Fridays on CBR mean Axel's In Charge.
Welcome to MARVEL A-I-C: AXEL-IN-CHARGE, CBR's regular interview feature with Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso!
An editor with years of experience who's brought out comics to both critical acclaim and best-selling status, Alonso stepped into the chair at the top of Marvel's Editorial department earlier this year and since then has been working to bring his signature stylings to the entire Marvel U. Anchored by regular question and answer rounds with the denizens of the CBR Message Boards, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!
This week, with the showdown of showdowns set up by the end of "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #10 this week, we talk about how the Marvel team is preparing to wrap up the blockbuster event in a way that will cap off eight years of Marvel U stories. Axel addresses the state of the X-Men and whether the Phoenix Five are villains, Cyclops' status as leader of the band, where the fallout will be seen between the event's end and the launch of Marvel NOW! and more including answering your questions about digital downloads in the relaunch initiative and the next step for Hank Pym, Doctor Strange and more. Read on!
Axel Alonso: Kiel, before I start, I’d just like to take a moment to express my sadness about the passing Joe Kubert, a legend whose contribution to our medium can’t be overstated. Joe possessed one of the surest drawing hands and strongest handshakes in the business. His work on “Sgt. Rock,” “Haunted Tank” and “Tarzan” is one the reasons I started reading comics as a young kid. His pages are forever burned into my brain.
Kiel Phegley: Well put. Last week, we talked a bit about where Marvel is going with Marvel NOW!, but this week, I wanted to check in with where Marvel is at...well, now. And that's "Avengers Vs. X-Men!" Issue #10 hit this week, which is very close to the end. I think sometimes sticking the landing on an event can be the very hardest part of crafting such a story for one writer or five. Do you think that's accurate, and how has the end of "AvX" been coming together?
Alonso: Sticking the landing is of utmost importance when you're doing a story of this scope. “Avengers Vs. X-Men” end caps eight years of stories and sets the table for the future of the Marvel Universe, so we paid close attention to the closing act. Right out the gate, we knew the general shape of the ending, but we wanted to stay flexible enough to incorporate surprises that came in the actual writing. Tony Stark's arc for instance – we knew its general shape, but what it eventually became, and what it set up for Iron Man’s future, even took us by surprise.
The close of “AvX” is filled with "oh $%#!" moments that will have readers buzzing, but they’re all emotionally true. The journeys these characters –Avengers and X-Men – have been taking for the past several years come to a close here. There’s redemption and disgrace, there’s a moment of sacrifice that will knock people back on their heels. To say more would spoil things.
One thing we do know about what will shape the ending is an incoming lover's quarrel between Cyclops and Emma Frost. Scott Summers is a character you've talked a lot about loving as an editor and a reader because of the journey he's taken going back probably to Joss Whedon's "Astonishing X-Men." It feels like he more than anyone else has been dragged down by the corrupting power of the Phoenix Force. How does the end of this event make a statement on his story for the past several years?
Alonso: We're definitely pulling no punches when it comes to Cyclops. He plays a central role in this story, right down to the end. Cyclops has shouldered a huge burden for some time – and the Phoenix Force has tapped into a part of him that, well…I better shut up. [Laughs]
And you think Cyclops will still be your favorite X-Man when this is done?
Alonso: Cyclops will always be my favorite X-Men character. When I first became X-Men group editor, the mutant population had been decimated by "House of M," and that was the starting point for my first summit. "Messiah CompleX" took the X-Men from no hope to some hope – literally – and Cyclops was central to everything. He elbowed aside Professor X to take control of the X-Men and became the uncontested field general that his dwindling race needed. The fact that Wolverine was willing to step aside and play lieutenant speaks volumes about their ongoing rivalry: Logan always knew Scott had “it” in him. It was alpha recognizing alpha.
So yeah, Cyclops has always been my point of reference for the X-Men universe. To guide his race back from the brink of extinction, Scott had to be willing to get his hands dirty, had to be willing to go to hell for the love of his people. There’s an element of tragedy to that, to be sure, but it is one definition of a hero.
With the most recent issues of the main "AvX" series, I feel like the X-Men have almost gone to being the straight out villains in the story. Do you think the scales have tipped definitively in the Avengers favor as far as who's right, or are there still some people who are justifiably rooting for the X-Men here?
Alonso: Fans root for whoever’s worldview they most relate to. Back when we did “Civil War," a majority of readers rooted for Cap – either because they shared his position or simply due to his underdog status – but Tony also had his share of backers. His methods were Machiavellian, but his position was always defensible, always understandable. The same is true for the X-Men in “AvX.” I know there are people out there that are rooting for the X-Men – or rooting for what’s left of the Phoenix Five – because we hear from them all the time. Generations of readers continue to relate to the mutant worldview. Mutants have lived in a world that hates and fears them for some time now; while the Phoenix Five’s methods might be a bit excessive, there's a cheering section for them and guys like the Punisher that are willing to fight dirty to get the job done.
That’s said…. [Laughs] Are the X-Men – or the Phoenix Five – villains? Well, from what we’ve seen, the Phoenix Force appears to be a corruptive power that taps into something that's already there in its host – which explains why Namor, a certified hothead, went overboard so quickly. Are Cyclops and Emma doomed to walk down a similar road? Can the power be harnessed? Keep reading.
Beyond the story of "AvX," we're also entering the phase where there are these "aftermath" series that always crop up in the wake of an event. With "Fear Itself," there were the #7.1 books. Here we've got the "A + X" anthology. At what point in planning out this event did you start to build in follow-up material to move things towards the relaunch?
