Exclusive Interview: “Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Into The Dark Dimension” Author Stuart Moore


Like the movies, games, and TV shows, the novels about Spider-Man, Iron Man, and their super friends that are published by Aconyte Books are usually based on, and often connected to, Marvel Comic’s, well, comics. But sometimes the connection isn’t so direct. Take Stuart Moore’s new novel Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Into The Dark Dimension (paperback, Kindle), which is the second he’s written about the comic-inspired miniatures game Marvel: Crisis Protocol. In the following email interview, Moore discusses how this story connects to the games, the comics, and to Carrie Harris’ Marvel: Crisis Protocol novel, Shadow Avengers.

Stuart Moore Marvel Crisis Protocol Into the Dark Dimension

Carrie Harris did a good job of explaining the miniatures game Marvel: Crisis Protocol in the interview she and I did about her novel Shadow Avengers. What then is Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Into The Dark Dimension about, and how is it connected to the game, to Carrie’s novel, and to your previous Crisis Protocol novel, Target: Kree?

Target: Kree concerns a group of Kree refugees whose arrival on Earth triggers a battle between the Avengers and the Guardians Of The Galaxy. Lurking the background is a major threat — the mysterious entity that destroyed the refugees’ planet — and at the end of that novel, the Shadow Avengers are formed to combat that threat. Carrie’s novel, Shadow Avengers, brings the threat out into the open and deals with Doctor Strange’s attempts lead his new team against it.

Into The Dark Dimension opens almost a year later, when that entity has utterly conquered the multiverse, enslaving the citizens of Earth with a seemingly unbreakable form of mind-control. Doctor Strange and Tony Stark both find themselves leading resistance movements in radically different ways. Caught in the middle, as usual, is Ms. Marvel, whose loyalties are tested because she doesn’t always know who to trust.

Like the Marvel movies, each of the books is designed to be self-contained. You can read any one of them on its own, but together they add up to an epic trilogy featuring most of Marvel’s biggest characters. At least, I hope they do.

And is there any connection between the Crisis Protocol novels and the other Marvel books that Aconyte publishes?

I can’t speak for Aconyte, but most of their novels deal with fun, quirky pockets of the Marvel universe: the heroes of Asgard, Professor X’s young students, that sort of thing. The Crisis Protocol novels feature the big guns: Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Ms. Marvel, Captain America, Black Widow, the Guardians, Venom, and a lot more. So it’s just a different game — no pun intended.

Stuart Moore Marvel Crisis Protocol Into the Dark Dimension

Where did you get the idea for Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Into The Dark Dimension, what inspired it?

I always try to find a real-world issue that I care about to build a story around, especially in a giant-scale epic like this. In Target: Kree, the Kree refugees are basically impoverished immigrants who find themselves mistreated when they enter a Stark Enterprises pilot work program. Tony Stark is unaware of this, of course, but it puts him in conflict with both Ms. Marvel and with Jen Walters, a.k.a. She-Hulk, who becomes the refugees’ attorney on our fine planet.

In Dark Dimension, I wanted to put Tony in a position where he couldn’t rely on any of his super hero allies. This forces him to turn to his other peer group: wealthy tech geniuses, such as Doctor Octopus. As usual when a bunch of rich techies try to save the world, things go very, very badly.

Both books focus on the tension and mutual respect between Tony and Ms. Marvel, which for my money is the richest thing Marvel has going right now. Their very different backgrounds, including his extreme wealth, mean they’re bound to clash from time to time. But, at the same time, there’s a real affection and a mentor relationship there. In Dark Dimension, a desperate Tony Stark turns to her for help, but she can’t trust him because she doesn’t know if he’s being mind-controlled or not. And if she chooses wrong, the rest of the Shadow Avengers will pay the price. So she has to protect her team.

In talking to the people at Marvel about your plans for this story, did they ever say, “Yeah, we need you to change this…and we can’t tell you why?” And please, no spoilers; I’d rather not be responsible for killing a Marvel writer. Again.

No, they always tell me. These books are set in the comics universe, and there have been a few times I’ve slipped too close to the movie continuity — they’ll pull me back when that happens. And I had an adjustment period with Ms. Marvel, mostly because her identity is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the Marvel U; nobody can know it except her closest friends. But all that is just details. I’ve worked with Marvel enough that I don’t run into any major problems.

Wait, wait, wait, I think you buried the lede there. When did you kill a Marvel writer? Did they deserve it? They probably deserved it.

I’d tell you but, well, you know. Anyway, how familiar were you with the game Crisis Protocol when you started writing Target: Kree, and are you more familiar with it now?

