[SPOILER WARNING: THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #10, ON SALE NOW]
The heroes of Marvel Comics are often underdogs. Some including Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Hulk are shunned, hated, and outright hunted by the public, law enforcement, and the military. Others like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four are more beloved but they frequently tangle with forces far more powerful than they are. What happens, though, when a select group of Marvel heroes are given godlike powers to fulfill their every desire? In the second act of the current Marvel event miniseries "Avengers Vs. X-Men" an all-star team of Marvel creators began to answer that question when they endowed five members of the X-Men with the powers of the destructive cosmic entity known as the Phoenix.
Upon their transformation into Phoenix avatars, the Phoenix Five slowly began remaking the world, but the passion of the Phoenix began to overwhelm their ability to think clearly. It corrupted them, especially when members of their number were defeated and the remaining Phoenix avatars received their portion of the power. The Avengers saw what was happening and tried to fight back against the Phoenix Five, but it's been an uphill battle against the cosmic avatars and the X-Men that supported their agenda.
In "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #10 by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Adam Kubert only two of the Phoenix Five remained. In the issue the Avengers and their ally, the mutant messiah Hope, faced incredible odds, but by the last page the tide may have turned. In today's installment of the AVX COMMENTARY TRACK we spoke with Senior Vice President of Publishing and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort about some of the pivotal pages in the issue. Plus, we'll have our usual "making of" feature where we examine action as characterization and an exclusive teaser image from "AvX" #11.
CBR News: Tom, let's open with this sequence where Iron Fist and Cyclops, of the Phoenix Five, face off. It's clear from his recent appearances and from this issue that the Phoenix Force has been a corrupting influence on Cyclops. Just how exactly is the force corrupting him though?
Tom Brevoort: With the Phoenix Five, when one of them falls their portion of the Phoenix Force goes into the remaining guys. The dicey analogy that I've been using for that, which makes people uncomfortable [Laughs] is that it's like you're walking around, minding your own business, making the world a better place and suddenly somebody shoots you up with cocaine. There's not any advanced notice or anything. You suddenly get hit with this force and experience this enormous rush of stuff.
The Phoenix Force is life energy. It's wild and it's fueled by emotion and passion and when you're hit with a sudden rush of it the tendency is for people's inhibitions to kind of go down and for more of who and what they are at the core to come out.
In the case of Cyclops, because of the course he's been on all these years and even just the fact that he's grown up having to keep his eyes in check because he can't really control his optic blasts without his visor, he tends to be a fairly tightly wound and controlled character. So you're seeing what happens to that sort of personality essentially when he's had a little too much to drink.
So he's still himself, but he may not be as in control of himself as he would be if he was stone cold sober. He would be approaching these situations somewhat differently. The same is true of Emma. As other Phoenixes fall by the wayside suddenly she gets this massive hit and massive rush. Even if they had everything under nice tight control before that, this is the sort of thing that shocks you and makes you lose your grip. And it's harder to get a hold back on it again once that's happened.
We saw villagers fleeing this confrontation on the previous page and later on Lei-Kung shows up to help out, but I have to wonder, where is Lei-Kung's son Davos while all this is happening?
I'm not sure exactly off the top of my head where Davos is. It's a decent point. Certainly he's not an Avenger or an X-Man so he's not somebody we were specifically focusing on. It could very well be that he's off on a pilgrimage, a voyage of self-discovery, any number of things. He could be in one of the other Capital Cities of Heaven on some business. So exactly what his location is at the moment is unknown. He could even show up in "AvX" #11. You never know.
[Senior Editor Nick Lowe, whose office oversees the X-Titles, joins the conversation]
Nick Lowe: Silly Tom, we all know that Davos was last seen going to find Rickon Stark. What's that? It's a different Davos from a different story universe? And I'm not wearing pants? Curious.
In the panel at the bottom of the page here Adam says so much about Xavier with just the look on his face. It seems like he's feeling a lot guilt over the way things have played out with the Phoenix Five.
Brevoort: I think there's certainly guilt and there's certainly some responsibility even if it's indirect responsibility. On a purely macro level anything that happens regarding the X-Men can be traced back to Professor X. He started it. He pulled the initial five kids together from across the globe and had this idea that he could train them to use their powers, be responsible citizens, and be sort of the poster children for mutant-human co-existence. Everything that's happened to the X-Men, including this enormous thing that they've become, to some degree is all traceable back to that moment.
Also, in recent years because he's been off in space or dealing with other problems Xavier hasn't really been at the forefront of X-activity. Most recently he was traveling the world with his estranged son Legion. He sort of left leadership of the mutants and the X-Men in particular in other hands. So I think even when he showed up in "AvX" #6 he certainly acknowledges that these kids who he taught are now full grown adults and need to be able to make their own decisions and chart their own paths. He no longer can be that mentor figure and father figure that he once was. By the same token, he was concerned even then about some of the decisions they were making and some of the things they were doing, but not yet to the point where he felt like he had to step in. The last thing he wants to do is to have to contend and contest with his own kids; his old class of students.