Alonso: "AvX: Versus" was such a huge hit that [X-Men Group Editor] Nick Lowe suggested we replace the “v” with a plus sign and let it rip. [Laughs]
The high concepts for “A+X” and "Uncanny Avengers" snapped into focus the same time. Both titles are part of the long-term plan to integrate the X-Men into the larger Marvel Universe. X-Men stories will continue to provide a unique reading experience that mines certain themes, but they won’t be so off to the side. In 2013, Mutants will continue to defend themselves from threats to their existence, but they’ll also be out there solving problems in the Marvel U, and "A+X" and "Uncanny Avengers" are your first glimpses of that.
Like you said, "AvX" is providing an end to a lot of story threads that date back about seven years to "House of M." As we're entering Marvel NOW!, are we looking at a status quo shift that can get the ball rolling on a similar run of universe-wide stories?
Alonso: “AvX” ends with seismic impact. It affects both the Avengers and X-Men. I won't say who lives or who dies, but both teams will reassess what they are, what they do, and how they do it. As for the individual players – there will be redemption, disgrace and sacrifice, and not everyone will get out alive. Some characters will reassess their place in the universe – literally – and some will have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. Some will have regrets; others won’t. The fates of some characters might be controversial, but they will be emotionally true.
Last thing to ask about is some of the other series outside the big event. This week, we heard about Kelly Sue DeConnick taking over "Avengers Assemble" and Kathryn Immonen coming on to "Journey Into Mystery." Even though they're not branded as part of Marvel NOW!, they're getting a creative facelift too. Is that a result of all the stories ending alongside "AvX"?
Alonso: Yep. This is a natural moment for us to mix things up. This is the most radical creative shift at Marvel since 11 years ago with “NuMarvel.” We've had plenty of relaunches over the years, but this is different because it’s line-wide. In many ways, Marvel NOW! is the opposite of a huge crossover! It’s individual franchises repositioned and standing strong on their own two feet under the vision of new creators. We’ve actually encouraged a go-big-or-go-home, hostile-taker mentality where creators blaze new trails for their franchise. Rick Remender and JR JR's "Captain America" is about as different a take on Cap from Ed Brubaker's as you could possible imagine. Matt Fraction’s going to give you two very distinct flavors of “Fantastic Four” with Mark Bagley and Mike Allred. Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic are going to redefine Odinson in “Thor: God of Thunder.” And wait till you see what Kieron Gillen and Greg Land do with “Iron Man” their first year.
Moving into fan questions, Iheartmarvel was one of two folks asking about digital comics as they relate to print, wondering "I am really excited for Marvel Now! I am also enjoying the digital copies with my Marvel Comics, so much in fact that I bought an Ipad simply because Marvel started including the digital copies with their books. I was under the impression that ALL of the Marvel Now! books would be provided with a Free Digital copy, but from the preview covers it looks like Fantastic Four, FF, and X-Men Legacy do not. Are all Marvel Now! books going to come with a free Digital Copy? "
Alonso: Glad to hear you’re digging the digital codes! As we head into Marvel NOW! we’ll be keeping the trend of all titles $3.99 getting the digital code to be redeemed for the free digital copy. But, there will be added value for our $2.99 titles as they’ll each come with special AR executions using the Marvel AR app. What will fans get when they use the AR app on ALL Marvel NOW! titles? Well you’re just going to have to try it to find out.
On a similar thread, Personamanx asks, "Any chance of you guys adding digital copies to you 2.99 books? I know a part of the reason why it's only on 3.99s is to justify the price to an extent but I love being able to buy a physical copy of a book and then have the digital copy if I want to reread it. It's a lot easier than digging though long boxes."
Alonso: No current plans for that, Personamanx.
Let's wrap with a couple of entries in what I like to call "Where are the NOW!" – questions about whether we'll be seeing specific heroes in the relaunch titles. Crossing this with something you've been teasing for a while, joshc167 asks, "With Scott Lang being revealed as Ant Man in the new FF title does this mean Hank will not being taking on the mantle again? What will become of Pym in Marvel NOW! Will we see more of Lang outside of this new FF title?"
Alonso: Hank Pym will continue in his current role as Giant-Man and will be featured in and around the assorted Avengers titles, joshc167. So no real change there. And Scott Lang’s featured in a story in the “Marvel NOW! Point One” special in October.
SilverZeal then wants to know, "Any chance for the return of "Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu" reuniting Shang-chi with his old buddies or new guys related to the former guys?"
Alonso: There are no plans right now for “Deadly Hands,” but Shang-Chi will be featured in an ongoing series as a part of MARVEL NOW! Which one? Keep reading, SilverZeal!
Finally, KurtW95 wonders, "I too am sad at the cancellation of Defenders and was wondering if there would be any future plans for Doc Strange, Nick Fury, and Silver Surfer."
Alonso: They’ll all be around, KurtW95, but we’re not yet ready to say where or in what capacity. Dr Strange in particular plays a major role in Brian Bendis’ final “New Avengers End Times” in “New Avengers” #31-34, and we’ve got something else planned we’ll be revealing soon…
Have some questions for Marvel's AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the CUP O' Q&A thread in CBR's Marvel Universe forum. It's now the dedicated thread for all connections between Board Members and the Marvel Executive staff that CBR will pull questions for next week's installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!