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Secret Avengers Declassified: The Operatives

Nick Spencer divulges the role of Hawkeye, Black Widow and others on this new S.H.I.E.L.D. team!

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Secret Avengers #1 preview art by Luke Ross

By TJ Dietsch

Mark Twain once said, “A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory.” The saying fits in perfectly with Daisy Johnson and Maria Hill's new vision for the Secret Avengers which will find its stars sacrificing their memories in favor of a clear conscience and tighter security.

Launching with a new #1 issue in February, SECRET AVENGERS finds longtime super heroes like Hawkeye, Mockingbird and Black Widow doing S.H.I.E.L.D.'s dirty work, but not remembering a stitch of it thanks to memory erasing technology based on the methods used in SECRET WAR.

Written by Nick Spencer with art by Luke Ross, SECRET AVENGERS will also feature characters like Nick Fury Jr., Agent Phil Coulson, Taskmaster, Hulk and even Winter Soldier, who all play their own roles. But, they're not world renowned members of teams like the Avenges, the Champions and the Thunderbolts. How do heroes of that ilk balance those identities with the increasingly dangerous missions S.H.I.E.L.D. sends them on? That's all part of the show.

After discussing the management structure of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. yesterday, Nick Spencer today talks about the aforementioned heroes, how the memory tampering will play into the story and working with a group of characters who have gained prominence thanks to the Marvel Studios films.

Marvel.com: There have been other Secret Avengers teams in the past, what makes this one different?

Nick Spencer: For one thing, this team exists directly under the purview of S.H.I.E.L.D., which just immediately changes both the kinds of missions that they go on, and the methods they employ once they’re in the field. They’re doing things S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn’t—or couldn’t—ask anyone else to do.

Secret Avengers #1 variant cover by Leinil Francis Yu

Marvel.com: Another obvious difference in teams is that these characters get their memories erased after every mission; is that the kind of thing that might get to characters like Hawkeye, Black Widow and Mockingbird?

Nick Spencer: Sure, of course. The nature of these missions means these operatives can’t be allowed to know about them outside mission time—being independent operations, with their own histories and a general lack of high-level security clearances, there’s just too much risk—so using memory implants is the best available solution. And different characters will respond to this in different ways—and in some cases, their responses will definitely surprise you.

Marvel.com: How do Maria Hill and Daisy Johnson go about recruiting those heroes or new ones for future missions, especially when part of the deal involves memory tampering? That didn't go over so well in SECRET WAR…

Nick Spencer: Maria feels this tech was discarded a little too rashly after the Secret War. It’s her thinking that, with a few tweaks here and there, the rewards outweigh the risks. Daisy is a little more hesitant, but sees the point, so they’ve worked out a set of “rules” for how to use this technology in the most ethical, least dangerous way possible, by S.H.I.E.L.D. standards, at least. But then, there’s that problem with the best laid plans...

Marvel.com: With many of these characters playing large parts in Marvel Studios films, does it add an extra layer of pressure when writing their adventures and dividing up "screen time?"

Nick Spencer: Oh, sure. It’s a big cast, and they’ve all got really cool stories of their own coming up, and the juggling act of that can be a tough but rewarding challenge. We’re very much playing the long game on this book, so it will take some time for everything to come into focus. But as it does, I’m excited for it all shakes out.

Secret Avengers #2 variant cover by Mike Deodato

As for the movie stuff, I don’t think about it a lot. I guess I just don’t see the line as clearly as some do, and I tend to view the connection points between the comics and films as a strength. So we have these little nods, like the first mission being set in Budapest, or some concepts and characters that you first saw in the movies, but really, this is my story at the end of the day. None of it was shoved in by mandate, or anything. We’re trying to use it all to our advantage. I do really like that you could hand this book to someone who has only seen the movies and they could probably piece it together and start getting into it pretty easily.

Marvel.com: What separates team members from assets like Hulk and Winter Soldier?

Nick Spencer: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Avengers initiative is sort of a two-headed beast: on the one hand, they want the best black ops/covert ops players working in the field. That’s the appeal behind recruiting Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Mockingbird, amongst others. With all due respect to the average S.H.I.E.L.D. field agent, there’s a level of skill there you just won’t find anywhere else.

The second part is obviously all about bringing in the big guns. The operatives you call in to level cities or fight off alien invasions. That, more than anything, is what S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t had in the past. The world is getting crazier and crazier, the threats bigger and bigger, and S.H.I.E.L.D. has to answer. That’s where the assets come in.

Check out SECRET AVENGERS #1 by Nick Spencer and Luke Ross on February 13. For more talk with Spencer about the team's other members, come back tomorrow and every day this week.

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