By Ryan Penagos
's back? Well, yes and no. Fans worldwide were ecstatic this weekend when Marvel announced that Alex Ross was making his way back to Marvel. And they went absolutely nuts when they saw the provided teaser image of Captain America, cryptically emblazoned with the word "Return." And now, after only a few days, the veil of secrecy is lifted and the truth—Alex Ross, Jim Krueger and Steve Sadowski return to Marvel in 2008 for the 12-part AVENGERS/INVADERS maxi-series—is sure to both surprise and excite.
Not quite the return of Captain America many were expecting, AVENGERS/INVADERS is actually a much more ambitious undertaking, constituting a time travel story featuring the Invaders
in their prime thrust into the current Marvel Universe. And yes, the series will be fully integrated into, and reflective of, Marvel continuity.
"As a fan, as a reader, I enjoy those books," says Ross from his home in Illinois. "I enjoy MIGHTY and NEW [AVENGERS]. I have to read them every time they come in. That's the first book I have to ready every week that it ships. We're calling the series AVENGERS/INVADERS because for one, the brand name of Avengers
has so increased in value now—because of the quality of all these series and the excitement regarding them—that you don't have to worry about whether it's got the modifier of NEW or MIGHTY in front of it. And in truth in the story, you're going to get both. How could you not?
Mighty Avengers #1
"Given the storyline, how could you not have both teams become very much involved to try and find out who these time travelers are or if they are the real deal, fighting over them and basically controlling or liberating them will be a key story point," explains Ross. "I'm so thrilled [Marvel] brought back people like the 1970s Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman, it's just purely speaking to my heart as a fan. When you see things that are resurrected from Marvel's past, you realize, 'Why the hell did they ever get rid of that?' It's really thrilling to get a chance to play with that. If I can figure out a way to somehow in all of this revive Power Man's yellow shirt and tiara, I would do that too, but somehow I don't think that there would be an excuse to do that within the series.
"We have to use Luke Cage in our story because he's such an important character," he continues. "And of course, working with the contemporary Iron Man is a very striking thing. I'm not one of those fans who's against what they've been doing, I find the creative exploration to be very exciting and I have been jealous of wanting a chance to play in the playground and admiring a lot of the work that has been done."
"Being part of continuity is being part of the bigger story, the entire mythos, and that's a great thing," says Jim Krueger, Ross' long-time co-conspirator. "If anything, continuity is something Alex and I have always strived for, despite almost seeming to operate outside of it.
"Nick [Barrucci, Publisher for Dynamite Entertainment and President of Dynamic Forces], Alex and I have been talking together for a long time—about a lot of stuff," Krueger continues. "Anyhow, this was one of those things that just sort of organically began a number of years ago when Alex and I were signing copies of EARTH X at Dynamic Forces and talking about doing something with the [Human] Torch. Anyhow, a number of years later, Alex and I are working on Justice and we each got a call from [Nick]. [Dynamite] had just pitched an idea to Marvel of an Avengers/Invaders team-up with Alex and I attached. In my mind, I went back to the Torch and Alex's and my love for not only that character, but the entire Invaders mythology. So, we all started talking to Marvel and the ball just kept rolling."
AVENGERS/INVADERS has actually been on the burner for more than a year and in that time, as any well-versed Marvel fan knows, much as been done to the heroes of the Marvel U. Maybe none moreso that the Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America.
"Captain America being dead in the Marvel Universe today is not what we were every planning around in this entire endeavor," admits Ross. That must've thrown a kink into the massive story Ross and Co. have been plotting, right?
New Avenegers #28
"Actually, it may be one of the best things to happen to the storyline," reveals Ross. "Well, there's the thought of beforehand, the meeting of Golden Age/Modern Age Cap or what I would call the equivalent of Earth 1/Earth 2 Cap, that could be interesting too. But it sends more resonance to people in the modern universe to see a guy that they just witnessed die and have him come back, but have it be the guy in his youth, not his prime, but basically his point of origin that really constructed [his character] and was the key point of the history in the '40s. It will always remain part of Captain America's character that he is a soldier from World War II and that's what he was created for.
"Unlike most superheroes who were updated over time, or that's just considered to be one aspect of their history if they lived then, that's the defining moment of Captain America's origin. And to take him directly from that and bring him to today is almost like just crossing that 60-something years of being held in ice, doing it now except you've got the irony of being sucked right out of it with his team. The idea of the Namor-meets-Namor is one of the coolest things I'm looking forward to."
Aside from Cap and Namor, who else can we look forward to seeing? "You can expect exactly what's in the title," says editor Steve Wacker. "Beyond that, it's still a secret. Rest assured though, this is firmly set in the Marvel Universe of 2008."
