Tuesday Q&A: Rick Remender

Tuesday Q&A: Rick Remender

By Jim Beard

In a year of comics that explodes with Avengers and X-Men happenings, writer Rick Remender’s sitting in the catbird seat by helming a prominent title in each super hero franchise.

Not content with simply allowing larger events to carry enthusiasm, he’s piled on the storytelling in both SECRET AVENGERS and UNCANNY X-FORCE, pitting his stars against new dangers from the outside and hidden secrets that threaten both teams from the inside. We caught up with the busy Remender and piled on the questions until we learned all we could about his plans for Avengers and X-Men alike.

Secret Avengers #29 cover by Art Adams

Marvel.com: Let’s start with SECRET AVENGERS: What’s going on with the team post-Avengers Vs. X-Men in SECRET AVENGERS #29, out July 25?

Remender: I kind of look at [AvX] as an interlude [with the temporary team]. So, coming back into the regular fold, we open up with Hawkeye discovering that things are amiss in Bagalia, the red light nation, where we saw [him] and Captain America take a visit back in SECRET AVENGERS #21.1. And this is the arc where I am wrapping up all of Ed [Brubaker] and Warren Ellis’ Shadow Council stuff, taking all those threads and moving them toward one big story that ties in with the Masters of Evil, Bagalia, Ibis [and] the Shadow Council. We drop in a squad of Secret Avengers who expect something is amiss but they don’t have any idea of quite the magnitude of what they’re about to deal with. You always want that escalation.

So Hank Pym and Captain Britain are out dealing with Descendants investigations, trying to figure out what’s going on. We keep that Beast story percolating in the background, and the team here is Hawkeye, Venom, Ant-Man, and Valkyrie being sent down to Bagalia to investigate what’s going on, and that leads us to a four-issue story which I’m just calling “Masters of Evil right” now. The new Masters of Evil and how they all came together has a nice twist that [will] get revealed around issue #30.

Marvel.com: What’s driving the new Masters of Evil in a general sense?

Secret Avengers #30 cover by Art Adams

Remender: I’m sorry to be cagey, but the reveal [of their purpose] is something that made me excited about doing the Masters of Evil with a whole new cast. Speaking to the nature of villains, in a way that I think is a nice beat that I’d rather have people read about than have prior knowledge to. I will say that I hope that it’s a nice little beat. There might be some questions like the one you’re asking that people have going into it and when they get the answer to it I think that it’s a nice little reveal.

It’s an army, and by the time we find them in Bagalia their membership is in the hundreds. It’s a lot of A-list villains, a lot of B-list, a lot of C-list, but basically Max Fury put out the call and they came. He’s got his own country that the Shadow Council money has funded. They’ve been building this sort of crime-Dubai, and it’s a sovereign state. It’s its own place, it’s legal, they can do what they want. So it’s a world where the Avengers are the bad guys and the bad guys are the good guys by law. I think it opens up a lot of different stories but again, to tell why they all came together kind of kills the reveal.

Marvel.com: How will the teased SECRET AVENGERS #29 “secret romance” impact the team?

Remender: Well there are a couple of them, actually! We’re going to see one of them start to boil up in the Masters of Evil story. And it affects the team in that it’s just not something that they want to happen on the squad. They’re not just a family of super heroes living in a mansion. These guys are dealing with really serious black ops things and they need people to be professional. So Hawkeye’s probably not looking for a lot of romance to start boiling. The relationship between Valkyrie and Venom builds, and then there’s another relationship with Pym and someone that starts to build in the “Rise of the Descendants” arc that starts in SECRET AVENGERS #33. So there are a lot of little complications that grow out of that. I think that the important thing about picking those relationships and how to build them is just putting the soap opera in it. I feel like that I’ve got that.

Secret Avengers #32 cover by Art Adams

Marvel.com: You mentioned the Shadow Council and that you’re picking up threads from Ellis and Brubaker. Would you say things are coming to a head with the Shadow Council and the Secret Avengers?

Remender: Max Fury, like an evil Nick Fury would, is working a number of angles. He’s taken over the Shadow Council and moved them toward their goal of bringing the Abyss, which has been this thing that they’ve been hinting at and the cause of all the black-eyed soldiers. They’ve all been infected with bits of the Abyss but now the actual Abyss is coming. Max basically promises them, “Do what I say, do it my way, and I will bring the Abyss to Earth and we will all be its wonderful servants.” So that also feeds into how he compiles and puts together this new Masters of Evil. And by issue #32 all of those loose threads will be wrapped up in a pretty spectacular climax.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Matteo Scalera and Matt Wilson on art with Art Adams on covers. It’s one of the best teams in comic books. Matteo is somebody I’ve been trying to work with for a long time and I think that when people see what he’s done here I would expect Matteo to be one of the next big A-listers, based on these pages.

Marvel.com: So, specifically, what is it that you like about what he’s doing on the book?

Remender: Well, in comics and sequential art, you need a tool belt. You need to be able to convey emotion and complex acting through character expressions. You need to be a dynamic and terrific illustrator. And most importantly, you need to be a great storyteller. You need to know how to move the camera. You need to know when to pull it back and when to get it close. You are the director, and you’re also the actors, and you’re also the lighting, and you’re also the cinematographer. It’s so infrequent that you come across somebody who’s got all of that and the ability to ink. I mean, his inks are just out of this world.

Secret Avengers #33 cover by Art Adams

Matteo’s just a pure storyteller. In SECRET AVENGERS #30, there’s a bike chase in Bagalia with Hawkeye chasing Taskmaster and I just gave it eight pages to see what he would do, and it’s like “Bourne Identity” amazing. It’s like storyboarding. He’s so fluid I cut my dialogue down to almost nothing. Just beautiful, fluid action happening. So that’s a motorcycle chase. That’s as hard as it gets. That’s really just as hard as it gets. Seeing him convey that and also the illustrations are so full, his backgrounds are so rich. He doesn’t cheat anything; he’s putting in just so many hours on these pages.

