By Jason Juniewicz
By now you must have heard the news. Elektra
, as revealed in NEW AVNEGERS #31. But it doesn't end with her. Writer Brian Michael Bendis promises that there are many more twists and turns to come. The big question that every Avenger will have to ask, whether they be a Mighty Avenger or a New Avenger, is Who Do You Trust?
Who is a Skrull? Who isn't?
Bendis says the surprise ending at the end of NEW AVENGERS #31 was just the tip of the iceberg, adding that which part of the ending is more revealing may surprise you. "Well it's not so much the ending as what does the ending mean?" teases Bendis. "What is it? Already people go, 'Oh another [expletive deleted] Skrull story [expletive deleted] you,' or when things settle down they go, 'Hmm, what does this mean?' That's what it is. It's what does this mean
? Does it mean that there was a Skrull posing as Elektra? Or has there been a large-scale military invasion by a shape-shifting race, who has lost their home world and religiously believes that this world is theirs? It's been written in the scriptures that Earth is theirs. Using every last bit of their power to make a last stand to take what they believe is theirs. And using our own weaknesses and our own fears and paranoia against us.
"The Avengers will react accordingly," says Bendis, who scripts both MIGHTY AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS. "Half of them will think it's just an isolated case and some of the more world-savvy characters will say, 'No, we may be at war and we may have already lost.' If last summer the tagline was 'Whose side are you on?' for CIVIL WAR, the question this year is 'Who can you trust?' The Avengers
are like, 'This is ridiculous because I don't know who the [expletive deleted] you people are. I don't know what's going on. All I know is [things have] gone to hell because Wolverine
and Dr. Strange
couldn't tell that a Skrull was a Skrull until it was dead.' So that means the Skrulls have done something to themselves.
"And the last page with the baby, which is probably my favorite page of all time, it's just Damian from "The Omen" looking at the reader," Bendis says, cackling like an evil mastermind. "It's just hilarious. That says not just that maybe Luke Cage
's baby is a Skrull, it says that anything that's living and breathing could be. It's not necessarily who you think it is. But what has to be said--and I see that people are worried about it and they're right to be worried--I promise on a stack of Jewish bibles that the 'Secret War,' 'House of M' and 'Civil War,' those happened. Those are things we're not going to reveal the Skrulls were all behind it. I didn't write CIVIL WAR, so for me to say that 'Civil War' was all because of the Skrulls, that's nasty to Mark [Millar].
"So nothing is being retconned," Bendis says assuringly. "I promise that the Skrull thing is a serious threat. What the heroes have done to themselves, they have done to themselves. Now what could be is that the Skrulls gleefully allowed us to do as much damage to ourselves as possible, because it makes their lives a lot easier. So when the Civil War happened, the Skrulls go, 'Okay, everyone sit back for while. They're going to beat the [expletive deleted] out of each other and kill Captain America
. That's one less thing we have to do.'"
Bendis offers one suggestion to fans: go back and re-read your comics with the Skrulls in mind. "You can go back and read NEW AVENGERS, and re-read Elektra appearances, and you can try to be a detective and try to figure out for yourself when and where these things happened," says Bendis. "We will be revealing them all, but in the meantime, you're going to get a lot more bang for your buck because you're going to be able to re-read your comics in a new light. I am telling you that the Skrull thing has been going on since NEW AVENGERS #1. The Skrulls were the shadowy people in the first issue. I thought I'd tell you that. That's how much is going to happen. I can tell you that without giving anything away. But you can go back now and re-read and try to figure out who is who, because hints were plotted. Part of the NEW AVENGERS initial pitch was this lengthy, lengthy story. So that's what I am really excited about is people getting to re-read their comics, getting more for their couple of bucks.
"That's the good juicy stuff of this," says Bendis, excited that the cat's at least partially out of the bag. "This is where the fun is going to happen. And the fun will be me getting my butt kicked a little bit, but that's okay. That's how much I believe in the fun we're about to have. Everything's been set, everything is locked. We know exactly when all of this stuff took place."
