[SPOILER WARNING: THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #11, ON SALE NOW]
The heroes of the Marvel Universe know they're doing dangerous work, particularly when they go up against super villains who usually have no qualms about ending a hero's life, especially if it advances their latest scheme. So when heroes come to blows over misunderstandings or ideological differences it should theoretically be safer because heroes don't kill -- and they especially wouldn't kill one of their own, right?
Not exactly. Sometimes passions get out of control, especially when they're fueled by the power and influence of a destructive cosmic entity. This is what's happening in the current Marvel event miniseries "Avengers Vs X-Men" by an all-star team of Marvel creators, where five members of the X-Men became avatars of the entity known as Phoenix. The Phoenix Five intended to use their power for good, but the passion of the Phoenix clouded their judgments and they soon found themselves up against the Avengers who worried that the power the five wielded would corrupt them. That conflict escalated as members of the Phoenix Five were taken down and their portion of the Phoenix energy went to the remaining members whose actions became even more fiery and impulsive with each new burst of power.
In "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #11 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Olivier Copiel, the last two remaining members of the Phoenix Five took on the combined might of the Avengers and the X-Men who no longer supported their out of control Phoenix empowered team mates, and the inevitable happened. A hero died. In our penultimate installment of the AVX COMMENTARY TRACK, Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort, whose office oversees the Avengers family of titles, joins us for a look at that death and some of the other major sequences in the issue. Plus we'll have our usual "making of" feature, a discussion of an altered scene, and a special teaser from the final issue of the series.
CBR News: Here we have the reveal of the Hulk which is a fun and powerful moment, but I'm curious about the way he's talking. It sounds more like the way the savage Hulk would speak than the one currently appearing in Jason Aaron's "Incredible Hulk" book. He's also been speaking in a similar pattern in "Avengers Assemble." So does something happen at the end of Jason's run on "Incredible Hulk" that affects the Hulk and the way he talks?
Tom Brevoort: I can't tell you what happens at the end of Jason's run. That's not an option, and the Hulk doesn't tend to talk a whole lot in general. Certainly he's a bit more verbose in Jason's book right now, but at the end of the day when these stories are finished and the chronologers among the fans and our Handbook staff are able to sit down and put them into cohesive order it will all make a little more sense.
So there's more to this scene than what we're seeing?
[Laughs] Maybe. What you're asking me is, "Does something happen at the end of Jason's run?" And I don't want to tell you anything about what happens at the end of Jason's run or intimate that there's anything there to conjecture about. It's a fine run. I believe he's got two issues left at this point and people should read them. They are fine comic books.
What you're asking is a fair question, but you understand I can't give an all revealing answer at this point.
I understand. It's hard to say anything at all without tipping your hand.
Here we have the double page spread of the Avengers and X-Men reuniting and it's interesting. There seem to be two classic types of stories where Marvel super heroes clash. One is where the heroes go to war with each other and the other is where there are misunderstandings and clashes, but end with the combatants teaming up to fight a greater menace. With this scene here it feels like you've given readers both in "Avengers Vs. X-Men" and it works.
I'm glad to hear that you feel that it works. I think there are a million different stories that you can do with super hero characters. The classics though are the classics because they work. They worked in the past. They work today and certainly there are fans on both sides of the fence out there that have been waiting for a moment like this to come up in "AvX." So here we are. We've mended some fences. Broken homes are broken no longer. Cats and dogs can live amongst one another in harmony.
Was there always going to be this moment of reconciliation? Or was there a time where it might have ended more like "Civil War" with relationships shattered and in need of repair?
From the outset we were pretty sure that we would mend these fences before the story was over because, all specifics aside, in a macro sense both the Avengers and the X-Men want the same thing in this story. They just have differences of opinion as to what the best course is to get to their goal and what the outcome should be.
It's not that the X-Men or even the Phoenix Five, pre-Phoenix, were looking to destroy the world or do any harm to anybody. They were looking to make the world a better place. They were looking to save people, to continue their own kind, and to protect them. Their feeling and belief was that the way to accomplish that was for the Phoenix to go into Hope as it has been sort of prophesied and that would be okay. The Avengers felt differently about that and the risks and odds associated with it.
