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Download Episode 286 of This Week in Marvel

Hello Marvelites! Channel your best Star-Lord and bust out your Walkmans because we’ve got a brand new episode of This Week in Marvel.

Alex joins Ben to take on this week’s comic releases including MONSTERS UNLEASHED, NICK FURY, and more! Plus news from the worlds of movies, TV, and games from Marc and Christine (49:38)! A chat with the SPIDER-MEN II editorial team (38:51)! A SECRET EMPIRE breakdown (1:03:00)! And last but not least, your questions and comments (1:33:34)!

We’re officially two weeks out from Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”! If you’ve already watched our Red Carpet World Premiere five times over, hit play on your Walkmans and join Ryan and Ben next week for the next #TWIMURC where they talk GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning! Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #TWIMURC!

Download episode #286 of This Week in Marvel from Marvel.com, check out Marvel Podcast Centralgrab the TWiM RSS feed and subscribe to This Week in Marvel on iTunes, so you never miss an episode! We are now also on Soundcloud! Head over now to our new hub to listen to the full run of This Week in Marvel!

This Week in Marvel will focus on delivering all the Marvel info on news and new releases–from comics to video games to toys to TV to film and beyond! New episodes will be released every Thursday (or so) and TWiM is co-hosted by Marvel VP & Executive Editor of Digital Media Ryan “Agent M” Penagos and Marvel Editorial Director of Digital Media Ben Morse, along with Marvel.com Editor Marc Strom, Marvel.com Assistant Editor Christine Dinh, and Manager of Video & Content Production Blake Garris. We also want your feedback, as well as questions for us to answer on future episodes!  Tweet your questions, comments and thoughts about TWiM to @AgentM@BenJMorse, @chrissypedia or @Marvel with the hashtag #ThisWeekinMarvel!

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Marvel Heroes Omega: Beta Blast

Itching to get your hands on “Marvel Heroes Omega”? The crew at Gazillion has been working really hard to get the game ready for consoles and their next step will allow players access to the closed beta!

We talked to Gazillion Lead Designer Ben “TheArtofRawr” Gilbert about the closed beta, what that means, how you can pick it up, and everything in between!

Marvel.com: “Marvel Heroes Omega” is headed to closed beta! That’s a big step towards the game’s full release right?

Ben Gilbert: Yes! The “Marvel Heroes Omega” closed beta for PlayStation 4 begins this Friday, April 21. We’re very excited for Marvel fans to finally have the chance to try out “Marvel Heroes” on console. We’re very happy with our current roster of Heroes, which we’ll be expanding over time. This will be one of the few places where Marvel fans can look forward to playing as characters from some of the most beloved Marvel teams, including the Avengers, Defenders, Inhumans, X-Men, and Guardians of the Galaxy, just to name a few!

Marvel.com: Let’s say that I want to take a crack at the closed beta on PS4. What do I need to do to start beating up bad guys?

Ben Gilbert: Head to the PlayStation Store, either through the official website or your PlayStation 4 console. We’ll have a variety of Founder’s Packs for sale that will offer closed beta access in addition to a wide variety of heroes and packs of heroes.

Marvel.com: Is there a hard limit on the number of players that will be able to participate in the closed beta?

Ben Gilbert: We don’t have any hard limits set. Right now, we’re just really excited to launch our closed beta and hope as many people as possible get a chance to play it. We’ll be looking very closely at player feedback and behind-the-scenes data to make sure our final launch build is in the best shape possible.

Marvel.com: Will the team be testing anything when the game heads to PS4? I have heard rumblings of a couch co-op mode. Can you tell us more?

Ben Gilbert: Those rumblings are very accurate! We’re very excited to officially announce that two-player couch co-op will be a supported feature for “Marvel Heroes Omega” on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This has by far been the number one question and request from our community—and so we’re very excited to be able to confirm that couch co-op will be a supported feature.

