How to Kill the Avengers
Writer Ethan Sacks details the devastating Old Man Hawkeye #7 in our latest Creator Commentary!
In our Creator Commentary series, we give the floor to our storytellers as they present behind-the-scenes looks at the decisions that go into every last panel and page—in their very own words. Today we celebrate the release of OLD MAN HAWKEYE #8 by taking a closer look at the previous issue of the series with writer Ethan Sacks. Read up on our previous Commentaries, then dive into issue #7 right here.
Ethan, over to you.
Issue #7 was the big pay-off issue. We’ve seen flashbacks of the day that Hawkeye’s Avenger teammates died. We knew that the Thunderbolts played a role, but this is where we find out how it went down. I have to say, this is the hardest issue I’ve ever had to write so far in my young career.
A few years ago, I interviewed George R. R. Martin, and we talked about the “Red Wedding.” He had written the rest of the book and left a blank chapter. He knew what would happen afterwards, but he couldn’t bring himself to write it. It took him a long time because these were his babies, and he loved these characters that he was going to slaughter mercilessly on paper. Now I understand that. Thor and Falcon are two of my favorite characters and to kill them off was a struggle for me to write.
I approached it from two angles. One, we had to use what we knew from "Old Man Logan". I wanted to set it in Las Vegas, which later becomes Hammer Falls because Thor’s hammer falls there, so I knew Thor had to die there. And there’s a reference in "Old Man Logan" that Thor was killed by Magneto and Absorbing Man. I knew that’s how he had to die, and I had to figure out how to make that work.
The second way I approached it was if I was Baron Zemo, and I was orchestrating this, how would I go about doing it? As a proper evil mastermind, you've got to take care of the big guns first. For me, that was Thor, Scarlet Witch, and War Machine.
The Big Three
War Machine is the first to go, and the reason is that his armor has been tinkered with. We see a little glimpse of it in the first couple of pages that the former Beetle, Abe Jenkins, is the one who did it. War Machine goes down quickly and everyone is shocked. They don’t really have time to figure out what’s going on because they’re under attack.
I was wondering how we would get rid of Thor, and I realized magic was a good way. Absorbing Man could absorb chaos magic then that could explain how he could suddenly kill this opponent who he’s lost to so many times before.
We knew that Magneto was a bad guy in this world, and that he has a dark story in "Old Man Logan". I was thinking, well, if he’s a bad guy then he'd have to be okay with his daughter getting killed. And how poetic would it be if he was the one responsible, and he does it for what he thinks is the greater good of mutantkind. I thought it would be very Shakespearean. I think that was probably the most controversial thing in this issue. He put his vision of a mutant utopia ahead of his own daughter.
Darkness and Deception
Once you have the strongest three taken out, the others are in trouble. This is where I wanted the Thunderbolts to betray the Avengers, and their betrayal made all the difference.
I have this big two-page spread in issue #2 where we see all the dead bodies, and we see, for example, Black Knight, Falcon, War Machine, Tigra, and Quicksilver. At some point, I realized I had to kill all of those characters and that’s a lot of characters to kill off.
We were lucky that we have a great artist in Marco Checchetto, and we had a fantastic guest artist in Ibraim Roberson. I gave them a lot of grizzly work to do.
Getting back to the matter of killing all these different characters, we had to move quickly. Falcon is betrayed by Songbird and Mach-10, who ambush him from behind. He’s not expecting that. Because Quicksilver is so fast, they realize he can just run away from any scenario unless his legs are broken. Seeing his sister die, he pauses, and then he’s injured, which makes him a sitting duck for later.
We had this great visual in issue #2 of the Black Knight impaled with his own sword, but when we sat down to write this script, and I realized the sword is cursed; only he can lift it. There had to be an explanation, so I wrote in Morgan Le Fey, who undoes the curse. That sword is responsible for Tigra as well as the Black Knight.
Fuel for Revenge
At this point, everyone is accounted for. All the deaths are accounted for except for two major characters that are left for this tragic third act: Citizen V and Black Widow, who in this comic is the love of Hawkeye’s life.
A lot of this comic series is a little bit of a tip of the hat to the THUNDERBOLTS from the 1990s. Citizen V was Baron Zemo in disguise in the beginning of THUNDERBOLTS, but someone else took over the identity after Zemo was outed. All the heroes are under the assumption that the Citizen V is fighting alongside them is John Watkins, but Zemo has been hiding in plain sight this whole time. Zemo surprises them and kills Black Widow in front of Hawkeye.
Zemo is so fixated on Hawkeye because Hawkeye had not only previously defeated him but had taken a Thunderbolt from him. This was a thin-skinned, self-absorbed vendetta Baron Zemo had. He leaves Hawkeye alive; Hawkeye has no powers, he’s just a guy with the bow and arrows. He’s no real threat. Zemo leaves him out of spite.
At the end of the day, that may or may have not been a tactical error…45 years later.
Continue the story today with Ethan Sacks and Marco Checchetto's OLD MAN HAWKEYE #8!
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