When the super heroes of the Marvel Universe confront evil, they typically take the direct approach -- punching it in the face. And as fans of the MU know, the same approach tends to apply when heroes end up in a confrontation with other heroes.
While that fight usually leads to a greater understanding and a team-up between the two rival heroes, there are those times when heroes clearly understand each other, but just don't agree on how best to handle the situation or greater threat. And, when heroes go to war, subterfuge and espionage is often necessary. Readers saw that in "Avengers Vs X-Men" #3, in stores now, as writer Ed Brubaker and artist John Romita Jr. chronicled the various ways both teams are attempting to gain the upper hand in their battle to control the Mutant Messiah, Hope, who they all agree is the reason why the destructive cosmic entity known as the Phoenix is headed to Earth.
For this installment of the AvX COMMENTARY TRACK, we're joined by Senior Vice President of Publishing and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, whose office oversees the Avengers titles for a look at some of the pivotal pages in issue #3. Plus, we'll have a look at how a page of the issue came together and an exclusive teaser image for issue #4
CBR News: We open issue #3 with a scene that shows new readers -- and reminds old ones -- what it's like for Wolverine to recover from a mortal injury.
Tom Brevoort: Because Wolverine has been around for so long and, now especially with the films, everybody is so familiar with him, sometimes we undersell the way his healing factor works and the amount of pain and damage that's actually done to him. I think this scene helps draw a line under that.
It's not a pleasant thing to be Wolverine. It's probably one of the reasons why he is the way he is. Yes, he gets better and heals up after stuff like this happens where he's pretty much burnt to a crisp, but it's not a pleasant process. It makes for a great visual, though.
Wolverine confronted Hope last issue, and she unleashed some of the power she gained by the Phoenix's proximity to Earth. What's interesting, though, is that Hope only burned Wolverine, a person who was trying to kill her at the time and who could survive almost any attack Hope threw at him. Spider-Man and the other characters in the room weren't touched. Was this deliberate on Hope's part? Maybe a sign that she can currently control the Phoenix's power and the way it affects her?
I think that remains to be seen. I wouldn't want to say definitively one way or another. Certainly, though, she flared up as Wolverine was trying to stab her last issue, and it's not like she fired up Spider-Man who was six steps behind him. So, on that level, she exercised at least some control over what she was doing, but whether or not that was a conscious or unconscious thing, whether or not that was her or the Phoenix acting through her, and how this all works, I don't think we really have optics on quite yet.
One of the things we do see in this scene is the relationship between Spider-Man and Wolverine. What's your sense of the friendship between these two characters? Why does Spidey sit and watch over Wolverine as he recovers?
I think part of the reason Spidey is there is because he and Wolverine went in together last issue. He essentially tagged along with Wolverine to try and keep him from doing something awful, which he didn't really accomplish. [Laughs] Hope managed to stop that all on her own.
Over the last couple of years, there's been this buddy movie relationship that's been built up around Spider-Man and Wolverine. It's been featured in books like Jason Aaron's "Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine" and a couple stories that Zeb Wells wrote over in "Amazing Spider-Man," among others. It pretty much began when they both became Avengers.
So they're a good mismatched pair. Some of that is simply the fact that they're two of the most preeminent characters at Marvel, but they're also a study in contrasts. It's the old guy and the young guy. It's the seasoned killer and the guy who won't kill under any circumstances. It's the funny guy and the serious guy with a lot of turmoil and tumult in his past. It's the genius guy and the ordinary guy. They're very different characters and they play off each other pretty well.
I wouldn't be surprised if Spidey in off panel thought balloons felt a little guilty or responsible for Wolverine getting burned up like this. He probably thinks, "If only I had been a little faster or a little more on the ball I could have prevented this," because that's a very Spider-Man thing to do. So him hanging out here and waiting for Logan to regenerate his skin is kind of an extension of that. On a certain level everything Spider-Man does is motivated by guilt or self flagellation.
Cyclops and his Extinction team make their escape, but the other inhabitants of Utopia are left behind. Why does Cyclops leave some people behind? Is this a sign that he at least trusts the Avengers to look after Utopia's younger mutants?
I think Cyclops certainly knows that the Avengers are in essence good guys. Those last Kieron Gillen "Uncanny X-Men" issues where they fought side by side only came out a couple weeks ago, plus The X-Men and the Avengers, both individually and as groups, have fought together and worked together on a number of occasions. Cap got Cyclops the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Cyclops and the X-Men realize that the Avengers aren't bad guys, but the situation is such that they have a very different perspective on what the return of the Phoenix means; what will happen when it gets there and theoretically inhabits Hope. They're essentially fighting for their future and the future of their species.
