Artist Pepe Larraz sets the stage for the 16-part weekly saga!

On January 10, the Avengers assemble like never before.

No, not to ring in the New Year together, but to figure out who kidnapped Earth and then try to get it back in one piece! The story—a weekly, 16-part crossover event that calls together the casts of AVENGERS, UNCANNY AVENGERS, U.S.AVENGERS, and OCCUPY AVENGERS—kicks off in the pages of AVENGERS #675, written by Mark Waid, Al Ewing, and Jim Zub with art by Pepe Larraz.

We spoke with Larraz about bringing all these team members together, working on a new character, and jumping into the cosmic action! What unique challenges do you come up against when working on a huge, weekly story such as this?

Pepe Larraz: Well, it is probably the biggest thing I’ve ever done at Marvel so far, in terms of characters involved, team size, and work done in advance. The main challenge for me ended up being how to handle all these characters on stage, trying to get the hang of all their personalities—the way they act, talk, and interact with each other. Also, having three or four scenes of epic action happening in different parts of the globe at the same time, and making that easy and clear for the reader. It can be difficult when you have to make two or three big, eye-catching panels on the same page and you have to avoid the panels competing between themselves to win the reader’s attention. How much did you have to familiarize yourself with all of the books’ characters? Did you find any surprises as you prepared?

Pepe Larraz: I came from working on UNCANNY AVENGERS, so some of them felt pretty familiar to me. I had worked with some of the others during my career in comics, but most of the characters proved to be new to me as an artist. So I did some research on the backgrounds of the ones that have predominant roles in the series, such as the U.S.Avengers or the Occupy Avengers, to understand what motivates them.

I had a blast drawing the Black Order because Jerome Opeña‘s designs look really fantastic. I also had the privilege of redesigning the existing members of the Lethal Legion and to also create a few new ones. Yes, as you can expect, this series is cramped with characters! In addition to the characters, you also begin the event with these cosmic objects falling to Earth. How did you go about designing those?

Pepe Larraz: It was quite simple, to be honest. The script calls them “piramoids,” so the shape their shape seemed quite obvious. Then I tried not to add anything superfluous—the main idea was to keep the alien technology as simple as possible. You’ll see the signs Jim Zub designed on them later on. We all provided ideas for the designs, so all of them ended up being more or less the result of teamwork. This also features the return of a mysterious forgotten Avenger by the name of Voyager. What can you tell us about bringing her to life on the page?

Pepe Larraz: The Voyager design is a joy, with that classic Jack Kirby-ish look to it. I wanted to transmit the feeling of a mystery being unfolded with every new issue of the script. Okay, you don’t remember her, but all of the Avengers trust her, so what could possibly go wrong? She feels so self-assured—she has such authority—that you get convinced immediately. Did you notice a difference between how each different writer approached the material?

Pepe Larraz: Not really, because they’re so well coordinated. I didn’t even notice that different hands wrote it because all their styles and approaches to the scene seem melted together on this collective script. I think this will be one of the better things of this series: the script has three different writers, three heads full of ideas, but one unique voice. I’m glad to be part of this project and have the privilege of working with Mark Waid, Al Ewing, and Jim Zub, all together. It’s an absolutely new experience. Sometimes it can be exhausting, sure, for the amount of characters on every page, but the story is awesome, and the artist group—Paco Medina, Kim Jacinto, and I—want to transfer that “awesomeness” into the pages the best we can. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Witness the beginning of the end of an era with AVENGERS #675, by writers Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub, and artist Pepe Larraz on January 10!

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The Unity Squad attempts to halt a rampaging Juggernaut!

The foundation underneath the Unity Squad has cracks—literally and figuratively—November 8 with the arrival of UNCANNY AVENGERS #29 in stores. The figurative comes from the continuing fallout of Secret Empire. The unstoppable Juggernaut stands responsible for the literal.

Writer Jim Zub glanced away from his seismograph to answer our questions about the chances that the Unity Squad manages to stay unified against this formidable foe. We are promised—or warned—that the Unity Team is falling apart in UNCANNY AVENGERS #29. What is happening internally that the team is losing cohesion? Externally, what are some of the pressures accelerating the separation?

