Ares: Leading the Charge

The God of War finishes his quest in DARK AVENGERS: ARES #3 and Kieron Gillen lets us know how the troops under his command feel about their role!

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DARK AVENGERS: ARES #3 preview art by Manuel Garcia
By Marc Strom

When Ares sets out to accomplish something, he always sees it through-no matter what the cost. Unfortunately for the H.A.M.M.E.R. troops under his command, that cost just might prove deathly in DARK AVENGERS: ARES #3 on December 23, from writer Kieron Gillen and artist Manuel Garcia.

Nonetheless, Gillen notes that Ares "absolutely" feels a responsibility to his men.

"As Cam realizes halfway through the second issue, Ares isn't acting like he would if he was by himself," notes Gillen. "If he was by himself, he wouldn't be sneaking. He'd be straight in, swinging that brutal battleaxe and generally having the time of his life taking people's lives. He's very aware that [his troops, the Shades, are] squishy and he isn't. If he didn't feel any responsibility, he wouldn't have thrown himself into that melee to give them a chance to escape.

"The problem is, well, Ares is trying to teach them how to push it. The military gives you lots of rules to absolutely minimize chance of casualties. Ares thinks that an elite unit, just by pushing it a bit, will out-perform those who don't. You up the chance of dying a little, but it's a risk worth the performance boost, if you will. Ares is one of those people who lean towards something like the Battle of Cannae as a supreme tactical achievement. About 50,000 lost in a day. The thing about Cannae is the Carthaginians lost 8,000 or so. About one in seven soldiers died. They're the sort of casualty rates a modern western military won't ever

DARK AVENGERS: ARES #3 preview art by Manuel Garcia
accept. And, of course, Carthage also lost the war. The problem is that the mission has ended up being much more deadly than he thought. And it's worth noting when Ares realized that, he's done everything to try and get them out alive."

According to Gillen, the mortal soldiers feel a bit of distance from their immortal leader, given how much more it takes to kill Ares than an average human being.

"On the other hand, they're starting to see the logic between his actions," he relates. "You don't necessarily look at what Ares says. You look at what's implied. You look at how he acts. He's a superhuman, so he can do that. You're a human? What can you do? That's for you to decide. And at the start of the third issue, that's exactly where we find them. This turned into a suicide mission, until Ares sacrificed himself to let them have a chance to escape. What now for the Shades?"

Seeing what this mission means to Ares-the fate of one of his sons hanging in the balance-has also changed the way in which his soldiers view him.

"It's, for want of a better phrase, humanized him a little," remarks Gillen. "There's a personal history here, and they can see that. Beneath the bluster, there's something approaching understandable feelings. He's had multiple sons. He's failed them. The one thing I don't think the Shades have quite realized is that if he failed the sons, what [is] the chance of

DARK AVENGERS: ARES #3 preview art by Manuel Garcia
him failing them too? The teacher/student relationship can be a lot like the parent/child one."

The question of Ares' nobility, given what he's willing to do to accomplish his goal, reveals part of what Gillen finds so fascinating in the character.

"I think he's about as noble as he's able to be," posits the writer. "That's what I find most interesting about Ares. I think he'd like to be more noble than he is. He tries. But he's the incarnation of the worst aspects of wars. When all your instincts pull you one way, can you overcome that? I think that's the tragedy of Ares.

"But yeah, in the right place and the right time, Ares is as noble as anyone. He'd die for what he believes. Hell, he'll die for something he doesn't entirely believe if he says he'll fight for you. But he'd much rather make them die."

Speaking of death, Gillen points out that the series' conclusion will have its fair share of darkness.

"I was telling artist Jamie McKelvie about the final issue, and how it ends up and how I was worried about its intensity. And he noted, 'well, it doesn't say 'Light Avengers' on the cover.'"

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