In Marvel Comics' monthly "Avengers Academy" series by writer Christos Gage, Earth's Mightiest Heroes train super powered teens how to be the heroes of tomorrow. No easy task, considering the Academy's inaugural class was six powerful teens victimized by the villainous Norman Osborn who run the risk of becoming villains themselves.
So far, the faculty of Avengers Academy has done an exemplary job, guiding their original students and a score of new trainees through several difficult times, including the recent events of "Fear Itself" -- but their trials are far from over. This summer, the students and teachers of "Avengers Academy" will face their toughest challenge yet when the heroic lines begin to blur during "Avengers Vs X-Men."
The "AvX" tie-in begins in June with "Avengers Academy" #31 and will force the students to make some difficult decisions as they come face to face with some of the younger X-Men characters and deal with the repercussions of the event. CBR News spoke with Gage about the arc, which was announced yesterday at Marvel's "Avengers Vs. X-Men" panel at WonderCon 2012 in Anaheim, California.
CBR News: Christos, how will the structure of "Avengers vs. X-Men" work with your cast of characters? Will you be focusing on the same set of characters throughout your tie-in or will certain characters step to the foreground based on the acts of "AvX?"
Christos Gage: The first "act" of "AvX" roughly coincides with "Avengers Academy #29-31, in which the mutant kids from Utopia are brought to Avengers Academy for "protective custody." The second act jibes with #32 and #33, in which the X-Men decide Juston Seyfert's Sentinel has to be destroyed.
A bunch of different characters will get some time in the spotlight, but in #29-31, I would say it's X-23 who is the central figure -- which makes sense, given the fact that she has ties to both sides. #32-33 spotlights, naturally, Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel, taking center stage for the first time. But I always like to showcase a variety of characters -- from Finesse to Mettle and Hazmat to Hercules, who will be a guest teacher in #29 through 31.
We know the adolescent cast members of "Generation Hope" and their one adult member (an amnesiac Sebastian Shaw) are among the Utopia-based mutants brought to "Avengers Academy" for protective custody. What's it like writing these characters? How similar and how different are they to your core cast in "Avengers Academy?"
It's interesting to write them because it does make me think a lot about the difference, which in general terms I would describe this way: being an Avenger is something you do, while being an X-Man is something you are. There was a time you could be a mutant without being part of the X-Men, but now that the mutant population is so small, "mutants" and "X-Men" are more or less synonyms.
I really enjoy writing the "Generation Hope" characters, although Sebastian Shaw is a different beast entirely. He has a long and infamous career as one of the worst villains on Earth and in the last issue of "Generation Hope," he found out the truth about his past. So he is very much a wild card.
The last time we talked about "Avengers Academy," you mentioned X-23 would play a role in the "AvX" story line. Will we see her interact with the kids of "Generation Hope" or will she be interacting with some other youthful X-Men?
Laura's interactions will actually be primarily with her former classmates from the New X-Men, Dust and Surge, who consider her a traitor for being part of an Avengers organization that is keeping them against their will. It's an interesting situation for someone as unused to exploring emotions as Laura. She left the X-Men in part because she didn't want to choose sides in the "Schism," but now there's no avoiding it -- you're either on one side or the other. So she'll have to really consider who and what she wants to be
Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel have played small but significant roles in the past few issues of "Avengers Academy." What's it like writing these characters? With such a mutant-centric story line, how big will Juston and his Sentinel's role be in the "AvX" tie-in issues of "Avengers Academy?"
Originally I was just looking for teen characters to add to the newly expanding student body in issue #21. But I have come to really love Juston and the Sentinel. There's something very basic about the dynamic -- a kid with his own giant robot. What kid hasn't wished for that at some point or another? Sean McKeever, in his two "Sentinel" series, did a great job making them live and breathe.
As you point out, the mutant-centric story makes it a perfect, organic opportunity to put them in the spotlight. Issues #32 and #33 will bring Juston and the Sentinel to the forefront, examining the question of whether something created for a destructive purpose can ever rise above that -- a question that resonates with many of the residents of Avengers Academy.
Will any other students from the original student body or the new class play significant roles in the "Avengers vs. X-Men" tie-ins? What can you tell us about these characters and how they'll initially view the events of "AvX?"
There will be important roles for Finesse, Mettle and Hazmat. I really can't say much without treading on spoiler-mines, but those readers who have been clamoring for Finesse and X-23 to get to know each other better are going to get their wish. Also, we'll be examining how the mutant members of Avengers Academy's student body -- specifically Wiz Kid and Ricochet, along with X-23 -- feel about the hostilities.
What about the school faculty? Will they be on hand for this story or will the events of "AvX" place them elsewhere?
Some will be elsewhere, which is why Hercules is guest-starring in #29-31 alongside Tigra. Giant-Man is back in #32 and #33. I had a blast writing Herc! And for those who feel comics exploit women, I've tried to balance the scales by giving you naked Hercules. You're welcome.
Is there anything else you can tell us about the plot and themes of your "AvX" tie-ins? Current information suggests the kids of Avengers Academy are not going to be happy about two teams of heroes at war with each other.
It's really about kids being caught up in a chaotic situation caused by the decisions of their elders -- decisions they had no say in, but now they have to deal with the consequences. They'll have to figure out who they are, how they feel about what's going on and if the side they started out on is the side they want to stay on.
You're working with Tom Grummet and Timothy Green II, two great artists with very distinct styles. What can people expect from the issues they're drawing? It seems like Timothy's flair for sci-fi would make him a great fit for the story focusing on Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel.
You're right! I have wanted to work with Timothy since seeing his awesome work in the "Annihilation" books -- I loved his take on Groot and Rocket Raccoon! Tom has been doing stellar work on "Avengers Academy" for a while now, but I think he's delivering some of his best in #29-31. The opening splash of the Academy kids watching Hercules re-enact the first Olympics in a historically accurate manner -- in other words, naked and oiled -- is priceless!
Let's wrap things up by talking about the impact of your "AvX" tie-ins. You're telling a long form story in "Avengers Academy" that primarily focuses on the lives of the original students. Without spoiling things, how large an impact will your "AvX" stories have on that long form story?
It will affect some characters more than others, but it will progress the journeys of the characters it affects in important ways -- and then it will lead directly into a story line that may just be the most significant we've done yet.
"Avengers Academy" #31 hits stores in June.