So there was a substantial difference of opinion and conflict over what to do and the acceptable risk. That certainly escalated after Iron Man splintered the Phoenix and it ended up empowering the five X-Men who became the Phoenix Five and then began to do their thing. At heart though, it's not like the Avengers and the X-Men are in such different places.
Is this the moment in history where the seeds for the Uncanny Avengers team are planted?
You certainly see it a little bit of it here, but you see more of it in issue #12.
Here we've got a scene with the remaining members of the Phoenix Five, Cyclops and Emma Frost. Last time we talked about how the rush of power from the Phoenix Force was almost narcotic like and it overwhelmed its avatars, and with the scene I can't help but feel that Scott and Emma are almost like cosmic junkies fiending for another fix.
I think the experience of hosting the Phoenix is a heady one. Particularly given that neither of these characters was really cut out to do it in the first place. It wasn't like the Phoenix chose them to be a vessel for its power. It was an accident that happened and they've been struggling to make the best of it and turn it to good use.
The Phoenix has always been a fairly uncontrollable force. It is the flame. It is passion, life, and emotion, and the portion of its power that these characters have wielded has grown exponentially, not just once but three times. I think that has to have an effect, and after three times there may be a little addiction even to the process of that next hit like you say; of getting another jolt of Phoenix essence. So yes, by this point certainly, Scott and Emma are not playing with a full bag or marbles.
Do you think they would have gone at each other right then and there if Professor X hadn't summoned them to the beach?
It's not impossible. It certainly was edging that way. On the other hand, these are characters that have a long relationship together. There's been a lot of strife in and around their world and the obvious thing to happen is for one of them to turn on the other, particularly for Emma to throw over Cyclops just because of her history and her personality. That's never happened though. So there's a pretty strong bond between these two characters.
The real question in this moment is, are they Phoenixed up enough? Are they strung out enough for that to override the basic love and affection they have for one another?
Here Magneto is being attacked after trying to reason with Scott and his daughter the Scarlet Witch steps into save him. Now Quicksilver has made his feelings about his father abundantly clear, but the Scarlet Witch's feelings have been a little more ambiguous. This scene here suggests that she genuinely cares about her father, especially when he expresses his more noble side like he did here. Am I reading that right?
I think there's some there's truth in that. I'm not sure Wanda likes Magneto as he is so much as what she hopes he could be. The last couple of years he's been allied with the X-Men and has ceased to be a hostile mutant terrorist. He's been working out some of his anger issues and some of the things that plagued him from his past. Those are all steps that in the abstract she would approve of and would lead him to be more the kind of man and father that she would have wanted to have.
Even apart from all of that though, I think blood is thicker. They have not shared that much time together, but the impact and effect that Magneto had on Wanda's life is massive. Not just as a father, but as the person who brought her into the original Brotherhood, and in essence brought her into this whole world of super humans that she's lived in all her days.
So I think there's a strong connection there even if intellectually he's not a guy that she would approve of his every decision or every move. Emotionally there's a bond there whether you like it or not.
Here we have the scene where Scott takes Emma's Phoenix power for himself. You mentioned earlier that there was a bond between them and it was questionable whether or not the power of the Phoenix would cause it to snap. Why does it snap here? Did Scott feel that he needed Emma's power? Did he feel that it was his to begin with?
I don't always like to spell things out for the readers. I like to leave a certain amount of interpretation to anyone who comes to the work to fill in the blanks themselves, especially when those blanks are left specifically for readers to do that.
That all having been said, in my interpretation Scott reached a moment where in essence he was weighing two factors: his commitment to what he sees as the future, betterment and survival of the mutant race on one side, and his love, affection, and relationship with Emma on the other. In that moment and weighing those two things while under attack by Professor X, the X-Men, and the Avengers he makes a choice that is sort of the culmination of the path he's walked since "House of M" and the aftermath of M-Day.