I think they don't have any particular fear of the Avengers harming the young mutants. Certainly, even apart from the other Avengers, Wolverine is not going to go in and slice and dice the other mutants left on Utopia. That's not what this conflict is about. Ultimately the fight that went on last issue and comes to a conclusion here was all about Hope and this big cosmic thing that's coming for her and what Cyclops and his loyal core of followers believe will happen when that occurs. At this point, they need to be in position to make sure that event will happen the way they expect it to happen and that the Avengers don't do anything to louse it up or interfere with it.
Readers who want to follow up and see what happens to those left behind on Utopia can read Christos Gage's "Avengers Academy" issues, correct?
Yeah, "Avengers Academy" picks up right on the heels of that in terms of what happens to particularly the younger X-Men refugees who are left on Utopia and how the Avengers deal with them and keep them out of play and off the board while the rest of this adventure is going on. So there will be a number of issues of "Avengers Academy" that revolve around those issues and guest-star those characters.
Here, we see Hope look into the mirror. She sees the Phoenix and then quickly turns and leaves the electronics store she's in. What do you think is running through her mind during this sequence?
My interpretation -- and this is only mine, I didn't write this issue or any of the issues in this series -- is that Hope realizes this thing is coming and there's something she's supposed to do. Pretty much from the day she was born, everybody has been vying over her or had her out on a training mat going through routines because very important things were going to happen to her or she was going to be crucial to this event that's coming. Even now, the Avengers and the X-Men are fighting over who gets to control what her ultimate destiny is and what's going to happen to her. So I think Hope, in taking off the way she did, is trying to take matters back into her own hands. She's supposedly the Mutant Messiah and this thing is coming from space for her and it's a coin toss on whether it will mean good things or bad things. So she can no longer just be a passive player in this.
She really needs to take her destiny by both hands and own it. She puts up a certain front of confidence and competence from her years on the road with Cable, and certainly in front of the other Five Lights of Generation Hope she puts up a good facade of always being on top of things and in control. I think deep down, though, this is a scary moment for her. This thing that people have been talking about for most of her life is actually coming. It's happening now and who knows if she's really up for it or not? And even if she is, what does that mean?
Some not wonderful things happened the last time the Phoenix came down and inhabited Jean Grey before Hope. This is all stuff that she's been made aware of recently. It got to be a pretty scary thing to know that this firebird that erases whole worlds out of existence is making a direct beeline towards you.
Captain America kills the transmission between Wolverine and Rachel Summer and then storms off. What's going on in this scene? Why, exactly, is Cap angry with Logan?
When Cap said, "Avengers Assemble" and brought the troops in to essentially take control of Utopia, he wasn't doing so with the intention that anyone would go in and kill, not just Hope, but any of the other X-Men. Wolverine, though, went off on his own and played a lone hand, because he feels like he's got the experience and knows ultimately what has to be done, and that the other Avengers are going to hem and haw before they do the thing that has to be done.
That does not sit well with Cap. He is not the kind of person who believes the only way to solve a problem or situation is to kill something. He will always try to find another way to get the job done. So this brings to a head the conflict between these two characters.
Wolverine is doing what he feels is absolutely needed and absolutely justified in order to save the greatest number of people. He's expressed no reservation in terms of his opinion of Hope. It goes all the way back to the X-Men stories they've been in together before "AvX" started. He's been pretty consistent in terms of his position. Sooner or later, the day was going to come when he was going to have to put her down, and this is really just him carrying forth on that. This isn't something he wants to do or looks forward to doing, but he believes is a necessary thing.
And Cap, at least at this point, does not agree with that assessment. So the fact that Wolverine took advantage of the Avengers' assault as a diversion means that Wolverine is somebody that, while an Avenger and trusted soldier fighting side by side with him, is somebody who at this moment Cap cannot trust.
So it's a case of the utter pragmatist versus the Idealist.
There's definitely that, at least at this point. If they get to the point where there really is a question of, unless they kill Hope, the world is doomed, I don't necessarily know what Cap is going to do in that situation. I know pretty clearly what Wolverine is going to do, and that's sort of the essence of this conflict.