Jim Zub: Ever since Captain America—the evil one who steered the world into the arms of Hydra—disbanded the Unity Squad, they’ve struggled to stay together. That lack of formal structure strengthened the emotional bonds between them and kept them moving forward when they were looking to stop The Red Skull, or Ultron, or the Hand, but now they don’t have that singular goal and they’re looking for a direction. That coupled with tension between team members is eating away at the “unity” in our “Unity Squad.” One factor we know for sure plays in is The Juggernaut. What’s going on that puts him on the team’s doorstep with a commitment to destroy them? What is motivating Cain Marko to target them?

Jim Zub: Juggernaut has recently been battered around by the X-Men Blue team and Iceman and is now lashing out, itching to get revenge on everyone and everything. The Unity Squad inadvertently gets in his way and the results are destructive and brutal. As a writer, what attracted you to Juggernaut as a villain for this moment? What makes him the uniquely right choice to threaten the team right now?

Jim Zub: I’m writing Juggernaut a bit more like a force of nature than just a villain. He’s bulldozing through everything in his path and even with the heavy-hitters we have on the Unity Squad, they’re hard pressed to handle him, especially in their currently disorganized state. His rampage forces them to pull together once again, but it also brings some other tensions to the surface as a few members of the team don’t follow orders and something terrible happens because of it.

Uncanny Avengers #29 cover by RB Silva What do you think of artist Sean Izaakse’s rendition of Juggy? Overall, how is your collaboration with him helping you to establish the tone you need for this book right now?

Jim Zub: Sean’s a superstar in the making. He started off already incredibly skilled, but every issue we work on together I can see his skills growing even stronger. He draws action and emotion well—quiet scenes and epic ones. I can throw him ridiculous blowout fights and subtle emotional beats and he handles them both with the same care and attention. I couldn’t ask for a better creative collaborator. What kind of consequences would it carry for the rest of the Marvel Universe if the experiment that is the Unity Squad were to be ripped asunder? Where might that echo and how?

Jim Zub: The Unity Squad represents the Avengers, mutantkind, the Inhumans, the Fantastic Four, and Marvel’s mystic side as well. The team acts as connective tissue to the larger Marvel Universe and that’s why I think it’s so interesting and important. Without them, the different groups tend to drift back to their own closed off communities. “Unity” is their name and their mission. Without too much by way of spoilers, what makes this issue important to the book going forward? Are we on the precipice of a turning point here?

Jim Zub: The team is going to lose someone important in this issue and longtime loyalties will be tested. It’s an important chapter as we build toward [the weekly series] AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER arriving in January.

See if the Unity Squad can stop The Juggernaut on November 8 in UNCANNY AVENGERS #29 by Jim Zub and Sean Izaakse!

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Jim Zub reunites Beast and Wonder Man for Marvel Legacy!

UNCANNY AVENGERS writer Jim Zub takes the goal of the Unity Squad to heart: to unite people of the Marvel Universe regardless of status, power level, race, or creed. And even though the squad’s been technically disbanded, Marvel Legacy gets a kick start when he brings two old friends back together—Wonder Man and Beast.

On October 11, Zub joins artist Sean Izaakse with a new start for two of the Universe’s best pals in UNCANNY AVENGERS #28! We caught up with Jim to hear more about how one of Marvel’s greatest friendships will impact the Unity Squad. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen Wonder Man and Beast together—how did you first become familiar with their connection?

Jim Zub: I’m a big fan of Simon and Hank, absolutely. I grew up on ‘80s Marvel stories and read backwards and forwards at the same time—enjoying new super hero stories while also collecting back issues from the ‘70s—so their friendship acts as a central component to how I see both characters. It’s a classic friendship on the same level, for me, as Power Man and Iron Fist or Wolverine and Nightcrawler. Did you do any research to refamiliarize yourself with their dynamic? What’s key to getting that dynamic correct?

Jim Zub: I always read key issues for characters I’m writing, this story included. I dug through classic AVENGERS storylines where they both appeared and reacquainted myself with their antics.

There’s a playful honesty to Hank and Simon’s friendship that I really enjoy. I wanted to make sure I reflected that here in UNCANNY AVENGERS. They’re silly, but beneath that silliness exists a strong humility and the ability to admit when they’ve screwed up. Hank and Simon are truthful with each other even when it hurts. They know when to joke and when to dig deep into the heart of a problem. How did Sean Izaakse’s artwork help to nail the tone of their friendship?

