(SPOILER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR "AVENGERS VS. X-MEN" #9, IN STORES NOW)
The heroes of Marvel's Avengers are extraordinary men and women -- super-genius Tony Stark, the incredibly-strong Hulk, the reality-altering Scarlet Witch and the long-lived, samurai-style warrior Wolverine. But the most extraordinary of them all may be the one who most embodies the spirit of the everyman, Marvel's flagship hero, the Amazing Spider-Man. No matter their power or level of determination, however, the question remains: what can any of them do when they're face to face with with the most powerful opponents the Avengers have ever been tasked with taking down?
In "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #9, writer Jason Aaron and artist Adam Kubert answered that very question, pitting a solo Spider-Man against two members of the Phoenix Five, the cosmically empowered X-Men who have declared war on the Avengers.
In today installment of the AVX COMMENTARY TRACK, we'll discuss the latest chapter with Aaron, going into detail about some pivotal scenes in the issue. Plus, we'll wrap things up with our traditional "making of" feature where we'll look at how invisibility works in a visual medium like comics, chat about some deleted scenes and a look at special teaser image from "AvX" #10
CBR News: We open here with some pretty fun and novel narrative devices with the blood-stained captions and sort of woozy caption boxes. Who came up with the idea to use these?
Jason Aaron: It wasn't me. It must have been our letterer, Chris Eliopoulis. I asked if we could do something that would set these captions apart from the narrations that start on the next page.
Here we see Tony Stark locked away in a room trying to crack the problem of the Phoenix. Why has Tony isolated himself like this? Why isn't he consulting with some of the Marvel U's other great intellects like, say, Reed Richards?
I think this is a different kind of problem that Tony is facing, and he's struggling with it a little bit. In issue #7 we see his conversation with the Black Panther where the Panther tells him that he needs to open his mind. This isn't a problem he can tackle with science alone. So here we see Tony struggling a little bit with mysticism.
There's a line in the Thor movie where they say that magic is just technology we don't understand yet. I think that's what Tony's trying to do; he's trying to understand mysticism and magic on a level where he could grasp it. He's trying to fit his understanding of science together with the mysticism of the Iron Fist and out of that find an answer to the problem of the Phoenix.
On the bottom panel of this page, it's revealed that Storm is one of the X-Men watching as Magik and Colossus of the Phoenix Five dump Thor in a hellish volcanic prison. How angry is Storm in this shot? And who is she more angry at? Herself or the X-Men?
Probably herself for letting things get this far. I think she would probably still make the same decision to stay with the X-Men, but she should have seen this coming and that's why she blames herself.
Here we have a scene in the desert where Emma Frost and Cyclops discuss how the power of the Phoenix is affecting them. From what we've seen in past issues and what they talk about here, it sounds like the power of the Phoenix burns away its host's humanity and the ability to act rationally.
The Phoenix just seems to prey upon a person's darker aspects, and Emma certainly has a huge dark side. Here we can see her actively fighting against it and realizing that this is not right and she's headed in a dangerous direction. She's asking for help, but Scott is too consumed with what he's got going on.
Scott feels that he's still holding the line, doing the right thing. Emma realizes, though, that she's starting to slip away. Then, of course, on the next page we see her slipping away.
Is the murder she commits on the next page an indicator that her humanity is gone, at least for now?
Yes, but she didn't necessarily murder the guy. He's brain-fried, so he might still be alive physically, but mentally he's done for.
As you mentioned, Scott is clinging tight to his devotion to duty, but does that mean he's not struggling with darker impulses like the other Phoenix empowered X-Men?
I think Scott has been struggling, but I always liked the idea that he's stayed true on that path. He was the one with the strongest convictions and the biggest vision of where mutants need to go. He was really the one driving all of this when they started remaking the world, and now things have started to fall apart around him. But in my mind, he's stayed true through all of this.
The Phoenix Force changes you. It changed Jean when she first got it. She wasn't the same person. Wielding that power makes you takes things for granted, but Scott has stayed true. In his mind, he's still been doing the right thing. This is not how he wanted things to go, but he feels the Avengers pushed him into this corner and gave him no choice.
So Scott has a very clear idea of how the world should work for mutants. His idea is for a global Utopia, and they've brought a lot of that about. They made the world a better place, and things have started to fall apart around him and go too far. He's hoping he can rein that in and still win the day.
What's your sense of the underlying feelings in this chat between Storm and the Black Panther? What does it mean for her to come and see him? And is the Panther as angry as he seems to be, or is he more hurt and lashing out?
I think it's both. As the leader of a country, he's angry; as her husband, he's hurt. Certainly, this is a big moment in their relationship. It's perhaps the end of their relationship. With Wakanda being attacked last issue, we had to have this scene at some point. We needed a scene where Storm comes to see what happened. This is a big moment for Storm and Black Panther both.
Here we have the beginning of Spider-Man's solo stand against Colossus and Magik. Based on your work in "Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine," it's clear that you like Spidey, but your affection for him really shows through in this issue. What do you love most about the character, and what made you want to have him step up in the story in such a big way?
When we were talking about "AvX," at some point Tom Brevoort or somebody said, "It would be nice if we could get a big Spider-Man moment somewhere in here." He's been around and been part of the story since the get-go, but he hasn't had a big moment of his own. The idea here was to give him sort of Rocky moment.