At this point, though, you really get the sense that he's come to the conclusion that there's no other way this is going to shake out. He's going to have to step up and get involved in a more direct manner than he's been willing to up until this point.
So if Xavier survives the events of "AvX" he'll be front in center in the mutant goings on of the Marvel NOW! era?
Brevoort: Not even just in the mutant goings on. I could certainly see a world where Professor X was among the Avengers. He's certainly that kind of storied character; the kind of guy who has the sort of pedigree that if he was there standing next to Iron Man, Cap, and Thor you wouldn't bat an eyelid. He's a character that has that sort of stature.
But there're a lot of different things that are coming out in Marvel NOW!, not all of which have been announced yet. There are still some books that we haven't talked about. There are still some existing titles that are going to move in shocking, different directions. So there are a lot of places, and I'm trying not to say too much either way in regards to what happens to Charlie, but there are plenty of places and plenty of roles he could play.
Certainly his time on the bench, on sabbatical, and away from the events of the core of the Marvel Universe has come to an end right here on this page in "AvX" #10. He's going to have to get back into the thick of things in a way that he simply hasn't over the last couple of years.
On the previous page Emma Frost, of the Phoenix Five, made the X-Men kneel and here she's making Magneto kneel. When we talked about Cyclops we discussed how the Phoenix Force brought out and blew up what was at his core. Which aspects of Emma's personality is the Force bringing out and distorting? Her teacher like qualities? Is she making her "students" think proper thoughts and pay proper respect?
Brevoort: There's probably a little bit of that, but I don't think Emma is quite as tightly wound or focused as Cyclops. Cyclops is very much about walking one tightrope to a goal. Emma, I think, has always been much more willing to let the ends justify the means in the things that she's done. She's been just as stalwart about protecting mutantkind and certainly her own students, but she's also been more willing to go to a darker place or do some unsavory things either above or below board than some of the other X-Men would approve of.
So I think you're seeing that come out. Last issue, after Scott ignored her cry for help she went out and used her powers in a just-but-extreme way and I think this scene here is just an extension of that. You know things are bad when it's Magneto who's the one says, "I think you're going a little far here. You might want to reconsider what you're doing." [Laughs]
And yet everything that she throws back at him is spot on. He's the last person who can say anything to any of the Phoenix Five about how they're conducting themselves given his own history.
Like the earlier shot of Xavier, here Adam Kubert gives us another great emotional close up of Magneto. What do you think is running through Magneto's mind? Is he upset at Emma forcibly humbling him? Or is he more angry over over her rubbing his nose in the past sins he committed?
Brevoort: I don't want to definitely say what was in my head, Ed's head, or anybody else's as we were working on this issue, but I think Magneto is carrying a certain amount of weight. He set himself up over the last couple of years as Cyclops' and the X-Men's consigliere. Given the state of the world and the state of mutantkind he saw merit and value in the way Scott has stepped up. He saw some reflection of what he, himself would do that made him sign on and become a valued member of that particular movement; the Extinction Team.
Xavier is feeling like he needs to come back into the fold at this point, and in this scene I think Magneto is starting to think that maybe he's backed the wrong horse, or that the horse he's backed has run off the track and out into wilderness [Laughs],and unless he does something, even if it is something distasteful, this is not going to end well for mutants as a species.
In this scene Lei Kung, the Thunderer, uses another important figure from the Iron Fist mythos, the dragon Shao Lao the Undying, to attack Cyclops. Whose idea was it to link the history and mythology of the Iron Fist to "Avengers Vs. X-Men?"
Brevoort: The very first story meetings we had about "AvX" took place in Portland. We flew out there and hung out at Brian Bendis' house for two or three days. Those conversations ranged far and afield. My sort of vague sense is that it was an idea that Brian was pushing, but that may be because Brian really liked the idea and really clicked with it. I couldn't swear that he was the one who tossed it out. It could just as easily have been Ed Brubaker or Matt Fraction, who have the history and experience of writing Iron Fist and K'un Lun. It's also an element that could have been suggested by Jason Aaron.
It's been long enough now that I actually don't remember who put the notion out first that there may have been a connection going back into the past between the histories of the Phoenix Force, the Iron Fist, and K'un Lun and the Seven Cities. Like I said, my gut is leaning towards Brian, but that may just be because he's the guy who's done the most with it. He wrote the issues of "New Avengers" that really delved into that history. I'm sure whoever it was will let me know after this all sees print. [Laughs]
The timing on this question is funny -- they asked me to put together some stuff for the extensive behind the scenes and making of sections in the big "AvX" hardcover that we're doing. So earlier today I was digging through stuff and the sheer number of documents that we've got going back to when we first started talking about this project is astounding. There are typically a lot of conversations and iterations on a "Fear Itself" or a "Secret Invasion," but on AvX there are way, way more because there are five writers and that means the conversations have more participants. I was amazed over how much correspondence and how many different outline we had with different tweaks with notes.
Ideas got thrown around very, very casually. People would come up with ideas that would stick and other stuff would fall by the wayside. Then sometimes, something would stick and two drafts later it would fall by the wayside because it didn't fit right or we had a better idea or something else had come up. So it's really difficult trying to pinpoint who came up with this particular bit at this point. It's all a blur.
