Marvel has been promising a major death in Civil War II #3 for weeks now - a death so major they planned a midnight release to promote the issue. Now that Civil War II #3 is on stands, fans know not only which hero died, but that their death came at the hands of another hero. To go inside Civil War II #3's big moment, and to learn what it could mean for the future Newsarama caught up with Marvel Exceutive Editor Tom Brevoort.
Spoilers ahead for Civil War II #3.
Brevoort explained how Hawkeye's killing of Bruce Banner both is - and isn't - the "New Warriors" moment of Civil War II #3, along with what this means for the rapidly shrinking roster of Hulks, how this moment leads directly to The Accused and The Fallen, and how Hawkeye killing Banner will shape "Marvel NOW!" and the divides that are growing among Marvel's heroes.
Newsarama: Tom, it’s safe to say Civil War II #3 wasn’t the explosive fireworks show some fans were likely expecting, though it certainly did not lack for drama. What led to the decision to keep the big moment with Bruce Banner and Clint Barton relatively low key?
Tom Brevoort: I think that was just the storytelling choice Brian Bendis made, again laying this story out in an unexpected fashion, and as dramatic a fashion as he could conceptualize.
Nrama: Bruce Banner is the third big casualty of Civil War II, and the second Hulk to suffer serious consequences in the story as a result of Ulysses’ vision. It almost seems like you’re clearing the board of Gamma-powered heroes, despite bringing back Doc Samson in Civil War II #0. We know Amadeus Cho has a big role in "Marvel NOW!." Is there a push to make him Marvel’s one true Hulk?
Brevoort: I think just being that he’s the Hulk of record right now makes him the “one true Hulk.” I don’t know that there’s a specific push towards that in what we’re doing here any moreso than there was a while back when Gerry Duggan did his Hulk storyline when Doc Green cured a bunch of other Hulk-y type characters of their Gamma irradiated-ness. It may just be that, for a time, we had a lot of Hulks, and now we’re scaling down to have fewer Hulks. I don’t think there’s anything more to read into it.
Nrama: So Captain America is an agent of Hydra (or at least he believes he is), Jane Foster is Thor, Bruce Banner is dead, Hawkeye has killed one of his fellow heroes, and Iron Man will be a 15-year-old black girl... It’s almost if you are daring fans of the movies and the animated show to find anything resembling them in the comic books. Is there a specific intent to defy expectations, or is this just the way the stories are working out for the time being?
Brevoort: [laughs] I think it’s mostly the latter. This is where the storytelling and the desires of our creators and the zeitgeist of our creators happen to be taking us. It is a lot all at once. I was thinking about this just this morning. I don’t know if there’s ever been a period in Marvel history where so many of the fundamental building block characters were in such a different state.
But it also kind of speaks to the fact that the world of comics, much like the real world, simply moves faster than ever before. Walking around the office today, I passed by the collection of Secret Wars and I thought to myself, “Man, it feels like forever since we put Secret Wars out,” and yet it’s only been six months or so since the last issue came out. The movement and turnaround in comics has just accelerated from what it had been in days past. And so consequently, a lot more stuff is happening with a lot more characters more quickly and with more overlap than at any other time in history.
That said, it’s not like you can’t find Scott Lang as Ant-Man, or a Vision that’s not markedly different from Paul Bettany’s Vision. It’s not like there’s no connection between what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is doing and what we’re doing. And they certainly don’t seem afraid to shake things up either, with the Hulk’s disappearance at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Steve Rogers putting down the shield at the end of Captain America: Civil War. And who knows what will happen to those characters in the films to come?
It’s all serial storytelling, so the idea that anything can happen to any of these characters, that’s something I embrace wholeheartedly.
Nrama: Hawkeye’s fate is left somewhat ambiguous at the end of Civil War II #3, though we can guess which way Tony believes the verdict will go, but it’s not revealed in the issue. And he's in the graphic for the "Marvel NOW!" Occupy Avengers title. Is this the start of a status quo change for Clint Barton? His protégé Kate Bishop was prominent in the "Divided We Stand" teaser – alongside Amadeus Cho, no less. What is Clint's new status quo?
