By Eric Drumm
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Now, for the panel report!
Avengers Assemble! Everyone is still in high spirits here on the final day of Wizard World Philadelphia, and no one was still in the mood to talk shop than the Marvel camp. At the Avengers panel, fans got their money's worth for the last discussion of the weekend. Led by the kingpin of marketing Jim McCann, NEW AVENGERS/MIGHTY AVENGERS writer Brian Michael Bendis, Marvel creative consultant CB Cebulski, and editors Molly Lazer and Bill Rosemann gave us the inside scoop and all the Avengers titles, skipping spoilers but dropping bombs along the way.
The panel kicked off with a sports inspiring call and response cheer led by Jim McCann. After the hootin' and hollerin' died down, he introduced the panelists, however the always cheeky Bendis introduced himself as that other domed comic writer, Brian K. Vaughn. Giving much props to his boy, Bill Rosemann let the crowd know that through McCann's tireless efforts, Marvel comics always has the buzz on the web as well as fine, distinguished publications such as Wizard magazine.
Barreling right into the books that were the topic of debate, covers from upcoming issues were projected for fan's virgin eyes to feast upon. Starting with the recently announced AVERNGERS: HOUSE OF M mini-series, Bill Rosemann could hardly contain himself. Dealing with Luke Cage and his band of streetwise comrades in the world of House of M, Rosemann recalled the day when editor Tom Brevoort gave him the greenlight. Remembering the scene where Luke Cage set up shop in a Hell's Kitchen bar, Rosemann exclaimed to the crowd "Now THAT'S a story!" Singing the praises of writer Christos Gage, Rosemann explained that he loves the book because Gage "likes people in costumes punching each other, but theres a meaning to it. "AVENGERS: HOUSE OF M drops in November, so keep your eyes peeled.
The next book introduced was NEW AVENGERS/TRANSFORMERS mini series. Rosemann again was an eruption of enthusiasm, explaining that giant robots and super heroes were a lethal combo of awesomeness. A four issue story coming in July, the book will be by Stuart Moore with art by Tyler Kurtman, but the real clincher is that this will be a pre-CIVIL WAR Avengers tale. Meaning, Captain America and Iron Man are still on the team. Assemble and roll out!
Moving on to the on going NEW AVENGERS title, the one hot button topic of the weekend reared its ugly green head once again; Skrulls. The very mention of the word brought about a collective "WHAAAAT???" from the panelists. Speaking about the state of things after NEW AVENGERS #31, Bendis was more than happy to drop a few jokes, even saying "even Skrull babies are cute." Does this confirm or deny anything? Of course not! "Things are a little upside down post-CIVIL WAR," Bendis went on to say, also saying that mistrust, paranoia and suspicion will be rippling through the Avengers ranks, and that the clues may have been there all along. Dropping a few more hints, he said to be on the lookout for folks falling in love, falling in hate, switching sides, switching teams, and generally building into one huge flip out on all accounts. The mystery will continue to grow, especially because Wolverine's sniffs, Spidey's Spider-Sense and Dr. Strange's "magic hoochie" as he put it couldn't detect the Skrull invader. So, quite seriously, who do you trust?
McCann then led to the panel towards the other Avengers book, MIGHTY AVENGERS, also written by Bendis. Coming up, Bendis revealed that current penciler Frank Cho and his long time ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN partner Mark Bagley will be rotating art duties on the book. Displaying a cover of a Venom monster eating the team, Bendis warned us about a deadly symbiote virus that "kicks the $#@& out of New York City." "Well, that or they are Skrulls," a grinning Bendis added.
Steering the ship over to AVENGERS: INITIATIVE, McCann passed the panel over to the spunky Molly Lazer. Flashing the cover of issue #6, she shrugged off the gasps as people got a peek at a pretty messed up Gauntlet with an omninus "NW" spray painted on his chest. Back tracking to issues #4 and #5, Lazer pointed to the screens where the covers of several Iron Spiders along with the new recruits were taking on a raged out Hulk. Lazer said that these issues will debut the ultra secret Initiative Black Ops team. Since the Initiative is too big of an idea to be contained to one group of characters, Molly explained to fans that the book will feature longer arcs, but also have smaller issues to show the expansive roster of a superteam in each of the fifty states. All penned by Dan Slott, the book is going anywhere but down.
Lazer then pointed towards the next book spotlighted, CAPTAIN AMERICA. While flashing upcoming covers, Molly explained that future issues will focus on Bucky's mission to kill Tony Stark, which rustled an uproarious applause from the crowd. Also shedding some light on the new Serpent Society, Molly promised that CAPTAIN AMERICA is still going strong despite its title character being dead.
Rosemann then took over to talk about a book he is quite proud of these days, MS. MARVEL Debuting a cover of Ms. Marvel vs. Tigra is a vicious cat fight, "The Avengers are like a sledgehammer," he explained. "Ms. Marvel's team [Operation Lighting Storm] are like a laser to stop bigger problems before they happen." Rosemann then turned it back to the audience, thanking them for the continous sell outs of the book and for sticking with the character. Keeping up with the cheeky, Bendis asked is Ms. Marvel and Tigra would in fact make out during their fight, as the cover thinly suggested. Before moving on, Rosemann said that Ms. Marvel's next target is a revitalized Puppet Master. Creepy!
Jumping over to SUB-MARINER and THOR, McCann said that the waters are going to get choppy in both titles. "Something went horribly horribly wrong," said McCann, referring to the Atleantean destruction of a small town in the pages of SUB-MARINER, and assured that things are only going to get worse for our favorite arrogant king of the ocean. McCann also said to be on the lookout for a crazy fight between Thor and Iron-Man in THOR #3. "Indeed blows are exchanged," he vaguely teased.
The last book touched on was the upcoming book, THE ORDER. Formally THE CHAMPIONS, the team was teased during CIVIL WAR and is now its very own title. CB Cebulski is excited about it, saying that writer Matt Fraction is "doing a kick ass job." Bendis chimed in, claiming to have the read the first issue already and encouraged us to do the same.
Making the transition to Q and A, the panel dodged spoiler bullets while still making us drool with anticipation. When asked about the CHAMPIONS name change, Rosemann said that is was a legal issue, but luckily it was "easy to change the C's on their costumes to O's." One youngster citied that if the evil Loki can change reality with a whisper, why can't he just bring back Cap? Stumped, Bendis walked over and personally handed the kid a copy of NEW AVENGERS #31. While on the issue of Cap's death, one fan asked Bendis if Cap was a Skrull. Bendis simply pointed out that he wasn't because after he died his chin was shown to not be "all ballsacky."
The next question that came up was whether or not the two Avengers teams will ever share a mansion again. Bendis responded with a simple "never say never", but it was Lazer who pointed out that that first they would have to rebuild one. Too true! Fielding a flurry of questions about the Skrull presence, Bendis stuck to the guns he has had all weekend and said that the clues are out there, and the by going back and re-reading you just might find some. He went on to say that nothing is being retconned, and that Marvel and himself are not in the business of "pulling shtick like that." Ending the Skrull questions, it was proposed why Reed Richards can't just invent a device to weed them all out? Bendis coyly replied that he can't because he is currently "off somewhere with his Skrull wife."
The Avengers will continue to deliver the goods, and with Skrulls, Hulks and other nefarious monsters on the loose, the world's mightiest heroes have several titles in which to tackle them.