You may not be able to comment on this, but with the Iron Fist mythology playing such a large role in this story I have to wonder will Danny Rand or another Iron Fist play a prominent role in the Marvel NOW! era.
Brevoort: Iron Fist has been a fairly significant part of the Avengers and "New Avengers" specifically over the last couple of years. He's also been part of the "Defenders" more recently. He's an important character to us. He's a character that really was elevated by the work that Ed, Matt, David Aja, and all the folks that worked on the "Immortal Iron Fist" series did. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in play and in action in the post-"AvX" world of Marvel NOW!, but yeah I can't give you any more at this point.
Here the mutant messiah Hope attacks Cyclops by emulating the fire breathing power of Shao Lao. Is this the first time Hope has mimicked a non-mutant ability?
Brevoort: I couldn't swear by that, but Nick Lowe could tell you for certain because he's the expert when it comes to the X-Men and in particularl Hope. He's been there pretty much for the entirety of her story. I believe this is the first time she's done this, but as soon as I say that I know there's going to be a random issue of "Generation Hope" where she did this before that I'm just forgetting about. Nick would know completely off the top of his head [Laughs].
Nick Lowe: This is, in fact, the first time she's mimicked anyone or thing non-mutant. COOL, HUH?
In this scene Hope prepares to unleash her "chaos fist." Is that a mixture of Iron Fist's chi energy and Scarlet Witch's chaos energy surrounding her?
Brevoort: There's probably a little bit of each in there, yes.
And we know that both these energies affect the Phoenix in interesting ways.
Brevoort: That is true.
In this scene we see where Hope's chaos fist sent Cyclops…
Brevoort: She punched him to the moon! How is this not the best crossover ever? Anyway, what were you saying [Laughs]?
[Laughs] Right. When Cyclops lands on the moon the Watcher observes his landing and we know he generally observes some of the bigger events of the Marvel Universe. But what exactly is he observing here? The fallout from Hope's punch? Or Cyclops' decision to do something drastic?
It could be either of those, and quite honestly it could be that Cyclops has landed on the doorstep to the Watcher's own domicile, since he lives on the moon. You could interpret it any number of different ways, but really I think the reason the Watcher is here physically, because he can watch things from afar just as easily as he can up close, is that this is his back yard.
Cyclops has been punted out from interdimensional K'un-Lun and onto the Watcher's front lawn so to speak. So that puts him a little more front and center than he might otherwise have been. Exactly what he saw and what he was looking at when he looked down at Cyclops in that moment and watched him get up, grit his teeth and head back towards Earth, we've got two more issues to tell you about that.
BREVOORT'S FINAL THOUGHTS ON "AvX" #10
We're into the heart of Act Three of the story and one thing I want to talk about because it's come up a couple of times is that people were very confused as to why there were four weeks in between this issue and #11 when we've been shipping these twice a month. One of the reasons is serendipity. August is a fifth week month, by which I mean there are five Wednesdays where there are typically four in a month.
So there was already going to be three weeks between this issue and the next issue, as there were between issues four and five. On top of that, though, "AvX" #11 is oversized. It's 30-some pages by Olivier Coipel. In order to make sure that issue and issue #12, which is also oversized, were able to come out on time, we pushed them back a week. So rather than shipping the first and third weeks of the month they ship the second and fourth weeks. That extra week gives you the four weeks.
So I'm sorry that people have to wait a little extra now, particularly as things are heating up, but it will certainly be worthwhile when you see "AvX" #11. Coipel really went to town on it and Laura Martin and Mark Morales really stayed right in lockstep with him. It's a crazy, killer issue.
BREVOORT LOOKS AHEAD TO "AvX" #11, ON SALE SEPTEMBER 12
Tony Stark has got the makings of a plan. He's unravelled some of the math he's been struggling with especially because it's not really math it's faith and magic. He's got a sense of things and maybe this will give the Avengers a leg up in the final conflict.
The other big question is what has Cyclops decided? What has he learned, or realized, or feels in the aftermath of his encounter with Hope and being punted up to the moon? That's going to play out in a big way in "AvX" #11 and also the stuff that's bubbling up with Emma. It's certainly a big issue for Professor X to get back into the center of things. So there are a number of different spheres of influence going on.
Super hero comics have a lot of important elements: characterization, themes, drama, and most importantly action scenes. Here we look at one pivotal action scene in issue #10 as we examine the punch that sent Cyclops to the moon by looking at the script, pencils, inks, and color stages.
1—And Cyc's flames vanish around him.
2—and he falls from the sky.
3—He's on his knees, looking up, confused. His powers starting to return, eye visor glowing a bit.
CYC: No... how did you..?
4—And here's Hope, yelling and karate punching, her hand glowing with chaos energy as she does.
HOPE: Kiii—Yaaahhh -- !
CAPTION: Chaos Fist – First Ever Usage.
5—And she hits him as she yells. Crazy lights and effects all around the blow – Cyc is a shadow with a shattered glass effect all through it.
HOPE: Go away!!!