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By Tim Stevens
In the wake of Civil War, Nighthawk has been given a chance to revisit and set right some past wrongs.
After being tapped by Tony Stark himself to head up the New Jersey chapter of the Initiative program, Kyle Richmond thought he could return some luster to the "Defenders" name. Together with She-Hulk, Colossus, and Blazing Skull, Nighthawk went after a contingent of the Serpent Society and unwittingly helped the baddies raise Quetzalcoatl, a flying snake monster that breathes fire. Things got worse from there. Thus endeth the quest for redemption, right?
Not exactly. If politics and advertising have taught us anything, it's that where there's money, there's a way. And Nighthawk has the money. So what does a hero without a team do? Hire some super mercenaries. And that's exactly what happens in THE
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LAST DEFENDERS #3, due out May 14, as Richmond brings Atlas, Junta, and Paladin into the Defenders fold.
The idea of a "pay for play" team appealed to LAST DEFENDERS writer Joe Casey.
"I do like the idea of [the] mercenary in a super hero universe," admits Casey. "There's just a strange, unique motivation there for someone to charge money for your services in a world full of altruistic super heroes."
Perhaps because of their unique place in the Marvel Universe, the mercenaries in question have to look for any payout they can find, quasi-governmental or not.
"Have you ever missed a meal because you couldn't afford it," asks Casey. "Not fun. So, obviously, when the right pay day comes along you're going to take it, no
matter what the gig entails."
Junta and Atlas bring additional baggage to Marvel's favorite "non-team." At the end of the limited series THE CREW, Junta cut himself off from much of his prior life and readers have not heard from him since.
"Sometimes the best laid plans and all that stuff," says Casey of Junta's return. "But I love the character and I was a big fan of [writer Christopher] Priest's THE CREW series, so I'm happy to bring the guy back out into the light."
The hard-luck size-changing Atlas has had a rough road of late, with his incarnation of the Thunderbolts disbanding and a battle involving the cosmic Grandmaster leaving him comatose.
"As with most things in the Marvel Universe, nothing is permanent," notes Casey of how the big guy makes his way onto the team. "However, as [Atlas is] certainly not with the [Thunderbolts], Erik Josten's got to find a way to make a buck."
Paladin, by contrast, has been doing fairly well for himself. Yes, he got pasted and turned in to the government by his teammates at Heroes for Hire when he betrayed them, however, he soon enough popped up again, as arrogant and opportunistic as ever. Over the years, the purple-clad Paladin portrayed as everything from a morally conflicted trigger man in DAREDEVIL to a good guy just happening to make some money along the way in everything from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN to SILVER SABLE AND THE WILD PACK.
"[These are all] facets of his personality," says Casey of Paladin's various incarnations. "He's always been a character I was drawn to, because for as long as he's been around, he's still very much a mystery character. And those different portrayals are, to me, a sure signal that he's also a complex character. Definitely not a one-note guy, and that's a great kind of character to write."
As for Nighthawk's motivation, Casey describes the hero as being, "placed in a situation where he feels that has no choice but to work with these characters."
"Like they say, necessity is the mother of invention," notes the writer. "It's a much more personal thing for Kyle Richmond. An important element of this entire series is seeing how much the Defenders means to Kyle. He'll go to any lengths to keep the team alive."
To see how Nighthawk fares in this endeavor, and if those three mercenaries manage a nice paycheck, seek out THE LAST DEFENDERS #3, with art by Jim Muniz and Cam Smith, on shelves this May 14. Also, check out this past skirmish between Atlas and Nighthawk plus much more on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.