Of course, you can still party up with other players in our many public Headquarters areas. But couch co-op really does offer a new way to enjoy “Marvel Heroes Omega.” We’ve had some great times playing couch co-op internally. Teaming up with a good friend, battling villains and henchmen as our favorite heroes, and collecting loot feels great. We hope players agree. 

Marvel.com: And does the team have anything planned for those most marvelous of gamers, the Marvel Insiders?

Ben Gilbert: That we do! We’ve also set aside a limited quantity of closed beta keys for Marvel Insiders, some of Marvel’s most passionate and engaged fans. Insiders can redeem the key for 50,000 points in Marvel Insider starting on 4/28! Insiders should check out the Rewards page for more details.

Marvel.com: Is there anything else we need to know before the closed beta drops?

Ben Gilbert: Although I can’t announce any specific dates yet, Xbox One players should expect news very soon about dates for the beginning of our Xbox One closed beta. Stay tuned and keep an eye out on our official “Marvel Heroes Omega” website, Twitter, and Facebook for more details!

Also, while we’re very excited to bring “Marvel Heroes Omega” to consoles, I don’t want our PC audience to think we’ve forgotten about them. It’s extremely important to everyone here at Gazillion that we deliver the best possible “Marvel Heroes Omega” experience for all players regardless of their platform of choice. Whether you play on PC, PS4, or Xbox, we’ve got plans in the works for exciting new content. Stay tuned!

And stay tuned to Marvel.com for more “Marvel Heroes Omega” news and interviews.

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Flashback Friday: Nick Fury

Every Friday we use the powers of Marvel Unlimited to look back at the very first appearance of a major character, place or object that made waves this week.

He might share a name with one of the most infamous people in the Marvel Universe, but Nick Fury plans on making a reputation for himself with his self-titled series launched this week by writer James Robinson and artist ACO. The new book may have sent Fury to the French Riviera and put him in direct opposition to Frankie Noble, but his comic book roots go back to the 2012 series BATTLE SCARS.

Chris Yost, Matt Fraction and Cullen Bunn collaborated to write the six-issue BATTLE SCARS with art by Scot Eaton. The series, set during the Fear Itself event, kicked off in Afghanistan with the 2nd Battalion Army Rangers trying to figure out why everyone seemed to be shooting everyone else. Here we’re introduced to Staff Sergeant Marcus Johnson who winds up in Atlanta, Georgia four days later after getting word that his mother, Nia Marie Johnson, passed away. Just as he began to realize that someone specifically wanted his mother dead, he’s pinned down by sniper fire and attacked by a wetworks squad backed up by none other than Taskmaster. Luckily, Captain America and then-Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Daisy Johnson stepped in to help Marcus.

S.H.I.E.L.D. tried keeping him safe in their rebuilt headquarters, but Marcus broke out, took down an entire group of their agents, and started his own investigation into Taskmaster along with his Ranger pal “Cheese,” otherwise known as Phil Coulson! The search not only lead to another fight with Taskmaster, but a team-up with Deadpool against the Serpent Society and the revelation that a masked man calling himself Orion stood as Johnson’s true enemy.

Battle Scars (2011) #1

Battle Scars (2011) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?



Another masked man soon revealed himself not only as Nick Fury, but as Marcus’ father. The elder Fury met Nia Johnson when they both worked for the CIA 30 years prior. The two hit it off and nine months later Marcus entered the world. Nia quit that job and Fury worked his spy magic to keep her safe until recently when someone uncovered the information and sold it to Leviathan leader Orion. Fury messed Orion up pretty bad and the continually-dying villain wanted some of the Infinity Formula to fix his problem, but the only real source remained in Marcus’ blood.