Cap is a soldier. If Hope was a villain deliberately out to destroy the Earth, he would use whatever means were necessary in order to safeguard the world, but Hope is not that. So that adds a gray area that's definitely going to be something Cap is going to struggle with as we get closer to a point when and if it becomes necessary to take definitive action against Hope. I think the fact that Wolverine has jumped in so quickly on this point really just kind of underscores it.
It's not like Cap hasn't known Logan long enough to know that's the type of guy he is, but Wolverine taking that action here, beyond it just being a very personal betrayal for Cap, also underscores the fact that this may actually become something that Cap himself will have to do or have to order done in order for the rest of the world to go on spinning. It's not something he's very comfortable with or happy with. So I think that adds a little bit of friction in what goes on in this scene between Cap and Wolverine.
What are we seeing at the bottom of the page here, with Rachel's telepathic talk with Cyclops? Is this the reveal of her as a full-blown double agent for Cyclops' camp, or is this a case of Rachel being in agreement with Wolverine on most things, but agreeing with Cyclops on this particular matter?
I believe we'll see more about what's running through Rachel's head in the tie-in books, notably "Wolverine & the X-Men" #12, but what you're certainly seeing here is the fact that the course of action Wolverine is setting out for himself and his followers is not necessarily one that every single person at the Jean Grey School is on board with. The subtext of this scene is that, in essence, what Wolverine is asking Rachel to do with Cerebra is to hunt down a mutant. Rachel has a history where she was forced to be a "hound." She spent time in a bleak, dystopian future hunting down other mutants like herself. So this is a terrible thing for Wolverine to have to ask her to do. The situation is desperate and grave enough that he's got to do it, but it's really no surprise that when Wolverine asks her, Rachel might be thinking, "Maybe Cyclops and his team have a point. Maybe this isn't the best way to go about things."
I think you'll see more of that as our story goes on. Not just on the two X-Men sides, but even among the Avengers you'll see a certain amount of ambivalence start to crop up. You'll see characters not necessarily wanting to go along with what their leaders are saying and flipping allegiances, following, in essence, their own conscience as to what needs to be done because it's a complicated issue. And as things grow more heated and the situation spirals out of control people are going to be put in positions where they just may not be comfortable doing what they're being asked to do.
So whether this is a full blown defection, whether this is Rachel having been a double agent and really been in Cyclops' camp all along, whether this is a situational thing where she just cannot go along with the course of action that Wolverine is espousing, more of that will come out in time and in much greater depth in "Wolverine & the X-Men" #12.
Here, Cap dispatches the Avengers to several different locales. They're all famous fictional Marvel Universe places, so in addition to introducing new readers to Marvel Comics' premier super teams "AvX" is also a travelogue introducing them to fantastic locales.
It's an amazing coincidence how those five lights lit up in significant and interesting places across the Marvel Universe. [Laughs] It's almost as though a group of writers decided to put these conflicts into colorful locations. So yes, people who are coming to "AvX" relatively cold will get to see some of the scope, the depth and the breadth of the Marvel Universe. It's got cool places and cool things that our real world sadly doesn't have.
The red light in this battle between Cap and Wolverine is a great touch. Was this in the script? Or was this all colorist Laura Martin?
I had to look it up in the script to be sure, but this was all Laura. To some degree, the color change happens because they're moving into another area of the ship, but it's really about creating a sense of mood and tension. It sets the scene apart in a very cool way. It serves to really highlight the tension between the two characters and it adds to a nice, real vicious John Romita Jr. battle.
He's really good at two guys beating the crap out of one another. [Laughs] I think the red coloration just heightens the emotional intensity of this scene. If it was colored in more neutral, room-specific colors, it would still be a nice, kinetic fight, but it wouldn't have the extra edge or the extra vibe to it.
What's running through Wolverine's mind on this last page? How angry is he at Captain America for kicking him out of the plane?
We'll get a little more into where Wolverine's head is at in "AvX" #4, but I think Wolverine is savvy enough and cynical enough that if the situations had been reversed, he certainly would have thrown Cap or somebody else out of a moving plane. So there's a certain level on which he can respect the deed if not really enjoy the fact that it was done to him.
This is a pain in the ass for Wolverine because of all the courses of action that are going to lead to a good outcome for this situation with the Phoenix he feels he's got his hand on the wheel the best. Really, it does fall to him to do the thing that nobody else wants to do, and being stranded in the middle of the Antarctic makes that a lot more difficult to do. This is more an inconvenience than anything that's really going to make him completely fracture from Cap. And in other circumstances, he would have been the one standing in the plane doing a little slow clap going, "Bravo Cap. Kicking that guy out of the plane was the smart play."
