In a world like the Marvel Universe there are literally hundreds of costumed heroes running around championing what’s right and good. Inevitably, there are bound to be some disagreements on what exactly constitutes right and good. Those disagreements are usually misunderstandings that lead to punch-ups before the rival heroes team up to take on a greater evil. What happens, though, when they’re not simple misunderstandings? What happens when two groups of heroes wind up battling each other because they both have clear, but opposing viewpoints on how best to handle a dire situation?
Those questions are being answered right now in “Avengers Vs. X-Men” a 12-issue event series by an all-star team of Marvel creators, which pits the titular characters against each other over how to handle the threat of the destructive cosmic entity known as the Phoenix. In “AvX” #2 by writer Jason Aaron and artist John Romita, Jr. the conflict escalated as the Avengers invaded Utopia in an effort to secure the mutant messiah Hope Summers, whom everyone believes to be the next host of the Phoenix entity. Cyclops’ X-Men faction mounted a relentless defense of their island headquarters to prevent that from happening.
Today CBR News adds a new twist to our COMMENTARY TRACK, where in addition to the author’s commentary and insight, we’ll include a few Bonus Features on each issue of “Avengers Vs X-Men.” In this, our inaugural installment, writer Jason Aaron joins us for a discussion about some of the pivotal scenes in “AvX” #2 and how one scene was nearly removed from the book. We’ll also looking at how one pivotal page came together and look at a special exclusive teaser from “AvX” #3.
We know many of you are completists and are already wondering why we’re starting with issue #2 of “Avengers Vs. X-Men.” To that we say, don’t worry! We’re going to double back and take a look at “AvX” #1 with writer Brian Michael Bendis very soon.
CBR News: Jason, in the past couple of years it seems like Cyclops has become sort of a cold and detached leader whose focus is primarily on the mission at hand, but here we see him quite angry and emotional that the Avengers are attacking Utopia. He said in the past that he expected this. If he was truly expecting the Avengers to invade, why is he so angry?
Jason Aaron: I’ve never thought of Cyclops as cold or detached. He’s fairly driven and passionate. He wouldn’t have gone to all the lengths he’s gone to over the last few years if he wasn’t. He’s perhaps detached in the sense that he’s become a strategist and he’s the one all the mutants are looking to. So he has to be in control.
And I think he’s known for awhile that this conflict is coming, but that doesn’t make him any less angry when it blows up in his his face.
Are there other factors besides the invasion that might be fueling his anger?
The events of the last few years certainly are influencing his emotions, especially “Schism,” which plays into this in a huge way. So that puts an extra burden on Cyclops from his perspective. The way the X-Men have split apart, him being on the outs with Wolverine and now to see Wolverine returning to Utopia as a combatant, that doesn’t sit right with Cyclops.
Does being emotional affect Cyclops’ combat skills and leadership in a negative way? Is he off his game when he gets angry?
That remains to be seen. I like the way that differentiates him from Captain America though. For Cap, this mission is very simple. It’s nothing personal. It’s to save the world as he sees it. With Cyclops, everything about this is personal. To him, this is a matter of faith and religion and survival of his species, not to mention the history the Phoenix has with his dead wife. For the Avengers to come to Utopia like they did is a personal attack.
Here we have the kick off one of the “Main Event” style fights of “AvX” — Red Hulk vs. Juggernaut/Colossus. These are both characters that you don’t write regularly. Is part of the fun of “AvX” the chance to play with toys that aren’t in your usual toy box, even if it’s brief?
Sure, I gave little moments to tons of different characters in this issue. So that was certainly one of the big thrills. There were moments for characters that I’ve written before like Black Panther as well as Doctor Strange and Red Hulk, who I don’t believe I’ve ever written a single panel with before. Getting to play with so many different characters has been a lot of fun.
Big fights like Red Hulk versus Juggerlossus will be followed up in the “AvX: VS” miniseries and other tie-ins. While we’re on the topic of them, I’m curious about something. How were the pairings for these fights decided?
While we were putting together our outline, we came up with a big master list of all the different fights we’d like to see over the course of the series. Some of these from issue #2 you will see expanded in the “VS” book.
I could have taken any one of these fights and made a whole issue out of it, but the idea was to give a sense that this was not about one individual battle or another. This is really about the war being waged all around Utopia. So I wanted to show fights in the air, water, and land. I wanted to show that this was really one massive fight engulfing the entire island.
The fight I expand upon in the first issue of “VS” is Iron Man versus Magneto. We get to see the full extent of that battle.
What was it like penning that battle?
It was a lot of fun. They’re two guys I don’t have that much experience with, so it was really me just setting ideas up for Adam Kubert. I wrote that story full-on Marvel style. So I gave him a plot, he drew it, and then I dialogued it after the fact. It was the first time I worked Marvel style, but it was a lot of fun especially since it appeared in a book where the entire story was a fight. Just to give him the leeway to go crazy was a lot of fun.
In this scene Emma Frost takes time out of the Battle for Utopia to get Hope out of harm’s way. Emma is a very pragmatic person and doesn’t like Hope very much. Is this indicative that she’s starting to believe in and accept Hope as the possible savior of mutantkind? Or is this more her believing in and following an order from her lover, Cyclops?
I think Emma knows that there’s a connection between Hope and the Phoenix. She’s seen that. She’s been there for the flare ups. I think she knows enough to maybe not be frightened, but certainly wary of Hope. And yes, she certainly believes in Cyclops. They have their differences of opinion, but she’s certainly willing to follow him right into the thick of this battle.
And now we have the entrance of Quicksilver, who announces his arrival to the fray by punching his father, Magneto, right in the face. Magneto’s dialogue makes it sound like he was expecting this, but does it still hurt for him emotionally to be slugged by his son?
