The following contains spoilers for Avengers #4, on sale now from Marvel.
All over the globe, large swathes of humanity flock to cities to live, work, create, worship, and even die. So it's not surprising that several cities in the Marvel Universe and their populations are under attack by powerful alien invaders interested in those ideas. Collectively these individuals are known as the Ashen Combine, and their global campaign to corrupt, manipulate, and kill these cities has them going toe-to-toe with the Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Their battle is the subject of the current arc of the new volume of Avengers by writer Jed MacKay and artist C.F. Villa.
In issue #4, part two of the "Citykillers" arc, readers see three of the big battles between the Avengers and the Ashen Combine; Thor versus Idol Alabaster in Vatican City, Scarlet Witch versus The Dead in Sydney, and Iron Man versus the Citysmith in Toronto. The issue also checked in on the Falcon and Captain America's efforts to disable the Ashen Combine's Earth-orbiting headquarters, the Impossible City. In the latest installment of Earth's Mightiest Spoilers, CBR's exclusive series of post-game interviews about each issue of Avengers, MacKay talks about the events of Issue #4 and working with Villa and colorist Federico Blee to bring the story to life. Marvel also shared a sneak peek at some of guest artist Ivan Fiorelli's pages from next month's Avengers #5!
CBR: The Avengers are famous for coming together to defeat the foes "no single hero" could defeat on their own, but the first two parts of this story have most of the team in individual action against the members of the Ashen Combine. And they're not doing well. So, is part of the narrative thrust of this story about the Avengers stretching themselves too thin?
Jed MacKay: It's less about "stretching themselves too thin" than it is about showing that the Avengers are the ones who have to step up when something like the Ashen Combine hits the world, even when it's on disadvantageous footing. The Avengers don't always have the luxury of assembling, and when you protect the entire planet, you're going to have to make tactical decisions as to how to apply your strength. Because the Avengers' strength isn't solely limited to them standing together. The other side of the coin is that they're a collection of powerful, experienced heroes whose reach is planetary and can deploy simultaneously against concurrent threats. Is it a challenge? Of course, it is. But the Avengers exist to be challenged and to triumph over those challenges.
At what point in Idol Alabaster's development did you know you would pit the character against Thor?
Pretty late in the game, actually. It wasn't until I sat down to block out these issues that I put together the matchups, and pitting the Living Godhead against the King of Gods seemed like a pretty natural fit. That, and of all our heroes, Thor would be one who could most easily shrug off Idol Alabaster's psychic field of worship-compulsion.
Wanda's battle against The Dead appears to awaken the Elder God, Chthon, who is trapped inside her. What do you want readers who missed Steve Orlando's Darkhold series from 2021 to know about Wanda and her relationship to the Darkhold and Chthon?
Well, the takeaway from Steve's excellent Darkhold series is that Wanda went up against Chthon, the Elder God of dark magic and author of no less tome than The Darkhold, and defeated him. Chthon has been chained [and] imprisoned in her soul, but as we see in the issue, "ghosts do so love to rattle their chains."
What's your sense of the power Wanda can tap into as "The Living Darkhold?" And just how costly is that power?
What I think is interesting about Wanda's power is that it's at an extreme level, but with it comes its own set of problems -- namely, control of it. The Dead doesn't try to metaphorically out-punch Wanda. That's a losing proposition. But challenging her control over that power is an angle that can bear more fruit.
What was it about C.F. Villa's designs for the Citysmith that lead to him becoming the sensitive artist of the Ashen Combine? What made you want to release him on Toronto?
C.F.'s design, with the expressive, toothy mouth and the constant fidgeting with a bit of material, really informed how I approached the Citysmith. He is supremely confident and utterly insecure, which makes for fun characterization when confronted with Iron Man, the consummate engineer. As for Toronto, I'm Canadian and always like it when places in Canada turn up in comics -- and as B.A. Johnston sang, "Nuke Toronto."
This issue is full of kinetic action thanks to C.F.'s work, but my favorite was the Citysmith's battle with Iron Man. What was it like seeing C.F. bring that sequence to life?
Pretty extraordinary! C.F. really went all-out on that one, and I'm well aware that it was a big ask: not just a fight in a city, but a fight with a city. C.F. has a super physical, high-speed action style that first impressed me back when he was drawing the power armor showdown in Black Cat #12, and it's only gotten better since.
Federico Blee's colors have added an extra layer to the battles of these past two issues. What's it been like working with Federico on these issues? How much direction do you give him in the script?
Federico is a genius. I have almost no sense of colors, so I provide very little in the way of direction. His work compliments C.F.'s perfectly, lending a greater depth and intensity to the sense of scale that we're working with.
Finally, this issue showed how two Avengers who don't care for each other, Black Panther and Captain America, interact while on a mission. What's your sense of the source of friction between these two characters?
Well, Sam and T'Challa butted heads back in Symbol of Truth, which has certainly left some bad blood between the two, and then T'Challa's actions back in his own series (Black Panther Vol. 8, 2021) drove a further wedge between them. I really enjoy exploring their relationship and seeing how it will progress.
Next month sees our remaining matchups -- the Vision vs. Meridian Diadem and Captain Marvel vs. Lord Ennui, as well as new revelations aboard the Impossible City!
Avengers #4 is on sale now. Avengers #5 is due out on Sept. 27