Comics
Published May 18, 2023

'Avengers' Writer Jed MacKay Breaks Down His Debut Issue & Teases the Fight Ahead

Speaking to Marvel.com, Jed MacKay explained some of the choices behind his Avengers team, looked ahead to the Tribulation Events and the Ashen Combine, and more.

The Avengers are here to save the world—but the world is never safe for long... 

In AVENGERS (2023) #1, Captain Marvel assembled a new team of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, with Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Thor, Iron Man, and Black Panther joining her on her mission to fight the battles no one else can. Their inaugural outing as a team pit them against Terminus, a gigantic alien cybernetic organism, but the most difficult challenges lay ahead, as the Tribulation Events loom and the Ashen Combine prepares to strike.

Speaking to Marvel.com, AVENGERS scribe Jed MacKay explained how he built his team of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. He emphasized the importance of showing the Avengers saving lives and weighed in on why he went "big" with his team roster. He broke down a few of the initial antagonists, including Terminus, and teased that the Avengers are about to have their hands full. He also praised artist C.F. Villa's work on the series, promised to put the Avengers through their paces, described Captain Marvel's approach to leadership, and much, much more.

AVENGERS (2023) #2 cover by Stuart Immonen
AVENGERS (2023) #2 cover by Stuart Immonen

MARVEL.COM: What made Carol Danvers the right person to lead this Avengers team?

JED MACKAY: I think that Carol is a character whose profile has never been higher at the moment. From film success to the landmark 50-issue run under Kelly Thompson, she's a household name in a way that I don't think she was before, so putting her in the chair for the Avengers just makes sense. 

From a story perspective, I think she's a really interesting character to put in charge. She's a veteran hero, has been affiliated with the Avengers, X-Men, and other independent characters throughout her time in comics, and has even made moves in the direction of team building in her own book. 

But there's also a bit of square peg/round hole in that as well, as Carol's often defined by her brashness and eagerness to jump into action—that fighter pilot, turn-and-burn mindset, which presents challenges in a leadership role.

MARVEL.COM: There's a wonderful scene early on in the issue, where Carol compares being an Avenger to working as a firefighter. How did you arrive at this moment, and how does it reflect the tone of your run?

JED MACKAY: I think there's a perception that the Avengers are the (small A) authority in the Marvel Universe, the ones who come down on your favorite characters when they're doing their thing (something I'm as guilty of as anyone). I wanted to re-center what expectations should be for this run of Avengers and what we want to do: the Avengers are saving lives, dealing with problems that are too big for anyone else to take on. I'm less interested in them hassling the X-Men and more into seeing what it means to put your lives on the line over and over again, because you're the only ones that can.

AVENGERS (2023) #2 interior artwork by C.F. Villa
AVENGERS (2023) #2 interior artwork by C.F. Villa

MARVEL.COM: Throughout the issue, we see Carol's reasoning behind every character she asks to join the team. Tell me a little about your selection process and how it was similar to/different from Carol's approach.

JED MACKAY: When we were putting ideas together about what we wanted the Avengers to look like, I was casting about in a few different directions. A team of lower-tier characters, none of whom had their own books? Several teams rotating around a central cast? None of these seemed to quite hit the nail on the head, until I realized that I wanted the Avengers to feel big—as many of the names you think of when you think of "Avengers" as possible, all together in the same book, a "super group" both in the comic book sense and the musical sense.

Of course, with the incredible breadth of membership that the Avengers have had over the years, not everyone could make the cut, despite how much I like Hawkeye, or Ant-Man, or the Wasp. More than seven characters would get to the point where I'd have trouble making sure everyone got their time in the sun, so compromises had to be made.

MARVEL.COM: The issues does a great job of showing off Carol's dynamic with each member of her team. Which one were you most interested in exploring?

JED MACKAY: Something like that often happens on the page, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed taking T'Challa from where he was left on the outs with, well, pretty much everyone in his last series and seeing how those events have changed his relationship with the Avengers.

AVENGERS (2023) #2 interior artwork by C.F. Villa
AVENGERS (2023) #2 interior artwork by C.F. Villa

MARVEL.COM: The credits page breaks down the new team's roster and gives each member a title: the Star, the Icon, the Witch, the Construct, the God, the Engineer, and the King. How do these encapsulate your view of the characters and the roles they take on the team in this story?

JED MACKAY: I like titles, and it plays into some of what I wanted to do with the Avengers—how each is a person with their problems and desires, but are at the same time mythic archetypes, each one a god that walks the Earth (figuratively for most, literally for one). It also places them in clear opposition to the Twilight Court, who we introduced in TIMELESS (2022): a team composed of the same archetypes, an artificial Avengers who I imagine we'll see before long.

