The Marvel Universe has numerous minorities, but none of them are as feared or reviled as mutankind. That hatred stems from the fact that mutants are born with super powers that manifest as they reach adolescence. Angry and brutal mutants often use their powers to dominate or kill those who fear and hate them, while the more noble members of Homo Superior usually wind up as members of the X-Men, a team of mutant heroes that try to protect those that fear and hate them in the hope that one day mutants and humans will be able to co-exist peacefully.
Peaceful co-existence between man and mutant is the dream of Charles Xavier, the founder of the X-Men, and in "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #6 by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Olivier Coipel that dream became a reality thanks to a quintet of cosmically empowered X-Men. Those five mutants gained the power to realize Xavier's dream when the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix transformed them into its avatars in "AvX" #5. The members of the Avengers, however, are not comforted by the god-like might of this "Phoenix Five" and worry they will be corrupted by the power they now wield. In "AvX" #6 Earth's Mightiest Heroes took action in order to stop that, leading to the latest skirmish in the titular conflict.
In today's installment of the AVX COMMENTARY TRACK, CBR's in-depth look at Marvel's twelve-issue event that chronicles the struggle between the two teams, Hickman offers insight into the pivotal pages of "AvX" #6. Plus, we'll discuss possible deleted scenes, take a closer look at how a page from the issue is brought to life, and share an exclusive teaser image from "AvX" #7.
CBR News: Jonathan, let's kick things off with this discussion between long time friends and foes, Professor X and Magneto. How would you describe Magneto's tone of voice in this conversation? Is he expressing reverence for what the Phoenix Five have achieved? Or is there a bit of fear and spite in his words to Xavier?
Jonathan Hickman: I think it's the former. Cyclops united the mutant race and is now in a position to have them lead the planet. That's really the culmination of everything that Magneto has ever believed -- all a result of Charles' students.
On this page you move from one interesting conversation to another as Xavier leaves Magneto behind and begins talking to the leader of the Phoenix Five, not to mention his original five-member team of X-Men, Cyclops. What's it like writing Xavier especially in this context?
I think the relationship between Scott Summer and Charles Xavier has always been fascinating. Charles is a lot like Moses -- the foundation of the "movement." But it was Scott, like Joshua, who finally got their "people" into the promised land. You know, Charles always talked about the dream, and pursed the dream, but it was his one true disciple, Scott Summers, that finally achieved it. Anyway, I think that's what you're looking at in this scene.
In your "Fantastic Four" and "FF" work you've explored several father and son relationships. In this scene you touch upon another with Charles Xavier and Scott Summers. What's your sense of their dynamic? It feels pretty complicated.
I was going for that very difficult time for fathers when their sons become men. When they become completely independent and not only do they not need their fathers, but in a lot of ways reject them as they try to strike out on their own path. Which is, of course, what you would always hope, but when it comes to pass it's a difficult thing. Scott and Charles have been there for some time, but this is kind of the icing on that cake.
Making things more complicated is the fact that Xavier expresses some wariness a few pages later over how quickly the Phoenix Five have been changing their world. Does Xavier have some reservations about the methods Scott and his associates have been using to bring about change?
I think anyone who's had an encounter with the Phoenix is fearful of it, especially somebody like Charles who's seen it be as bad as it could possibly be.
In this scene the Beast (Henry McCoy) makes an impassioned speech about the Avengers planning some possibly lethal countermeasures against the Phoenix Five before walking off. Did his speech have any affect on Captain America, Wolverine, Iron Man, or the Black Panther who were all in the room with him?
I think so, but I don't think it does enough to change what they feel needs to be done. Everybody that you're talking about in this series for the most part are true believers. That's one of the things that makes both sides right. Clearly though, here all the Avengers and the mutants that have aligned themselves with the Avengers must begin to question whether or not they're in the right place.
Is Hank looking for a third solution somewhere between the ideological extremes held by the Avengers and the X-Men?
I think Hank is conflicted. It's a very difficult time for him.
Here Cyclops pulls back the power of the Phoenix after offering it to Hope, who was supposed to be the Phoenix's avatar. He then tells her she's not worthy of the power. It feels cruel and spiteful. Is that's what going on here? Is Cyclops rubbing Hope's nose in the fact that he has the power that was originally meant for her? Or is something else happening?
I don't think Cyclops feels that he's being cruel or spiteful. The power was supposed to be hers -- he wanted her to have it. But now that he does have it, this becomes scene is about how adults are generally skeptical of children in power. Wasted youth and all of that. It's about how wisdom is kind of a late blooming thing and how you miss this opportunity to do all these great things when you have all of this vitality.
She's a kid. Kids are dumb, and Scott has the wisdom to know that the world needs to be a better.
You kick this page of with T'Challa, the Black Panther, witnessing the Phoenix Five's address to the UN. You've written T'Challa here and there over in "Fantastic Four" and it's pretty clear that you enjoy writing the character. What makes T'Challa such a fun and compelling character to write and would you be interested in doing more with the him?
Yeah, the Panther is a great character and I am going to do a bit more with him. He's a secret city, science king, so -- kind of right in my wheel house. And I guess this is as good a place as any to talk about chronology. All the stuff I'm doing with him in "Fantastic Four" takes place before "AvX."
The Panther is listening to Cyclops tell the UN delegates the Phoenix Five will no longer allow war in the world. I'm curious about Cyclops' state of mind as he delivers this address. Does he still feel any love or kinship with his fellow man? Or does he basically view himself as above them?
