Al Ewing reveals Steve Rogers’ plans for A.I.M. as Secret Empire dawns

In U.S.AVENGERS #6—available May 17—Steve Rogers continues his campaign to remake the Marvel Universe in Hydra’s image by finally seizing control of A.I.M. One cannot help but wonder, however, what’s motivating the Sentinel of Lies to pull this society of scientists under his wing.

Thankfully, we do not need to wonder when we have writer Al Ewing on the speed dial. He gladly gave us some perspective on Rogers’ dark plan.

Marvel.com: To begin with, why is A.I.M. such a glittering prize for Steve Rogers in specific and Hydra in general?

Al Ewing: Well, they’re not a glittering prize as such—although if he can sway any to his side, that’s fine—but they are a potential complication, and one with the potential to mess up his intricate plans. So ideally, he needs to get them out of the way, both by making sure they don’t interfere with his plan as it unfolds, and then after that, by making sure they don’t interfere with Hydra business.

Marvel.com: What threat would an independently operating A.I.M. represent for Rogers?

Al Ewing: Well, for one thing, they’ve been trained to resist hypnosis in a way S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t—thanks to the teachings of the late, great Professor X—so Rogers can’t just use his good friend Dr. Faustus to brainwash them. Which means he’s probably going to have to lock them up in some secret facility somewhere and work on them for a while. He can’t let a bunch of super-scientists run around free and unsupervised.

Marvel.com: How does he envision A.I.M. working after he fully seizes control of them? What is his ideal vision of them as an organization?

Al Ewing: I imagine if he can get the whole organization on board, he’ll put them to work somehow, most likely as an arm of Hydra.

To be honest, what Rogers probably wants from A.I.M. is for them to just get back in their safe little box and be “evil scientists” again so at least he can understand what’s going on with them. He’s an old man at heart, he likes things a certain way and why does he have to change?

Marvel.com: As Roberto da Costa struggles against and, seemingly, falls to Rogers’ agenda, what are his fears for A.I.M.? Where does he worry it might go under someone else’s direction that isn’t his?

Al Ewing: Well, Roberto’s going to have a lot to worry about himself. As people might have guessed from the solicits, he’s in some serious personal danger and he might not make it through this one alive. But assuming he does, I’d imagine his biggest nightmare for A.I.M. would be them slipping backwards into their old, evil ways, or being lured there by a charismatic creep like Rogers.

Marvel.com: U.S.AVENGERS, particularly with this issue, is a great mix of intense action and political machinations. How does Paco Medina’s art help to bring that to life on the page without either element eclipsing the other? Any particular sequence, without spoilers, you are really excited for fans to see him render?

Al Ewing: Paco’s brilliant and he draws an amazing Red Hulk, too. I’m going to particularly enjoy seeing him deal with the sequence set in Europe, since that’s going to feature some exciting guest stars—for anyone who knows his work, we’re bringing back a selection of the contestants from the CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS comic we did together. So fans of Guillotine, Outlaw, and Ares should hopefully be happy there. I know I will be.

See if Steve Rogers succeeds in U.S.AVENGERS #6, available May 17 courtesy of Al Ewing and Paco Medina!

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Al Ewing makes the case for Rocket as a criminal mastermind!

To paraphrase a cliché, Rocket has proven good when he does good. But when he does bad? Well, then that not-a-raccoon has shown himself to be downright great.

In ROCKETissue #1 on sale May 10—writer Al Ewing and artist Adam Gorham will go all in on the diminutive Guardian’s felonious side. The writer kindly took a moment from baking a file into a cake to listen to our reasons why his protagonist has a natural talent for being bad and agree or disagree.

He’s small for getting in where he doesn’t belong and hiding

“Technically, that could come in handy down the line, but so far size hasn’t been a factor, and neither has hiding,” Ewing counters. “In fact, the big heists and other assorted shenanigans he’s had so far at the time of writing—I’m up to the end of issue #4—are pretty brazen, full of big moments and high-octane action. Still, I definitely wouldn’t rule out the possibility of ducts in the future. Everybody likes ducts, and Rocket could easily fit in one.”

He’s quiet which helps with sneaking.

“Again, Rocket hasn’t really had to sneak much so far—although there is a bit of implied sneaking when we get to the bit where he pulls a complex jailbreak from the roughest, toughest prison in outer space, a Swiss-watch affair that makes ‘Prison Break’ look like day release from the kiddie’s ball pit at a fast food restaurant,” the writer confesses.

He’s possibly nocturnal which is good because night is the best time for doing crimes

“I’d agree with this,” affirms Ewing. “Rocket isn’t really a morning person, and while there are many crimes that happen in the morning, like stealing newspapers from doorsteps and milk float theft, not to mention the ongoing violent attacks on worms by the bird community, Rocket isn’t really going to get involved in that. He’s going to be mostly committing much flashier ‘after dark’ crimes.”

