U.S. Avengers is dovetailing into a weekly Avengers title in 2018, but before it does they'll be doing a Arhive/Riverdale-inspired finale - with what seems to be a return of the big bad from one of Marvel's biggest (and earleist) events.
This week's U.S. Avengers #11 is the penultimate issue of Al Ewing and Paco Diaz's corporate-style Avengers title, following up the fate of their missing teammate Cannonball. They find him on a strange planet with an Americana-name: Glenbrook, U.S.A. Glenbrook has all the trappings of an idyllic Riverdale-like 50s town - including an Archie Andrews analog named Ritchie Redwood.
...But who or what is Ritchie Redwood? Ewing teases he has a dark secret that longtime Marvel readers will recognize. Could his true identity be tied to a classic Marvel villain - such as the original Beyonder or the Skrulls - who have used simulacrum of Earth societies to set traps for heroes before?
Newsarama spoke with Ewing and Diaz about this finale, the Archie-esque shenanigans, and what's next.
Newsarama: Al and Paco, the upcoming “Legacy” arc of U.S.Avengers sends the team into uncharted territory - a world apparently based on a pretty familiar comic book of a very different genre. What can you tell us about that?
Al Ewing: Well, it's more of an affectionate celebration of that particular typical teenager - rhymes with "Starchie" - than it is a knock.
Nrama: We can say it – Archie.
Ewing: The thing about that particular universe is that it's often rolled with the times and reflected the world of today - sometimes more so than the more superhero-y comics coming out. And this story's got a lot to do with that - with the necessity of moving forward, of not getting stuck in amber. There's a pinch of classic Marvel in this story, and readers with an encyclopedic knowledge might find themselves guessing the twist a few pages before it hits, but if there's a message here, it's that - to quote a certain trickster I spent some time with - change is good. The new is good. That's as much what “Legacy”'s about as celebrating the old.
Paco Diaz: There is also certain sense of nostalgia. We have tried to convey an image of beauty - beautiful houses with gardens, vintage cars - based on the images of the advertising of the time, which will break as the plot progresses. It reminds me of the metaphor of David Lynch, at the beginning of the film Blue Velvet. The camera shows a beautiful idyllic community, with beautiful gardens and friendly people, and slowly sinks down to the surface of the grass, where it shows bugs and darkness - the strange and disturbing beneath the surface. Al does that with a Marvel twist, in a fun way.
Nrama: What threats does Glenbrook pose to the Avengers that more straightforward supervillains don’t?
Ewing: Glenbrook is not what it seems. There's a dark, dark secret underneath this perfect 1950s town in the depths of space, and it's embodied in the persona of Ritchie Redwood - or rather, someone who calls himself Ritchie Redwood and is very keen to be just like Ritchie Redwood. And he's very keen that everything else be just like Ritchie Redwood too - and he has the absolute power to make it so. If I said he was a strange cross between the Emperor Caligula and the kid from the "It's A Good Life" episode of Twilight Zone, that wouldn't be a million miles from the mark. So... yeah, he's a dangerous guy.
Nrama: The title of the story is “Cannonball Run.” How does the search for Sam Guthrie lead to this place?
Ewing: If you've been reading the comic for the past few months, you know that we pretty immediately went back on Sam's "death" - he was revealed alive the very next issue, but his situation has slowly been getting worse and worse. He was sold into slavery on a far-off alien world, and then picked up by an odd man in a cardigan - Howard Mason - to provide "education" on a far-off planet... that turned out to be an exact replica of a 50s American suburb. So, he's had a strange few weeks. Luckily, he's got a medical implant from the Shi'ar that pinpoints his location, so Smasher, his other half - with the U.S.Avengers as backup - is riding to the rescue. And now you know everything you need to to dive straight in!
Nrama: Paco, what is it like drawing this story, which has to balance traditional superhero characters with a more cartoonish environment?
Diaz: I have no problem doing that. We have created our own version of the characters that perfectly fits with the atmosphere of the story. Al set up just the right boundaries for this new world and its interconnections with the Marvel Universe. The characters are clearly developed. Al gives each one of them their own voice and provides great dialogue, so my job is really easy.
Nrama: The question on everyone’s mind is, will Cannonball be back and healthy after this?
Ewing: He's already back! And yes, he'll be blasting off again. And that's not the only X-cameo you'll find in these pages - there are some surprising guest appearances by some classic X-characters. Or at least... bits of them?
Paco, Al is known for his big cosmic ideas, and this cross-genre story might take the cake. What’s the weirdest thing he’s asked you to draw yet?
Ewing: Well, the mixed genres make it incredibly bizarre. It's a fun tribute to sci-fi B-series where very different concepts come together to create a purposive sentiment of strangeness. I'll just say: a big robot with hat and tie.
Nrama: Is there a bigger threat at the heart of this story – beyond (or behind) Glenbrook U.S.A.?
Ewing: In a sense. Like I said, there's a twist at the heart of it all that will make old-time Marvelites chuckle (without excluding the new ones, of course). Some old Avengers friends, or foes, or somewhere in between, will be making a guest appearance. I'll look forward to what the message boards make of that tidbit - especially if they happen to guess right.
Nrama: After this story this Avengers squad is taking part in “Avengers: No Surrender.” Al, what can you tell us about the U.S.Avengers involvement in that?
Ewing: They're reunited and it feels so good! They're all present, all correct, and all in for the fight of their lives. If "Cannonball Run" is the last wild, weird, only-the-U.S.-Avengers-could-do-it story of the run... "No Surrender" is when things get serious. It's the final stand. Not everyone's going to come out of it in one piece. U.S.Avengers fans are going to see their heroes hailed as Avengers, and prove themselves worthy of the name once and for all in the fiercest, toughest, bloodiest crucible they've ever had to face. We're going out standing tall, standing proud, and with a little of our signature flair.
Nrama: It hasn’t been revealed how the individual Avengers titles will function once “No Surrender” is done, but will either of you play a part in telling the next stories for these characters?
Ewing: I do have a project leading out of "No Surrender". That's all I'll say until the time is right.
Nrama: Before we get to “No Surrender,” what can you tell readers about what’s coming in the apparent U.S.Avengers finale?
Ewing: What isn't coming? Robots, wiseguys, typical teenagers, X-Men, bits of X-Men, space people, rocket legs, gravity balls, the terrible secret of Bugface Brown, soda shops, exploding report cards, heart problems, and - if I can fit it in there - the U.S.Avengers soundtrack. Oh, and if you're curious about that bloody crucible I mentioned... we drop a little hint you might not want to miss. Miss it never, true believer!