Published May 5, 2017

Enter a Brave New World with Secret Empire

Artist Brian Level talks Golden Age inspiration for his Invaders story!

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Everything changed when Captain America revealed that he now leads Hydra. Between the events of SECRET EMPIRE #0 and #1, he went from pretending to be part of S.H.I.E.L.D., to running the world with the likes of Kraken, Madame Hydra, Viper, Arnim Zola, and the rest.

Even with morale at an all-time low, many heroes strive to overthrow the new regime, including some of Rogers’ closest allies: Namor, Toro and the original Human Torch, Jim Hammond. Thanks to writer Paul Allor and artist Brian Level’s SECRET EMPIRE: BRAVE NEW WORLD, the team will do everything they can to get their friend back to normal…if possible.

We talked with Level about drawing such classic characters, dealing with betrayal, and working on a huge event like this. How are Steve Rogers’ oldest compatriots—Human Torch, Namor, and Toro—taking the news that he’s now leading Hydra?

Brian Level: I think there’s a certain amount disbelief. Toro and Hammond, they’ve escaped [Hydra] but it’s almost as if they’re experiencing it in third person. They still speak with a familiar optimism and idealism even when the chips are falling into the sewer.

Namor on the other hand, doesn’t give much in the feelings department. He’s still the cold, straightforward, rude boy that we all know and love. Namor clearly has a lot of gears turning beneath the surface and when all that bubbles up it’s likely to get…interesting. I’d imagine they’re working from a place of confusion and anger. Are those some of the major emotions coming across on the page?

Brian Level: Absolutely. I think Toro and Hammond especially are working through a lot of this. It’s been great to draw these two reacting up against Namor keeping things calm. I’ve been trying to keep the atmosphere tense and make everyone feel off balance. Playing with panel layouts to make the pages more suffocating or anxious. I feel like this is a disorienting time for a lot of the Marvel Universe so I want to channel that onto the page. It looks like part of the story involves a trip to Namor’s realm. How is it playing with that kind of environment?

Brian Level: Since the rules are a little different down there, Atlantis is a great place to play with locations and positioning of characters in the scene to varying effect. It’s very alien in a way. Structured and governed but with a wildness lurking in every shadow. Sneaking little creatures in here and there is a lot of fun too! The architecture bounces between familiar and unusual. It’s a great place to draw. Thanks to Paul’s sharp script I’m getting to play with a variety of architecture and environments in the scenes, so I’ve been trying to reflect that in my page layouts. It’s been a great experience. Atlantis is definitely a place I’d like to revisit. Were you able to dig in and work on designs for any returning classic characters or new villains?

Brian Level: Well, I believe in the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. There have been some good, elegant designs for me to walk right into on this story. I’ve put more energy into environments and architecture and atmosphere. Trying to create environments that are fitting of these classic characters is a great honor and joy. I have gotten to cut loose on creating some sea-life though! How has it been working with Paul on such a huge story so far?

Brian Level: Paul is a good a friend so for fun I really wanna spend a paragraph talking about how he’s a nightmare and blah blah blah, but he’s a fantastic and considerate writer. He’s such a capable writer and I’m pretty much trying to keep up. It’s nice to be able to trust his writing and he trusts my art. Paul is an excellent collaborator and is as mindful of the visual part of the process as anyone else that I’ve worked with. The experience between Paul and [editor] Charles [Beacham] and the rest of editorial has been great from top to bottom. We’re trying to make this big event sing it’s best song and hopefully the story makes some…ummm…waves.

Paul Allor and Brian Level reunite the Invaders in SECRET EMPIRE: BRAVE NEW WORLD #1, on sale June 7!