The people at Aconyte told me not to worry too much about the game; just write the best novels you can. That was very freeing.

At the same time, I wanted to capture the scope of a game like Crisis Protocol, where the players’ imagination is the only limit on the action. I also tried to evoke the classic event stories and Marvel films that I love.

Given the source material, the title, and its connection to the previous Crisis Protocol novels, I’m guessing Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Into The Dark Dimension is a sci-fi action story, but with some occult seasoning.

Yeah, that’s a pretty good description. The Shadow Avengers’ quest to find Doctor Voodoo is pretty mystically oriented, as you’d expect with a team led by Doctor Strange. The Tony Stark sequence has strong elements of a techno-thriller, which tends to happen with Iron Man. And I’m particularly proud of the Guardians prologue, which is very much in the vein of their sci-fi comedy solo stories.

As I mentioned, Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Into The Dark Dimension is your second Marvel novel after Target: Kree. But you also used to be the editor of Marvel’s prose novels, and not only wrote a bunch — including Thanos: Death Sentence and Civil War — but also such Marvel comics as Wolverine Noir and Deadpool The Duck. Are there any writers, or maybe stories, that had a big influence on Dark Dimension but not on anything else you’ve written, and especially not Kree?

That’s an interesting question. Probably the writer who’s influenced me most on these is Dan Abnett, who’s obviously known for his formative work on the Guardians comics. But he also wrote a couple of those Marvel novels, including a terrific Avengers book, Everybody Wants To Rule The World, and the very funny Guardians novel, Rocket And Groot: Steal The Galaxy.

In comics, I always say I’m inspired by the work of Steve Gerber, who wrote a very different Guardians series in the 1970s. In my most recent comics series, Highball, I found myself influenced by Brian Michael Bendis and Garth Ennis, both of whom I’ve worked with as an editor. It all depends on what the material calls for.

What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games?

I definitely turn to the Marvel films to get myself revved up to write, or when I’m having trouble with a character’s voice. The MCU has such a great collection of actors, and the Guardians films in particular speed along at a nice clip.

As we’ve been discussing, Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Into The Dark Dimension is connected to the miniatures game Crisis Protocol. Do you think your story could work as an expansion to the game?

One thing we try to do in each of the books is include a few giant-scale battles that can actually be played, if the reader wants to do that. Dark Dimension climaxes in a huge throwdown on a remote island, involving Shang-Chi, Cloak & Dagger, Doctor Voodoo, the Green Goblin, and a lot of the big guns. Which, you know, is also just a lot of fun.

In the beginning of this interview you said that the three Crisis Protocol novels are “designed to be self-contained,” but that, “together they add up to an epic trilogy.” What then will people get out of Into The Dark Dimension if they’ve read Target: Kree and Shadow Avengers — and in that order — that they wouldn’t otherwise?

There’s a sense of building menace in the first two novels that explodes in Dark Dimension, so if you read them in order, you’ll get that runup to the climax. Carrie also set up a nice subplot with Venom, which pays off in Dark Dimension.

Also, do you think people should read Target: Kree, Shadow Avengers, and Into The Dark Dimension back-to-back, or should they put some space in between them?

Stan would probably have said, “It depends on how much pulse-pounding excitement your heart can take, True Believer!” I can’t improve on that — it’ll be a different experience for everyone, I think.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Into The Dark Dimension?

It’s the biggest, most ambitious Marvel story I’ve ever written. I worked very hard to balance the cosmic-scale plot with the very grounded relationships of these wonderful characters — especially Ms. Marvel and her two very different mentors, Doctor Strange and Tony Stark. My editor calls it “our Endgame” and that’s certainly what I was aiming for. So I hope people like it.

Stuart Moore Marvel Crisis Protocol Into the Dark Dimension

Finally, if someone enjoys Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Into The Dark Dimension, they’ll probably go and get Target: Kree. But once they’ve read that, they’ll probably want to take a break from all the Marvel-ous stuff. So what non-Marvel novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read?

I have very quirky tastes. I’m currently reading Mark Z. Danielewski’s five-volume series The Familiar, which is strange and mystical and experimental and beautifully written. It’s very slow and surreal in spots — not the easiest read — so I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but I’m finding it very rewarding.

I also recently enjoyed Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, which I’d somehow never read before and which has become a sort of touchstone for hackers over the past twenty-some years.

And I reread an obscure book that I’ll close with: Norstrilia, a mid-1960s cult novel by the late Cordwainer Smith. No one captured the wonder and terror of space travel better than Smith, whose Instrumentality Of Mankind series has inspired generations of sci-fi and comics writers.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *