When Secret Empire kicks off this May, ripples will be felt across the Marvel Universe, and heroes must unite to face a threat they never expected. SECRET EMPIRE: UNDERGROUND, a major tie-in from writer Jeremy Whitley and artist Eric Koda, will tell the story of one such group of good guys looking to liberate the Marvel Universe from Steve Rogers’ machinations.
We spoke with the UNDERGROUND creative about what to expect from their scintillating story.
Marvel.com: In Secret Empire, we’ll see the culmination of Steve Rogers’ story, which has been unfolding since this past summer. Can you tell us about jumping into the story at this stage?
Jeremy Whitley: It’s pretty wild, like boarding a moving train at full-speed. With UNDERGROUND, I don’t write Steve directly, but with characters like Sam Wilson on my team who have a ton invested in this story, we’ve got a lot of pressure to get things right. It’s a real honor to be asked to help tell a story so tied in to the narrative of Secret Empire.
Eric Koda: I feel so honored and excited to contribute to this, especially as a newcomer at Marvel. At this point I don’t know much but I am really intrigued about where this will go.
Marvel.com: Jeremy, in the book, Mockingbird leads the team. We recently saw her appear in UNSTOPPABLE WASP, which you write as well. How did it feel to write this character in such a different context?
Jeremy Whitley: Not so different, actually. We’ll have a lot fewer smoothies involved in UNDERGROUND than in UNSTOPPABLE WASP, but I love writing Mockingbird. I see her as very well-rounded, in a way few heroes are. She has a background in science, she has years of experience in operations and espionage, she has served as an Avenger and a double agent. When I got the list of the characters that were going to be on this team, I knew Bobbi would step up as the leader. She knows how to run an operation and she has a history of getting the job done when the chips are down.
Marvel.com: The team is described as “ragtag”—have you enjoyed working on a book that brings together characters we may not usually see teaming up?
Jeremy Whitley: At first it felt pretty intimidating. When you step into a team like the Champions or X-Men, you have a pretty good idea of how the characters will act toward each other based on their shared history. But with a team like this, some of whom we’ve never seen share panel time before, you start out feeling unsure how to orchestrate things.
But as it turns out, all of that worry was for nothing because this book has a lot of characters with big personalities. Hercules, Mockingbird, Iron Man, Sam Wilson—I mean, love him or hate him, Quicksilver is in this book and that guy always has personality to spare. You put him in an enclosed space with other people and this much tension, well, it just starts writing itself.
Eric Koda: That’s the fun part. We all know how Wolverine and Colossus interact or how the Thing and Spidey interact, but we never see Quicksilver and Ant-Man hanging around.
Marvel.com: In this book, we see the team trying to put things back to the way they used to be. What kind of emotional impact do you hope it has on readers who have been following Steve’s crazy ride for months now?
Jeremy Whitley: I consider the emotional stakes really high here. All of our characters have things to lose. All of them have skin in the game. And in the case of characters like Sam Wilson, Steve has been a part of his life for years. I hope readers picking up this story can feel themselves on this crazy adventure with our team. It’s tense, but also, we see the team in the Savage Land and if you’re not the kind of person who wants to see Mockingbird and Hercules face off against T-Rexes, I don’t know what I can do for you.
Eric Koda: I’d like for them to get some hope out of it. It’s kind of like in Star Wars: Rogue One and into A New Hope, where we have a lot at stake and our heroes face difficult odds.
Marvel.com: Can you tease any of the challenges they’ll face?
Jeremy Whitley: Well we got a really fun chance to bring in one of my favorite characters of the Savage Land. I think anyone who has read much X-Men over the years, will know the one. However, as with so much of Secret Empire, our heroes think they know what they’re in for and what role this character will play, but they have no idea how it will really go down.
Marvel.com: Would you like to tell us anything else?
Jeremy Whitley: For anyone reading Secret Empire, this is an integral part of that story. You’ll see this team leave in the pages of SECRET EMPIRE and you’ll see them arrive right back into the pages of SECRET EMPIRE. If you follow that story, this is a must. However, I see it as a big adventure all on its own and I encourage fans of any of the characters to jump in and check it out.
Eric Koda: I feel psyched to be on board for this event and super stoked to work with Jeremy! Also, any opportunity to get to draw goofy Hercules faces is incredibly fortuitous!