He's had this stalwart laser like focus of "I must save my people." In this moment that was a stronger thing for him than his relationship with Emma. I think he did this out of a belief in necessity rather than something he needed, wanted, or did on a whim. I think this isn't something he would have wanted to do. This is a case where he felt there was no other option and that he had to do this or else all would be lost and any hope for the mutant species would go out the window.
On the previous page we see Emma's reaction to this, and she was surprised even though she knows Scott better than anyone else and knows how laser focused he can be.
True. This is another case where I don't want to read too much into things for people, but I think this is a fairly substantial betrayal for Emma. For all that she may have been sort of flighty and quick to skirt the edges of the rules of her relationship with Scott, if not out and out break them, I think they had a true connection and true bond. She believed in that and I think one of the things that she found and finds attractive in him is that he is so absolutely stalwart. He is the right guy. So I don't know that she ever truly thought he would do this.
I think there were probably moments where she thought she would do it to him. That could have been part of what was on her mind two issues back where out in the desert she said to Scott, "Something is not right. I'm not feeling right and I need to talk to you." He was busy tracking down Hope though. So they didn't have that conversation.
Assuming both of them survive this, does this betrayal mean their relationship is over?
Not necessarily. Emma is a character who certainly in her own way, style and personality has been just as stalwart in her protection and defense of the remaining mutants. On a metaphorical level all the mutants that are left; the X-Men and Utopia's other inhabitants who were less active as super heroes, were all her students now in a way that she had the Generation X kids back in the day and all the kids on Genosha that were wiped out. For all that she put on certain airs, she was absolutely stalwart herself in the goal of protecting, defending, and maintaining her species.
So while this is a harsh moment and there will certainly have to be after effects, I could see a world in which Emma looked at this moment and would say to Scott, "You did what you had to do. I would have done the same thing." So I don't think their relationship is necessarily done. Or it could go horribly awry and now we have two characters that are eternally opposed to one another moving into a new chapter of the Marvel Universe. We just won't know for a few more weeks.
Here we have the big death scene. What made you guys decide to kill Xavier? Why bring him back into the middle of things in such a big way only to have him struck down like this?
That question makes it sound a little more calculating than it actually was. We didn't start with the idea to kill Professor X. Killing Professor X kind of became a natural outgrowth of where the story went. It's the last line that Cyclops crosses to the dark side and becoming Dark Phoenix. He steps across that final division, making that one momentary choice from which there's no coming back. It's such a primal moment.
For all intents and purposes Professor X is his father. He's the man who rescued him from a life of homelessness, living with the affliction of optic beams that he could not control, and ultimately a lot of depression and hopelessness. Charles gave him a purpose and a direction in life and everything Scott has done has been living up to that and trying to carry through on it. Even beyond the point where Professor X was directly a factor.
Over the last couple of years the Professor has been off in space and out in the world. He's been dealing with a lot of things and in the aftermath of M-Day somebody had to step up and fill those shoes and Cyclops was the guy. That's really been the spine of his journey over the past several years.
So it became apparent once we came up with the notion of the Phoenix empowered X-Men that Professor X was going to have something to say about this, and at a certain point he was going to have to get involved. This inexorably led to the fact that there was going to have to be a confrontation between Professor X and Cyclops. It's the student and the master and the son and the father. That's a very primal emotional situation.
Once we decided Scott was going to become Dark Phoenix it just sort of lead us to the moment and there certainly was a lot of discussion about it. I believe one of our five writers is still regretful to this day about having to do this, but he was outvoted by all the rest who thought it was the right decision. So it wasn't done lightly. We didn't bring him back onto the stage just to pop him off. This is where the story naturally took us.
This was especially devastating for me as a reader because the tie-ins with Xavier were a lot of fun and got me excited about the character. So it was like "Awww."
[Laughs] That was the point, especially since he hadn't been around for a long time as a regular player. You want people to feel and really remember this moment. You want people to remember who he is, what he was about and show him at his best. I thought Brian Bendis in particular did some really nice work with him both in "Avengers" and "New Avengers" this month. Part of that was Brian also knew he was writing this comic and this scene and wanted to make sure it had the weight and the resonance that it needed to have. So it was necessary for him to take the time and focus to make that happen elsewhere.