FINAL THOUGHTS ON "AVX" #3
This is the issue where the story broadens out. The first one was basically setting the stakes; the second one was really all about paying off the promise of the premise right up front and giving you 22 pages of Avengers and X-Men knocking heads right away. And this is the issue where we expand the scope. You get to see that we're going all over the place. It's not going to be as simple as a bunch of guys fighting on an island for 12 issues.
The storyline is more complex and has more wrinkles to it than perhaps people are thinking it does or even seeing. This is the first place where we begin to unfold the little origami structure that we have and people get to see that it's a lot bigger and more complex than they figured it would be because it's not just about the Avengers and X-Men fighting it out.
I think as people move into issues #4 and 5 they are going to start being more surprised and more taken aback. The deeper we get into the story, the less people are going to feel like they know exactly where it's going to go and how it's all going to play out.
Another thing I wanted to point out is that John Romita Jr. made a point of saying how much he enjoyed working on this particular script. He had never done anything with Ed Brubaker before and he really dug it. John's sense of pace and timing on a comic book page and Ed's sense of pace and timing are very similar. It was a really good fusion. It's not like John didn't enjoy working with Jason Aaron or Brian Bendis or any of the other guys, but having never worked with Ed before, he made a point of saying, "I really liked this script."
Were there any scenes that didn't make it into the final issue?
I don't know if there were any deleted scenes, but there certainly was stuff at the overall outline stage that shifted and changed in terms of Ed's first draft and this. He talks a little bit about this in one of the Marvel AR videos. You point your digital device with the Marvel AR app running at the page in the Wolverine/Cap fight and you'll see a video where he talks a little bit about how the first draft that he had written included the Vision. The Vision was part of Cap's team and interceded in that fight at a certain point.
We had to go back to him and say, "You've written a great scene here, Ed, but the Vision is with the other Avengers on the space team." At first Ed wanted to substitute in the Prince of Orphans, who, as a smoky guy, can substitute in for the Vision being intangible, but the Prince really hadn't been in previous issues, and then Matt Fraction started doing other things with him in "Defenders." So he came out, and there is no smoky or intangible guy in that fight anymore. That was something that changed along the course of this issue, but that was really just specifics and Ed having a little brain hiccup on where exactly the Vision was in the grand scheme of things.
LOOKING AHEAD TO "AVX" #4, ON SALE MAY 16
We ended issue #2 with the Avengers space team about to engage the Phoenix, and we don't touch on that at all in issue #3. You can expect that plot thread to be picked up in issue #4. It's just one the many ways the scope gets bigger next issue.
You'll see more characters beginning to vacillate on their course of action. You'll see what Hope's grand plan and strategy is at this point. You'll see Wolverine trudge through a lot of snow as he tries to get back into the action before the world is burnt to a crisp. [Laughs] We'll get closer to the Phoenix being actually here. And we'll see a lot of Marvel landmarks and geography along the way, including some stuff that you didn't expect. Some other characters will start showing up in the book that haven't yet been on stage, so our cast page will grow even larger. Things will just continue to accelerate and it's only two weeks in between issues, which is another thing I think that's cool, the fact that we're coming out this quickly. There's not a lot of time to catch your breath in between installments.
Issue #3 was a pretty jam-packed issue and it's one of the quieter ones! [Laughs] In issue #4, the clock is ticking. The stakes are growing more desperate and the Avengers and the X-Men are being pushed up against the wall even harder and, consequently, are pushing back with even greater fury.
MAKING OF WOLVERINE VS. CAPTAIN AMERICA
One of the biggest and most brutal battles in "Avengers Vs X-Men" was the slugfest between Captain America and Wolverine. Here, we show you how one page of that battle is brought to life starting with a page from Ed Brubaker's script, to John Romita Jr.s pencils, to Scott Hanna's inks, to Laura Martin's colors.
1 -- Cap staggers back and gets kicked in the face.
2 -- And Cap kicks Logan in the head and dives for his shield at the same time.
LOGAN: Nuuh --
3 -- Cap grabs the shield, tumbling and throwing it all in one swift move –
4 -- The shield ricochets off a wall and the ceiling –
5 -- And then it hits Logan in the back of the head, knocking him off his feet.
6 -- Logan starts to push himself up, sneering a bit. His nose and lips are bloody. Cap is leaning against the wall, catching his shield with one hand. He's tired. Nose bleeding.
LOGAN: That all you got…super-soldier…?
CAP(dazed): …Not even...close…