The upcoming relaunch of Marvel's New Avengers is fulfilling that "new" adjective more than ever inside "All-New All-Different Marvel." Al Ewing and Gerardo Sandoval are building an entirely new team of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on the back of themes that started in Jonathan Hickman’s previous run.
In New Avengers, former X-Man and current Avenger Sunspot sets up a new team – a partnership between the Avengers, and the newly reformed A.I.M. – which he hopes to use to right wrongs no single hero could withstand. But there’s more to meets the eye with this team, from traitors, to new tech, to Sunspot’s “Wanted” status in United States.
Ahead of New Avengers' October 14 debut, Ewing spoke with Newsarama about his collaboration with Sandoval, the team’s connection to a classic Avengers story, and his hopes that New Avengers will alter readers’ perspective of the Marvel Universe.
Newsarama: Al, this new volume of New Avengers has Sunspot carrying on what he started in the last volume of Avengers. How would you describe Sunspot's leadership method and his goals in this new series?
Al Ewing: Sunspot's goals are pretty simple - he wants to help. He wants his Avengers to be a global rescue force that's there to help people against out-of-the-ordinary threats, and he wants to integrate A.I.M. with the other forces of good in the world. But the trouble is that A.I.M., under old management, was riddled with psychopaths, murderers and assorted maniacs, and got a reputation as a force of extreme bad, and Sunspot's still kind of dealing with that. S.H.I.E.L.D. honestly doesn't know if he's a good guy or a bad guy, and the U.S. Government is very sure he's the latter - to the extent that if he ever sets foot on American soil, or in a country with an extradition treaty, he's going to be arrested. So his leadership style involves a lot of delegating responsibility - he's more like James Bond's M than Captain America.
Nrama: How did you decide which Avengers to assemble for New Avengers?
Ewing: "New" is the keyword here. I wanted younger characters, heroes who absolutely were Avengers-level but hadn't gotten the breaks yet - mainly because of age, but in Songbird's case because of her past and the direction her life had taken her. Sunspot came with A.I.M., and I loved that whole idea when Jonathan Hickman introduced it, so I wanted to do something with that. Pod is fascinating - this completely new character, part human, part something very strange and non-human - so she was in from the start. Power Man and White Tiger came from my Mighty Avengers run, because I wasn't done with them yet. Wiccan and Hulkling are too cool to leave on the shelf - I'm taking a cue from Kieron Gillen there, but also from Ryan North's Hulkling - I'm a big fan of his stuff, which brings us to Squirrel Girl. That's the fan in me. Who does that leave? Songbird and Hawkeye - these two add a little legitimacy. It's long past time Songbird got her spot, and it's always a lot of fun to have Hawkeye around - my take on him is based almost entirely on the LCD Soundsystem song "Losing My Edge", which I'm sure all readers will know.
It's a good cast, a nice balance. Maybe a little on the large side, but I'm confident I can bring the character moments.
Nrama: You mentioned Songird. She's ne of the more interesting characters in your roster, and is finally fulfilling a destiny that was teased all the way back in Avengers Forever more than 15 years ago by becoming an Avenger. Is that something you were aware of when placing her on the team, or was she simply a logical choice for your line-up?
Ewing: A bit of both. I think she was Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort's suggestion originally, but Avengers Forever has been floating in the back of everyone's mind for fifteen years now and we've all been subconsciously waiting for the moment when Songbird goes full Avenger. Is this that moment? Well, it depends on how official you think Sunspot's Avengers are - you might see this as a transitional phase. But it's definitely on the road to that moment.
Actually, it would be pretty cool to have her vanish into the timestream halfway through an issue, do Avengers Forever between panels and then come back! I'll have to re-read that series now.
Nrama: With Sunspot combining Avengers and A.I.M., will we see the New Avengers taking advantage of any crazy super-science?
Ewing: Oh yeah. They get a cool plane, various other vehicles for specialist work, and an assortment of gadgets. There's the standard kit - gravity belts for the non-flying members, lightbenders for stealth work, stuff like that - and I've got some ideas for more individualized gadgetry that'll work in the context of the heroes' powersets. I want A.I.M. to function like a Q branch, supplying cool stuff for every conceivable mission.
Nrama: And with that merger, A.I.M. island becomes Avengers Island. Can you talk about this new base for this new team of Avengers?