Jim Zub: Sean’s an exemplary artist and the kind of collaborator who brings his A-game to every page. No matter what I write, he’s always going to deliver something even better than I originally imagined—it’s pure joy.

Sean’s a big ol’ Marvel nostalgia buff like I am and the instant he found out he would be drawing Hank and Simon tipping pints and kicking butts his enthusiasm drove the whole thing forward. He handles quiet moments of conversation and big action with equal confidence. I think readers are going to love it. What brings Simon and Hank together in issue #28?

Jim Zub: Both Beast and Wonder Man are heroes who have struggled to find their place and that’s a big part of what this issue of UNCANNY AVENGERS will be about. Sometimes you need to sit down with someone you trust and lay out what you’ve been doing so you can figure out where you should go and what you want to do next in life. These two friends are trying to find their way after difficult times and bad choices. It’s part confessional, part drink-up, with a side of super villainy that needs to be taken care of. What made this storyline the right way to open up the Marvel Legacy era for UNCANNY AVENGERS?

Jim Zub: Beast and Wonder Man haven’t been mainstays of the series, but their story symbolically reflects where the whole team finds themselves right now. Steve Rogers disbanded the Unity Squad in the lead up to Secret Empire, but they’re still around—out of shared purpose instead of a formal Avengers mandate. They’re looking for a new path and finding people they trust to stick with them through thick and thin. Besides Simon and Hank, who else can fans expect to encounter in this issue?

Jim Zub: The rest of Team Uncanny will be here as well—Rogue, Human Torch, Doctor Voodoo, Wasp, Synapse, Quicksilver, and The Scarlet Witch. These characters illustrate a Venn diagram of different parts of the Marvel Universe: human, mutant, inhuman, mystic—you name it. I’m juggling a big ol’ pile of super heroes and it’s a ball. For fans familiar with the Beast-Wonder Man buddy comics of old, what would you say to convince them to snag this issue? And for fans who may be less familiar, what’s your pitch?

Jim Zub: The heart and humor you remember from classic Beast and Wonder Man AVENGERS stories will be here—but we’re not just retreading the past. It’s easy to jump in and get a feel for where these characters are now and the decisions they’re making moving forward. We’re respectful of continuity without getting mired in it.

Marvel Legacy draws upon an understanding of what’s come before to take a confident step into the future. That’s what we’re doing on UNCANNY AVENGERS and across the Marvel Universe. I hope you’ll join us.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #28, written by Jim Zub with art by Sean Izaakse, hits on October 11!

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A look back at Wanda's checkered past.


Every Friday we use the powers of Marvel Unlimited to look back at the very first appearance of a major character, place or object that made waves this week.

We bet Wanda Maximoff would feel a bit green if she looked back at her first appearance in 1964’s X-MEN #4 and not just because she was mis-colored on the cover! 

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #4

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #4

  • Published: March 10, 1964
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: November 13, 2007
  • Rating: T+
  • Penciller: Jack Kirby
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
What is Marvel Unlimited?

Earlier that year, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the merry mutants starring in the series as well as their number one enemy, Magneto. By this issue, he’d surrounded himself with a group calling themselves the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Consisting of all-new characters Toad, Mastermind and the sister-brother combo of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the group seemed as focused on giving each other trouble as they were the X-Men.

In fact, Pietro and Wanda almost left, but then Magneto recounted their shared history which saw Magneto saving her from a mob of angry villagers. She pledged her loyalty to him right there and was soon joined by her brother.

By sticking around, the super powered siblings played a part in Magneto’s plot to use a stolen battleship to take over the small nation of Santo Marco. Though not a fan of Magneto’s fear-mongering, Wanda did take on the X-Men, specifically Angel with her mysterious hex powers.

The X-Men gained the upper hand and the villains made their escape, but before doing so, Quicksilver ran back to stop a bomb Magneto left behind. After several more missions with Magneto, the siblings’ distaste for Magneto and his methods outweighed their loyalty to him and the broke out on their own after the Stranger took their one-time leader in X-MEN #11

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #11

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #11

  • Published: May 10, 1965
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: November 13, 2007
  • Rating: T+
  • Penciller: Jack Kirby
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
What is Marvel Unlimited?