Bendis also says he wants to take a fresh look at an age-old enemy that has troubled Earth's heroes since their first appearance way back in FANTASTIC FOUR #2. "The Skrulls were always [these] evil green skinned aliens with a ray gun and a space ship and shape-shifting powers," says Bendis. "But they never used those shape-shifting powers to do any legitimate damage other than to marry Johnny Storm or something. The plan afoot is to take the Skrulls as a concept, not unlike when Star Trek took the Klingons and they became a legitimate threat. Or when the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica went from goofball robots to a real terrorist threat. Taking the idea of what they are, and looking at [it] from 'What's the scariest version of that story?' Taking a page from The Hidden, and Terminator 2 and really getting under people's skin with not trusting what's around them. So this isn't the old green skinned alien Skrull story, this is about something more sophisticated, hopefully."
Marvel has always tried to keep their stories grounded in the real world, touching on the world we live in and the issues we face. Bendis says he hopes to stay with this ideal. "Marvel at it's best always did that," says Bendis. "That's why CIVIL WAR was such a hit, because you could argue about it all summer. You were talking about civil rights. And here we're talking about who can you trust? You get on a bus and someone looks a certain type and you're scared. And that is an emotion that everyone can relate to. Even on a more sub-textual level, sometimes your girlfriend cheats on you and you don't know who to trust. You think your life's okay and you realize 'my life sucks.' That kid of thing. People can relate to that emotion, so Marvel has always been able to take those ideas and project them onto a much larger landscape, a more fantastic landscape. So that's the attempt here."
Fans can even look outside the pages of NEW AVENGERS to help them sort out this mystery. "If you've been reading the ILLUMINATI mini-series, way back in ILLUMINATI #1, the Illuminati
went to the Skrull world and said, 'Cut it out,'" says Bendis. "It didn't go well and the Illuminati were captured, and they escaped. The Skrull says, 'We got what we needed.' What was that? What did they get? Did not everyone leave who stayed? Did they get something from them genetically? Did they need to do something?
"So that just shows you that, here's a modern version of where the plan sets," adds Bendis. "And the good news is that the stuff that's going on in AVENGERS will tail right into the fifth issue of ILLUMINATI, so that mini-series will bookend with the Skrulls. What they did and what the results were, what will happen in the book. And then both AVENGERS books will be affected by this immediately, starting with the next issue of NEW AVENGERS tailing right into MIGHTY AVENGERS. Not everyone is going to stay on the team that they're on. Not everyone is going to be on a team that was on a team. There's going to be dramatic changes in both books because of the news of Elektra, and what it could possibly mean and who we could possibly trust."
Fans can also rest assured that this is for real and not just something to help Bendis out of a bind. He says that he has already chosen who is and who is not one of those dastardly shape-shifters. "Who is and who isn't is locked," promises Bendis. "That is done. I am so many months ahead. It's all locked in so you can go have fun with this and guess. And I promise you it is a juicy elaborate piece of fiction and you can go have a lot of fun with it because no one's going to change it on you halfway through. The plan is afoot.
is acting the most squirrelly of all," reveals Bendis. "Who's benefited the most? That's a reaction people have. Or, are we going to use the Skrulls to retcon ourselves out of a hole we dug? Absolutely not--this has all been planned. And the plan is not a retcon any way you look at it."
As to any hints on who Bendis has labeled a Skrull, he is staying tight-lipped, but he did offer these juicy tidbits of information. "There are places where, I'd say anybody who had an iffy death scene or an iffy resurrection is suspect," teases Bendis. "And not everyone who is a Skrull, knows they're a Skrull. The only one we know isn't, is Cap because he died and didn't change back into anything."
As for closing remarks, Bendis could only say, "WHO CAN YOU TRUST? Read your AVENGERS books and say, 'Who can you trust?'"
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