Soon enough, both father and son wound up in Orion’s clutches. He had his goons cut out Marcus’ left eye to make a family resemblance. Orion then received a transfusion from Fury that restored his power and youth, but a presumed dead Marcus fought his way through Orion’s goons. Johnson stalled the villain long enough to get the Avengers there to back his play and save the day, seemingly killing Orion in the process. A few weeks later, Marcus shaved his head, joined his pal Coulson and became official Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He also decided to take on his father’s name as a way to honor him and carry on a longstanding tradition with the organization.

Flash Forward

Nick Fury Jr. may have first appeared in the Marvel Universe as Marcus Johnson in BATTLE SCARS, but the idea for an African-American take on the character debuted back in 2002 when he showed up in THE ULTIMATES #1 by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch looking an awful lot like Samuel L. Jackson. A noted comic fan, Jackson appreciated the nod and, by the time the Fury character made his big screen debut in 2008’s “Iron Man,” Jackson filled in the eye patch and long coat!

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Coulson & Ward Share Origin Stories in ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Clip

The heroes of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” still find themselves trapped in the Framework next week, and we’ve got a hint on how things turned out so differently for Coulson in a new clip!

As Coulson and Ward weigh the limited options they have for rescuing Skye/Daisy, Coulson shares some secrets from his past…and Ward makes a surprising revelation of his own!

Watch the clip directly above, and catch an all-new episode Tuesday at 10:00 PM ET on ABC.

Until then, follow @AgentsofSHIELD on Twitter and like “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on Facebook for all the latest!

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Astonishing X-Men: Game Plans

Ready to be astonished?!

This July, Charles Soule joins a series of the industry’s best artists as they prepare to unleash ASTONISHING X-MEN! Last month, we spoke with the writer about his upcoming work on the series relaunch after its four-year hiatus, and now we return to try and pry some extra details from him about what he and his collaborators have in store for not only readers but also this brand new configuration of the X-Men.

Marvel.com: Charles, last month the news broke that you’d be spearheading the re-launch of ASTONISHING X-MEN. From those early news releases, we learned you’d be taking readers to “all corners of the X-Men mythology” according to Editor-in-Chief, Axel Alonso. Can you shed a little light on what this means for both new and long-time fans of mutantkind?

Charles Soule: I don’t want to give away too much of the story yet, because ASTONISHING X-MEN is designed to work as a series of reveals. Every time you think you know what’s happening, the script gets flipped a bit, usually around the last page of each issue. It’s like a puzzle box: part of the fun is figuring it all out. That said the book does do a lot with what I think of as X-Men touchstones—significant events in the lore, characters new and old—but rarely the way you think. I call it “weaponized nostalgia.” It’s all explained and laid out, though. Even if you’ve never read an X-Men comic before, it’ll just work as a fun adventure.

Marvel.com: I understand you’re looking to make this book just as much of an “entry-point” title for newer readers as it will be a satisfying experience for long-time fans of these characters. How do you strike that balance between seemingly opposite readerships?

Charles Soule: Not easily! But really, it’s about making sure that (a) each character’s powers are clearly noted or explained when they first appear, (b) writing them like real people who act towards each other the way they should based on their respective histories, and (c) having “nostalgia” or “homage” bits work in and of themselves. Like, if you see someone look at a photo of another character and get sad, that works for someone who knows exactly why they’re sad, but also someone who doesn’t, if it’s written correctly. I’m spending a lot of time on this specific aspect of the book. I don’t think you should need a degree in X-Men-ology to enjoy X-Men comics, but I think having that degree should enhance your enjoyment.

Marvel.com: If we don’t talk about the art, then we’re not talking comics! And this particular series will be taking a rather unique approach to the visuals. Can you walk us through the genesis behind the choice to introduce a new artist with each issue and why you and Marvel as a whole felt this was the strongest way to tell the story you’ll be sharing in ASTONISHING X-MEN?

Charles Soule: Well, again, there’s a story conceit I don’t really want to spoil yet, but I think it will work really well, in part because Marvel is staffing the series with an incredible batch of artists. We start off with Jim Cheung and just go from there, all amazing—or…astonishing, even. I’m tailoring each script to each artist’s strengths, to the extent I can. It’s pretty exciting for me, sort of a high-wire act, to make sure each artist gets what they need to draw a great issue but the overarching story gets served as well. Again, not easy, but fun.