Not long after, the Avengers found themselves at a crossroads. The team of Iron Man, Thor, Giant-Man, Wasp and Captain America had been getting along pretty well, but other concerns lead to a massive roster change. Pietro read about their acceptance of former villain Hawkeye to the squad in the newspaper and told Wanda. Before long, the two traveled to New York City to see about joining up.

By the end of that same issue – 1965’s AVENGERS #16 to be exact – all of the original members left, leaving Captain America to lead three former criminals on the world’s most renowned super team! Wanda soon proved herself and became an integral part of many Avengers line-ups. She’s also known as one of the team’s biggest threats, having played a part in destroying the team, creating the House of M universe and diminishing the mutant population severely. 

Avengers (1963) #16

Avengers (1963) #16

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Back in good standing now, she returned to fight alongside her teammates in the pages of UNCANNY AVENGERS #26 after being controlled by the demon Chthon during Secret Empire, which ended with #10 this week.

Flash Forward

For a more detailed account of Wanda and Pietro’s past, check out AVENGERS ORIGINS: SCARLET WITCH AND QUICKSILVER by Sean McKeever and Mirco Pierfederici. In this OGN we see the siblings trying to make their way alone in the world until Magneto appeared to help them. We then see the Maximoffs join up with the Brotherhood, even though they don’t exactly see eye to eye with its leader, who we know is actually their father! The issue shows some of the parent-child moments behind-the-scenes even if the participants didn’t know it!

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Jim Zub talks about his team’s attempt to save Manhattan from Secret Empire seclusion!

Manhattan has been trapped in the Darkforce since SECRET EMPIRE #1 and on July 12, the “Big Apple” finally seems to be buckling under the strain of it all. Even a city that prides itself on toughness and almost nothing interrupting its routine has limits.

UNCANNY AVENGERS writer Jim Zub, however, still has hope.

“Baron Zemo and Blackout have exiled Manhattan to a Darkforce-encased prison crawling with otherworldly monsters,” he acknowledges. “The Uncanny Avengers are trapped within, but they’ve got what it takes to save the city and themselves.”

In UNCANNY AVENGERS #25, Zub’s confidence in the team will be put to the test. Before it all goes down though, we gave him a chance to tell us why we must keep the faith with thoughts on how each member approaches the crisis.

The Human Torch: One of the Marvel Universe’s most experienced heroes, he has gone into numerous unusual realms—the Negative Zone, for one—and came back as strong as ever. Surviving a city ensnared in Darkforce cannot be all that different for him.

“Heat and light to combat the chilling forcing of the eternal night?” muses Zub. “Johnny will answer the call.”

Synapse: The Inhuman has tangled with tragedy and come out the other side if not unscathed, certainly unbroken. If she can help stop The Shredded Man—her grandfather—and not give up on being a costumed hero, what chance do monsters have at breaking her spirit?

“When crowds of people are tense and afraid, Synapse has the power to keep them calm and focused,” the writer points out. “Bolstering innocent bystanders and teammates alike against the oppressive forces trying to wear them down.”

Uncanny Avengers #25 cover by RB Silva

The Wasp: A founding Avenger who has remained bright and sunny during some of the most heartbreaking personal crises and devastating super powered fracas, Janet has even survived death to arrive at this moment.

“Janet’s one of the most experienced Avengers around,” Zub reminds. “Invasions, overwhelming odds, and heroes on the defensive? Been there, done that. Add in her ability to slip in unseen and take out opponents from the inside—Janet’s got this.”

Doctor Voodoo: A mystic capable of wielding great power, Voodoo has a secret weapon many might not recognize on first blush. That “Doctor” in his name is not a hollow honorific; Jericho Drumm earned it in Psychology, making him able to address the struggles within the people surrounding him, not just the battle raging around them.

“Supernatural monsters and spirits are Jericho’s specialty,” argues the writer. “He’s been Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, and those mystic skills and spells will serve him well against creatures from the Darkforce dimension.”