Ewing: It's based on the old Avengers HQ Hydrobase, which I remember as a kid - to the extent where I dug up an old map and based the layout on that. It's got a Mission Control center, a helipad, research and development hangars worthy of a kerbal, a rec center, a hospital, living quarters - everything the modern hero team with several billion dollars and a super-science cult at their disposal could possibly need. Including portal tech that allows the New Avengers to return to the U.S. in secret-identity mode, to do things like attend college or see their folks.
Nrama: Sunspot has spent most of his superhero career as a member of the X-Men, or X-Men offshoot teams. Does that affect the way he views the Avengers as a team, or how he approaches his mission of saving the world?
Ewing: He's used to being hated and feared, and he's learned to see past that to the job that needs doing. He's also used to a certain degree of soap-opera in his superheroics, so he's able to stay cool under emotional pressure, too. If you think about it, the X-Men have had it far, far worse than the Avengers for most of Marvel's timeline - (for more on this, listen to the fab Rachel & Miles X-Plain The X-Men podcast, which I heartily recommend you do) - so Roberto is used to operating under pressures someone like Steve Rogers can't really imagine. And he's learned to do it with flair.
Nrama: Advance solicitations have shown Ultimate Reed Richards on the cover of New Avengers #2. I know you probably can't spoil Secret Wars, but can you talk about his inclusion in this series?
Ewing: Well, in the spirit of not spoiling Secret Wars, I'll wonder aloud if this really is Ultimate Reed Richards? Maaaaybe it is. Maaaaaybe it isn't. Maybe that's a question I won't fully answer until Secret Wars #9 drops and that story is fully told. But it's definitely someone calling themselves the Maker and wearing his hat. And, over the course of the eight month gap, he's taken the remains of euro-organization W.E.S.P.E. - along with the pruned-off bits of A.I.M. that Roberto threw out - and created W.H.I.S.P.E.R., the World Headquarters for International Scientific/Philosophical Experimentation and Research. Their mission - like A.I.M.'s - is to make the world better. But what the Maker thinks is 'better' isn't bound by ideas of humanity, morality or conscience, which is why he's immediately diving into the forbidden necro-science of... life-minus! More of that in #1.
Nrama: The solicitation for New Avengers #3 teases a “traitor on the team.” Can you give us any hints about that?
Ewing: It's Hawkeye! Hawkeye is the traitor. He's reporting to S.H.I.E.L.D. constantly. Everyone knows about it, and nobody cares, aside from Hawkeye, who feels very uncool. Like he and Songbird are the parents chaperoning the prom. Anyway, Sunspot's cool about it, since he has nothing to hide... nothing... at all...
Oh wait, sorry. Did you mean the other traitor? Yeah, there's a secret second traitor. No idea who that is.
Nrama: That issue also promises a group called the Knights of the Infinite. "Infinite" and "Infinity" are loaded terms in Marvel lore -- can you tell us anything about these antagonists?
Ewing: The Knights Of The Infinite aren't connected to any previous Infinities - so they're nothing to do with, say, the Infinity Gauntlet. It's more the endless infinity of space. They are, however, very connected to Teddy Altman, a.k.a. Dorrek VIII, aka the Man Called Hulkling, who long-term readers will remember as being kind of a space-related guy himself. So we can expect some kind of outer-space action to hit Avengers Island with a bang.
Nrama: You’ve written the Avengers before, with two volumes of Mighty Avengers under your belt. How does your approach to this version of the team differ from what you’ve done before?
Ewing: Well, I was wanting to do something a little different from Mighty Avengers with my next team book. So while Mighty Avengers was consciously connected to ordinary humanity, at least when it wasn't delving into cosmic strangeness, New Avengers is 100% shiny and glam, all sleek space planes, techno-islands, gadgets and secret organizations with cool acronyms. (Which isn't to say there won't be room for the human level here, too.)
Nrama: Artist Gerardo Sandoval has a really kinetic, almost cartoony style. How does he handle the high concepts and big action promised by New Avengers?
Ewing: Very well, so far! He's got a definite energy about him that's extremely apparent when the new pages come through - I've compared him to Howard Porter before, in his layouts and the way he attacks pages. There's a kind of crackle that comes off the page, an immediacy to it that's hard to describe. And I'm enjoying what he's doing with his inks now.
Nrama: Aside from the few tidbits we’ve seen so far, what can you reveal about what’s coming up in New Avengers?
Ewing: The first six issues are three stories that connect together to form one big epic that'll fit in a trade. By the time we're done, we'll have gone through space and time, hopefully set up all our main concepts, and introduced not just a brand new villain to the Marvel Universe, but maybe even a brand new way of looking at that universe. We'll see how it goes!