Marvel.com: Although this is a series that you’re structuring to appeal to both new and old readers, I understand you’re dipping deep into the archives of the X-Men’s rogues’ gallery in raising The Shadow King to the forefront as the initial “Big Bad,” and someone who fans could even credit as being the original inspiration for Xavier’s creation of the team.

What made him the right choice for you when it came to launching this new series?

Charles Soule: The Shadow King was the first “evil” mutant Charles Xavier ever encountered, and as we saw way back in UNCANNY X-MEN #117 in 1979, he’s essentially the reason Xavier decided to train up other mutants to fight emerging threats in the world. The nice thing about The Shadow King is that he resides in a place called the astral plane, which is sort of a dream dimension where anything anyone imagines can become real. So, battles there tend to be about willpower; the person who can impose their reality on their opponents, force them to believe in whatever situation they’re projecting onto them, tends to win. In ASTONISHING, we’ll see some fantastic set pieces built around that idea, some of which will tie into signature past events from X-Men history. It’s not all backwards-looking, though. This is a story that moves the X-Men forward in a huge way.

Marvel.com: Although you’ve certainly worked with your fair share of mutants in your time at Marvel, Charles, I believe your time with this particular group is more limited, no? What aspects of these characters made them the right ones to engage in this journey?

Charles Soule: That’s correct. Except for Mystique, I’ve never really written any of this group to any real degree, unless you count Old Man Logan and Wolverine as the same character; they’re not, although of course there are similarities. I like this cast because it gives me an immense amount to work with as far as their interpersonal relationships. Rogue and Gambit have a long history together, romantic and otherwise. Mystique raised Rogue for a while. Fantomex and Angel have both been linked with Psylocke. Old Man Logan probably killed all of these folks back in his own universe. And on and on it goes. The power set is varied, they’re all super cool in different ways—it’s a rich stew, and I feel like I can do a ton with it. I should also say that the eight characters on the cover of ASTONISHING X-MEN #1 are not the only X-Men that will appear in the series, but they’re definitely the leads.

Marvel.com: Before we wrap up, I want to lob one “fastball special” your way. There’s always a concern among comic book fans about consequences. With a new series launch, we expect a certain amount of bombast, but what sort of consequences have you baked into the story you’re preparing to launch? In what ways does this story not only matter, but why is it one that’s going to be a “must read” for X-Men fans of all kinds and varieties?

Charles Soule: I think that will all be made clear on the last page of ASTONISHING X-MEN #1. I think I’m known for writing a certain kind of X-book, after DEATH OF WOLVERINE, DEATH OF X and IVX. ASTONISHING X-MEN is no exception. If people want consequences, they’ll get ‘em.

Charles Soule and the top artistic talent in the comics industry bring you ASTONISHING X-MEN, beginning in July!

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Get ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 2’ Now

Fans can now get in the Star-Lord-dancing kind of mood with “Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 2,” the official soundtrack to Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” available now!

Featuring hits such as “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl” by Looking Glass, and much more, “Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 2” offers the sonic backdrop to this summer’s biggest movie.

Check out the full track listing below, and follow @Guardians on Twitter and like the official Guardians of the Galaxy page on Facebook for the latest on “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” in theaters May 5!

Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 2 track listing

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U.S.Avengers: Eyes on the Prize

In U.S.AVENGERS #6—available May 17—Steve Rogers continues his campaign to remake the Marvel Universe in Hydra’s image by finally seizing control of A.I.M. One cannot help but wonder, however, what’s motivating the Sentinel of Lies to pull this society of scientists under his wing.

Thankfully, we do not need to wonder when we have writer Al Ewing on the speed dial. He gladly gave us some perspective on Rogers’ dark plan.