He has a defiant fearless attitude

“Rocket certainly is a rude dude who exudes ‘tude’!” enthuses the writer. “And he’s not in a subdued mood, even when nude or being booed. In fact, to be crude, he’s much ballyhooed, an objet d’etude which the shrewd conclude cannot be pooh-poohed.”

He’s great with weapons including those nearly as big as him

“He does have a Cable-like strength and steadiness when it comes to aiming relatively giant guns,” Ewing allows. “Will he be displaying it here? Adam Gorham—and let’s use this as an excuse to mention the top-notch art by Adam Gorham, colored to perfection by our resident color artist Michael Garland—hasn’t yet drawn the latest gun I’ve written into the script, and it’s possible that might end up being huge, but so far Rocket’s guns have been relatively small, elegant, and set to stun. I know that’ll be a disappointment to those fans who love his violent side, but a good heist is all about style.”

He is good at working in groups aka organizing criminal conspiracies

“Kind of?” hedges Ewing. “On the one hand, the book takes place while he’s away from the Guardians, so he is capable of operating solo. On the other hand, he does keep teaming up with people—whether it’s half the Technet, or a sentient bag of unknown gas from a Gas World, or the ever-delightful Deadpool. We’ve yet to have him tackle a job completely solo, and looking ahead at my future plans, I have to wonder if we ever will.”

He has raccoon-like qualities

“I added this one in myself,” states the writer, seizing control. “Raccoons, as you’ll learn from their Wikipedia page, have extremely sensitive senses of hearing and touch, and Rocket, being very raccoon-like—although he’s not a raccoon, as he’ll tell you—also has. That makes him incredibly good at cracking safes. The more you know.”

No one ever suspects the guy with fur

“Poppycock,” the writer protests. “Bears have fur and I’m very suspicious of bears and their constant theft of my pick-a-nick baskets. Also you can hide penny sweets in especially thick fur and steal them and eat them later. And Cruella De Ville had fur. Objection sustained and case closed, your honor.”

Get into trouble with Al Ewing and Adam Gorham in ROCKET #1 on May 10!

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Steve Rogers and Roberto da Costa face off about the group’s future!

Steve Rogers has arrived and his agenda shall not be ignored—well, that’s his plan, anyway.

Roberto da Costa, the former Sunspot and current Citizen V, however has different thoughts on the matter. He helped turn A.I.M. from an enclave of evil into an entity of scientific good in the world and he sees it just as the start. Why should he cede control now?

U.S.AVENGERS writer Al Ewing has studied the case and stands ready to arbitrate, but squeezed us into his docket to review the dispute.

Marvel.com: In U.S.AVENGERS #5, we’re promised what seems to be a battle between Sunspot and Steve Rogers for the direction of A.I.M. To handicap that faceoff for a moment, what advantages does each person—Steve and Roberto—bring to the situation?

Al Ewing: It’s more of a standoff than a battle. Steve, as the new big man on campus at S.H.I.E.L.D., is essentially Roberto’s boss now that A.I.M. have been absorbed by everyone’s favorite global superspy organization. Since Steve Rogers is also an agent of HYDRA after some meddling from a Cosmic Cube, and Roberto doesn’t know that…well, the situation’s a little tricky.

Steve’s goal here is to see if Roberto can be persuaded as to the rightness of his cause, and if not—and let’s face it, it’s going to be “not”—he’s going to find whatever weaknesses he can in A.I.M.’s defenses and generally get Roberto rattled enough to make an error.

Roberto’s goal, meanwhile, is to get through a particularly rough, and increasingly strange, performance evaluation.

Marvel.com: To look at the debit side of the ledger, what are each of their vulnerabilities or weaknesses?

Al Ewing: Roberto doesn’t know what’s going on with Steve. That’s a biggie—that’s everything. This is the first time Roberto’s been in a situation where he hasn’t been two steps ahead.

But from Steve’s point of view, Roberto is clever enough to figure it all out—if Steve pushes too hard. So there are a lot of subtle tactics, a lot of gentle probing, pushing and the occasional naked micro-aggression. HYDRA-fied Steve Rogers might think he’s the hero of his own story, but he’s a very nasty character, and he doesn’t mind if people don’t like him, either. He’s going to put all that to work.

Marvel.com: If we were able to speak to both of them, why would they say that control of the direction of A.I.M. should be theirs?

Al Ewing: Steve Rogers can’t have any loose cannons and general weirdos interfering with his masterplan. A.I.M. could be great allies of HYDRA if they just knocked off this goofy stuff they’ve gotten into. Steve likes the way Roberto’s rehabilitated the brand in the public eye, he just thinks he needs to straighten up at this point and fly right. As for Roberto, why would he want to quit now? He’s just gotten started. If Roberto’s going to hand A.I.M. over to anyone, it’ll be someone who gets it—in the meantime, he’s going to keep control as long as he can.