Rogue: Rogue has been a villain. Rogue has hurt those around her with her powers. Rogue has seen friends fall and ideals be dashed; mentors betray and teammates corrupted. But she has also witnessed acts of heroics both big and small. She has overcome her questionable past to become a defender of others. She has hit the brink and returned. Darkness—literal or internal—has not bested her yet.

“Rogue handled demons invading New York way back in Inferno,” concludes Zub. “She has super strength, flight, and an upbeat attitude to stick things out when darkness looms around every corner.”

See how the team fares in UNCANNY AVENGERS #25 by Jim Zub and Kim Jacinto!

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New writer Jim Zub attempts to guide his team through Secret Empire!

In SECRET EMPIRE #0, many of New York City’s heroes ended up trapped in a prison made up of the Darkforce—including the Uncanny Avengers! In issue #24 of their title, the team seeks to escape from the Big Apple, and new series writer Jim Zub shared a few hints at what to expect as they attempt their breakout! So the team finds itself imprisoned in UNCANNY AVENGERS #24, which is a Secret Empire tie-in. How did they end up in this predicament?

Jim Zub: As shown in Secret Empire #0, Baron Zemo and Blackout have plunged New York City into darkness, cutting the island off from the rest of the world. The Uncanny Avengers are caught in the city and have to fight to save people and themselves from the Darkforce creatures that have been unleashed in their mystic prison. So with a team like the Uncanny Avengers, you have several unique power sets: mutant, Inhuman, and of course, the always faithful “Flame on!” courtesy of Johnny Storm. How do you possibly hold all these unique super-powered beings?

Jim Zub: The Uncanny Avengers are powerful but, caught off guard and cut off from Quicksilver and many other heroes, they’re plunged into a Darkforce invasion that will keep all of them on their toes no matter how powerful they are. Then, of course, you have Doctor Voodoo. Can’t he just cast a spell and free all his teammates?

Jim Zub: He tries just that in UNCANNY AVENGERS #24 and it has…interesting consequences that will cause even more problems for the team. Read on and you’ll see. With this being your first issue and your first time writing some of these characters, who have you really enjoyed working on thus far? Who is becoming your favorite?

Jim Zub: It’s really hard to pick a favorite because there are some many wonderful characters with histories rooted deep in the mighty Marvel Universe, but Rogue is quickly becoming a standout for me. Her strength and attitude really drives the story forward. And finally, if you were trapped in this prison, which Uncanny Avenger would you enlist to help break you out?

Jim Zub: In a Darkforce prison? Johnny Storm is a must. When darkness attacks from all sides, only the light can keep us safe.

Join the breakout efforts on June 14 in UNCANNY AVENGERS #24 by Jim Zub and Kim Jacinto!

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A record on the various returns of Wonder Man!

Simon Williams returns—and the Avengers Unity Squad’s got him! Why? ‘Cause when you’re Wonder Man, it’s what you do!

What’s that supposed to mean? Well, when Simon makes his newest reappearance in UNCANNY AVENGERS #23, out May 10, he’ll be completing a circle he’s made many times before, one of birth and rebirth. He’s the super hero who’s rebounded from death’s door almost more than any other, and he always returns when he’s needed the most…most times.

Avengers (1963) #102

Avengers (1963) #102

  • Published: August 01, 1972
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: June 05, 2012
  • Writer: Roy Thomas
  • Penciler: Rich Buckler
What is Marvel Unlimited?
One of the first times Simon comes back, he’s admittedly still a corpse, but figures soundly into his brother the Grim Reaper’s plots against the Avengers. Wonder Man’s sacrifice of his life to save the team from Baron Zemo weighed heavily on them, and they knew they must find a solution to his death-like comatose state…

Avengers (1963) #131

Avengers (1963) #131

What is Marvel Unlimited?
Time despot Kang the Conqueror revived Simon briefly to force him to attack the Avengers as part of the Legion of the Unliving alongside Zemo, the original Human Torch, the Frankenstein Monster, and others. This Wonder Man appears to be plucked from the timestream at a moment before his first “death.”

Avengers (1963) #152

Avengers (1963) #152

What is Marvel Unlimited?
Used once more a pawn to destroy the team, this time by the voodoo master called the Black Talon, Wonder Man suffered the indignities of a zombie as well as the Grim Reaper’s foul attentions, but ultimately earned his second chance at real life. He also earned Avengers membership and became one of their strongest players for years to come.

