It seems everyone - fans, creators and most heroes in the Marvel U - want to see the classic Steve Rogers return to replace the Hydra-fied Secret Empire Cap - and a new one-shot coming June 21 is looking to find out something to do that by heading to the Savage Land.
Secret Empire: Underground #1 by Jeremy Whitley and Eric Koda sends a admitted 'ragtag' team of Mockingbird, Quicksilver, Sam Wilson, Hercules, and Ant-Man into the wilds of Savage Land to find an as-yet-unrevealed Macguffin.
Could the jungles the second Steve Rogers seen in Secret Empire #2 and #3 be the jungles of the Savage Land, making him that that catalyst they're after? Whitley and Koda aren't spoiling that bit yet, but they do talk at length about other aspects of the book, from the team dynamics, the locale, and how it fits into Secret Empire.
Newsarama: Jeremy, is Secret Empire: Underground about Clint & Natasha's crew from the main Secret Empire title? What's going on here?
Jeremy Whitley: So, sort of. As Secret Empire progresses, readers will see two mindsets start to form amongst the heroes: those dedicated to finding a way to save Steve Rogers and those looking for a way to destroy him. Underground is about the group dedicated to finding a way to save Steve. This quest will lead them to the Savage Land, where they'll be looking for an artifact - a shard of the Cosmic Cube - that they believe can help bring back the Captain America we all know and love. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the reader, nothing is ever simple in the Savage Land.
Eric Koda: It’s Jurassic World meets The Breakfast Club or: a fun romp through the jungle with some serious stakes.
Nrama: How does this fit within the larger Secret Empire story?
Whitley: This story fits seamlessly between the issues of Secret Empire. One issue of Secret Empire will see these characters depart from the book on this quest and as Underground ends, they'll be returning back to the pages of Secret Empire. Underground is an adventure all its own, filled with dinosaurs and intrigue, but it's also a vital chapter in the complete story of Secret Empire.
Nrama: This isn't really a time-tested team, but one pulled together in emergency. What are the team dynamics like?
Whitley: Honestly I think ragtag teams are the most fun. Sure, it's great to have neat combo moves and all, but these are the guys and girls you can count on when the chips are really down. As a result, you get an interesting set of dynamics.
Koda: Well you have Mockingbird, the sensible one and then a bunch of guys who probably would prefer they were each on their own.
Whitley: Mockingbird is the de facto field leader of the team, but this is a group of guys with big personalities, so it's a little bit like herding cats.
Quicksilver has only agreed to be here because he's concerned for his sister's welfare, so he's not sure he has any interest in being led, particularly by Mockingbird.
Sam Wilson is usually a great guy to have on your team, but the reality for him is that he's going through a really rough time after Steve's betrayal.
Ant-Man is dealing with a very similar problem in that while he's still the same old wisecracking Scott Lang, he is balancing a lot of his own concerns.
Hercules's motivation is probably the most pure. Hercules is excited about this mission because he gets to fight dinosaurs. Any day he can punch a dinosaur is a good day for Hercules.
Koda: They are all united in their disdain for Sauron, however. My favorite part of this book was being able to draw Mockingbird's reactions to Sauron.
Nrama: Savage Land isn’t a Marvel vacation spot, but finding something that can, in your words, “bring back the Captain America we all know and love” would be worth it. Can you say anything about this MacGuffin?
Whitley: They believe that this item is in the Savage Land and in the possession of a particular jorts-wearing dinosaur man.
Savage Land is a storied part of Marvel lore - why are you going there, as a writer?
Whitley: It's a part of the Marvel Universe I love. As a kid who grew up on the X-Men animated series, it was one of my favorite elements of Marvel mythology. I mean, it's fun to have superheroes fight supervillains, but if you have the option to have your superheroes fight dinosaurs, why wouldn't you take it? On top of that, there's this whole interesting system of characters who have been fighting over control of the Savage Land for decades. With everything topsy-turvy for the rest of the Marvel Universe, it's a great time to see how that's affected the balance of things in the Savage Land.
Nrama: This is a one-shot, but could you see yourself doing more with this line-up in the future?
Koda: I could. They're all fun to draw!
Whitley: Oh yeah. I particularly love writing Mockingbird and would love the chance to do more with her. And, as readers will see, Sauron is a pretty big part of this story and it's so fun to write a truly awful villain. Sauron is completely unrepentant and narcissistic and it will be a constant fight for the Avengers to choose whether it's more important to succeed at this mission or to put Sauron in his place.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with this one-shot?
Koda: Hopefully to inject some humor and fun into a pretty dire situation.
Whitley: I think our big jobs are to wrap up this portion of the story and prepare this group to head into the final acts of Secret Empire. By the time we're done with them, these guys will have really been through the ringer and their hardest days are still ahead of them. Between our book and Secret Empire: Uprising, we should be setting all of the pieces in motion for the series to barrel towards its epic conclusion.
Above and beyond that, I also take it as our personal responsibility to do some interesting things with the Savage Land and make readers want to come back there as soon as we leave. I think we'll be accomplishing that and I hope the readers agree!