Marvel.com: This conflict leaves Sam Guthrie, Cannonball, feeling as though he is being pulled in separate directions. What about this situation is leaving him feeling as though he is stuck in the middle? What does each party represent and mean to him?

Al Ewing: Sam is actually on leave this issue—he’s being pulled in separate directions because he’s on his new home planet with his space family. Except Earth is his home planet, isn’t it?

Readers have been asking what the status of Izzy—aka Smasher—and their son Joshua is, and whether the marriage is going to turn up in the book; well, this issue, it does. It’s been mentioned before that Sam commutes to the team from space, but this is the first time we’ve seen him on weekends, or seen how nice the Shi’ar colony planets can be. Sam’s got a lot to think about.

Marvel.com: Within A.I.M. is there a dominant opinion amongst the employees about the direction the organization should go and who should be in charge of it?

Al Ewing: At this point, Roberto’s pruned the organization pretty effectively; anyone with a hankering for the bad old days of evil science and world takeover has been pretty much kicked out. But there are always one or two who are nostalgic for the good old days of bad against good, and Roberto might find traitors in the ranks where he least expects them.

See how the situation between Steve and Roberto plays out in U.S.AVENGERS #5 by Al Ewing and artist Paco Diaz, coming April 19!

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Al Ewing outlines the challenges that will change the Inhumans forever!

The Royals will be putting the jet planes, the islands, and the tigers behind them this April because they have decided to leave the world and its treats behind for the indifferent vacuum of space. Motivated by a sense of exploration and a need to find their roots, this collection of the Inhuman ruling class—and Marvel Boy—will depart terra firma for parts unknown.

It will, however, not be any easy task. Challenges await them in the cosmos and within their ranks. Difficulties that may derail them long before they even reach their first planet.

Writer Al Ewing took time off from reviewing his star charts to give us some insight on this team as we eagerly await ROYALS #1.

Marvel.com: To start, the first time we spoke about this series launch, artist Jonboy Meyers had just been assigned. Now the book is nearly arriving on shelves and you’ve worked with Meyers for a bit, how has the collaboration been? What about his work has helped you realize the tone you were seeking for the book?

Al Ewing: I like Jonboy’s stuff a lot; he’s got a lot of energy to his art that really spills off the page and gives the scenes a lot of extra crackle. He’s influenced the book in a lot of ways—for one, during the original design phase he provided a whole bunch of variant outfits for each character, and I think we’re going to end up using most of them—at least as starting points.

He keeps doing it, too. I just got some great art back with a couple of Royals in some very spiffy-looking space suits, fighting Chitauri on the hull of a speeding spaceship as it hurtles past Pluto. Also, that’s happening, we’re doing that.

Marvel.com: What about Marvel Boy’s skills or natural talents makes him the right man to act as the navigator for the Royals?

Al Ewing: He’s loaded down with natural and unnatural talent. He’s got all those cockroach genes, for a start, and his personal weapons system plugs right into the Royals’ spaceship in a way I think readers will enjoy. And also, he’s the guy who knows where they’re going and what they’re going for, heading to Hala for a secret only he knows about.

Wait, only he? No, there might be another crew member who has an understanding of it—and it’s not who we think it is.

Marvel.com: In this launching of their journey, staying away from spoilers as best as you can/want to, what are some of the immediate obstacles the Royals may encounter?

Al Ewing: Death lays a bony paw on one of the team pretty much immediately. Is this the same team member who won’t come back? Who can say? It’s all riddles from me at this point.

In terms of something we can be a bit more certain about in an interview context, I mentioned Chitauri earlier. We’re not so much tying-in with Secret Empire as glancing off it at an angle—Medusa and company fly face first into the oncoming Chitauri wave as it heads for Earth. How they get out of that one is going to be one of the big Marvel moments people remember—I’m pretty confident about that—and from there, we leap right into a look into Black Bolt’s past and the uncomfortable secret he’s been keeping. So all kinds of shenanigans.

Marvel.com: Briefly, if you would, please run down each team member and their motivations for going into space and opinion about taking the journey?

Al Ewing: This is going to be super brief, so hold onto your hat.

Black Bolt’s got a secret.

Medusa’s out of options.

Gorgon needs to fight.

Crystal has her duty.

Flint is looking.

Swain is finding.

And Marvel Boy is doing it all for his oldest friend.

Also: we’re going deep into alchemical territory. I’m doing a lot of research on a lot of pretty esoteric stuff, and everything I find makes more connections.

Al Ewing and Jonboy Meyers’ ROYALS #1 heads your way on April 5, with issue #2 nipping at its heels on April 19!

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Al Ewing runs down the regal cast of his new comic!

In the upcoming ROYALS #1 on April 5, we’ll see the Inhuman royal family embarking on an epic journey, along with Marvel Boy, to save their people. They’ll travel through galaxies and dimensions, maybe even changing the course of Inhuman destiny.