Marvel.com: To begin with, why is A.I.M. such a glittering prize for Steve Rogers in specific and Hydra in general?

Al Ewing: Well, they’re not a glittering prize as such—although if he can sway any to his side, that’s fine—but they are a potential complication, and one with the potential to mess up his intricate plans. So ideally, he needs to get them out of the way, both by making sure they don’t interfere with his plan as it unfolds, and then after that, by making sure they don’t interfere with Hydra business.

Marvel.com: What threat would an independently operating A.I.M. represent for Rogers?

Al Ewing: Well, for one thing, they’ve been trained to resist hypnosis in a way S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t—thanks to the teachings of the late, great Professor X—so Rogers can’t just use his good friend Dr. Faustus to brainwash them. Which means he’s probably going to have to lock them up in some secret facility somewhere and work on them for a while. He can’t let a bunch of super-scientists run around free and unsupervised.

Marvel.com: How does he envision A.I.M. working after he fully seizes control of them? What is his ideal vision of them as an organization?

Al Ewing: I imagine if he can get the whole organization on board, he’ll put them to work somehow, most likely as an arm of Hydra.

To be honest, what Rogers probably wants from A.I.M. is for them to just get back in their safe little box and be “evil scientists” again so at least he can understand what’s going on with them. He’s an old man at heart, he likes things a certain way and why does he have to change?

Marvel.com: As Roberto da Costa struggles against and, seemingly, falls to Rogers’ agenda, what are his fears for A.I.M.? Where does he worry it might go under someone else’s direction that isn’t his?

Al Ewing: Well, Roberto’s going to have a lot to worry about himself. As people might have guessed from the solicits, he’s in some serious personal danger and he might not make it through this one alive. But assuming he does, I’d imagine his biggest nightmare for A.I.M. would be them slipping backwards into their old, evil ways, or being lured there by a charismatic creep like Rogers.

Marvel.com: U.S.AVENGERS, particularly with this issue, is a great mix of intense action and political machinations. How does Paco Medina’s art help to bring that to life on the page without either element eclipsing the other? Any particular sequence, without spoilers, you are really excited for fans to see him render?

Al Ewing: Paco’s brilliant and he draws an amazing Red Hulk, too. I’m going to particularly enjoy seeing him deal with the sequence set in Europe, since that’s going to feature some exciting guest stars—for anyone who knows his work, we’re bringing back a selection of the contestants from the CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS comic we did together. So fans of Guillotine, Outlaw, and Ares should hopefully be happy there. I know I will be.

See if Steve Rogers succeeds in U.S.AVENGERS #6, available May 17 courtesy of Al Ewing and Paco Medina!

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Doctor Strange: Post Script

We find ourselves at the end of an era, folks. Just as Stephen Strange once faced The Last Days of Magic, writer Jason Aaron finds himself fast approaching the final installment of his nearly two-year run on DOCTOR STRANGE with issue #20 coming May 17. No need to worry, though, because the MIGHTY THOR writer says he has more plans in store for the Sorcerer Supreme.

Jason worked some of his magic on us to deliver a few poignant thoughts on a comic that means a lot to him and the Marvel Universe. Prepare for things to get strange—well, stranger than usual anyway.

Marvel.com: You’ve been writing DOCTOR STRANGE for nearly two years. What has been your favorite part about writing for Stephen Strange? Put another way: What was been the most magical part?