Brevoort: You’re gonna have to wait and see. What happens to Clint and where he ends up is a big part of the Civil War II story, as seen in this issue. I can’t go into any particular details. Maybe in a few weeks time we can get deeper into it when Civil War II #4 drops, or after issue #5. We’ll get to that. He’s clearly a fulcrum player in the Civil War II story.
Nrama: Clint’s trial is somewhat emblematic of the changes that have happened in Marvel’s superhero community since the end of the first Civil War, in terms of oversight and accountability. But the trial also raises a bigger question as Ulysses’ powers were revealed to the government and the public. Obviously, if his power can really predict disasters, there’s a great value in that. Is Ulysses going to be a target for people outside the superhero community now?
Brevoort: As I think you’ll see in a few tie-in books such as Civil War II: Kingpin and the Squadron Supreme tie-in issues, and there may be others as well, he became a potential target as soon as he showed up. This will make him more of a target, or at least a figure of interest, but that having been said, at the moment he lives at the center of a city of superhumans so he’s in about as safe an environment as he could be, and he does most of his day to day work in the headquarters of Alpha Flight, the Ultimates, the Wakandan Consulate, and S.H.I.E.L.D., so he’s certainly got plenty of protection.
Nrama: Speaking of Ulysses’ powers, Tony seems to have discovered their true nature at the end of the issue, though he wasn’t kind enough to share the revelation with us. Is this the turning point for how Tony will operate moving forward? So far he’s been argumentative, but mostly cooperative with the other heroes. Is this where that changes?
Brevoort: I think you’ll certainly see a change and a bit of a ramp up as Tony and F.R.I.D.A.Y. lay out what they’ve discovered next issue.
Nrama: Civil War II #3 saw the beginnings of sides forming, with heroes starting to voice their support for one side or the other, and as we’ve seen in advance solicitations, the conflict likely will get more physical. Is Bruce Banner’s death the real inciting incident for the Marvel Universe at large? He wasn’t a casualty of a fight with a deadly foe like War Machine or She-Hulk – he was taken out by a fellow hero. Is this the New Warriors moment for Civil War II?
Brevoort: Kind of, yes. It’s certainly a galvanizing moment. It’s not really the "New Warriors" moment per se, in that events are already unfolding at this point. The train is already on the track even before this happened. Had this moment not occurred, had Hawkeye not taken that shot, a series of events would still have played out. The question of Ulysses’ powers and whether they should be used would still be in the air.
That said, the death of Bruce Banner is certainly a divisive moment among virtually all the characters that are involved, and presumably for characters that are not involved. It’s a terrifying thing for just about anybody to see someone like the Hulk get taken down and taken out in such a brutally efficient, cold, unhesitating manner. That’s gonna spark strong reactions on all sides. I can’t imagine there are a lot of people among the superhero community that are terribly comfortable with what Hawkeye did. And not necessarily because of his actions, but because of what it means, and where it leads in a larger sense.
Nrama: Springboarding off of that, is there a sub-question, a second philosophical debate forming here about whether heroes should kill? Hawkeye’s killed before, but very rarely. But this is something different. Is this a question that Civil War II will pose moving forward?
Brevoort: I think you’ll see certain characters grapple with that. I don’t know if it will be the case for everybody, or if it’ll be a conversation in Civil War II so much as some of the stories that grow out of this. I’d imagine, for example, that that’s a question that will be very much at the forefront of Champions as those young heroes try to reclaim heroism and become the role-models that they wish they had. That will be the kind of question that characters like that will have to grapple with moving forward. So it’s definitely something that’s in the cloud of conversation, but it’s not a principal theme of the core series.
Nrama: You mentioned the Champions, the team of young heroes forming after Civil War II. We’ve seen some titles from "Marvel NOW!: revealed over the last couple weeks, and the trend that’s forming seems to be a divide on generational lines. The seeds of that are sewn in Civil War II #3, with Nova and Miles appearing to side with Tony Stark. Is the post-CWII Marvel Universe’s divide as simple as kids vs. adults?
Brevoort: It’s not that simple, no. I can see how someone would come to that conclusion based on what we’ve shown so far, but what we’ve shown isn’t the whole picture yet. We have four more issues of Civil War II, and I’m holding as many cards as close to the vest about those as possible all the way to the end.