With stakes this high, what does each of these characters bring to the table? We sat down with writer Al Ewing, who gave us a little background on each member of the family.

MEDUSA
“The Queen of the Inhumans, with living, super-strong hair that she can control and direct to perform some frankly astonishing feats,” recaps Ewing. “But the end of IvX will take a toll on her, and she’ll go through some more changes from the very first issue of ROYALS. Will she still be the same person—and the same leader—on the other side?

BLACK BOLT
“[He] is the ex-King, and Medusa’s husband—a marriage now somewhat on the rocks,” the writer cautions. “Black Bolt’s powers complicate matters; the slightest sound out of his mouth, whether a shout, a quiet word or even a cough, could level mountains. Also complicating things: his mad brother Maximus, the constant thorn in the Inhumans’ sides. What secret do the brothers share—and where will it lead Black Bolt?”

CRYSTAL
“Medusa’s sister and second-in-command; one of the more powerful Inhumans, with a measure of control over all four of the classical elements, earth, air, fire and water,” lists Ewing. “She has also displayed a powerful talent for diplomacy, which could serve the Royals well on their travels. Except that they’ll first stop on the dead world Hala, overseen by her ex-husband, cosmic powerhouse Ronan the Accuser. They’ve got bad blood and lost love between them, and it won’t end well.”

Royals #1 cover by Jonboy Meyers

GORGON
“[He] has served as a faithful man-at-arms for both Medusa and Black Bolt since his youth—and with his hooves that can shatter concrete and cause earthquakes with every stomp, he has done his job well,” the writer affirms. “But he’s getting older, and recent injuries have left him unable to use his gift—and some days, even move—without severe pain. But as a widower with an estranged daughter and a son in a coma—after he failed them both—he has become used to hiding the pain he feels.”

 

SWAIN

“Swain is one of the ‘NuHumans,’ an Inhuman bloodline that spread out among the human world, until the release of the Terrigen mists into the atmosphere triggered their Inhuman genes,” explains Ewing. “In Swain’s case, she gained a subtle control over the emotions of people around her. She hates her power, as she can never feel sure of any relationship—except with her literally emotionless girlfriend, Ash. But she also serves as the Inhumans’ top pilot, and a staunch royalist, making her the perfect choice to fly the Royals to the stars.

FLINT
“Flint’s life has been full of trauma: his adopted family were of a branch of Inhumanity that couldn’t survive contact with Terrigen, and they died en masse after the Terrigen cloud passed, leaving him as the only survivor, with power over rock and stone,” the writer recounts. “After that, he tracked down his biological family in a far-flung Inhuman colony, only to find he couldn’t belong. Flint is searching for something he can’t fully articulate, something that drives him into deep space—something that might make him the most powerful Inhuman of all.”

MARVEL BOY
“A Kree from an alternate universe of peace and plenty, who strayed into our reality, whereupon our reality shot him down and murdered his friends and family,” sums up Ewing. “Blessed with insect-gene enhancements and alien weaponry, Noh-Varr has tried to find his place with the heroes of our world before, but has always failed them, and himself; now he’s taking the Inhumans on a quest into space to find the secrets of their people, and his motives aren’t entirely selfless. Will he fail himself again?”

Attend the coronation in ROYALS #1 by Al Ewing and Jonboy Meyers, coming April 5!

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Marc Guggenheim and Al Ewing offer tantalizing teases for the X-Men and Inhumans!

As the dust settles from Inhumans Vs. X-Men, writers Al Ewing and Marc Guggenheim step into the aftermath with INHUMANS PRIME and X-MEN PRIME respectively, both arriving March 29.

With the ending of IvX promising to rock the world of readers everywhere, we do not dare give it away here. However, both writers proved kind enough to provide us some non-spoiler-y teases from each title to wet your proverbial whistle.

INHUMANS PRIME

Black Bolt
“Black Bolt is always silent,” Ewing points out. “But now there’s something he’s not saying. Could his secrets be more destructive than his voice?”

Medusa
“Yesterday she was Queen of the Inhumans,” reveals the writer. “Who will she—and her people—be tomorrow?”

Maximus
“Black Bolt’s mad brother makes a desperate last stand…or is it only his first move?” Ewing wonders aloud.

Karnak
“Karnak knows how to fight and how to kill,” contends the writer. “But there’s one Inhuman who could still break him…even if he wins.”

Marvel Boy
“He’s not even an Inhuman,” acknowledges Ewing. “But what he knows is going to change the Inhumans forever.”

X-MEN PRIME

First Exposure
“This is going to be people’s first look at a lot of the different books in the ResurrXion line,” asserts Guggenheim. “It’s really your first preview of WEAPON X, X-MEN BLUE. [PRIME] sets up [X-MEN GOLD] being in New York City in Central Park. It sets up [the] X-MEN BLUE mission statement of operating separately from the rest of the X-Men. It introduces you to the membership and mission of WEAPON X.”