Avengers (1998) #3

Avengers (1998) #3

  • Published: April 10, 1998
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: September 17, 2008
  • Rating: T+
  • Writer: Kurt Busiek
  • Penciler: George Prez
What is Marvel Unlimited?
After fighting evil with the Avengers and the West Coast Avengers, Simon migrated to a group called Force Works, where he once again lost his life. When Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assembled to fight the sorceress Morgan Le Fay, The Scarlet Witch inadvertently called his spirit to help her, a momentous occasion that led to his full return, albeit as a being composed of pure ionic energy.

Avengers (2010) #31

Avengers (2010) #31

What is Marvel Unlimited?
Following a time where Wonder Man opposed the Avengers due to a fluctuation in his mental stability, Simon reappeared to Captain America to plead for understanding. Cap acknowledged that “once an Avenger, always an Avenger,” and his old teammate vowed to earn his way back to full good standing with the team that saved him from a life of crime.

Find out what life has in store for Wonder Man this time around in UNCANNY AVENGERS #23 by Gerry Duggan and Pepe Larraz, coming May 10!

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New writer Jim Zub embeds the Unity Squad in the upcoming event!

As we get closer and closer to the dawn of Secret Empire, many of our favorite characters will find themselves drawn into dramatic circumstances. That will definitely be the case with the Unity Squad featured in UNCANNY AVENGERS!

We caught up with Jim Zub, new writer on the series, about his plans for the team and their role in this exciting summer event. And, for anyone attending this weekend’s Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, don’t miss the Marvel: Next Big Thing panel on Saturday March 4 at 2:45 pm where he’ll fill you in on all things UNCANNY. UNCANNY AVENGERS issues #24 and #25 will tie in with Secret Empire. What can you tell us about the team’s involvement in this event?

Jim Zub: That’s a surprisingly tough question! As you might imagine, Secret Empire is filled with secrets so I can’t reveal too much just yet. The Uncanny Avengers are quite powerful and capable with older and experienced heroes like Rogue, Wasp, and The Human Torch on the team. [Captain America] and the forces of Hydra understand that and they make plans to, let’s say, keep them out of play. We’ll see the team getting caught up in machinations they hadn’t expected, and it will sideline and threaten them in unexpected ways. We like seeing our heroes outsmart Hydra. But in issue #24, Hydra will have the upper hand. Can you tell us about writing this story, where the team really has to scramble out of a bad situation?

Jim Zub: I had fun starting my run on the book with the team thrown right into the deep end. Issue #24 opens with big action as the team gets caught off-guard and on the defensive. As the readers dig into Secret Empire, they’ll understand the bigger events that have pulled the team into this situation, while our heroes are still trying to figure that out on their own. If you read UNCANNY AVENGERS you’ll see that something terrible has happened and the team is trying to work through it and if you read SECRET EMPIRE, you’ll see exactly how dire it really is and what’s actually at stake. You will take over the series from Gerry Duggan with issue #24. Can you tell us a little about that experience?

Jim Zub: Gerry has done an incredible job with this wonderful cross-section of characters. I’ve really enjoyed getting to pick up the torch from him—literally the torch, because The Human Torch is included—and continue their story. To me, the team feels like a family. We’ve seen them on other teams and they’ve had other loyalties, but the missions they’ve gone on as Avengers have created a strong bond. They have to look out for each other.

All the characters on the UNCANNY AVENGERS [team] have found themselves pulled together in an unexpected fashion. Almost all of them have deep roots in the Marvel Universe. I’ve had a blast showing them together, holding their own against some top-tier opponents.

Uncanny Avengers #24 cover by RB Silva Secret Empire will also influence THUNDERBOLTS, which you write as well. Can you talk about the experience of weaving these longer story arcs in with the twists of an event like this?

Jim Zub: It’s a lot of work, but also tons of fun. The earlier in the process you can set your priorities, the better. When I talk to CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS writer Nick Spencer, or to the editorial team, Tom Brevoort and Alanna Smith, or Gerry, we try to find ways to make sure we all get out of it what we need, so we can take advantage of everyone’s priorities for the overall story.

