For the past decade, Marvel Comics has worked to bring its comic book superheroes into thematic alignment with their cinematic counterparts, and with the new blockbuster "Avengers" film, that synergy is in effect like never before. For one, characters who originated on-screen like Agent Coulson and Sam Jackson's take on Nick Fury have made their way into the comics via Marvel's "Battle Scars" series. Then of course, the publisher's "Avengers Assemble" comic stars a superteam whose makeup is virtually identical to the movie cast. Bringing the two even closer together, in the third issue of that series, the movie's shadowy uber-villain Thanos was reintroduced to the MArvel U.
Today, CBR News exclusively debuts the cover to "Avengers Assemble" #6 where cosmic superteam the Guardians of the Galaxy will make their return. The issue provides not only the continuation of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley's movie-inspired storyline but also perhaps a tease for how Marvel will tackle the Guardians when they make their own proposed film debut in the years ahead.
"We do have both oars in the water," Marvel SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort said of the similarities between the growing Marvel film universe and the "Assemble" comic. "We knew that [Thanos] scene was going to be at the end of the movie. Certainly Brian knew it. We built the story in 'Avengers Assemble' accordingly to take advantage of that, though we couldn't say all of what we were doing two months ago. We could say how 'Avengers Assemble' had the movie cast and was a good entry point for people coming out of the film considering the regular Avengers books are in the midst of [the crossover] 'AvX.' But we couldn't actually say too much about why and how. Now, fortunately, we can."
EXCLUSIVE: Mark Bagley's cover for "Avengers Assemble" #6
Brevoort explained that Thanos is the road by which the Guardians will make their return to comics, much like they just did on the small screen in the "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" cartoon on DisneyXD. However, he also admitted that some groundwork has to be laid in the books for new fans of the film and TV characters. "Certainly a lot of people coming out of the Avengers film were intrigued by the notion that Thanos was there and might be an antagonist for 'Avengers 2' or one of the other upcoming Marvel movies. Then again, a lot of people were probably asking 'Who the heck is that guy?' In either case, 'Avengers Assemble' gives you a great place to find those answers and carry that aspect of the story forward."
As for the specific story of the Guardians return in issue #6, Brevoort said it's the first step in Marvel "doing more stuff with the cosmic characters. Certainly we've been talking about it and hinting at it for a while now, and we're getting to the point where you'll begin to see more evidence of that in the books and elsewhere. There's going to be a concerted effort to making a bigger splash with characters like the Guardians, Thanos and Nova than we've done in the past. That's an area of the Marvel Universe that we're going to have to put some emphasis behind."
"The last time we saw a couple of these characters, particularly Peter Quill, he was in the middle of being blown up in a big, universe-collapsing fight with Thanos," Brevoort noted. "So we'll get some hints as to why he's still here and walking around and how all this connects. With the Guardians return, you'll see what's been going on in the larger Marvel Universe."
After nearly eight years with the team, Bendis will soon be departing as writer of the Avengers franchise. Brevoort explained that the "Avengers Assemble" arc in many ways represents the writers chance to tell a more cosmic Avengers tale after years of stories bound to Earth and driven by the same character conflicts that have appeared so far on screen. "I think this is definitely an opportunity for [Brian] to stretch and try some things he's never done before," the editor said. "Brian always tends to approach this stuff out of character and relatability. There has to be some core emotional truth at the heart of what's going on that speaks to him and that he can relate to in a primal sort of way, whether that connection has existed with a more human villain like Norman Osborn or a more temporal one like Kang or a robotic one like Ultron or, now, with a cosmic one like Thanos. He needs to find his hook into them.
"The problem that he's maybe had -- not to speak too much for him -- and the problem we've had in general with cosmic is that we want to attract the widest possible audience. Any series that has a large footprint outside of the world we know can be harder to do that with. For example, for me as a reader back in the '70s, when a book like 'Thor' would spend a few months out in Asgard fighting off an incursion by the trolls, I would very quickly lose interest. There was nothing there to connect to my world. The stakes involved are nothing I'm into. There are some people who are very into that, but I wasn't one of them as a reader. And those were the times I'd drift away from 'Thor' for a while.
"I think the same thing tends to be true of the cosmic stuff," Brevoort continued. "There are guys who tend to love cosmic, whether it's for the military sci-fi aspect of it or the trippy, mind-bending expansiveness of the '70s cosmic material or whatever. There are some people who really, really dig that. But to a lot of the rank and file fans, there's no context to it...you need something there to key into and connect to. My expectation is that's what Brian will do when he plays with these cosmic elements, and really, that's the reason he hasn't done more with this stuff in the past. It's just a more difficult nut to crack. He's played with a lot of different areas of the Marvel U in 'Avengers' up to this point, but he's never done a big, space-oriented story until now. And even then, that story starts on earth with these 12 regular humans who are imbued with the power of the Zodiac by Thanos, and the hows and whyfors of that will be explained over the coming issues."
Brevoort explained that "Avengers Assemble" #6 isn't the end of the current series arc by a long shot, and that the story of Thanos, the Zodiac and now the Guardians will play out into the Fall. "It will continue on with Brian and Mark until such time as things get changed around. I'm not willing to discuss anything that goes on beyond the 'AvX' time period, but for now, this continues on into [the summer] and even beyond."
"Avengers Assemble" #6 hits in August. Stay tuned this week for the full Marvel August solicitations on CBR.