It’s not as simple a divide as that, and it’s not necessarily going to be a single divide that separates the Marvel Universe. It’s more like if you dropped a plate and it shattered, you’d have cracks radiating out in all directions. So no, it will not be as simple as kids vs. adults. Even among the Champions, they’re not necessarily “anti-adult,” they’re “pro-activism,” and all about being the change they want to see in the world. They’re taking responsibility and taking action, almost as a generational thing. They’re not the “young heroes” anymore, they are the heroes. They’re this generation’s heroes.
Nrama: Last time we spoke, we briefly touched on the upcoming one-shots The Fallen and The Accused. Now that we know who is "Fallen" – Bruce – and who is "Accused" – Clint – what can you tell us about those Civil War II tie-ins?
Brevoort: As we announced this week, The Accused will focus on the trial of Clint Barton. You see a portion of it in Civil War II #3, but you’re really just getting the Reader’s Digest version of events. The Accused will fill out that story, and fill in all the details of the trial. It features Matt Murdock and Daredevil as the lead character, and it effectively functions as the Daredevil tie-in to Civil War II. It's written by Marc Guggenheim, with art by Garry Brown and Ramon Bachs.
The Fallen is about Bruce Banner’s death. It has his memorial, and it deals with any number of characters that are in his circle. It sets them on interesting trajectories and paths that will play out into the future. Greg Pak, who as you know has quite a history with the Hulk, is writing that one with Mark Bagley on art.
Nrama: We also know that Tony Stark is retiring as Iron Man in the wake of Civil War II and Riri Williams is taking his place. Brian Bendis made it seem like Tony’s just taking a leave of absence to detox and deal with the revelation of his birth parents – but we’ve got our own theory about his fate. Is Tony Stark toast?
Brevoort: [laughs] You’re gonna have to wait and see! We killed Bruce Banner. We killed Rhodey. We nearly killed She-Hulk. We don’t seem to be messing around too much in Civil War II. It shouldn’t be assumed that anyone we haven’t shown post Civil War II, such as the Champions, is safe. It’s certainly possible, but you’ll have to wait and see. You laid your money down and picked your number, the wheel is spinning, and now we’ll have to see if the bouncing ball lands in red or black.
Nrama: Speaking of Tony’s parents, we had this crazy theory the other day that Black Widow is Tony’s real mom – Infinity Formula and all that making it possible. Is Natasha Tony’s mother? And if not, are you mad that we thought of it before you guys did?
Brevoort: I’d only be mad if it was a good idea [laughs]. I don’t want to rule anything out, because part of the fun of this is guessing and coming up with theories, and it’s great when someone in the fan world can beat us to the punch. It’s much more difficult to keep a secret or not tip our hand now that fans can communicate more easily. So props to our audience. They’re beacucoup smart at figuring stuff out.
That having been said, the Black Widow as Tony Stark’s mom is a crazy idea [laughs]. I don’t know that Vegas odds makers would give you favorable numbers on that, but I don’t like to rule anything out completely. That’s part of the fun of it.
Nrama: I think your Vegas odds will set some of our readers at ease who seemed to think we were making an official announcement rather than positing a theory.
Brevoort: That’s how the game of internet telephone works. You saw it with the "Hail Hydra" moment in Captain America: Steve Rogers #1. Some people latch onto the idea of how something was reported to them rather than the actual content and some of them even maintain their knee-jerk feelings once they see what’s actually going on.
Nrama: All joking aside, Civil War II #3 was a major turning point in the superhero conflict, and seems like a bit of a mission statement as to how this story will be told. What’s coming up in Civil War II #4 and beyond? Are there any more big shockers we should be bracing ourselves for?
Brevoort: Hopefully there are two or three big shockers left to come. We’ve got something going on in every issue that should take you aback or spin your head around a little bit. Certainly in #4, you’ll learn more about how Ulysses’ powers work. You’ll see factions form up, including some strange bedfellows that you might not have thought you’d see together. You’ll see a lot more interaction and conversation among people all over the spectrum, and you’ll see more proactive justice in action. And you’ll start to see actual fisticuffs. By the end of Civil War II #4, there will be some actual punching and hitting.