Everyone involved in the event comes together and says, “What do you need and how can we introduce that into the story in the most emotionally satisfying way? What makes sense in terms of our end goals?” As you discuss it back and forth, you see new possibilities and that empowers you to create something even better. You plan maybe 80 percent of it, and then you have another 20 percent where you realize you can add in an unexpected twist or go deeper with an emotional element; that’s the stuff I find really satisfying. UNCANNY AVENGERS has built itself on some really interesting relationships like Deadpool and Rogue or Quicksilver and Synapse. Do you plan to continue that?

Jim Zub: Definitely! I think every team book needs those relationships; it has to have that heart beating under the surface, otherwise you wouldn’t keep reading it. The Secret Empire tie-in issues throw the [Unity Squad] into the deep end, so we won’t see too much relationship material initially but, after they make it through that, we’ve got cool plans and will continue developing those relationships and friendships. Gerry’s run emphasized that these characters stay together because of shared ideas, not just a government mandate or anything like that. They don’t have a charter or chairperson. They have an emotional, mission-based connection. Would you like to mention anything else?

Jim Zub: Playing in the Marvel super hero sandbox has been a wonderful experience so far. Getting the chance to work on an Avengers monthly title has been surreal, and I look forward to building something fun and exciting for readers every issue.

Look for Jim Zub to begin his run as writer of UNCANNY AVENGERS with issue #24, coming in June!

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Artist Pepe Larraz pits Earth’s Mightiest Heroes against The Red Skull!

Civil War II might have concluded but the shockwaves of the conflict continue to ripple throughout the Marvel Universe.

In the pages of UNCANNY AVENGERS by Gerry Duggan and Pepe Larraz, the Unity Squad must deal with Captain America’s rejection of them even as they battle one of their deadliest and most persistent foes: The Red Skull!

We talked with Larraz about getting into the Skull’s demented head, bringing the team together, and the important role music plays in his collaborations with Duggan! Civil War II wreaked a lot of havoc on hero relationships in the Marvel Universe. Is that something that comes through when you’re bringing this disparate group of characters together?

Pepe Larraz: I believe that the Unity Squad was created to prove that Inhumans, mutants, and Avengers can work together for a greater good. I think the fact of them being rejected by Steve Rogers affected them in a much bigger way than the rest of the events of Civil War II. Steve Rogers was the one who gives them legitimacy, the head of the Squad, and without him they had to find a new identity as a team.

Civil War II affected this series directly in [issues] #15 and #16, and I had to catch up with the event very fast; not only what had happened to Bruce Banner but also how the characters felt about what happened to Bruce Banner. Gerry focused on that in a beautiful way at the end of #16. The current story finds the team facing off against The Red Skull. How do you balance incorporating classic elements with putting your own spin on him?

Pepe Larraz: When you face a character you’ve never drawn before, the first thing you’ve got to do is try to understand him. The acting, the movement, the clothes, all of that comes from understanding who he/she is, what he/she wants, and what is he/she willing to do to get that.

In the case of Red Skull, he has a huge story behind him, so I focused on his essence. He’s a Nazi; he’s been fighting all his life against the Avengers and all that the Avengers mean, and finally he’s winning. All his acting is a reflex of that; he never loses his nerve. Everything is always under his control and he is enjoying it in a sadistic way. I wanted his face to look a bit like a mask. You see something horrible on his face, but I wanted you to fear more the eyes underneath. That’s where the real monster is. Since the launch of UNCANNY AVENGERS the team has gone up against their fair share of Earth-threatening events. Do you enjoy digging into all of those epic action scenes filled with powers and destruction?

Pepe Larraz: What really amazes me is the measure of time in an Avenger’s life. The three arcs I’ve worked [on] this year—each one happened in one night. In one night they start fighting monsters in the NY subway and they end near the surface of the Sun. In one night they go to Japan, fight against the Hand and an undead samurai Hulk and recover Bruce Banner’s body by the sunrise. When you are an Avenger you can never be sure of arriving for a date on time, because one night can start with pizza and a film and end with stopping meteors in one of Saturn’s rings. I’m enjoying it a lot. I’ve destroyed New York’s streets twice in this last year. Not even Godzilla can do that.

