Salvador Larroca and Steve McNiven. Marvel has kept this book staffed with artistic dream teams.