Jason Aaron: I think to me, the most important part coming in was just making the book fun. DOCTOR STRANGE as a series is one that didn’t always catch on. We hadn’t had a solo DOCTOR STRANGE ongoing in a quite a while so the character is sometimes hard for people to connect with or relate to and his world maybe seems so different compared to the rest of the Marvel Universe and maybe a little impenetrable. So I wanted it to be welcoming to people who’d never read a STRANGE book before, but also at the same time, something that could be embraced by the longtime fans of the character and as part of that, I wanted to make it fun to hang out with Stephen Strange and embrace the fact that he is very different from the all the rest of the heroes of the Marvel Universe; I did want to give a weight to what Strange goes through and let you understand a little bit about what it’s like to be him and the price he has to pay to be the Sorcerer Supreme. It’s not like Cap throwing a shield or Thor throwing a hammer. There’s a real price to be paid every time Doctor Strange uses magic. Sometimes that’s a price that’s paid by other people, by the world at large, but most often that’s the price that’s paid by him. So I think we demonstrated that in a lot of different ways and just how difficult it is to be the Sorcerer Supreme. I like kind of that dichotomy and the fact that Doctor Strange seems to be having a good time, the guy even embraces the weirdest little corner of the Marvel Universe, but at the same time, you don’t really wanna be Doctor Strange. It’s not a fun gig.

Marvel.com: Which character, hero or villain, have you most identified with and why?

Jason Aaron: I think it was nice to add a character like Zelma [the librarian] to the mix, someone who came into Strange’s world with fresh eyes, someone who didn’t really even believe in magic before that and certainly didn’t embrace the weirdness in a way that Strange does so I liked seeing [the weirdness] through her eyes and seeing how that experience has changed her along the way, which we really drive that point home in the last issue, issue #20.

Marvel.com: Under your direction, Stephen went from the top of his game as a Sorcerer Supreme to seeing magic die off. Can you discuss the process of crafting this roller coaster-esque odyssey for such a unique character and the challenges therein?

Jason Aaron: I like the way of sort of establishing Strange and the beat he walks as Sorcerer Supreme and what it’s like to him. I like the idea of [villains] who really [burn] his world to the ground—I think from there we start to kind of rebuild it. [We put] a few more limits on his powers; Strange has become kind of a deus ex machina for a while in the Marvel [Universe] where he could always just sort of show up and wave his fingers and save the day so I wanted to get away from that and show it’s a lot harder for him to be who he is and to do what he does, show him really have to fight and struggle for it, sometimes literally. We wanted him to be able to mix it up a little bit more and not just stand around and shoot magical energy blasts, but have to pick up a weapon and jump into the fray more than we’re used to seeing.

Doctor Strange #20 cover

Marvel.com: Another theme in the comic is the existence of supernatural horrors just beyond the veil of human comprehension, which was brought to vivid life by Chris Bachalo’s artwork. Was the cosmic horror and weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft an influence at all?

Jason Aaron: Sure. I’ve read a lot of Lovecraft and love it. I think, again, that Doctor Strange is very different from all the other heroes in the Marvel Universe and that he’s the guy who walks a very different sort of beat and has to deal with threats that most of the other heroes may not even know exist. We wanted to drive that home and Chris has been a huge part of that. Right out of the gate in issue #1 we did the bit where we kind of see the world through Doctor Strange’s eyes; we call it “Strange Vision” where we see the normal world kind of go into black and white and we see all the things that only someone like Stephen Strange can see in pop and color. Chris is the perfect artist to do stuff like that. He really took it to another level on this. All along the way, once he was on board, he’s been filled with all sorts of crazy ideas with stuff to put in this book, visually, and has taken it to some really wild, imaginative places.

Marvel.com: What was it like writing this comic in the midst of big releases like the “Doctor Strange” movie that helped propel Stephen to a status of fame that he may not have enjoyed before?

Jason Aaron: Yeah, I think that’s really cool. Certainly anything that helps get more eyes on the comics, I’m always a fan of. I really enjoyed the movie, I really liked the tone of it and it felt like the movie and the comic were kind of pulling in the same direction in that regard. I’m really excited to see Strange pop up again in the [Marvel] Cinematic Universe.

Marvel.com: What hints and/or spoilers can you offer up about issue #20 before it drops in May?

