As we look back at the five years since the Avengers were relaunched, it's apparent that drastic changes were made in order to clear way for the direction writer Brian Michael Bendis wanted to make to the franchise.
Yet according to Marvel's marketing about the upcoming Siege storyline – the four-issue, Avengers-centric mini-series by Bendis that begins in January – there are even more drastic changes to come.
"What happens in those four issues are as big a change to the Avengers franchise as when we came on for Disassembled," Bendis told Newsarama. "The aftermath of Siege – who lives, who dies, what the teams are like, how the books are published, who's on the books – it's as big a change as it's ever had. It's a franchise changer."
Siege is being drawn by Olivier Coipel, whom Bendis collaborated with on House of M, with inks by Mark Morales and colors by Laura Martin. The event spills into a significant list of other Marvel titles.
"I'll be writing the tie-ins for both New Avengers and Dark Avengers, and like the Secret Invasion tie-ins, we'll reveal answers to questions, like who secret people are and what deals were made and what's been going on behind the scenes in a lot of books," Bendis said.
The event is also the end of Dark Reign, so "all of that will be wrapped up in pretty explicit ways leading up to the finale of Siege," Bendis said.
"Coming out of the end of Siege, just like at the end of Civil War and to a slightly smaller extent at the end of House of M, everything in the Marvel Universe is going to change one more time," explained Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, who oversees the Avengers titles. "And there's going to be a new status quo and new positioning of all the players within that. And that's going to greatly affect the Avengers books."
According to Dan Slott, who writes Mighty Avengers and helped launch the Avengers: The Initiative comic two years ago, the changes that result from Siege tie together many of the threads that have been building in the Avengers titles and the Marvel Universe since the Avengers relaunch five years ago.
"There's been a long storyline brewing at Marvel for a long time. It starts with Disassembled and goes through House of M and Civil War and Secret Invasion. It's going to reach its climax in Siege," he said.
Bendis said the characters who experienced all these events have been changed by them, and the events of Siege will bring them together. "After all these people have been through over the last few years – Disassembled, and the distrust of Civil War and Secret Invasion – what could be a threat big enough to get Cap, Iron Man and Thor on the same team again? Gladly?" Bendis said. "That is what Siege is."
Brevoort said that, while the success five years ago of the major changes in Disassembled would seem to support a change like this, it's always a risk to alter things this way.
"Having done this two or three times now, it's a process I'm pretty comfortable with. And we wouldn't be making the changes we're going to be making if I and everybody else involved – Joe and Dan and Brian and so forth – didn't feel a great deal of confidence in what we're going to do," he said. "That being said.... You're changing things around, and any time you change things around, it's always potentially a recipe for disaster."
As for what those big changes are going to be, the folks at Marvel aren't saying. But readers have seen previews and teasers that indicate Norman Osborn and Loki get the event going by attacking Volstagg – and potentially angering the characters of Asgard.
"I can't tell you too much, of course, since that preview is meant to be just that – a preview," Brevoort said. "But Asgard will play a very central role in Siege – it's the battlefield upon which the conflict will be played out."
With the Avengers film scheduled to be released in 2011, it's not surprising that all indications are Captain America, Iron Man and Thor will be getting back together on the comic book Avengers team, although Bendis said the changes will be bigger than just those three working together.
"It's something as exciting as I've ever seen in mainstream comics. I think there's going to be something for everybody who likes these kinds of books. There will be a lot of things you haven't seen before," Bendis said. "I love that we're not doing it because we have to. It's not being done out of necessity. It's because we have a cool story to tell. The story is telling itself. There's a big story to tell.
"This is why I love being at Marvel, is stuff like this. You can get in a room and have a story to tell, and no one holds onto the status quo just because they don't want change. They don't keep the status quo until they run it into the ground. They understand it's an organic thing that is constantly changing and moving. And if somebody's got a good story to tell, tell it," he said.
Brevoort pointed out that it's not just the Avengers who are going to be altered by this mini-series. "The best analogy I can give you is to point backward," the editor said. Siege is a very Avengers-centric story, and the Avengers are very front-and-center in it, and it's mostly about them. But House of M was mostly about them too, and yet it affected every X-Men book we put out ever since.
"There are certain books that aren't going to be touched at all by Siege, I'm sure," Brevoort said. "And there are going to be a lot of books that are profoundly affected by it, even with characters that may not be involved directly in Siege, because what comes after Siege is 'where the universe is now.'"
Slott said the catch-phrase "The New Age of Heroes" is pretty descriptive of what comes after Siege. "I think this is going to redefine heroic storytelling for this generation. We've come through the Dark Reign and we're going to come out in a new age of heroes," Slott said.
Where the characters and writers and artists and everyone else involved with the Avengers end up after Siege is anybody's guess, since Bendis has indicated there will be changes to the publishing plan behind the Avengers franchise. But as the architect of much of the Avengers stories over the last five years, Bendis is going to stick around for a while.
"I'm staying with the franchise. This is a great deal of fun, and an amazing writing challenge," he said. "I'm absolutely staying with it. They've started work on the movie, and I'm part of the creative committee. We had this Avengers meeting a few weeks ago that was so much fun. It blew me away. And I thought to myself, don't leave Avengers! You know? It's the best job in the world."
Check back tomorrow as we review all the news about the Avengers movie and find out what Bendis and others think of the plans.