After the Axis Powers invaded their neighboring countries and started World War II, Marvel’s Invaders came forth to save the day. And now once again they’re being called into duty to repel a modern-day invasion by an even more threatening force: the Kree.
It all starts in January with All-New Invaders #1, the flagship book of the “All-New Marvel Now!” line of titles. Written by James Robinson and drawn by Steve Pugh, the core four Invaders – Captain America, Namor, the original Human Torch and the Winter Soldier – are reunited when one of their own is kidnapped as the Kree descend on Earth for a secret weapon that holds the key for a galactic campaign of domination. Although the Kree are shown as allies in Infinity, Robinson equates the Kree to the Russians; in WW2 they were allies of the Allies, but soon after they turned to their own devices in their quest for power.
Newsarama spoke with Robinson in an extensive phone interview, going over the Kree invasion, the make-up of the Invaders team, as well as potential new recruits and the hero that Robinson is aiming to reinvigorate as an A-List hero.
Newsarama: Hot on the heels of your launch ofThe Saviors at Image in December, you and Steve Pugh are launching All-New Invaders at Marvel in January. People sometimes pigeonhole the Invaders as a throwback team, steeped in the 1940s. But you’ve said in interviews this is a modern story, through and through? What’s it like pushing back against conceptions and forging Invaders as a modern team?
James Robinson: Well, it’s an interesting challenge. When I was first offered the book, I could see why. I’m known for doing Golden Age stories and my love for those stories and that era, so I could completely get why they would ask me to do the Invaders. However, when I look at the Invaders books that have come out in the past few years, I could see why some of them weren’t overly successful. It’s no slight to any of the artists or writers who worked on those series, but by-and-large the previous Invaders stories dealt with the past; fighting Nazis, the return of Master Man or some other Golden Age villain, or fighting HYDRA and Baron Strucker. Every story feels like it’s set in the past and has already been told. With that in mind, for All-New Invaders my goal was to make it modern, inclusive and in the mix with the modern day.
People, quite honestly, are coming to comic shops every week looking for books to buy and not to buy; comics aren’t cheap anymore. So with that in mind, we’re trying to make an Invaders book set squarely in the modern Marvel Universe that readers will look forward to every month. One of the outcomes of the first arc of All-New Invaders is that Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch, becomes a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. and put at the heart of the Marvel Universe. While issues #6 and #7 introduce a new female Marvel legacy character, they also tie in with an upcoming Marvel crossover. Everything in All-New Invaders will feel like a part of the bigger picture at Marvel. We’ll be tying in with the Inhumanity stuff that Matt Fraction is doing as well.
So my goal in taking on the Invaders is to definitely reference the past but in a way that feels current and is part of what’s going on now.
Nrama: Cap’s the glue that holds the Avengers together, but here he is with the Invaders. How does the Invaders work and not just become another Avengers team? What’s different – what’s their place in the modern day Marvel universe?
Robinson: One of the things about the team, the way I’m writing them at least, is that they are these brothers-in-arms and went through this experience together -- WW2 -- that can never be undone or shaken; there’s a bond between them. Someone had recently asked me what kind of team they are; some teams are families like the Fantastic Four, while others are irregular like the Defenders, and then some are some genuine “team” teams like the Avengers. For All-New Invaders, I’m trying to do a book that’s somewhere between a family and a “team” team.
They’re the type of team however that’ll never call themselves ‘the Invaders;’ and actually you have to ask – are they the invaders, or are they fighting invaders? Earth is constantly being invaded, whether it be the Skrulls in Secret Invasion to Thanos in Infinity, or even invasions from other universes or from underneath the Earth’s crust. For the name “the Invaders,” am I referring to the team or the threats they face? So that’s another aspect of it. When people read All-New Invaders #1, people will see it has a very different feel to it than the Avengers.
And although Cap, Namor and the Winter Soldier are vital parts of the team, the center of this book is Jim Hammond; my goal is to bring everything I can to him, and make him a vibrant character you really love. He’s Marvel’s first superhero, and it’s time he stepped up into spotlight.
Nrama: In this first arc, we know that the Kree Empire is coming at Earth looking for a bizarre weapon that somehow gives them power over Norse Gods. What can you tell us about this device?
Robinson: They’re coming to Earth to regain a weapon they once had, and add it to their arsenal as they prepare to push the Kree Empire further out into the galaxy. To regain that weapon they have to Invade Earth and find it, which has been broken apart and scattered. That’s their initial reason for coming to Earth, and in the outset they’ve already managed to capture Namor. So ultimately the team’s goal becomes to invade the Kree Empire back, to save Namor and to recover the weapon.
Nrama: But what does this mystery weapon do exactly? Control Norse gods somehow?
Robinson: Let me tell readers the answer to that in the story itself. It’s a nice surprise in All-New Invaders #3 you won’t expect, and it involves a surprising guest star.
Nrama: And the Kree, they’re not some faceless race or horde. Who are the Kree invaders in this series?
