Rick Remender and Gabriel Hardman Bring a Robot Revolution To Secret Avengers

The secret is out: starting in February of 2012, writer Rick Remender and artist Gabriel Hardman are the new, ongoing team on Marvel’s Secret Avengers as of issue #22, preceded by a Point One issue by Remender and artist Patrick Zircher. And those aren’t the only big changes to the title… There’s a whole new team, led by Hawkeye, and featuring fan favorite Captain Britain. Plus, as we found out from chatting with Remender, a brand new Masters of Evil, and what happens when robots start to evolve – and are out to kill the Avengers:

MTV Geek: What makes these Secret Avengers unique? What’s your approach to the team?

Rick Remender: Well, in terms of what ISN’T different, the tone is going to be similar. There’s going to be a lot of black ops and espionage, and the promise of the book is that there have to be a lot of secrets – obviously. [Laughs] There needs to be threats, and they need to be dealing with things in the Marvel Universe that they are not attacking head on. That they’re trying to deal with things before they bubble up, but threats that are so large and terrifying that they demand an ensemble cast of powerful characters. Which we’ve got here.

I think we’ve got, with the team shake-up that’s coming, we’ve sort of turned up the power level of the team a little bit, as well as we’ve got a large cast with very different powers. That seems important to me, that each character has a very specific role, and each character brings something unique and different to the table, while still fitting the overall tone of the series.

To answer the broad question, the difference, for me, is the threat they’re going up against. I like what Brubaker’s set up here, and I want to make sure there’s no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. So while it’s a new team, with all new threats, the very basic aspects will be very similar. One of the loglines we’re using is, I think, that the first arc will have a secret war, a secret world, a secret species, a secret betrayal, a team death. High stakes intrigue, tons of character drama, and in the first arc we’re going to be dealing with the evolution of familiar automatons in the Marvel Universe. These will be members of the new species, The Descendants. And that’s one of the big things we’re building up to here.

Geek: So a nice, small story to kick things off.

RR: [Laughs] Oh, yeah, just the descendants of every robot in the Marvel Universe rising up in an automaton revolution, nothing too big.

Geek: Let’s talk about the new team a little bit. I know you’re bringing Captain Britain on board. What’s your take on him, and will we be seeing more international heroes like him?

RR: There will be more international heroes. It makes sense that when the team has to do things in other nations, that they would then team up with the heroes of that nation and bring them in on it. That’s something we’ll definitely be dipping into as the series progresses. But beyond just international, there’s interdimensional. And as we’re setting up in X-Force and Secret Avengers, Captain Britain is once again the Seer of Overworld, the dimension outside of all dimensions where he and the Captain Britain Corps guard the omniverse from inside the Starlight Citadel, which is home to an endless power with doorways leading to every dimension in existence. This is where Alan Moore coined 616.

So Brian is pretty important, given that he holds accesses to any dimension. That’s pretty handy, should an inter-dimensional threat approach our world. So as well as the international espionage and intrigue, I wanted to delve into interdimensional espionage and intrigue as well. Make it feel big in scope, and to make it an Avengers title.

Beyond that, Brian sort of plays the role of the noble curmudgeon, as I like to call him. I like Brian quite a lot as a character, and we’re going to be doing a lot with him in X-Force, and Secret Avengers to put a big, bright spotlight on him. He also plays a nice yin to Hawkeye’s yang, in terms of personality types. He’s not quite the straight man, but a bit of one. It’s a traditional dynamic in these teams, but its one that I like, and I think if you do it right there’s a lot to be mined from it.

Geek: Let’s talk about Hawkeye a little bit… Given the plot points you’re lying out, it’s interesting that he’s the guy who’s stepping up and leading the team, because he’s often been “the regular dude” hanging out with all the over-powered heroes. How does he deal with this? And additionally, he’s led before, but not for a while; is he going to have to get the rust out of the gears, so to speak?

RR: That’s all stuff we’ll be dealing with in the first arc. The way my run is breaking down right now, my first issue will be 21.1, which will be a done-in-one story I’m using to bridge the gap between everything that’s been done in the book so far, and what we have coming up. 21.1 follows Captain America and Hawkeye together, on a mission, and we’ll start to unearth not only the dynamic between those two, but Hawkeye as a character… While also introducing the new Masters of Evil.

So 21.1 will do what these Point One issues should do, be a done-in-one story that puts a light on the characters, and the team, and shows how they operate. But it will also be setting up a giant new threat in the Marvel Universe with the new Masters of Evil, which will come back to play a role later.

But speaking more to your question, I think Hawkeye is afraid of Captain America and those guys seeing him as a soldier, and not an equal. That desire for recognition, and undercurrent of tension between them… Hawkeye is kind of uncomfortable with the fact, and may be unconsciously looking for Cap’s approval. He’s always been the roguish, devil-may-care type, and I think that underneath that, whenever Cap does give his approval to Hawkeye, and when they’re done bickering, and when he does sign off… You can tell Hawkeye is glad for it. That’s something I’m definitely playing up quite a bit.

