Published March 15, 2017

Secret Empire: Rise Up

Black Widow develops her own plan to oppose Steve Rogers!

Image for Secret Empire: Rise Up

An attempt to create a new world order can expect opposition. But when your new world order has Captain America as its leader, you need someone equally skilled to oppose him. Enter Black Widow and her plan to utilize the Marvel Universe’s best, brightest, and youngest heroes to stop the spread of the Secret Empire.

It all begins in the SECRET EMPIRE: UPRISING one-shot from writer Derek Landy and artist J. Cassara this May. Landy led us to the hidden bunker with a blindfold over our eyes before agreeing to answer our questions. To begin with, how would you describe the atmosphere and setting of this book? How did you want it to feel to readers?

Derek Landy: Secret Empire is scary. It’s a scary idea, a scary scenario, and the good guys are going to find themselves in some scary situations. But in all that darkness, you’re gonna need a little light, and I’ve been handed six characters who are taking their moment to shine.

Marvel walks the line between light and dark with most of its biggest characters. Put Spider-Man up against an unstoppable opponent and he’s just going to keep cracking wise, no matter how scared he gets. That’s the Marvel way. So with [SECRET EMPIRE: UPRISING], no matter how bad things become, these kids are still going to be ever so slightly goofy. That’s the line I wanted to walk as the writer. How did working with artist J. Cassara help you to make that tone a reality? In general, how has the process of creative collaboration in this medium been for you?

Derek Landy: As I’m answering these questions, Josh is still penciling the issue, and he’s sending me pages as he finishes them, which allows me to alter the script to best suit the visuals. I’m delighted with what arrives in my inbox every few days. He’ll take a rather humdrum panel description and turn it into something that actually lives, which in turn makes me look much better as the writer. This is my first full-length comic, and I’m learning so much by working with an artist of his caliber. Creatively, what drew you to select Black Widow as the leader and trainer of this young insurgency force?

Derek Landy: Black Widow belongs in the shadows. In an event like Secret Empire, she’s a major player, and the reader can only imagine what she’s going through, dealing with what she’ll have to deal with. For me, she’s the slice of darkness that UPRISING needs, through which we can take a peek at her “little revolutionaries.” They’ll provide the humor, they’ll bring the jokes, but her very presence in the story is the essential link with the main [book]. Within the Marvel Universe, why does she make sense as one of the leaders against HYDRA’s takeover?

Derek Landy: A story like this needs spies. It needs people who are not only willing to get their own hands dirty, but also willing to compromise others for the greater good. Who else but Natasha would truly understand that? She’s going to be putting some of these kids [into] some very specific places, as all handlers do, in order to achieve some very specific objectives. For her, it’s all about the mission. Similarly, what drew you to the heroes that Black Widow is training? Why did the idea of taking on some of Marvel’s newest and youngest heroes excite you as a writer?

Derek Landy: These are simply some of the most exciting characters Marvel has right now. As readers, we’re just getting to know them. As creators, we’re exploring just how far they’ll go, how far they can be pushed. It’s also a fresh injection of new blood, of a younger set of sensibilities that have the potential of shaking up the whole of the Marvel Universe. In a few years, it’ll be these characters who are front and center during an event.

This is where they start earning those stripes. The participants are aware that this is a mission that is setting them on a path to possibly confront Captain America himself. Emotionally, how does this affect everyone, Black Widow included? What are their states of mind as they endeavor on this dangerous mission?

Derek Landy: Being set on this path is bad enough—the truly worrying aspect is that they’re not privy to Natasha’s ultimate plan, so they don’t know what will eventually be asked of them. They have to trust that she won’t put them in a situation that will betray who they are—but that seems to be exactly what she’s training them to do. For Natasha, she had to make them understand that this isn’t about being a hero. This is about doing a job—fulfilling a mission—and she is a tough taskmaster. In order to do what she has to do, she needs to build an emotional wall between herself and her recruits. How does the Champions’ dedication to nonviolent solutions conflict with this moment and Black Widow’s own personal perspective and history in the context of this story?

Derek Landy: That’s been the most interesting aspect to tackle. Two of these kids are going to end up undercover, working to get within striking distance of Captain America. Whether they succeed or not is beside the point—the question is what then? Since the Champions formed, they’ve been trying to approach things differently. They don’t want to punch out every opponent. They don’t like hurting people. They’re certainly not killers. If you want to assassinate someone, you send in Black Widow, not the Totally Awesome Hulk or the Unstoppable Wasp.

They hope. In speaking directly to fans, what is one reason they absolutely should not miss this one-shot?

Derek Landy: I’m doing my very best not to give away exactly where they go undercover. When they sign up for this gig, they’re thinking spy-craft, espionage, danger at every corner. They certainly don’t expect to end up where they end up, or [to be] using talents they never thought they’d use. As a writer taking on his first Marvel comic, how does it feel to be part of this important far ranging event? Any unexpected challenges or advantages you encountered as you crafted the story?

Derek Landy: It’s quite an honor to be involved in something like this, and also quite daunting. My initial approach to the story was a lot darker, but then I realized that I’m better off leaving that to [SECRET EMPIRE writer] Nick Spencer. He’s the one holding the reins.

The fact is, I’ve got six super-smart teenagers to write, and they’re not going to allow the darkness to swamp them. They’re going to be as bright as they can be and as breezy as possible. They’ve got powers, jokes and youthful arrogance—what more could I ask for?

Go undercover with SECRET EMPIRE: UPRISING on May 31!