Robinson: Obviously on top of the list would be the Kree’s Ronan the Accuser who is the Kree Empire’s Captain America. When I was coming up with the storyline for All-New Invaders however, the editors pointed out Ronan was in use a lot and asked if this would be a good place to bring someone else to the fore. So I began thinking about Korath the Pursuer, and I liked the idea of the job class of the Pursuer. If the Accusers are sort of the judges in the Kree Empire, then the Pursuers are the U.S. Marshalls. Korath was killed in Annihilation: Conquest, so it opened the door to creating a new, kick-ass Pursuer and make them really cool: so there came Tanalth the Pursuer.
It’s obviously an exciting challenge to create someone new like Tanalth, and she jumped out immediately in the arc. When she debuts in January, I hope everyone will agree that she’s a great new addition to the Marvel Universe.
Nrama: I have to ask; Cap and the Avengers were just fighting alongside the Kree in Infinity, so how come they’re at odds here?
Robinson: Well, the Kree Empire will talk about that in All-New Invaders #4 which I just wrote a little while ago. One minute the Earth heroes are fighting alongside a Kree soldier, then theiy’re the enemy again; that’s life.
England and America fought alongside the Russians in World War 2, and literally the minute the war was over the two sides were at odds in the Cold War. So the reality of politics and combat is that sides shift constantly. The Kree are an empire, and they’re trying to maintain their power and expand on it. When you have rival empires like the Sh’iar and the Skulls out there alongside them, as well as other races and empires, the Kree are motivated to do something. Remember, the Kree are led by the Supreme Intelligence who isn’t a compassionate creature but a computer. The empire needs power, and this is a way for them to get that.
Nrama: You hit on this a bit earlier, but the big X-factor in this is Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch. He’s always felt and seemed like an outsider to the human race, despite repeated attempts to bring him into the fold. Where’s he stand as this series opens?
Robinson: The way you see him at the start is that he has huge amounts of guilt for what happened at the end of Rick Remender’s Secret Avengers run, when he had to choose between the artificial intelligences and the human race. He chose humanity, and he feels guilty. So he’s hidden himself away form the world and lost himself in the small town of Blaketon. He has a job at a garage and is very content to be completely anonymous, but fate has other plans for him and he slides back into the real world. That’s where he is going to start, and by the end of the first arc he’ll end up an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Nrama: The series hasn’t even launched yet, but I can’t help but asking about potential Invaders recruits. The team has some great alumni, as well as new heroes that could potentially join. Do you see this remaining a quartet or could it be expanded on at some point, possibly with my personal favorite the Blazing Skull?
Robinson: yes, but what I want to really focus on is these four guys and really get to know them before we start bringing in others. Some people come and go in the latter part of the first five issues. We’re definitely doing an arc with the Blazing Skull at some point. The first new addition will be towards the end of the first ten issues with a new female Marvel legacy character, and she’ll stay on as a member of the team. We’ll also see Spitfire, and I love Union Jack. I want to introduce them, but make sure to introduce them in the right way.
We’re going to see a flashback to World War I with the real first appearance of Union Jack, the first Union Jack, taking on H.G. Wells’ martians. All of these characters come in at some point, but my primary focus is on the big four and distilling them for readers.
Nrama: Working with you on this is Steve Pugh. Steve’s known as an artist’s artist, so what’s it like working with him?
Robinson: One of the things that Marvel and I talked about when we were kicking around the ideas for series' artist was that I didn’t want a clean style like what's been previously associated with the Invaders; I love the artists who have done it, and I would be honored to work with them on another project, but for All-New Invaders I was sort of inspired by the way Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye works. If someone had said before that was announced that Marvel was doing a new Hawkeye series you would imagine him fighting villains like a modern day version of his run on Solo Avengers, but instead they gave you this sort of cool urban tale of what Clint does on his days off. And David Aja wouldn’t be who you’d think of as a stereotypical Hawkeye artist, but he’s fantastic and doing a superb job. So when we were out looking for an artist for All-New Invaders, Steve Pugh’s name came up and I said “that’s the guy.” Like Aja he's not who you'd necessarily first expect, but he's kicking ass.
Steve’s not the first person you’d think of to do an Invaders book, especially when you compare it with his last run on Animal Man with Jeff Lemire. But he excels at in a way that offers a fresh artistic look for the team and the book. Some of the scenes he’s done have blown me away. There’s a full page at the beginning of All-New Invaders #2 with Winter Soldier leaping off a building that’s as breathtaking and heroic as any artist could do. That edge Steve has, that shadow; the tones, just the way he draws makes this book very fresh and exciting to look at.
Nrama: This is an aside, but given your familiarity with these characters and your experience in movies – could you see an Invaders team working in the Marvel movie continuity? They’ve already established Cap, Bucky, and even Jim Hammond – all they need is Namor. Either as a 1940s team or modern day?
Robinson: Yes I could, definitely. The way I could see it happening is as a Captain America: The Invaders movie where something happens in the present days that ties in with a past event, and then you cut back and show Cap back in the 1940s and introduce Namor and the Human Torch in that way. They have some exciting adventures together, and then you cut back in the last 45 minutes to the present day and find out Jim Hammond and Namor are still alive in the present day. It’d be a pretty cool film actually, but it’s probably not high on the list for Marvel at this point.