Kitty as Leader
“In X-MEN PRIME, we learn not only how Kitty returns to the X-Men but how she becomes [their] new leader,” he explains.

A Bit of Old, A Bit of New
“You’re going to see some familiar faces,” the writer promises, “You’re going to see some long missed faces.”

Peter and Kitty Meet Again
“[Artist] Ken Lashley is a big fan of Colossus and there is a scene [with] Peter and Kitty that he just drew absolutely beautifully,” reveals Guggenheim. “If you’re a fan of the Kitty-Peter relationship, you will really, really enjoy X-MEN PRIME.”

The Future of Xavier’s Dream
“After years of just fighting for their very survival, Kitty has returned to position the X-Men to pursue the latest iteration of Xavier’s dream,” states the writer.

Join the ResurrXion on March 29 with INHUMANS PRIME and X-MEN PRIME!

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Writer Al Ewing reveals his team’s new antagonists, the Troubleshooters!

The Ultimates cannot do what they do without gaining the attention of others. As seen way back in ULTIMATES #12, some of those people have command of a pretty powerful team of individuals, the Troubleshooters.

When we found ULTIMATES 2 writer Al Ewing, he proved nice enough to tell us all about the ‘Shooters, including their counterparts from a New Universe gone by.

Who are the Troubleshooters?

“When the world’s ultimate super team was working in concert with the government, their cosmic-scale activities were tolerated; now the thought of what they could do is making the NSA very nervous indeed,” Ewing reveals. “Their solution? Send in the Troubleshooters, a group of ‘psychic soldiers’ tasked with monitoring high-powered super-teams and dealing with any potential issues. They’ve already engaged the Ultimates in combat, but how much of a threat are they against the people who took down Thanos?”

Jim Tensen (New Universe counterpart: John Tensen, aka Justice)

“An ex-member of the mysterious First Eternity Battalion, James Tensen is the world’s foremost expert on the Psi-Force—a quasi-magical psychic energy field that can be manifested in different ways,” recalls the writer. “In Tensen’s case, it takes the form of a ‘sword’—a powerful blast of energy that even Captain Marvel can’t absorb—and a ‘shield’—a force screen that’s as impervious as his subconscious wants it to be.

“While he sees himself as a ‘warrior of Spring’—a personal pop-philosophy he taught in seminars before he was recruited—his work with the Troubleshooters has taken him outside his comfort zone,” Ewing continues. “Can he still call himself a ‘Justice Warrior’ when he’s fighting America Chavez?”

Kathy Ling (New Universe counterpart: Kathy Ling, aka Shockwave and Codename: Spitfire)

“Kathy Ling’s Psi-Force manifests as ‘techno-telekinesis,’ the ability to interface with complex machinery using the power of her mind,” explains the writer. “That makes her the only human on the planet who can pilot the ‘Codename: Spitfire’ psychic-powered armor. It’s already beaten the Black Panther’s Kimoyo system; can it defeat the man underneath?”

Dionne McQuaid (New Universe counterpart: Dionne McQuaid, aka Indigo)

“Dionne McQuaid uses the Psi-Force to turn her emotions into solid purple thought-forms, what she calls her ‘Mood Indigo,’ Ewing says. “She’s cool under pressure, but in combat she can let herself go and manifest massive tentacle monsters growing right out of her psyche, with enough punch to slam even Captain Marvel into the mat.”

Terry Jessup (New Universe counterpart: Tyrone Jessup, aka Voyager)

“A suave ex-SAS member, Jessup—callsign ‘Network’—is perhaps the most connected to the Psi-Force of any of the Troubleshooters,” argues the writer. “That’s because, after a top-secret attempt by a skunkworks facility to duplicate the White Event, he’s been transformed into pure, living thought.

“Without the limits of a physical body, Terry is the ultimate spy; as fleeting as a thought, and able to create psychic constructs in enemy minds that seem as solid as objective reality. By travelling through the collective unconscious, Terry can travel vast distances at faster-than-light speeds—but does that make him faster than Monica Rambeau?”

Simon Rodstvow (New Universe counterpart: Rodstvow of the Medusa Web)

“Simon Rodstvow was the first Troubleshooter recruited by the NSA and the one about whom the least is known,” states the writer. “The only team member not connected in some way to the Psi-Force, Rodstvow gets his powers–a terrifying mastery of cosmic energies, and a portal ability that echoes America’s own–from an unknown source. He’s a thoroughly nasty character, a brutal thug who worships strength above all, but is he even human? The Blue Marvel is maybe the only hero who can stand up to him long enough to find out.”

Philip Nelson Vogt (New Universe counterpart: Philip Nolan Voigt, aka Overshadow)

“The enigmatic ‘Man in the Shadows’ leads the Troubleshooters from his dusty, old-fashioned office,” Ewing describes. “Readers don’t know much about him yet, but I can reveal here that he was also once a First Eternity Battalion member, serving alongside Jim Tensen and he has his own strange connection to the Psi-Force. Unlike his New Universe counterpart, there’s a relatively decent man inside Philip Vogt, but does that mean he has what it takes to face Galactus and live?”

