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, the finale of "Avengers Vs. X-Men" landed in comic shops to have the final say on the Phoenix, Cyclops and mutantkind. After months of teasing out details, engaging plot points and planning story arcs, Axel digs into what the finale meant for him as E-i-C and how the particulars of things like Tony Stark's discovery of faith, Hope and the Scarlet Witch's final role, Scott Summers' fate and more were developed by the series' five writer team. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, the fat lady has sung on "Avengers Vs. X-Men," and I'm assuming that the series will go out a commercial hit as it has been its entire run, but I'd also say without blowing smoke that I thought this story came together in a better way than we've seen from these kinds of events in a while.
Axel Alonso: Thanks. “AvX” really did benefit from the combined might of its talent. It was really a tightrope walk, but all five writers – Brian, Jason, Jonathan, Matt and Ed – all helped shape it into a story we’re very proud of.
Let's look at the finale and what it means for the Marvel U moving forward. Going character by character, I wanted to start with Iron Man. You spoke when the event started about maybe enjoying Tony Stark's arc more than any other character, and in this issue we got a spiritual awakening from him where he maybe gave himself more credit than anything, as Tony is wont to do. How did that arc develop, and what attracted you to it as a reader?
Alonso: You're right. Tony’s arc “developed.” When we nailed down the broad strokes of the story, we knew that, at the climax of Act 1, Tony would take his shot at the Phoenix, miscalculate and, being Tony, feel responsible. The Phoenix Force would then become a riddle he could only solve if he were willing to think outside the box and realize that solution couldn’t be found in either science or faith, but through some combination of them. Tony’s light bulb moment came when Tony realized the yin and yang relationship of Hope and Wanda – that the key was tapping into their opposite but complementary powers and aiming it like a gun at the Phoenix Force. Tony's willingness to look at things from a more creative/spiritual angle allowed for his redemption, and will tee him up for very interesting things for his future in Marvel NOW!
Looking at the Scarlet Witch, the big question that's hung over her since "Avengers Disassembled" was whether she could ever be viewed as a hero again. Even with the exploration of her having been driven mad, making her a core Marvel superhero again seemed like a stretch. Was the goal here to take her the last few yards to that heroic place, or is there still reconciliation to he had?
Alonso: We didn’t’ start with the goal of making Wanda a hero, but we did understand that Hope and Wanda represented two antithetically opposed forces that could play a crucial role in combatting the Phoenix Force. On one side you’ve got Wanda whose declaration in “In House of M” – "No More Mutants" – decimated the mutant population and set the stage for years of stories. Yeah, "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" proved she wasn't technically responsible, but she wasn’t going to let herself off the hook all that easily. She’d want to earn her redemption. [Laughs] On the other side, you’ve got Hope, a young woman whose very birth in “Messiah CompleX” represented the last hope for mutantkind. Whether these two women liked it or not, they were linked – yin and yang. The notion that they could come together as forces that balanced and even complemented each other felt right, and set the stage for them to be heroes.
And what of Hope? You introduced her years ago with a very specific goal in mind – saving the mutant race – and she has met that fate. So much of her story has been about dealing with the pressure of being a savior that I now wonder how she moves forward. Can there be a purpose for a character who's fulfilled their destiny?
Alonso: Good question. The short answer is that no one's story is ever over. Will Hope going to go through the existential equivalent of post-natal depression? Stay tuned. [Laughs] Look, we created Hope for the long term. While “AvX” is a significant moment for the character, it’s not the last significant moment. With Xavier dead and with Scott no longer fit for duty, the mutant species has to forge a new path. It’ll be interesting to see what role Hope plays in that.
Looking at Scott's final role for a minute, the one thing we got that came maybe in a way folks didn't expect was a return for Jean Grey. She was only there for a moment as...I'm not sure if you want to call her an echo or a ghost or what, but she's only there for Scott for a heartbeat. How much did you discuss the potential of bringing her back for real in this story?
Alonso: At our very first editorial summit, where we entertain all options, we quickly got that off the table. Our story was about the Phoenix Force’s new host, Hope, and Jean’s arrival on the scene didn’t make sense.
