Secret Avengers
Credit: Marvel

At this weekend’s New York Comic-Con, Marvel is showing off one of the most intriguing titles of the companywide “Marvel NOW!” initiative: A relaunched Secret Avengers series coming in February 2013, which focuses on S.H.I.E.L.D., the semi-omniscient government agency. S.H.I.E.L.D. is having a bit of a moment right now: It’s the connective tissue for Marvel’s cinematic universe, and ABC is currently producing a Whedon-powered S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. And Secret Avengers puts the agency front and center. “S.H.I.E.L.D. has decided that they want their own Avengers team,” says Nick Spencer, who is writing the series, with Luke Ross handling penciling duties. “But Avengers are loose cannons: They’re independent operators, they don’t have security clearance, they have a history of becoming bad guys.”

Hence, the key twist in Secret Avengers: Thanks to the memory implant technology first seen in the 2005 Brian Michael Bendis-scripted series Secret War, “Nobody on this team actually knows that they’re on this team.” For members of the team, a specific keyword activates their programming when it’s time for a mission; once the mission is done, the same keyword wipes their memory. “It’s a very different kind of book,” says Spencer, “A covert ops, black ops spy book.” (Spencer cites 24, James Bond, and the BBC series Spooks as influences, along with the work that Ed Brubaker has done with Marvel’s espionage world in the last decade.) Today, EW is excited to exclusively reveal the members of the team, with commentary from Spencer:

Hawkeye: “Clint led the last incarnation of Secret Avengers, the team that Steve Rogers put together,” says Spencer. “He’s not in charge anymore. So there’s some adjustment to be made.” Spencer hints that big things will be happening for Hawkeye in the near future that will play into his role on the team. “He’s in an interesting place. But I have to keep quiet!”

Black Widow: Thanks to Scarlett Johansson’s bigscreen incarnation of Natasha Romanoff, “She has a such a higher profile than ever. She’s kind of the leading female character at Marvel at this point.”

Nick Fury: “One of the most important distinctions between this Nick Fury and the Nick Fury that a lot of folks are familiar with from the film franchise is that this Nick is a field agent, and he’s a very new field agent. He comes from a lot of time in military service in Afghanistan, and that shapes his worldview and his standard operating procedures.”

Mockingbird: “Also known as Bobbie Morse, Hawkeye’s Ex-Wife. So we have some fun dynamics to play with there,” deadpans Spencer.

Taskmaster: A longtime fan-favorite character with one of the coolest superpowers ever — photographic reflexes! Spencer calls Taskmaster “a favorite of mine,” and suspects we’re on the cusp of a Taskmaster renaissance. “I was at the Con today, and I saw three Taskmaster costumes!”

A New Iron Patriot: “I can’t reveal the identity of the Iron Patriot yet, but I think people are gonna like how he ends up in that suit. That’s a suit that has a lot of history in the Marvel Universe, none of it good.”

Hulk: Spencer describes the Unjolly Green Giant as “an on-call member of this team, and a walking weapon of mass destruction. They’ll use him judiciously, but when they do, it’ll really count.”

The Winter Soldier: Although not actually a member of the team, Spencer teases that ol’ Bucky Barnes will have “a huge role in the book.”

Anybody: Spencer emphasizes that anyone could get the call for memory-implant duty, with the potential for a rotating cast from around the Marvel universe.

So is Secret Avengers a kind of backdoor foundation for Whedon’s S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series? Spencer notes that he was already working on Secret Avengers when the show was announced, but laughs, “It’s not a bad announcement to get when you’re working on this book!” Spencer is first and foremost excited about doing a series focused on the superspy organization: “My favorite thing about this book — the thing that I was most excited about when [Marvel executive editor] Tom Brevoort came to me — is that it’s an opportunity to do a S.H.I.E.L.D. book. There was a long time in comics where there wasn’t a feeling that the market could support that. But now, everybody in the world knows who S.H.I.E.L.D. is, and everybody in the world knows who Nick Fury is.”

Spencer sums up Secret Avengers as a potential entry point for people who’ve seen the Marvel movies but are newcomers to the comicverse: “Theseries really tries to connect the Marvel movie aesthetic with the history of the Marvel Universe as we know it.”

More information about Secret Avengers will be revealed later today at New York Comic-Con, but for now, bask in the cover of the first issue!

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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