Track the Troubleshooters’ next move in ULTIMATES 2 #5 by Al Ewing and Travel Foreman, out March 22!

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Al Ewing discusses the fine art of the single issue story!

U.S.AVENGERS #4 arrives in shops and on stands on March 15, the first part of a…one-part story?

Yes, indeed. Writer Al Ewing and artist Paco Medina will be taking fans back to the old school with a tale so intense, so fast moving it could only be told in a single issue.

To enlighten us on the ancient art of the done in one, Ewing gave us a spot of his time.

Marvel.com: For you, what’s the key to delivering a single issue story that satisfies in general?

Al Ewing: Beginning, middle and end; a powerful opener and a slam-bang finish are obviously important, but every page in between needs to satisfy. Fortunately, by its very nature, the done-in-one story has to be dense. When you’re delivering a full tale in a short space, there’s no room for messing around.

In this case, we’ve got a beginning, a middle, another middle, and an end, because it’s a four-issue crossover in one comic! Short issues, admittedly—five-page chunks, even—but that just makes them all the sweeter!

Marvel.com: Specific to these characters and this book, what makes a strong single issue story?

Al Ewing: I wanted to go solo on Red Hulk; he got some play in [U.S.AVENGERS #1], but since then he’s been stuck in human form waiting for his “hour of power” to come around again, so I figured the readers deserved 20 full pages of smashing Red Hulk action! We get to see his idea of a stealth op when he’s tasked with infiltrating the small and fictional country of Lichtenbad—nestled on the borders of Latveria and Symkaria—to fight a rogue, rabid American Kaiju!

And what’s a crossover without guest stars galore? I hear that Deadpool guy is pretty big these days—he was in a film, as I recall—and he’s one of the few Marvel characters I’ve not actually written yet. Putting Deadpool in issue #4 is the new thing across all my books, as readers of ROCKET will soon come to learn.

U.S.Avengers #4 cover by Paco Medina

U.S.Avengers #4 cover by Paco Medina

Marvel.com: What can you tell fans about American Kaiju? Why, if they haven’t already, are they sure to fall in love with him now?

Al Ewing: American Kaiju is a giant lizard monster with the US flag painted on his face like Nuke. I think that answers both of your questions.

Marvel.com: What elements does Deadpool bring to this book? How does he alter the chemistry amongst the other U.S.Avengers?

Al Ewing: Well, mostly he’s bouncing off General Maverick, but it’s some fun bouncing, although we’ve made the classic error of taking away his power of speech for the bulk of the issue. It’s like I never even saw that movie.

But essentially, he’s there to poke fun at a couple of cherished genre conventions—I’m pretty sure that’s how it generally goes with a Deadpool guest spot—and he’s bringing along a fabulous new/old villain who’s the great-grandson of one of the forgotten heroes of the Marvel Monsterverse! Who could it be? There’s no telling, unless you’ve already read the solicits for this issue!

Marvel.com: From a creative perspective, what made you feel that it was important to deliver such a story at this juncture of the book?

Al Ewing: Well, we’ve just come out of the opening arc, and we’re about to go into an arc that’s even heavier as Secret Empire plays havoc with all our hopes and certainties. I felt like the readers could use a breath of air and maybe even something to put a smile on their faces. This is definitely going to be the lightest-hearted issue so far; and it’s also the most experimental thing I’ve done in a while in terms of format, what with the whole four-comics-in-one thing.

Hopefully readers will enjoy the fun before everything gets darker and gloomier.

Marvel.com: How did Paco Medina’s art aid you in delivering a single issue story that satisfies by itself and as part of the larger series?

Al Ewing: Paco is a genius when it comes to fun and action; he’s got a clear, clean, un-muddled style that pops off the pages, and every single panel just begs for dialogue. His art on this issue in particular inspired me to add in a whole bunch of additional gags that weren’t in the plot, and we’re passing the savings on to you, True Believer!

Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do without him on this series at this point; he’s set the tone perfectly on everything we’ve done together since CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS, and I’m pretty sure the readers agree.

Dive into the done-in-one action of U.S.AVENGERS #4 by Al Ewing and Paco Medina on March 15!

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Writer Al Ewing evaluates the members of his patriotic super team!

Some teams act like families. Others act like friends. Others still act like soldiers, brothers, and sisters-in-arms thrown together to wage war.

The U.S.Avengers, on the other hand, play it a bit more corporate.

Like any good corporation, the team utilizes performance reviews to make sure everyone stays on track and increases their productivity. These reviews, of course, have been labeled confidential and cannot be reviewed by just anyone.

Don’t worry though, we have the hookup. U.S.AVENGERS writer Al Ewing peeked at them and summarized them for us.

