If you’re impatient for a sequel ot the The Avengers, and especially if you want more Hawkeye and the Black Widow and more about S.H.I.E.L.D., The Avengers: Breakout novel might be just the thing to tide you over as the new year begins.
Scheduled for release on January 1, the novel is written by Alisa Kwitney, who I remember well for a Phantom Stranger story from DC’s Vertigo. But Kwitney is more well-known as former editor for Vertigo, especially as the editor for Neil Gaiman’s classic The Sandman series.
This is Kwitney’s first time writing Marvel’s characters and she created a stand alone story that’s not reliant on other Avengers stories of the past, though it’s loosely-based on a Brian M. Bendis tale with a similar setup and heavily features the Widow and Hawkeye, as well as a big prison break-out and a big cast of characters from the Marvel Universe.
She answered some questions about the story in an interview for GeekDad this month.
GeekDad: What exactly is the book about?
Kwitney: The book begins on the Helicarrier, an enormous flying aircraft carrier, with S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, spotting the notorious Black Widow. He catches her — or she lets herself get caught — and winds up taking her to the Raft, a top security prison for super-powered criminals.
Hawkeye is supposed to question the Black Widow at the Raft, and to assassinate her if she tries to escape, but instead he finds himself caught up in a violent prison break that releases some of the world’s most vicious and powerful criminals. The prison break-out brings together a bunch of other superheroes, including Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Luke Cage, Captain America and Iron Man, and they wind up forming a new Avengers team to track down the escaped criminals. Sorry, I realize that’s kind of a long-winded answer!
GeekDad: If you could tell people one thing about the story, what would it be?
Kwitney: There’s romance in the book, and jealousies and intrigues and lots of different kinds of tension, but at its core, this is the story of a bunch of individuals coming together to form a team.
GeekDad: Will those who are only familiar with the characters from the movie be able to follow this story? What about comic readers?
Kwitney: Even though the plot of the novel is loosely based on a comic book storyline (by Brian Bendis, a fine writer known for his strong female characters) you don’t need to have read the comics — or even to have seen the Avengers movie — to read this novel. Like the other novels in Marvel’s new prose line, it has its own, stand-alone continuity. My mandate was to use Bendis’s storyline as a jumping off place, but to feel free to introduce new characters. This went for plot as well — parts of the original plot made sense for the ongoing storyline, but didn’t work in the same way for the novel.
GeekDad: What was the most fun part of writing the book?
Kwitney: I loved writing Hawkeye and the Black Widow’s scenes, in part because I love a good “kiss or kill” dilemma, and in part because I had the freedom to explore their psychology and backstories. I also really enjoyed writing Spider-Man. I think that he’s one of the male comics characters that I have always identified with.
GeekDad: How much research did you have to do on the Marvel characters? Have you written them before?
Kwitney: I’ve never written Marvel characters before, and even though I started reading Marvel comics as a kid and continued right through grad school, I hadn’t been reading the Avengers recently. So, yes, I had to do a lot of research. I also like to avoid work by doing research, so I probably did more than was strictly necessary.
I began by reading Brian Bendis’ New Avengers Breakout comics, and then went on to read Alias, to get a better sense of how Bendis handled Luke Cage when he was approaching him more psychologically. I asked for as much reference as I could get on Savage Land, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the escaped Raft inmates, and then I tried to give myself a crash course in various aspects of military and intelligence operations.
Last but not least, I had to look up sunrise and sunset times in the Antarctic in late November, because the Savage Land is located there.
GeekDad: What are your influences in comics? In prose fiction?
Kwitney: Hmm. Growing up, I started reading the seventies feminist heroines Shanna the She Devil and the Cat, and House of Mystery and House of Secrets. In college I discovered the X-Men. When I started working at DC Comics, I was lucky enough to be assigned as assistant editor to two incredible monthlies — Peter Milligan’s Shade: The Changing Man and Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. I loved them both. Around the same time, I discovered Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise.
In prose, my influences include my father, science fiction writer Robert Sheckley, Judy Blume, Fay Weldon, Carl Hiaasen and John D. MacDonald. But I continue to be influenced. I’m always trying to learn new tricks and techniques. I’m on a big Tana French binge at the moment.
GeekDad: What’s next for you? What’s your dream of dreams project?
Kwitney: Right now, I’m working on a little Creepy Magazine horror/romance story for Valentine’s Day. I actually have a few different dream projects. In comics, I’d love to get a chance to write Kitty Pryde.
In novels, I’ve been working an idea with mystery elements — I love reading about the stuff that people find when they renovate their old houses — old letters, sacks of money, the remains of four partial skeletons and a corset. But I have other story ideas that I’d like to get to eventually — a YA horror idea set in Victorian times, a romantic suspense that reunites a woman with the man who unceremoniously dumped her back in college.
New Avengers: Breakout by Alisa Kwitney is already up on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other sites.