The “Time Runs Out” storyline in Avengers is building up to what Marvel is marketing as their biggest event ever, Secret Wars…. But how did all begin? “Time Runs Out” jumped ahead abruptly to get to the point they are, and starting in the next issue of Avengers World readers will see how it got to that point. In February 2015, Frank Barbiere takes over Avengers World as its series writer and joins with artist Marco Checchetto in a storyline that hits it right on the head: “Before Time Runs Out.”
Scheduled to run five issues, Avengers World’s “Before Time Runs Out” promises to pull back the curtain to how Marvel got into the state of warring Avengers factions seen in “Time Runs Out” while doing it with some of the newest Avengers. #17 focuses on former New Mutant Cannonball and Shi’ar guardsman Smasher as they deal with having a child while the Shi’ar Imperial Guard encroaches. Barbiere says this arc of Avengers World will grow to include Sunspot, Shang-Chi and even Thanos, promising to go deeper into the stories and stars of Marvel’s Avengers.
Newsarama: Frank, Avengers World is about to experience a big shift when it returns in February and you’re part of that. Can you tell us about the coming “Before Time Runs Out” story?
Frank Barbiere: It’s a very fun story to be a part of as it ties into Jonathan Hickman’s current run of Avengers very closely. I’m a huge fan of Jonathan’s run, and after contributing a small piece with my New Avengers Annual, I’m excited to dive back into that world. In Avengers continuity we jumped ahead eight months, so in our Avengers World stories we are going to be filling in some of the gaps of what happened during those eight months we missed. We’ll be spotlighting some characters that haven’t really gotten a chance to shine, which I think will be exciting for fans new and old.
Nrama: Avengers World has had one of the largest ensemble casts in superhero comics – but who’ll be the focus going forward here in this arc?
Barbiere: We’ll have a lot of characters in the spotlight, but the first issue focuses mainly on Cannonball and Smasher. We have a lot of great players stepping out though like Sunspot, Namor, Hyperion, Thanos, and Shang-Chi. Again, they’ve all been in the book before, but we’re digging a little deeper and showing how they got to where they are eight months later. And for me, hopefully bringing out a side of the characters we haven’t seen and telling exciting stories.
Nrama: Cannonball, Sunspot and Smasher have been Avengers for over a year now, but in the case of the first two they’ll always be X-Men first – even New Mutants, if you want to go way back. What’s it like writing them here as full-fledged Avengers, and not just rookies anymore?
Barbiere: It’s really an honor and exciting to be working with some of these characters. What I always like to say about Marvel characters is that it’s great because all of the “heavy lifting” for establishing the character is already done; readers know who these characters are and you don’t have to build their interest/trust. As a writer, it allows you to really think about what you want to say about them, how you want them to possibly subvert their status quo, and generally just tell better stories because you don’t have to convince readers that these characters are worth their time. We certainly are exploring these characters as Avengers, and their pasts do come back a bit, but it’s exciting to be crafting their futures.
Nrama: And Smasher – she was only recently introduced, but is playing a key role in the Avengers. What’s your appraisal of her, and how she fits in the thick of the Avengers team?
Barbiere: I think Jonathan did an awesome job fleshing out the new characters. Smasher especially had some really great character moments in Avengers World (with Nick Spencer) really seeing what makes her tick, where she came from, etc. She’s part of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard which adds even more depth to her and changes the way she actually operates as an Avenger. I’m definitely exploring all sides of her allegiances—Shi’ar, Avengers, to Sam, and to Earth. She’s a great character.
Nrama: The solicitations for #17 promise some appearances by Smasher’s other teammates – the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. What can you tell us about their appearance?
Barbiere: We see that Cannonball and Smasher end up on the Shi’ar homeworld after the eight month time jump (and with a baby, no less!) so it’s safe to say that something happened with the Shi’ar that caused her and Cannonball to leave. Those events are the hook for our #17 issue—without giving anything away I can say we’ll be seeing a lot of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard in the issue, as well as some surprising faces. Marco Chechetto has really outdone himself with the designs on the Shi’ar as well. He’s such a fantastic collaborator and wonderful artist.
Nrama: And how does this arc of Avengers World fit in with Jonathan Hickman’s “Time Runs Out” stories he’s done, and continues to do, in Avengers and New Avengers?
Barbiere: I think I touched on that a bit, but as I said: it fills in the gaps while telling some exciting stories and exploring some characters we haven’t really seen take the spotlight in those books. Pretty much what Avengers World has been doing all along, but with a little more direct tie-in to Jonathan’s main arc.
Nrama: You co-wrote the most recent issue, Avengers World #16, with previous series writer Nick Spencer. Can you talk about the hand-off, and coming into this series at such a big moment for the book?
Barbiere: It’s really an absolute honor, and without sounding too excited, a dream come true. I love comics and have been fortunate enough to launch my own properties, but I’m a huge Marvel fan. To reiterate once more, I’m also a huge Jonathan Hickman fan and love his Avengers run, so being able to contribute to it is really just icing on the cake. Nick was amazing collaborator and being able to join him for those issues was an honor in its own right, as well. He really set up a great identity for Avengers World and I’m happy to be continuing his legacy so to speak. It’s a story that’s very collaborative and in such a rich storyline/world that it’s a joy to write. I also have to mention my editors Wil Moss, Jake Thomas, and Tom Brevoort: they definitely took a chance bringing me in and have been extremely supportive and inspiring.
Nrama: And now that you’re into this fully as the sole writer, what is your big picture goal for Avengers World under your watch? Do you have a theme, a mantra… a fight song, anything?
Barbiere: To really get to see some exciting stories that explore the characters a bit deeper. A lot of times we get so caught up with “plot” in these books that the characters take a back seat. I think they’re all so rich and interesting, and Jonathan and Nick have done an amazing job of showing us new sides to them. In this arc, and hopefully future arcs of Avengers World, I hope to really explore some of these characters and provide fun stories along the way. So…it’s an Avengers World—let’s live in it? Eh, I got nothing. [Laughs]