The A.I.M. Crew
“These come in three flavors,” the writer reveals. “You have Admin division in blue, Science division in white—like the lab coats—and Security division in red. After Roberto got through pruning the organization down in NEW AVENGERS and getting rid of the bad apples, the A.I.M. troops who were left were surprisingly clean, and they’ve all been thoroughly vetted. The verdict: none of them are worse than John Garrett, or that guy who played Galaga during mission briefings.”
PERFORMANCE REVIEW: Keep an eye on them anyway

General Robert L. Maverick, aka Red Hulk
“On loan from the United States Government,” reminds Ewing. “General Maverick’s last posting was with the top secret Skunkworks facility Project: Troubleshooter, where he created the American Kaiju—although if rumors are true, American Kaiju is currently AWOL. His new posting as military liaison to A.I.M. might be seen as a demotion, especially as he never got on well with A.I.M. or S.H.I.E.L.D. in the past.

“He’s not just a liaison, however—as the Red Hulk, he gets to be a full team member. A.I.M. technology has enhanced the ‘Hulk Plug-in’ of days gone by—the technology that created the Bannermen—into a subcutaneous delivery system that reacts with Maverick’s unique genetic profile to create a full-on Hulk state, for a period of one hour. Attempts to exceed this time limit are seen as highly dangerous, which limits the General’s utility in the field. Unless, of course, he were to tamper with it.”
PERFORMANCE REVIEW: Don’t let him tamper with the Hulk Button

Aikku Jokinen, aka Enigma

“Aikku—introduced way back in Jonathan Hickman’s classic AVENGERS run—bonded with a suit of living armor named Pod, which eventually sacrificed its life in order to save hers,” states the writer. “Aikku still has the Pod undersuit, though. Where Pod was a big, bulky blasting machine, the undersuit, codenamed ‘Enigma,’ is more of a stealth suit. It can phase itself—and other things—through matter, disguise itself holographically, and do a couple of other neat tricks if need be. Performance-wise, she’s doing great.

“Aikku herself is Norwegian—although she’s been fully vetted and vouched for by S.H.I.E.L.D.—and it’s a little up in the air as to whether she’ll stay in America or move back to Europe at some point. It helps that she’s got friends and a relationship—with Dr. Toni Ho, the Iron Patriot—in the U.S., but Norway is pretty strict about citizenship, so moving to the States full-time is a big decision for her.”
PERFORMANCE REVIEW: Wait and see

Sam Guthrie, aka Cannonball
“As an ex-Avenger and an ex-X-Man—not to mention X-Force and the New Mutants—Cannonball is a one-man unity squad,” Ewing argues. “His power—to fly through the air propelled by a ‘blast field’ that renders him nigh-invulnerable while he’s blastin’—is useful in all kinds of situations, especially since he’s learned to use it in some surprisingly subtle ways over the course of years of super hero experience.”

“As one of the late Professor X’s most committed students, he’s dedicated his life to a dream of brotherhood between human and mutant—one he feels can only be achieved if all humanity can come together as one. He’s also torn between his birth-world and the Shi’Ar colony world where his family lives. How this will affect his performance as a U.S.Avenger remains to be seen.”
PERFORMANCE REVIEW: He is nigh invulnerable while he’s blastin’

Dr. Toni Ho, aka Iron Patriot
“Toni is only a medium genius by Marvel standards—she’s got three PhD’s, but they’re specialized in engineering and tech fields rather than being degrees in everything at once—but she’s definitely the biggest brain on the team,” the writer asserts. “For A.I.M., she built time machines, giant robots and gravity chutes, but for S.H.I.E.L.D., she’s stepping out of the lab and into combat as the new Iron Patriot.”

“Toni’s got a complex history with armor; her dad, Ho Yinsen, died while helping to build Tony Stark’s first. She says she thinks about Stark a lot as a result, and that’s no surprise, but is she subconsciously moving down the same road? For a scientist who claims to hate building weapons, she’s building a lot of them—from a slim, concealable ‘stealth armor’ to a big, bulky ‘heavy combat suit’ and everything in between. That’s good for S.H.I.E.L.D.—but is it good for her?”
PERFORMANCE REVIEW: We don’t care, keep building fight suits

Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl
“Squirrel Girl is the best super hero, so it’s only natural that Roberto da Costa would headhunt her for A.I.M.; not just because of her amazing squirrel-strength and agility, but also for her smarts and compassion,” acknowledges Ewing. “Where other heroes apply their fists to a problem, Squirrel Girl applies her brain, her heart, and her army of squirrel friends—and don’t knock that last one, it’s beaten Doctor Doom.

