Earlier this summer, New York Times-bestselling author Dan Abnett delivered “Rocket Raccoon & Groot: Steal the Galaxy!,” Marvel’s first original prose novel. Now he’s hard at work on another novel for next year, starring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and every nefarious villain he can throw at them, from A.I.M and the High Evolutionary to the machinations of Ultron.
The globe-spanning adventure has the appropriate title of “Avengers: Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and it’s headed your way in April of 2015.
“When Marvel suggested writing a Guardians or Rocket related novel to coincide with the movie, it appealed,” Abnett recalls of the first novel. “But I realized that it would be a far more interesting challenge and the result might be better if I gave them an original story. Far more freeing. A story you write for a comic strip is specifically designed to fit into a comic strip. There were things that I wanted to do with a novel that suited that form better. Marvel thought it was a good idea. It was one of the most fun jobs I can remember in a long time, with that combination of action and humor and Marvel lore—referencing continuity and Easter-egging. So, I really enjoyed it and it seems to have gone down really well. Marvel was so pleased they’ve come back to me for more.
“The Avengers are my favorite Marvel team,” continues the writer, “So that helped enormously. The idea was to do a great big, epic story that represented the Avengers at their best, doing what they do best, taking on planet-threatening monstrosities. The main guide Marvel gave me to begin with was to start from that core team roster from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ve added to that a bit. Then I gave them an Earth-shaking, staggering threat, which I hope won’t be too much for them to deal with. It’s got to be big. Without the artwork of comics to give you the fun and games, you need the fun and games to be present there in the prose for it to be big and expansive. It needed to be ambitious.”
That plot sees the team scattered to the far reaches of the globe, with Captain America grappling with the forces of Hydra in Berlin and Black Widow and Hawkeye on a mission in the Savage Land. Meanwhile, Thor does battle with an entire army in Siberia, the Hulk and Nick Fury team up in Mangapore, and Iron Man battles Ultron in Washington.
“The Avengers aren’t just taking on one of their classic foes, which would make a great novel in itself,” says Abnett. “They’re taking on multiple classic foes at the same time in a desperate scramble. They have to sub-divide to meet these threats, threats they’d normally have to stand together to deal with. And while they’re contending with Hydra and A.I.M, they’re sort of going, ‘Why is all this happening at once?’ Everyone seems to be making this mad grab for the Earth, and of course, that’s the point. There is something at stake, something motivating all these villainous entities to act at the same time.”
It doesn’t take too long before the far-flung teammates realize that their individual crises share a connection, and that’s when they do that thing they do so well.
“Let’s face it,” Abnett laughs, “One of the things the Avengers do better than anybody else is assemble.
“It’s a big techno-thriller that just happens to have super-powered people in the middle of it. It’s a way of translating what’s spectacular on the page in an Avengers comic, where you can see Thor lifting a bulldozer or Cap hurling his shield—all that epic power, speed, excitement, action—in a novel format.”
Abnett likens the task of capturing such larger than life heroes in the more grounded medium of prose to the challenge of depicting nine-foot-tall space marines in his extensive work chronicling the grimdark mythos of Warhammer 40K.
“I feel extremely lucky that I’m getting a chance to have a go at that,” says the writer of lending real-world gravity to such heightened characters, “But also to use some of the biggest toys in the industry. It’s not just inventing super heroes and writing about them, but taking some of the most famous heroes in the world and presenting them in that format.”
Of course, Abnett tackles this prose adventure in parallel to his latest comics project, a return to the realm of Marvel Cosmic, this time in the distant future. Zeroing in on the exploits of GUARDIANS 3000, the writer at once looks to tomorrow while celebrating the team that carried the banner before Rocket, Star-Lord, Gamora and the rest of that ragtag crew. This new ongoing series showcases the adventures of the original lineup of Charlie-27, Vance Astro, Martinex, Starhawk, and Yondu.
“It’s enormously good fun,” he says. “I’ve set myself various challenges there. These characters aren’t particularly well known, though that shouldn’t be an obstacle given that that was also the case with my previous Guardians book. It’s a matter of bringing beloved, but half-forgotten characters back into the fore. I’m not literally going back to 1968 and starting again, but that’s the continuum that we’re in. The Badoon Brotherhood is overrunning the universe and the Guardians serve as the vanguard freedom fighters battling them off, trying to save not only humanity but other species from their wrath.”
“This is one thousand years in the future. That dislocates them from the Marvel Universe. One of the things about that previous run and the sandbox Brian Michael Bendis is working in now is that there’s very strong connective tissue to the Marvel Universe, which helps support them. I am sticking to the idea that this is one thousand years on, so I have to build a new universe. Or extrapolate a universe from the one we know now. What does the Marvel Universe look like in the year 3000? Are any familiar faces still going to be around, or their descendants, or new versions of them? What’s the political map like?”
As an added conflict, there’s something wrong with time. “There is a fault,” explains Abnett. “Time is dislocating and replaying. It’s as if they’ve been at war with the Badoon forever, and every time they win, time resets and starts over and they’re back where they’d started.”
Combine that with some sociopolitical tensions on an intergalactic scale, and the going gets pretty tough for the Guardians of the year 3000. Hopefully they relish a challenge as much as Abnett himself, who seems to thrive on testing his own limits and offering complex stories for hungry readers.
“Avengers: Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” hits bookstores in April 2015, while GUARDIANS 3000 debuts this October!