As part of a larger chat I recently had with writer Rick Remender about his current comic output (which will debut later this week), we took the time to talk a bit about the finale to this week’s “Uncanny Avengers,” an issue that is sure to be rather controversial amongst fans as a few less-than-happy events happen to a few characters in the title.
As a note, heavy spoilers are discussed. And shown! Spoilers all over the place.
So, with the spoilers out of the way…
“Uncanny Avengers” #14 begins the ‘Ragnarok’ storyline in the series as the various threads that have been building for quite some time all collide. In the heat of the moment and with misunderstanding all over the place, Rogue kills Scarlet Witch in attempt to save the day and enact some vengeance — and is then promptly killed by the resurrected Grim Reaper. In an effort to make Scarlet Witch’s plan not totally in vain, Wonder Man sacrifices his life and power to the Scarlet Witch to use before she dies.
It is, as Remender puts it, a bloodbath. While there are many BIG issues on the stands today (the “Avengers Arena” finale, for example, or “Morning Glories” #35), this is assuredly going to be one of the most discussed.
And it’s quite an endeavor to pull off, more difficult than some of the maneuvers Remender has done in his creator-owned work. “In a creator-owned comic book I can do whatever I want; there’s not a legion of readers who expect things a certain way who are then going to cry for my head on a stake. In a creator-owned comic I can do whatever I want and there are no expectations and no one feels proprietary about any of my characters; nobody is going to say ‘Heath Huston would never do that!’ Fuck you, he would do it! He’s mine! I know him, I know the character.”
“It’s much harder to say ‘I’m going to kill three of the biggest characters in your universe in a gruesome bloodbath,'” Remender continues. “There can be a lot of differing opinions in a mainstream comic book, you know? ‘Rogue would never do this!’ But I can say, ‘No, Rogue suffered the death of Charles Xavier and it broke her down and she stumbled into a dark place and she started fixating on the Scarlet Witch as the cause of it all’ — which, there is a logical chain of events that lead to the Scarlet Witch. And in the confusion, she thought Wanda was up to doing it again and she did what she thought was best.”
It’s a big and climactic scene, and one in which fan opinion is sure to be divided. But Remender is more interested in the story as he designs it, in working with the characters in the places he aims to push them. “Now, I can argue that point, but there are people who feel proprietary over Rogue or Scarlet Witch and the history of the characters and have different opinions, and they’re welcome to those opinions,” Remender says of the fan reaction to things like this or some of his controversial story decisions in the past. “I can only write from my perspective on these characters, but it’s obviously much more difficult in terms of doing things like this in a mainstream setting to an audience that have pre-determined opinions on how the characters would actually behave and they might differ from yours, where you don’t really deal with that in creator-owned comics.”
Fans of Remender’s will know that he’s often a fan of slowly built stories that have strong and grandiose emotional pay-offs in the end. “Fear Agent” is obviously the prime example, but it’s present in all of his work, including and certainly not limited from his time at Marvel with “Punisher” or “Uncanny X-Force.” So with a book as big as “Uncanny Avengers,” something that took its time to reach this point in the story in a world of double-shipped comics and events all over the place, it’s rather impressive that Remender was able to build this story as he’d intended.Continued below
“I wasn’t worried that I wouldn’t get here, but you are up against shorter attention spans and an audience that is now being trained to see their comic books shipping every two weeks,” Remender said. “For me it was something that was more important for me that “Uncanny Avengers” be able to be read in five years by itself in one big book, the same way that my “Punisher” or “X-Force” can be, than it was to meet up with those expectations of keeping things sort of constantly titillating. So, once the story was structured and I knew where it was taking me I just kind of stayed on path and, you know, we’re getting to the climax now.”
Of course, reaching that climax is a challenge of its own. It’s incredibly important for Remender to develop the events of the series to this point in a way that feels real, to the extent that the choices the characters make hold weight and that they face the consequences of their actions. “The reality is that no climax has any weight at all unless the characters have been developed and you’ve built the story getting there, and we’ve done that,” Remender says of the long con that the title has been able to pull off in allowing a series of deaths like this. “I feel like in the last eight issues of “Uncanny Avengers,” we’ve seeded why this act is important — we’ve shown you who the Twins are and who they are and what they’ve been through and why they hate their father Kang and his role in all of this; we’ve shown a natural divide grow again between the A and the X and used Captain America’s continuity and how frustrated or how broken he was coming home from Dimension Z to sort of help perpetuate why he was emotional and helped split the team up.”
“I try to come up with a story that actually effects the character and brings about change in them while drawing from them and their behavior, their rich history. I put a lot of time in making sure that I do that in a way that has a lot of thought put into it and that I can argue a rationalized case for any of the character’s motivations or decisions to anybody who has a differing opinion (which they can) in the case of these books. Provided that that’s the case, then I feel that it’s my responsibility to make big, bold imaginative changes to the books to keep them fresh and interesting, lest they become sort of stagnant xeroxes of bygone eras.”
This in turn begins to tie into some of the larger ideas that Remender is exploring in the series, related to heroes of the modern age and their responsibilities. It’s certainly something that Marvel has featured in their titles before, but they always reach natural boiling points — whereas “Uncanny Avengers” is taking it to the next level. “We’ve really set up a large examination of what happens with these kinds of supremely powerful people when they behave petulant and squabble and do not behave heroically, which we’ve seen going back to the “Civil War” at this point, and you’ve got your “Schisms” and your “AvXs” and you’ve just got heroes fighting heroes.”
“At a certain point those consequences need to be … they need to be high, and at this point in time, yet again, the Avengers and the X-Men refuse to bond and work as brother and sister toward a common goal and move forward in unity… and there’s a price to be paid for it.”
So while it has been a long road to this point, that the story should hit such a massive and dynamic note in the story makes perfect sense. The book was birthed out of the fallout of “AvX” and featured Rogue and Scarlet Witch in the center as two figures on either side of the line struggling to cooperate, which was all very much part of Remender’s plans for the series. “If you look, it’s all there from issue 1,” Remender notes. “I knew the big climax was going to be between Rogue and Scarlet Witch, that they were going to represent the A and the X in the conflict, that they were going to hate one another and they were going to be the hot button — they were going to diametrically opposed.”Continued below
“If you look at every single charater’s choice and everything they’ve done along the way, they’ve been set up so when you see where we end up at the climax of the story in issue #17, it goes back all the way to issues 1 and 5 and 6 where it’s all been seeded and set-up,” Remender explains. “That’s because, before we started this I had 23 issues outlined and ready to go and I knew where it was going. Now, that takes a certain belief and faith in the writer that when you’re going along with the story… and again, it’s shipping every 30 days, but because the other Avengers books are shipping two, three times a month and there’s an event double shipping and all these things, it can seem like it’s going slow but comic books used to ship monthly!”
“And at the end there’s a real pay-off here and there’s something to be said and there’s a real big status quo shift for the team and most everyone in the team, and that’s what good stories do — they take a character through a journey that explores who they are and then they come out of it on the other end changed… and that’s definitely what we’re doing here, and I felt like to do that and to do that justice it needed to have the real estate and the scope to earn the kind of big crazy shit that I have coming up.”
“Uncanny Avengers” #14 is on sale in stores now.