“But while S.H.I.E.L.D. likes her big wins—including Thanos, the real Thanos, not a clone or simulacrum—how do they feel about her desire to rehabilitate all her foes and solve their underlying problems? Is there room for that style of heroics in the current climate? And if Squirrel Girl were to turn against S.H.I.E.L.D. for some reason…could they stop her?”
PERFORMANCE REVIEW: Hmmmmm

Roberto da Costa, aka Citizen V
“Once he was Sunspot, but thanks to the Terrigen Cloud and its awful effects on mutants, every time Roberto uses his Sunspot powers, he loses five years off his life,” reveals the writer. “Until a cure for his unique M-Pox condition can be found, Roberto da Costa is essentially just a normal man—a normal man who’s been training to be a super hero since he was a teenager. Which—along with his natural talent for the super-spy game—might make him one of the world’s top secret agents.

“He’s also the head of A.I.M., that organization of super-science baddies-turned-goodies we mentioned earlier. As a group, they’ve got a record as long as a helicarrier deck; and while Roberto may have personally saved the President from the clutches of an evil Reed Richards, it was the outgoing President. Is Roberto the kind of guy S.H.I.E.L.D. wants in a senior role at this point in history? Or are there already moves to oust him from power?”
PERFORMANCE REVIEW: Get Rid of Him

U.S.AVENGERS #3 from Al Ewing and Paco Medina ships out February 15!

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Al Ewing and Adam Gorham launch Rocket Raccoon into a bold new series!

Rocket Raccoon—destined for a life of crime?

In the upcoming ROCKET ongoing series, debuting in May, we’ll see our furry hero getting sucked back into his life of cons and heists—but for a noble purpose. We caught up with writer Al Ewing and artist Adam Gorham about what we can expect from this chapter in the story of everyone’s favorite raccoon-looking, space-traveling protagonist.

Marvel.com: I see Rocket as kind of a contradiction, not just because he looks adorable but has kind of a gruff personality, but also because he has this big heart that he may not always show. Can you talk a little about your experience working on such a unique character?

Al Ewing: Rocket has such a long and varied history. He has gone from a sheriff type, a lawman-slash-warden overseeing an asylum with a bunch of other humanoid animals, and over the years he has become much more of an outlaw. We’ve padded out his backstory slightly by giving him some “wild years” post-Halfworld—and we’ll explain it all in issue #1. So we’ve had an interesting time showing flashes of these shadowy pasts he doesn’t like to talk about much. We definitely see some of that heart, though.

Adam Gorham: After reading Al’s script, it seemed clear that we’d see a more vulnerable side to Rocket than I can recall. So I considered it important to have the character emote, visually imparting pathos along with Rocket’s signature smarmy charm. I’ve had fun, and the more I draw him the more I discover who Rocket is to me, personally.

Marvel.com: Can you tell me a little about your experience working together?

Al Ewing: Adam’s great. Because of the tone of the book and a few storytelling ideas I had going in—the book, while fun, has a very hard-boiled crime type of tone, and I wanted to tell that in a specific way—I had to write the scripts in a much more structured way. Usually I just give panels-per-page and rough direction on the big impact of the panel. But for this I assign tiers, and how many panels on a tier, and so on; the “why” of that will become obvious when the book launches. Anyway, Adam jumped right on board with that—in fact, I think he prefers it—and he has knocked it out of the park in every imaginable way. I need to get together with him to talk future plots again pretty soon…

Rocket #1 cover by Mike Mayhew

Rocket #1 cover by Mike Mayhew

Adam Gorham: I must say, I’ve only met Al the once at a convention in New York City. We had shared a correspondence with our creative team before that, but in person I was happy to discover he’s a very thoughtful speaker and very open to including me in the direction of the overall story. I greatly look forward to gelling with him as we carry on.

Marvel.com: Adam, I imagine the process of creating a character who looks like a raccoon differs from that of depicting a human character. What additional challenges go along with this, if any? How do you make him adorable but not overly cartoony?

Adam Gorham: So far, I’ve learned from drawing Rocket that you have to embrace the cartoony nature of an anthropomorphic animal. When I tried to keep his emotions and body language too human or “real,” he came off reserved and stiff. Readers have come to know Rocket as an expressive, loud, character—perhaps a bit unwieldy. So I don’t try to escape that, but I do try to have him act cooler, like Daniel Ocean with a penchant for blasting first. Throw my gritty inks on top of that and you have our Rocket!

Marvel.com: It sounds like Rocket will have some internal dilemmas in this book. We’ll see him feeling somewhat reluctant about going back into the heist business. How much does that conflict play into his story?

Al Ewing: He goes back in for heroic reasons—the best reasons, really—in order to help an old friend-slash-something-more. But I wouldn’t consider it too much of a spoiler to say that the situation goes south very quickly, and takes Rocket with it. Once back in that life, Rocket finds himself very much back in it, and as things get crazier, so do the heists. I’d call it very much a “caper” book.

Marvel.com: Would you like to tease or mention anything else?

Al Ewing: I’ll drop one word: “Technet.” See you all in ROCKET #1!

Get down and dirty with Al Ewing and Adam Gorham on ROCKET, coming this May!

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