Jason Aaron: I think it kind of sums up my run-up to this point. It’s the big issue; it’s drawn by the two artists who’ve handled most of it in the art so far: Chris Bachalo, the main artist, and then Kevin Nowlan who’s drawn a few bits here and there. So the two of them together, I think they’re the perfect pairing for this series. It’s a story that goes to a lot of different places, kind of focuses on Stephen and the core group of supporting characters around him and like I said, sums up my run so far and kind of sets things up for the new writer Dennis Hopeless to [take on] these same characters and take them forward into some new and different stories.

Marvel.com: And going off that, can you say anything on where Doctor Strange will go from here? Is he gonna be making any cameo appearances in MIGHTY THOR?

Jason Aaron: Maybe. You never know. I really enjoyed writing that team-up issue of STRANGE where we saw Doctor Strange and Thor teaming up so yeah, I don’t think I’m done writing Doctor Strange in some capacity.

Marvel.com: Is there anything in particular that you hope readers have taken away from your run on the title?

Jason Aaron: Just, you know, don’t ever touch Doctor Strange’s refrigerator…

Join Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo, and Kevin Nowlan for DOCTOR STRANGE #20 on May 17!

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Luke Cage: Dress for Success

It seems like a great time to be Luke Cage, so why’s he getting involved in a mysterious battle in New Orleans? The man who continues to mature as a leader, hero, parent, and husband, will find trouble in his past as seen in his self-titled May 17-debuting series.

Written by David F. Walker with Nelson Blake II on art, the one-time Power Man will head down to the Big Easy to find out what happened to Dr. Noah Burstein, the deceased doctor whose experiments turned Luke from a wrongly incarcerated inmate into a man with impenetrable skin. We talked with Blake about Luke’s past, his trip down South, and what makes him such an appealing character to draw.

Marvel.com: Luke Cage is in a great place right now between his new status as a media star and his various comic appearances. How does it feel to be drawing the character at this time?

Nelson Blake II: While I am a huge fan of the show, my excitement for the character really started with [writer Brian Michael Bendis’] take on him over the years. I read a ton of that stuff in DAREDEVIL, NEW AVENGERS, etc. He wrote Luke as a great leader, but also as a powerful hero and overall interesting guy. That kind of thing really gets my imagination going for a character, which is what really made me happy when [Marvel Editor-in-Chief] Axel [Alonso] and the crew offered me Cage.

Marvel.com: This is a character who had a very signature look back in the day, but has gone more modern as the years have gone on. How do you balance the classic with the new in that sense?

Nelson Blake II: From the classic era, I think there is a tone that is always present in Cage, but he’s definitely older and I enjoy that. Some characters get modernized, not because they actually grow, but because times have changed. Luke has actually matured as a man and his current look reflects that. It’s not often that a character can look at their own original incarnation and get that same feeling that we all get when we look at old pictures of ourselves, for the good and the embarrassing parts of all of it.

Marvel.com: In addition to his choice in clothes, Luke has also grown up a lot since his first appearance. He’s a father and husband now. Does that change how he carries himself in your mind? 

Nelson Blake II: Absolutely. One of the most important parts of adulthood is learning that your actions affect others and you’re responsible for that. As much as any character in comics, this resonates with Luke. Even down to the nature of his powers, being bulletproof. While he is quite strong, his signature ability is defensive and protective and that becomes a metaphor for his personality.

Marvel.com: It sounds like Luke will be looking into his own past as well as that of Dr. Burstein. How is it peering back into that world?

Nelson Blake II: Luke revisiting his own past is very personal and challenging for the character. I can’t reveal too much, as Luke’s interactions with his origin and Burstein’s role in it are all key moments in the story. It’s a great take by David and the editorial crew that makes the events matter to Luke, as opposed to a villain-of-the-week approach.

Marvel.com: What can you say about the tone you’re working with in the series? Will this be a street level book mixed with some super hero elements or something else altogether?

