There's something about the first few days at a new school that's just full of potential. You're meeting new people while becoming acquainted with a new campus -- it feels like almost anything can happen. In the Marvel Universe that can manifest itself in wondrous moments like meeting and befriending new super powered students or frightening ones like coming face to face with a monstrous and deranged villain.
In the current arc of the monthly "Avengers Academy" series by writer Christos Gage and artist Tom Raney the students and faculty of the titular institution have relocated to a new campus, the old Los Angeles headquarters of the West Coast Avengers. Here they've encountered new students including the female Wolverine clone, X-23, and the new White Tiger. In "Avengers Academy" #24, in stores now, the students and teachers were attacked a by a monstrous menace, the villain known as Hybrid. CBR News spoke with Gage about his current and upcoming plans for the book.
CBR News: Christos, for this current arc you brought back a relatively obscure villain who originated in a period of Marvel history that many younger readers may not know about. That time period is when the Space Knight Rom and his villains the Dire Wraith were an active part of the Marvel U, and the villain is Hybrid. What made you want to bring this character back, and what made him a good foil for the students and faculty of "Avengers Academy?"
Christos Gage: I won't lie, part of the reason I brought back Hybrid is because I love the character. When I was a kid reading "Rom" he scared the pants off me. (And quite a few other kids, judging from the storm of tweets from readers my age when he showed up in #23!) But also, he struck me as a good foil for "Avengers Academy" because he is the personification of what they could become at their worst -- a kid with powers who is totally corrupted by them. He's also powerful enough to take on all of them.
What motivates Hybrid in this arc? In #24 it seems like his evil actions are being driven primarily by a ravenous hunger? Is Jimmy Marks truly evil or is he more a victim of his hybrid human and Dire Wraith physiology?
His ultimate goal, now that Wraithworld has returned to our dimension (as seen in the "Annihilators" miniseries), is to return there and rule it, using it as a platform for conquest. But for the short term, you're right -- he wants to feed on his male victims and breed with the female ones to create an army of offspring.
That's what Hybrid was doing in most of his early appearances -- trying to forcibly take "wives" in the form of superhuman females, including Rogue, Mystique and the ladies of the New Mutants. As for whether Jimmy chose to be evil or whether it was inevitable, I think that's an interesting debate -- and one very relevant to the central purpose of "Avengers Academy."
Hybrid's rampage in #24 was aided by a Reptil from a possible future who possessed the mind of his younger self so he could make sure the future he hails from becomes a reality. What's going on with the mind of the Reptil from the present day? Is he aware that he's swapped bodies with his younger self? Does he know the havoc that his younger self has been wreaking?
We'll see more of that in issue #25. At least at first, "our" Reptil is being kept in an isolation tube with his senses blocked, presumably so he can't learn anything about the world of the future or what its denizens are up to. As we'll see, it doesn't quite work out that way...
In "Avengers Academy" #24 Hybrid also has Reptil investigate the new White Tiger, which gave readers more information about her background. Based on this issue it seems you have big plans for this new character. I know most of the other new students at Avengers Academy are mainly supporting players, but is White Tiger?
White Tiger is actually a full time student. She'll get as much screen time as the other original students, Lightspeed and, eventually, X-23. I was a big fan of the original White Tiger, so it's cool to write Ava.
One lingering question about Ava is her connection to the previous White Tiger, Angela Del Toro. Was Angela's story and connection to the White Tiger legacy pretty much wrapped up in "Shadowland" or will we see more of her story in future issues of "Avengers Academy?"
You're correct, after "Shadowland" Angela Del Toro is no longer the White Tiger, with the legacy having passed to Ava. The specifics of how that happened, and what Angela is up to now, will be revealed in due time. But to be honest, with everything else we have going on, we wanted to let Ava establish an identity on her own for a while.
In issue #23 you introduced another young female student to the student body of "Avengers Academy," X-23, who also popped up in issue #24. With X-23's ongoing series coming to an end many fans of the character are looking for places to keep up with her adventures. How big will her role in future issues of "Avengers Academy" be?
Starting in issue #29, her role will be much bigger. The truth is, I didn't find out Laura's solo book was ending until I was in the midst of writing the Runaways two-parter in issues #27 and 28 and I had already made the decision to exclude Laura from those issues because our cast had grown so big! I figured she'd be on a solo adventure (though now my story is that she's training solo with the Black Widow). But as of issue #29, which is the first part of our "Avengers vs. X-Men" tie-in, X-23 steps into the spotlight.
She left the X-Men in part because she didn't like being caught in the middle of the "Schism," and now she's caught in the middle of a full-fledged war. She has a foot in each camp, and it's going to be a big challenge for her. Marjorie Liu has done a great job of showing us her efforts to stand on her own and be her own person. Now that'll be put to the test.
Reptil and Hybrid's attack on the students was the primary story in "Avengers Academy" #24, but we also gained insight into the murder of a faculty member, Jocasta. How big a story will Jocasta's murder be moving forward? And is it at all connected to the return of one of Ultron's other mates, Alkhema, who recently appeared in Jim McCann's "Avengers Academy" back up story in "Avengers: Solo?"
I'm going to plead spoiler avoidance in dodging this question, but I will say that some big answers are coming in issues #25 and 26!
You're about to hit one of your first milestone issues with the release of "Avengers Academy" #25, which hits stores February 1st. What can you tell us about the plot and themes of this issue? It sounds like the next few issues will offer up quite a bit about the two current threads.
You know, until you mentioned it I'd forgotten that #25 was a milestone issue. But I do consider it that. It's a great mark for a comic to hit, especially one featuring so many new characters. I'm really appreciative of all the fans and retailers who've made it possible for us to get to this point.
As for the plot and themes, well, there'll be a lot of stuff wrapped up -- and some characters I've written before will make a surprise appearance.
We talked quite a bit about March's two-part "Avengers Academy" tale guest starring the Runaways when it was announced at New York Comic Con. Now that some time has passed can you tell us anything else about the story and why the Runaways head to Avengers Academy for help? The Runaways are characters with a lot of trust issues when it comes to other heroes. Is it easy for them to head to ask the Academy for help?
You're right about the trust issues. They'll definitely be a factor in the story. For the Runaways to turn to Avengers Academy for help there'd better be a pretty urgent reason. I'm not going to say what it is, but if you look at the cover to issue #28 when the April solicits come out, you may be able to figure it out!
After the Runaways story we'll be well into this year's "Avengers vs. X-Men" event. You mentioned earlier that "Avengers Academy" will tie into the big event. Can you tell us any more about your tie-in story?
I can't get too much into specifics without venturing into spoiler territory, but I can say we will be taking full advantage of the fact that in X-23, we have a character who is torn between the two sides. She'll have to make some tough decisions about where here true loyalties lie.