Marvel.com: Segueing over to the X-side of the fence, what can you say about the new member joining X-Force in UNCANNY X-FORCE #27 and #28?

Remender: Well it’s something that we saw Grant Morrison touch upon in his last arc, with the evolution of E.V.A. becoming her own person, and I would put a big Spoiler Warning over this: If you’ve read UNCANNY X-FORCE #27, then you know that Fantomex takes the hit. It was something that Grant had set up as happening in his future story and I thought that it would be nice to respect that and actually show it happen. Beyond that, I also wanted Fantomex to take the hit because this is going to be a very Wolverine-centric arc. All the characters have had a lot of spotlight time in this, but Wolverine has not had a lot of personal stuff to deal with. And here he is now where the methodology of X-Force and what they’ve done with Evan, and then Fantomex cloning and growing a new Evan, have left Wolverine in a bit of a spot where he’s got this student of his who’s Apocalypse. And this is because of Fantomex, and now Fantomex is not there. Fantomex is off the picture so he’s dumped this in Wolverine’s lap to deal with.

Uncanny X-Force #28 cover by Jerome Opena

Beyond that, we’ve revealed that the new leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants is Daken, and this is somebody who’s got a lot of resentment against his father, as well as members like Sabretooth and Mystique, and they’ve taken Evan and they plan on using The Shadow King to warp the kid’s mind to use him as their own personal Apocalypse. So the evolution of E.V.A. comes out of the death of Fantomex and her character will be developed as we move forward.

Marvel.com: What makes them the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants? Is revenge their basic mission?

Remender: Well I like the idea of just leaning into the evil aspect of it, and it is revenge, and power. They don’t have any relatable motives other than revenge and power, and I like the simplicity of that. They’ve all got personal contacts, every member of the Brotherhood has a personal grudge against one of the members of the X-Force, and their goal is to basically take this Apocalypse [clone] and to use him to kill them; when you’ve got your own pet Apocalypse nobody can really come messing with you all that much.

You’ve also got in Daken somebody who’s been leaning toward becoming a bad guy. Going back to his origin and being raised by Romulus and who he is, he sees his father as a fraud. He sees his father as a charlatan. This guy is a savage who kills and he dresses up in frilly super hero costumes to make it okay, and he sees that as weakness. He’s leaning completely into his savage nature, but bubbling underneath that is a kid who sees his dad has a school to help mutants, who has taken in people like Quentin Quire and this kid Evan who is Apocalypse, but he didn’t get an invitation to come join. His father has never extended a hand to him to come be a part of the school or to learn to be a better man. He’s given him a lot of passes. For how bad Daken is Wolverine always seems to give him a pass, but he never offered that inclusion into his world. So I guess the theme that I’m exploring there is how far a son will go to earn his father’s respect, even going so far as to kill him to earn it.

Uncanny X-Force #29 cover by Jerome Opena

Marvel.com: A lot of evil’s going on with you! Masters of Evil, Brotherhood of Evil Mutants…any team-up between those two groups coming?

Remender: That’s definitely not going to happen now, but there is the [upcoming] UNCANNY AVENGERS and my SECRET AVENGERS. They cross pollinate a bit. You’ve got things like Father who was introduced in X-Force, Fantomex’s mother and Psylocke’s dad who are involved with Father in creating the Descendants so there is interconnectivity there.

Marvel.com: What is the “Final Execution” as referred to in September’s UNCANNY X-FORCE #31?

Remender: Well, I don’t want to say who all is going to be a part of being executed. It’s a big arc for Wolverine, and it’s something that [editor] Nick Lowe and I spent a lot of time talking about on how we can actually incite change, to grow him, to develop him in a way that’s maybe we haven’t seen in a while. That is where UNCANNY X-FORCE then bleeds over into UNCANNY AVENGERS. Those two books have a lot of connective tissue. I would say in UNCANNY AVENGERS, 50% stems from AvX and 50% stems from the events of the “Final Execution” arc in UNCANNY X-FORCE.

Wolverine’s state of mind, who he is, where he’s at, and what his purpose is in the UNCANNY AVENGERS is very clearly defined in the events of both books. So it’s something that sort of naturally grew. The idea for UNCANNY AVENGERS came to me from all of that, from “Oh, well this and this and this makes sense if you do this.” So the events of “Final Execution” are going to shatter a lot of lives, and I’m getting to the point of what I’ve been doing with the nature/nurture debate and all of the father and son stuff that we’ve been seeing throughout the series. It gets to the point of how it affects these characters moving forward in a way that helps grow them so that they’re not in any way stagnant.

Uncanny X-Force #32 cover by Jerome Opena

Marvel.com: Is there an inclination for you, having two titles like SECRET AVENGERS and UNCANNY X-FORCE, to draw common threads between them?

Remender: You want to feel like these people share a universe, and I work really closely with Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron to make our X-books have those threads that continue one through the other. I think it’s important to try and do that when you can if there [are] natural places for it.

But the interconnectivity shouldn’t feel like you have to read one to get the other. I always try to make sure that things are defined enough in their own books. If you didn’t read UNCANNY X-FORCE and you didn’t read the Deathlok arc and get to know Father or see Lady Deathstrike in #5.1 and get an idea for the coming robot revolution she was talking about, that stuff will be completely defined in SECRET AVENGERS. So you don’t have to read that. But if you do read it, you’ll get to see these characters bouncing around the universe a little bit and it makes them feel more cohesive, I think.

Marvel.com: Rick, it sounds like you love your job.

Remender: I do love my job!

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