Nelson Blake II: It’s got a crossover with crime, noir, sci-fi, and straight-up comics stuff. I’m a big fan of dynamic contrast, so I like going from a scene that’s totally still and could be shot with an ABC camera setup, then pushing things to a level that’s comics only, in your face and over the top. That’s reflective of my influences from novels and Michael Mann movies all the way to animation and manga. That’s the fun of comics, being able to bring all those things into one place and hold them together with an art style and pace that doesn’t sacrifice drama for action, or vice versa.

Marvel.com: This first arc takes place in New Orleans. Do you enjoy diving into that kind of real world setting while also mixing in some of the more Marvel Universe elements?

Nelson Blake II: I’m a New Yorker, so the New Orleans research has been a really fun departure from my own experience. The architecture, weather, and culture dictate a feel and tell of history that’s another world compared to Luke’s more common NYC/Harlem roots. It also serves well to isolate him from the comfort of his fellow heroes, which is a great place to start in a solo title.

Marvel.com: David guided Luke’s adventures in the previous series with Iron Fist. How is it working with him on this character he’s become even more familiar with?

Nelson Blake II: The first thing that struck me is how much David cares. He infuses Luke with a dignity and personal approach without skimping on the fun comic book elements. Dave is also somewhat of a comics historian and that comes through in a lot of his staging and sequencing. His vision is rooted in comics tradition without being trapped by it, and his experience with other great artists makes telling his stories really easy. Talking to him about the scripts and the characters gives me a lot to work with, because he has thought through the drama and characterization, and you can just tell that each issue is a film in his head. This makes sense, as David has a history as a filmmaker. It’s been a joy so far and I hope he’s having as much fun as I am. The whole team is great to work with, from editorial to colors.

LUKE CAGE #1 by David F. Walker and Nelson Blake II bursts on sale on May 17!

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Marvel Animated Minimates Series 5 Revealed

Diamond Select Toys recently released Series 4 of its Marvel Animated Minimates collection, the latest assortment in an exclusive mini-figure line only available at Walgreens stores. Now they’re ready to unveil the next assortment in the line! This upcoming fifth series of figures features all-new two-packs from Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers Assemble, including new variations on your favorite Super Heroes and Super Villains, as well as two never-before-made characters!

Series 5 will hit in Summer of 2017, and will include four different two-packs, each containing two 2-inch Minimates mini-figures. The assortment includes:

  • From Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Girl faces off with Hulk Carnage! May “Mayday” Parker is the daughter of Peter Parker from an alternate Earth, while a Carnage-possessed Hulk ravaged New York City in “The Symbiote Saga.” Spider-Girl includes a webline accessory.
  • Also from Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel battles Kang the Conqueror! Teenage Inhuman superheroine Kamala Khan comes with an interchangeable stretching arm and giant hand to challenge the master of time himself! This is the first Marvel Minimate of the new Ms. Marvel!
  • From Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, Iron Man’s Mark II armor goes up against Proxima Midnight, a super-strong lieutenant of Thanos. Iron Man eatures a removable helmet and flight stand, while Proxima comes with her spear. This is the first Marvel Minimate of Proxima Midnight!
  • Also from Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, Bruce Banner puts on his very own Hulkbuster Armor to take on the gamma-irradiated genius The Leader! The Hulkbuster Armor is removable, and Bruce includes alternate parts so you can display him in his Stark Industries T-shirt!

Each 2-inch Minimates mini-figure features fully interchangeable parts, so you can trade accessories and create custom looks. Minimates also feature a standard 14 points of articulation, to strike a variety of poses, and each Minimate comes with a clear disc base that pegs into the character’s foot to support dynamic poses.

Look for Series 5 to arrive in all Walgreens stores in Summer 2017. Series 4 is shipping to stores now, with Deep Immersion Spider-Man and Anti-Venom, Green Goblin with Scarlet Spider, Speed Energy Hulk with Speed Demon, and Iron Skull with Doctor Spectrum! Find your nearest store at Walgreens.com!

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