At this point, he's obviously way out-matched in terms of power levels, but he's Spider-Man. He's a guy who's used to diving into these situations, time and time again, so he's not going to back down because of that. He takes a savage beating, but refuses to stay down. I like the idea of him helping to win the day with determination, stubbornness and ultimately his most powerful weapon, which is his mouth.
In the first panel in this double-page sequence, Colossus tells Spider-Man that he doesn't want to hurt him or anyone. What's it like for a gentle soul like Piotr Rasputin to be the avatar of both the Phoenix and Cyttorak, two very destructive and powerful entities?
It's got to be pretty crazy. Peter has had violent moments in the past. He's a guy who not afraid to get brutal if pushed. Here, though, we see he's not a Dark Phoenix. He's fairly troubled and tempted and is heading in a dark direction, but he's not completely lost himself to this power. There's still some of the Peter we knew inside there, and he doesn't want to hurt Spider-Man.
If Colossus had been able to break free from the other Phoenix-empowered X-Men, do you think he would have asked for help in dealing with what was happening to him?
I think so, but at this point he doesn't know how. He's with his sister, and he's probably not going to get any help from her. She was the darkest of the bunch to start with. A lot of this stuff isn't that much of a leap for her. So he's in a situation where he doesn't have any help, and Cyclops is consumed with the bigger picture of finding Hope.
In the final panels, Spider-Man manages to trick Magik and Colossus into taking each other out. We know Peter Parker is book smart, but how cunning do you think he is?
Spider-Man has been through the wringer so many times, and he's been part of everything from gritty, street battles to some of the biggest cosmic level events in the Marvel Universe. Spider-Man has seen it all and he's always been incredibly intelligent. His mind may not work the same way Wolverine's mind works, but I think he's a very cunning and dangerous opponent, even when he can't beat you physically.
AARON'S FINAL THOUGHTS ON "AVX" #9
This issue was a lot of fun to write. I like working with Adam Kubert. We've done a few things before, and he did a beautiful job on this issue. I loved getting to do this Spider-Man moment in the midst of "AvX." There's a big action set piece that takes place in a volcano, and you get to see a lot of different characters sprinkled through out that, but the Spider-Man stuff certainly was a highlight.
I also really enjoyed writing the Emma Frost stuff. There was this moment we had when we first started writing "AvX," where she turns and starts to go out and punish people for crimes they thought they got away with. I was glad to get to write that moment.
The moments with Black Panther and Storm just kind of fell into my lap. It was a scene we had to see at some point, given what had happened. I enjoyed writing that, even though it's a pretty sad moment. In one of the upcoming issues of the "Vs." series we'll see a Storm-Black Panther fight that's kind of a flashback to one of the earlier issues of "AvX" where we saw them fighting. That also dovetails with the themes we see here and what's going on with the dissolution of their marriage.
Initially, I planned on being able to write more of the training stuff with Hope. One of the things that I thought was really cool in our talks for "AvX" was the Iron First stuff and how we found a way to link the mythologies of Iron Fist and the Phoenix. Hope's training was always going to be part of that, and I looked forward to writing that stuff, but we didn't have the space for it. I wanted to convey that she was undergoing some kind of Shaw Brothers 1970s kung fu-style training, but I just got one panel to do that.
AARON LOOKS AHEAD TO "AVX" #10, ON SALE AUGUST 15
As you can tell from the end of this one, the shit is about to hit the fan in K'un-Lun, so issue #10 picks up right from the end of this. Cyclops has come to take Hope, and he's not going to take "No" for an answer. We'll finally start to see why Hope has been training in K'un-Lun and what everybody is hoping she'll get out of that training. How does this change Hope? We answer those questions and more in issue #10.
One of the interesting aspects of super hero comics is that they're a visual medium, but they often involve characters with the power to make themselves and others invisible. So how is that effect visualized and brought to life? Here we take a look at that question as we examine the sequence where a group of invisible Avengers sneak into a volcanic prison from its beginning in Jason Aaron's script, to Adam Kubert's pencils, John Dell's inks, and Laura Martin and Larry Molinar's colors.
Page ElevenThree Panels
• Inside the volcano. We’re looking out over the shoulders of the Avengers as they peer out from hiding. What we see is a vision of hell. A cavern with waterfalls of lava and fire bubbling out of the ground. And all manner of demons scrambling, slithering and flying around. Just go crazy with the demons. Goblins, ogres, bat creatures, bug people, whatever you wanna do. The weirder and more deformed, the better.
DR. STRANGE: This… this is unconscionable. Magik has raised a portion of Limbo to the earthly plane.
IRON FIST: Hell on earth.
SHE-HULK: Makes for an effective prison, I’ll bet. Let’s find our people.
• The Avengers are moving cautiously through the cavern. They have been turned invisible by Dr. Strange. We just see their ghostly outlines moving along, passing some demons, who seem unaware.
DR. STRANGE (telepathy): Be wary. Even my invisibility spell will not cloak us long from the manner of eyes in this place.
PROFESSOR X (telepathy): We should maintain telepathic silence for as long as possible. At least until I locate the minds of your friends.
• Tight on a couple of the demons, after the Avengers have passed. They couldn’t see anything, but they sure could smell something. Demon #1 is sniffing the air. Demon #2 is grinning a hungry, evil grin.
DEMON #1: You smell what I smell?
DEMON #2: Dinner.