What is important to me is that the environment feels real to the reader and I put a lot of effort on that. I study lots of references to draw the backgrounds. The point of Marvel comics, in my opinion, is to have super heroes on your street. It must not feel like an invented street of an invented city; it has to feel real. You’ve been working on this team on and off for a while now. Have any of the characters offered unexpected challenges or surprises as you’ve gotten more familiar with them?

Pepe Larraz: The character most difficult for me to draw is Captain America. He’s so noble, and official that it took me a lot of effort to turn him into a human being, not a marble statue. In the whole series I made like, maybe two drawings of the Captain which make me feel satisfied. All the contrary happened with Rogue. I grew up reading X-Men so drawing Rogue was a dream. It felt natural to draw her. I wanted to contrast a fragile appearance with her superhuman strength.

For Wasp I used Audrey Hepburn as reference. She has to be stylish. I needed some drama to get the hang of Torch and Doctor Voodoo. You need to crack the character a bit to see what’s inside. Synapse is still a mystery to me. Same happens with Cable, but I think it is part of his charm. You never really know what Cable is able to do, or where he comes from. You can’t look inside him.

With Deadpool I wanted to escape the comedy at some point. Everyone makes a funny Deadpool. I wanted to remind the reader that yes, he’s a clown, but he’s also a trained assassin, and he can be deadly dangerous. I hope I haven’t done a boring Deadpool, though. Along similar lines, how has your working relationship with Gerry changed over time?

Pepe Larraz: I knew little of Gerry’s work when we started working together, but he grabbed me with the first two issues. Almost all of the two issues were about the Avengers talking. The dialogue was so fluid, and everyone was in the right place, all the characters so well defined, while Gerry was building momentum. You almost could chew the tension. Then the action came and it was enormous, and it hasn’t stopped since #11!

We haven’t talked too much during the year, because we are both swamped by work, but we send each other several emails every month. We made something very useful in terms of writer-artist relationship: We both love soundtracks, and we recommend soundtracks to each other. That’s perfect to suggest the general feeling of a scene, the rhythm, the emotion. That helped me a lot. Maybe we should publish the soundtracks of [UNCANNY AVENGERS].

Coming February 22, UNCANNY AVENGERS #20 by Gerry Duggan and Pepe Larraz sends the Unity Squad on another very bad day at the hands of Red Skull!

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Gerry Duggan helps Red Skull bring the Unity Squad’s terrors to life!

As they say, courage doesn’t mean you have no fears, it means you take action despite the fact that you feel afraid. And in UNCANNY AVENGERS #20 on February 8, our heroes will have to do just that, as The Red Skull prepares to use their worst nightmares against them.

Writer Gerry Duggan explains what scares some of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes:

“The team has a mission for which they feel willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. They’re willing to die to win this fight, and take back Xavier from Red Skull. The fear that they probably share in common is having the Red Skull subvert them in this way.”

Of course, they each have their own individual terrors, as well, as Duggan outlined for us. And the Red Skull certainly won’t shy away from using them to his advantage…

The Human Torch
“When you have the power of fire, you worry that you’ll accidentally burn something that you shouldn’t. And we’ve seen some excellent stories featuring Johnny about this fear of his.”

The Wasp
“Janet has gone through the horrifying experience of having Ultron wear Hank Pym’s face over his own. And so in this version, she carries the fear that her life is not her own, and Red Skull preys on that in an interesting way.”

Doctor Voodoo
“Although as a magician he has always seemed to find himself in Doctor Strange’s shadow, he has gotten over that. But his brother has become his Achilles heel. He recently had to choose between an Avenger and his own brother, and he chose the Avenger because he felt so disgusted by what his brother had done to come back to life. Now, he feels afraid of letting his brother get the best of him.”

“Interestingly, Rogue asks Deadpool to stay behind as a safety switch because what’s wrong with his head makes him immune to telepathic coercion. So his fears will have to remain his own.”

“He keeps things pretty close to the vest, but he, possibly more than anyone else would, feels afraid of losing this fight and what The Red Skull having the chance to mature his telepathic control over Xavier would mean for the future. So he knew he had to come back and help win this one.”

Face your fears in UNCANNY AVENGERS #20, due out February 8 from Gerry Duggan and Pepe Larraz!

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