They're not his fellow "man" though. Mankind and mutantkind are not the same thing. I would argue at this point Scott is totally invested in being a mutant leader and he clings tightly to the idea of Charles Xavier's dream of man and mutant living in harmony, which is why he's doing the thing that he's doing. He just wants cohabitation though.
Plus he has a long history of knowing that man left to his own devices means a world not a safe place for other men or mutants.
At the bottom of this page the U.S. President offers up a counterpoint to Cyclops' speech when he says, "When the world works it is because there has always been some outlying culture of accountability. Right now these X-Men do not have that… And something needs to be done." What exactly is the president saying here?
The premise of what the president is saying is basically that throughout history nations in power unchecked by anything always run amok. So he's saying there has to be some type of balance, and that's also the history of the world. Let's be honest, there's no way that many of the governments on this planet would accept a higher authority.
So he's not wrong or evil at all. The President just has this view of the world and it's a realist one. It's not the way Scott and the others see things.
So the President has a very real worry that the Phoenix Five could become corrupted by the power they wield?
Yes. That's in the back of all our minds, isn't it? That's the tension that's on the page. Otherwise it would be, "Of course they should remake the world."
We know from earlier issues of "AvX" that the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) has been having prophetic dreams about the Phoenix. Is this where she finally wakes up, realizes what's going on, and decides to get involved? Or does that happen off panel? Or in another tie-in?
This is her having a vision of the Avengers' end. The idea of Avengers -- so the idyllic version, the first Avengers. Anyway, she dreams that they're destroyed, but what she doesn't realize is that her actions precipitate that [Laughs]. She's having a vision that she in turn fulfills by acting on it.
Earlier in the issue Iron Fist mentioned that his hands started burning when he was in close proximity to one of the Phoenix Five. Here we get another clue that something is up with him and the Phoenix Force when a blast of Phoenix Fire meant for him is stopped dead in its tracks. What exactly happened?
That's a call back to the old text you saw in K'un-L'un earlier in this issue. Clearly there's some resonance between Danny Rand's Iron Fist power and the Phoenix Force. We'll get into that later.
So the the fiery versions of the Yin Yang symbol and Lei Kung's symbol -- which is the I Ching pictogram for fire -- that we saw are also clues as to what's going on?
Here Cyclops mentions that the Scarlet Witch was able to make him feel pain. Now Wanda has the incredibly powerful mutant ability to alter reality, but she was supposed to have lost some of her power during the recent "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" miniseries. What's going on here? Is Wanda suddenly back to full power?
No. The thing to take away from this whole scene is that how the power of Iron Fist interacted with the power of the Phoenix, that same thing is true with the Scarlet Witch -- that clearly, there are interactions between all those powers.
Something to watch for.
How would you describe Cyclops' state of mind on this final page? It's interesting that he says, "It's them." Does Cyclops not understand that the Phoenix Five make people afraid and that's why they come after them?
Cyclops' point of view there is that they've only ever tried to co-exist peacefully with humanity, but humanity always tries to destroy mutants. For years, generation after generation of mutants have been slaughtered by man and it's never the X-Men. Sure, occasionally an X-Man will die, but usually it's always the kids. It's always a New Mutant, or the New X-Men, or the X-Academy kids. It's always the children that pay the price. Those kids represent the future and hope of all of mutantdom. So Cyclops has had enough. And that's where we're at.
The support mechanism for why these governments and their agencies feel like they can act without recompense against mutants is because their heroes will save them, the Avengers.
HICKMAN'S FINAL THOUGHTS ON "AVX" #6
It was a blast. It's definitely the kind of thing that I like to write and I finally got to work with Olivier Coipel who's just a great guy and I'm a huge fan of. I enjoyed it immensely.
When we talked before about "AvX" #4 you mentioned how each of these issues was an exercise in figuring out scenes to delete and remove. What that the case with this issue? Were there any moments that you wanted to include, but didn't have room for?
It was an oversized issue so I fortunately had more real estate than normal. So that was great and, frankly, it was always going to be necessary. I don't know how I could have condensed what's in this issue down to 20 pages. [Laughs] But of course I could have written more. I didn't want it to end.
HICKMAN LOOKS AHEAD TO "AVENGERS VS. X-MEN" #7, IN STORES JULY 4
It's where things get even more interesting. The first five issues of this were about giving you the story you would expect from a series titled, "Avengers Vs. X-Men." Then we turned things on their head at the end of issue #5 and now we're spinning it off into this new and completely different thing going forward. So fasten your seat belts -- From here on out it's a really wild ride.
MAKING OF COLOSSUS AND NAMOR'S AIR AND SEA POWER
In "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #6 Jonathan Hickman and Olivier Coipel unleash the might of the Phoenix Five and have them work wonders. Here we see how a scene of Colossus and Namor humbling the militaries of the world is brought to life at the script, pencils, inks, and color stages.
Page 17 - (2 PANELS)
Panel 1 - Colossus floating in the sky, surrounded by Nuclear missiles he has simply summoned from their silos.
Panel 2 - In the foreground, Phoenix-Namor floating right at the surface of the ocean -- in an unnatural way, the water licking up higher in the vicinity around him. His hand reaching out. In the background, several navy vessels (a battleship and an aircraft carrier) are floating in the air being pulled apart like an exploded diagram. NOTE: These should be US ships.