That makes sense, though as I read the scne I thought that was the moment you were going to kill Cyclops. [Laughter] His survival sees him instead put in a variation on Magneto's plastic prison where we get this final scene between him and Captain America. Obviously, Scott Summers being Scott Summers, he's not just going to take responsibility for himself but is going to take it on the chin as hard as he can. Still, do you think that he ultimately considers his part in this a victory? He did accomplish what he set out to at the start of this series, Xavier's death aside.
Alonso: It sure looks that way, doesn’t it? The big question, of course, is, what would’ve happened if the Phoenix Force had taken Hope as its host at the beginning of the story? Would Hope have been ready? I don’t think so. I think she became ready in the crucible of everything that happened in “AvX,” especially during her spiritual journey and training in Kun Lun. Everything that happened prepared her for the moment when she took in the power and was actually able to give it back to the cosmos. She was finally ready. In that sense, whatever you say about Cyclops' methods, whether you think it was him or the Phoenix Force that killed Professor X and did all those other shenanigans, the results speak for themselves. The second time around, Hope was able harness that power and use it for good – to focus that Phoenix power as a force for rebirth as opposed to destruction. And the mutant race was saved.
This positions Cyclops in a very interesting place for the future Is he a villain? I wouldn't jump to that conclusion. What I respect about Scott is that he walked the walk and talked the talk and made no excuses when the smoke cleared. When you see him in handcuffs at the end of "AvX," he's completely accountable for all of his actions, and I think it speaks volumes about the man.
What is the future of the X-Men franchise in big organizational terms? We've heard a lot about what Cap's plans are for the Avengers and for mutants as well, but who can lead the X-Men now that both Xavier and Cyclops are out of the picture? Wolverine has, of course, been leading the charge for a group of mutants at the school since "Schism," but does that really translate to an overarching leadership position?
Alonso: Do we ever promise smooth sailing? [Laughter] Where’s the fun in that? Look, next week, "Uncanny Avengers" #1 will give you a snapshot of the Marvel Universe post-“AvX,” of the Avengers and the X-Men coming to terms with what happened and dealing with the death of Charles Xavier. The fact that Xavier was taken out by one of their own, is something that mutants will need to come to terms with, and the X-Men will need new leadership. Certainly Logan is one candidate to step up to the plate, but there are others. This will be an interesting period for the X-Men as they try to plot their future and avoid the mistakes of the past.
So there are more mutants now. That title "All-New X-Men" makes a little more sense now. How have you approached that as an Editorial team? Is Brian planning on introducing more new mutants, or is there an over-arching plan to bring some new blood into the X-books across the board?
Alonso: Yes, there are more mutants. But we'll be re-populating very patiently. We don't want the mutant ranks to suddenly swell to the point that they are less unique. And of course, where these newly hatched mutants land – both geographically and spiritually – will be one of the questions the X-Men grapple with.
Hey, we promised that "AvX" would end-cap a number of stories that went all the way back to "House of M" and “Messiah CompleX.” The Scarlet Witch was redeemed, Scott Summer’s faith in Hope paid off when she lived up to the hype, and the Avengers played a huge role in bringing the mutant race back from the brink of extinction. As we head into Marvel NOW!, the Marvel Universe is different: the Avengers will think bigger than they ever have before, the X-Men will chart a bold new course for its future, and the line between super-powered human and mutant will never been thinner. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be complications. Trust me. Avengers fans and X-Men fans can look forward to stories that still provide a unique and very different experience, under Jonathan Hickman and Brian Bendis.
Quickly for fan questions this week, since we're doing all fan questions next week, KurtW95 asked, "Was the Phoenix Force really destroyed in AvX 12? Or was it just banished from Earth? Because I thought it was too powerful to ever be destroyed."
Alonso: The Phoenix Force was split into many pieces and dispersed around the world to reignite mutantdom, like a flame lights a candle. How’s that for an explanation?
And Toosie25 wanted to know, "I wonder what will spiderman learn from the whole avengers vs x-men?"
Alonso: I dunno. Could be Spidey’s about to get a superiority complex…?
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!