In 21.1, you see Captain America, he’s stretched thin and to the point where he recognizes that he needs to hand this Avengers team over to somebody. But he’s not quite sure if Hawkeye is the guy. And halfway through the mission, Hawkeye realizes that’s what’s going on, and he’s being tested. That brings up the big brother, little brother dynamic between those two, and I really use that to define who they are in terms of their relationship to one another. Obviously, Hawkeye is taking over the team – that’s not going to be a big reveal, that’s happening. It’s going to come down to the character moments that get us there to really make us care. And then once Hawkeye gets the job, because he’s had to jump through so many hoops, and he’s always been seen as the pedestrian amongst gods, he’ll overcompensate a little bit, which I have some plans for – some interesting wrinkles… He tries to act more like Captain America than himself. It’s the traditional character finding his way to being himself, that’s always fun stuff to explore.

Geek: I think you’ve given a couple of little hints on this already with the automatons storyline, but… You’ve certainly gone to some very interesting corners of the Marvel Universe before – Legion of Monsters on Punisher, Age of Apocalypse on X-Force… Is there any Avengers back issues we should be combing for clues to what’s coming up in Secret Avengers?

RR: Other than the new Masters of Evil – which I don’t want to give too much away, because we’ve got a really nice, new status quo for them, and its going to play a big role… With The Descendants, one of the big new species we’re dealing with here are The Adaptoids. The Adaptoids are descendants of the Super-Adaptoid, hyper-evolved, and sentient. That’s the thing about the Descendants, they are no longer robots. These are sentient robots far beyond anything you’ve seen before. And they all look somewhat familiar.

The big villain we deal with in the inciting incident is the Adaptoids. This is taking another classic Avengers villain, and updating them a little bit. With The Adaptoids, they’re going to be set up as the Sentinels for The Avengers. Sentinels hunt Mutants; Adaptoids hunt Avengers. They are motivated to that end by many different things – I don’t want to give it away, so I’m trying to dance around it. They are one of many different species we’ll be seeing in the first arc.

Like the Legion of Monsters stuff, and the X-Force stuff, we will be creating new worlds hidden deep within the Earth. There’s a new world called The Core, which is an automaton planet that is hidden within the Earth’s iron core. I like world building, and creating new things… As well as peppering them with the familiar, so it looks like the Marvel Universe you’ve seen before, and then you recognize that it’s completely new.

Geek: Okay, total fanboy question, but given the plot points you’re talking about… I’m a huge fan of the old series Livewires, any chance we’ll see them here?

RR: I came across the, but unfortunately not – I’ve got a pretty full cast right now.

Geek: Hey, I had to ask. Moving on, one thing that’s always seemed to hold back the Secret Avengers is that they’re disconnected from the other Avengers titles. Are we going to see more give and take coming up, particularly with the big Avengers crossover coming next year?

RR: Yeah, we are. There are some things coming up next year that will definitely see this team taking a big role in the Marvel Universe. But for me, I almost feel like… You said that it held the title back – I almost think it’s the strength of these books. For X-Force, we’ve gone out of our way to structure stories there that are self contained, and don’t deal with other continuity that much. Obviously, I’m picking things up along the way, like The World, and Deathlok – things that Jason Aaron has dusted off, and trying to make sure the books exist in the same world.

But by not connecting the books, I can tell a cleaner story, and don’t have to dance with fifteen other titles. So while both X-Force and Secret Avengers and Venom will be playing a larger role in the Marvel Universe, each one of those books is also set up to have its own self contained, bigger story that is reminiscent of what we’ve done in this first year of X-Force.

Geek: Last question… Anything else you want to tease about the Point One issue, the ongoing series, anything that will make fans HAVE to pick up Secret Avengers?

RR: If seeing the descendants of all of the Marvel Universe robots, if seeing the Masters of Evil, if seeing an Avenger die, if seeing covers by Arthur Adams, if seeing interiors by the brilliant Gabriel Hardman and Patrick Zircher… Those are pretty good spoilers, I’d think, and hint at the scope we’re going for with the series. I’m hopeful that people who read X-Force and Venom will at least try the first five issues. Because I’m pretty sure that with what we’ve got planned, you’re going to love it.

We also very briefly chatted with new series artist about his approach to Secret Avengers, and he had this to say:

“The exciting thing for me about Secret Avengers is the way it integrates these (mostly) black suited covert ops superheroes into a world of big crazy Marvel Universe concepts,” said Hardman. “I like to keep my art pretty grounded and make characters relatable. But I also love to draw enormous, epic action. You're getting all of that in Secret Avengers.”

There you go! The NEW Secret Avengers launches in February, 2012, with issue #21.1.

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