And that setting brings with it many nuances and potential character moments. "Let's just say you can't meet Captain America from the 1940s and not expect there to be dramatic ramifications. It's thrilling watching both [Ross] and Krueger play with the modern day Marvel toys, and i think people are going to be pretty surprised with what they've come up with."
And it's not just Ross and Krueger who plan to tear it up in AVENGERS/INVADERS. For penciler Steve Sadowski [AVENGERS, JSA], this is about as big a project as it gets. "I am VERY excited!" exclaims Sadowski. "When Nick Barrucci approached me to do this, I couldn't believe the opportunity! This is easily one of, if not THE highest profile gigs of my career. To be working on New Avengers (which I was already buying faithfully, and LOVING) and having a chance to shine a spotlight on the Invaders—it's really incredible."
While Krueger and Ross have become one of comics' premiere writer/artist teams with the EARTH X trilogy and Justice for DC, Sadowski enters into the equation as a not entirely new factor. "I worked loosely with both Jim and Alex on the PARADISE X: DEVILS book," he says. "But [I] didn't have a lot of contact with Alex. A few phone calls at most. Anyone who knows me or has been to my house knows what a huge fan I am of Alex Ross. He is one of a handful of artists who has truly inspired me to become a better artist. To say I am thrilled would be a gross understatement!"
"We worked with Steve on one of PARADISE X Specials," says Krueger. "So he's already part of our group. Steve is great. I can't wait to see his art." "I've been wanting to work with Steve for years on any number of things because his history on JSA was so rich and he did some of the best run of that series," adds Ross.
"As with any of my work, my approach is to make the characters as believable and realistic as possible and still maintain that 'old school' escapism. I take one issue at a time—the only way I can do it..When it's done, I'll look back and realize how big a task it was!"
A big task, indeed. With dozens of characters to choose from, AVENGERS/INVADERS opens up a wealth of opportunities—and is a perfect place for Ross and Krueger's unique brand of collaboration.
"Things usually begin with Alex and I talking at like 1:00 in the morning till 6:00," says Krueger. "And then we talk some more. Ideas are thrown out. We riff possibilities. And then I type out a basic outline. We talk about that. I extend the outline. We talk that through. Then I write a script. Alex gives me notes. And it pretty much continues from there.
"It's a true collaboration," admits Krueger. "I don't feel right about writing without considering and working in Alex's notes. And [I] feel that my job as the writer is to honor the essential heart of the collaboration."
"Between the Avengers and the Invaders, there are so many great and colorful characters, " says Sadowski. "Of the Avengers, my favorites have ALWAYS been Wonder Man, the Vision, Hawkeye and of course CAP! Of the New and Mighty Avengers, I am really looking forward to Iron Fist and Dr Strange, Ms. Marvel, Ares. Okay, who am I kidding, Wolverine's gonna be fun too! As for the Invaders, my favorite is Union Jack. I think it's one of the best costumes ever
! Damn, there's too many
I like. I don't know yet how many of these will be included in the main story. I know Alex and Jim would throw in every
Avenger , Invader and Liberty Legionnaire they could, given the chance And you never know, they maybe just will!"
"We really want a chance to illustrate some of those characters from the '40s, who in some cases haven't ever been seen Marvel publishing for the last 60 years," says Ross. "We're hoping that given the design and direction of where the series is going, we'll be visiting that by the end of the series."
"In light of the events of CIVIL WAR and Tony Stark's own guilt over the death of Cap, the meeting between these two heroes is going to be an emotional jackhammer," says Krueger. "One that will rip through the story. And let me just mention that the Invaders, while not something I picked off the racks as a kid, was the first collection I completed and went back and got all the issues of. [I] love these characters. I love what they mean to the Marvel Universe. I think INVADERS #13 was even one of my first comics, given to me by a friend's older brother or something like that.
"While this story involves, again, a very large cast, it's a very personal story. Both for the characters that will be in it, and for me, getting to be involved with Alex and Nick and Steve again."
"I was wracked with paranoia and worry that they wouldn't let us cross the Invaders over into today and I knew that if they allowed that, [if] they embraced that, the story would just write itself from there," admits Ross. "That's pretty much exactly what happened. Once you consider what would it take to get some of those characters to suddenly show up today and then even having it be somewhat of a mystery as to how they are here. You know how the different teams of the Avengers are going to react to that, how the world is going to reacts to that. Again, it makes your job easier because the biggest dramatic thing that could have happened in the crossover, instead of just having modern characters go into the past—just simply that is not revolutionary—is having them come today.
"It means something more to the world today, and that's of course where we're taking this confusing thing of the return of Captain America, that essentially is truly the return of Captain America, not in the way you would have expected. A lot of rich, creative room comes from that being opened up to us."
Look for Ross, Krueger and Sadowski to really flex their creative muscles when AVENGERS/INVADERS launches in 2008.