You mentioned the magnitude of Scott's crime. This is essentially patricide correct?
Effectively, yeah. He just killed the guy who was basically his father and who founded the X-Men and now he's clearly become Dark Phoenix. So at this point it's a pretty safe bet that he's lost what little support he had left in the mutant world. Maybe there's somebody among the remaining mutants that feels, "Yeah burning the world down and starting from scratch would be a good idea," but I don't think there's a lot of support for that position.
So this scene is sort of like when Darth Vader struck down Obi Wan in the original Star Wars film?
Yes, very similar. It's the same sort of symbology and themes at play.
BREVOORT'S FINAL THOUGHTS ON "AvX" #11
All three of our artists on this issue Olivier Copiel, Mark Morales, and Laura Martin really went above and beyond. Not only is it a bigger than normal size issue, it's astonishingly lovely. Olivier in particular had to move a bit quicker than he usually would because of some other stuff that was going on. By the end of the process he was doing two pages a day, which is a ridiculous pace for a guy like Olivier. He really rose to the occasion though and just blew the doors off, and Mark and Laura matched him step for step. This is perhaps the best looking issue that we've done of the series. So I think it's really spectacular cover to cover from a visual stand point. I can't say enough about the work they did on the book.
Were there any deleted or altered scenes in this issue?
In our original outline -- and by that I mean the specific issue-by-issue beat sheet that we were working on coming up to the third act -- the Hulk would have come in during issue #10. But our writers were writing their issues and pacing them out and they just couldn't get there. We needed the space for other things. So the Hulk's entry and Cap's entreaty to him ended up being the opening of issue #11, but on the original beat sheet he would have come in by issue #10.
Somebody was actually asking me about Nick Bradshaw's cover for issue #10, which had the Hulk on it. They were confused and upset that the Hulk wasn't in the book and that's why. He would have been in the book if we had been able to hit all those original marks, but as often happens when you're writing stories like these, scenes, characters, and moments just expand to fill the space, and other stuff has to be juggled. So Hulk would have been in "AvX" #10 had we been able to fit him in, but he's large and takes up a lot of room.
BREVOORT LOOKS AHEAD TO "AvX" #12, ON SALE OCTOBER 3
Issue #12 is at the printer. I have read it front to back as a finished comic book and I feel like it's a pretty good conclusion. All or most questions are answered. There are a few surprises left to be unveiled. Adam Kubert is equaling Olivier in terms of working hard and working through some of his own personal circumstances. I think folks that have been along for the ride up to this point will not be disappointed with the way this all wraps up in issue #12.
Issue #12 is also an oversized issue. So we'll have two oversized issues back to back. We're going to have the space to do everything right and not have to skimp when it comes to the climax.
So we'll get a final battle and some falling action to wrap everything up?
Yes. This is the end of the story proper. Obviously there's the "AvX: Consequences" series, which deals with the aftermath and is really all about the fallout. The final page of #12, though, isn't "Punch. Cyclops is down and the world is saved." There's a full resolution and when this is ultimately collected it's going to have an ending. It's going to feel like it wraps up. You're going to be satisfied. Jason Aaron wrote the last script and he did a terrific job of tying everything together and touching on all the central points and core themes. He did a real stand out job and stuck the landing.
The penultimate issue of a super hero event story usually ends with the protagonists up against impossible odds. So the last page cliffhanger generally sets the stage for a battle against an incredibly powerful foe and here we see how that's done as we look at the reveal of Cyclops' transformation into Dark Phoenix at the script, pencils, inks, and color stages.
Page 30- 31
Double page spread
Cyclops has gone full-on Dark Phoenix. He crackles with energy he can't control and a cracked psyche that is allowing this.
CYCLOPS: I AM FIRE AND LIFE INCARNATE! NOW AND FOREVER--
I AM PHOENIX!
ThE BEAST narration: He's DARK PHOENIX!