MARVEL.COM: Which character were you the most excited to work with, and which one ended up being your surprise favorite? Why?

JED MACKAY: I was pretty excited to bring Vision and Scarlet Witch back to the Avengers. Having come up on 70s comics, AVENGERS is the book that always seemed like the one that was their real home to me. They're both great characters, and catching up with them after so long is going to be a lot of fun. 

As for a surprise favorite, it would have to be T'Challa. We're used to seeing T'Challa as a ruler, a leader, a king, and now he's trying to figure out what makes him tick outside of all those things. He's someone who has been badly hurt by recent events, and who has hurt others, and seeing that dynamic play out has been really interesting.

AVENGERS (2023) #2 interior artwork by C.F. Villa
AVENGERS (2023) #2 interior artwork by C.F. Villa

MARVEL.COM: Terminus is a fairly deep cut. What made him the right antagonist for this first issue?

JED MACKAY: I just think Terminus is cool! [laughs] I got a little obsessed with him when I was working on an ultimately unsuccessful pitch. On the surface, he's a giant alien robot, which is pretty much perfect, but beneath that read, he's a kind of terrifying antagonist. 

No matter how many times the heroes trash him, he just grows back. If another Terminus turns up, they join into a gestalt super-entity (See: 1990s ANNUAL event "The Terminus Factor"). He's like nuclear waste—a supervillain with an incredibly long half-life.

MARVEL.COM: Fill us in on the Tribulation Events. How exactly does one become involved in them, and why wouldn't you want to be a part of them?

JED MACKAY: That's something we'll be getting into down the line, but the long and short of it is that the Tribulation Events are global mega-disasters—Earth-threatening crises that are poised to cascade across the world. But that the same time, they're tests: "trials and tribulations," etc.

AVENGERS (2023) #2 interior artwork by C.F. Villa
AVENGERS (2023) #2 interior artwork by C.F. Villa

MARVEL.COM: Then, of course there's the Kang of it all. What role does the Conqueror get to play in all of this? How does his involvement raise the stakes?

JED MACKAY: Well, it kind of sets the stakes when Kang the Conqueror is coming to the Avengers for help. As seen in TIMELESS (2022), there's a lot going on behind the scenes—Kang's quest for the Missing Moment and his near-murder by Myrddin, his mysterious rival—and now all of that drama is on a collision course with the Avengers.

MARVEL.COM: I have to tell you: I'm already obsessed with the Ashen Combine. How worried should we be about these guys? How do they stack up against our new Avengers team? And perhaps most importantly: how did you arrive at those names?

JED MACKAY: I love making up weird little guys, and all the more so when I can do it with C.F. Villa! The Combine are buccaneers, reavers across dimensions, all with the same obsession: killing cities (metrocide? Is that a word?), each in their own particular way, following their own particular philosophy. They're not a team—more a pack of predators brought together by a common prey. And with each choosing their target city, all across the globe, the Avengers are going to have their hands full. 

As for the names, that was actually the starting point for each character. I've been keeping electronic notes since around 2007, so when I wanted to come up with a new pack of weirdos, I went back and grazed through a decade and a half of notes, harvesting kernels of ideas I wrote years ago and fleshing them out into villains fit to stand against the Avengers!

AVENGERS (2023) #2 interior artwork by C.F. Villa
AVENGERS (2023) #2 interior artwork by C.F. Villa

MARVEL.COM: Tell me all about working with C.F. Villa on this book. What does he bring to the story that shocks or surprises you?

JED MACKAY: I first worked with C.F. back in the BLACK CAT days, when he designed the Iron Cat armor for BLACK CAT #11. He was good then, but as we continued to work on BLACK CAT, he only got better and better, and it was no surprise to see him move onto X-MEN and really flex his artistic muscle there. 

When I was offered AVENGERS, he was the first name that came to mind. He's an artist who has that feel for scope that the book demands (just look at the opening DPS to AVENGERS), bringing a kinetic, high-energy cartooning to the action, while also have a deft and sensitive touch for character work and body language. Plus, he comes up with great designs! The whole package!

MARVEL.COM: What are you most excited for readers to see from this arc?

JED MACKAY: I'm looking forward to people seeing the Avengers put through their paces, encountering new enemies and old, and ultimately, saving the world. But the world is never safe for long...

Prepare for the Tribulation Events with AVENGERS #1, available now, and don't miss the continuing adventures of Earth's Mightiest Heroes in AVENGERS #2, on sale June 21!

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