[Laughs] You would think so. I don’t think it matters how old you are or what stuff you’ve been through, it’s still got to hurt to have your son react to you like that. You can tell, though, that Magneto’s biggest worry is where’s Wanda? Is she involved in this?
You can see that she is involved in a larger way from the last panel on this page. What exactly that means and why she’s involved is something that will play out as “AvX” goes forward. Wanda’s role in this story and how she fits into the grand scheme of things is one of the book’s mysteries. What is her connection to the Phoenix Force, if any?
So she has some connection to this story beyond having spoken those words, “No more mutants” back in the pages of “House of M.” Certainly that alone makes her a figure of interest to the X-Men, but that’s not her only role in the story.
The last time you wrote Black Panther and Storm you penned a story that highlighted their relationship and showed how close they were. Here you’re writing a scene that has them as opponents on the field of battle. What was it like writing this scene?
I wanted to put that scene in there because I didn’t want them on opposite sides of the battle field without it being referenced or mentioned. Even though Storm recently became an Avenger we kind of knew from the get go that she would be siding with the X-Men. At some point you have to acknowledge that you have a married couple being torn apart by this battle, and I wanted to highlight as many of those close relationships as I could.
You see Magneto versus one of his children and Storm versus Black Panther. And there’s Wolverine being called a traitor, so this was to show that this is a brother versus brother type situation. This isn’t just a bunch of heroes getting into a skirmish before a team up. This is a dark, murky, and very personal battle being waged.
Here Cyclops expresses his displeasure with Captain America for bringing the “lunatic fringe.” He is, of course, referring to Wolverine. Did Captain America exacerbate things by including Wolverine in the Utopia invasion force? Could things have calmed down if Wolverine wasn’t there?
Who knows? Most likely, but certainly that makes it much more personal. At the end of “Schism” when Wolverine left he pretty much said, “Don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you.” Obviously he’s gone back on that because here he is landing on the beach of Utopia with his claws popped. So certainly this takes their animosity to a new level.
Here we have the title characters of your “Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine” series paired together again. Do you miss writing the dynamic between these two guys?
[Laughs] Yeah, I love writing those two guys together. It’s not a secret and the next issue of “AvX” that I wrote has a bit of Spider-Man in it too. So it was a nice little moment away from the battle with the two of them talking even if it was only for a few panels. That was a lot of fun.
What can we conclude from this scene where Hope apparently uses the power of the Phoenix to burn Wolverine? Was Hope capable of doing something like this before? Or is this is the start of something much more dangerous?
It would certainly seem like the start of something much more dangerous. These are not the same flashes she’s had before. The closer this bird gets to Earth, the more she’s able to tap into this power. So this is our first little glimpse that it might not be such a good thing that she’s gaining this power. What is going to happen when the Phoenix arrives?
Plus, it’s showing Hope seizing the reigns for herself and deciding not to sit around and be the thing that everybody fights over in the story. She thinks, “I’m going to head out there on my own and face this on my own terms.” So that’s what she’s doing.
This is also our first little glimpse of the relationship between Hope and Wolverine. This is their first encounter in “AvX” and he’s coming in presumably to kill her, but she burns him all to hell. This is only the end of the first beat of what will become a very interesting relationship as “AvX” unfolds. We’ll really see that play out in issue #4, which is Jonathan Hickman’s issue. So don’t assume you know where everything is going in terms of Wolverine and Hope’s relationship.
It does feel like these scenes were informed by the dynamic Kieron Gillen established in the last volume of “Uncanny X-Men” where Wolverine kept his distance from Hope because he feared that one day he might have to kill her.
Sure, and that’s something we’ll see explored both in “AvX” and the “Wolverine & the X-Men” tie-ins as well.
Unlike when you’re working on your own series, sharing the writing duties with the other “AvX” writers means limited space, especially since you aren’t scripting the next issue. Given those constraints, were there any scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor?
I don’t remember a specific deleted scene, but I know at one point I did try to push the final Hope scenes into issue #3 and just go all out on the fights. Basically I was trying to steal some pages from Ed Brubaker, who was writing issue #3. That ultimately didn’t work with the overall structure of act one though. And it worked out for the best anyway, as I loved writing that Hope scene.
AARON’S FINAL THOUGHTS ON “Avengers Vs. X-Men” #2
This issue was a lot of fun. It was the first big battle eruption. Again, I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to emphasize the overall war instead of trying to focus in on individual battles. This issue certainly could have gone 57 pages and that would have made me very happy. It would have been easy to fill them all up.
However, I wanted to set up all these different relationships and all the different ways in which this fight is personal as well as the sprawling extent of this battle. And this is just the first salvo. We’ve got 10 more issues of this to go. So the battles are only going to get darker, bigger, weirder, and more personal as things move forward.
AARON LOOKS AHEAD TO “Avengers Vs. X-Men” #3 BY ED BRUBAKER AND JOHN ROMITA, JR.
It’s the aftermath of the battle for Utopia. If you’ve seen the cover it’s no secret that Cap is fighting Wolverine. So you’re left to wonder how do we get to that point? All I can say is it will all make sense from a story stand point. For every one of these issues we’re all working from the same outline that we all put together. To me, one of the things that’s interesting about this story is that we’ve got one big cohesive tale that we all worked on and then we divided up chunks of it and we each wrote it in our own style.
An issue written by Brian is not going to read like an issue written by Ed, me, Matt [Fraction], or Jonathan. That’s exactly what we wanted. We didn’t want to water down anyone’s style and make everyone sound the same. If that’s the case why bother to have five writers? So with each issue you’ll get a different flavor, but we’re all working together to tell one big story.
You mentioned Cap and Wolverine come to blows. Is this a series where loyalty is a shifting thing that is constantly reevaluated?
Not every issue, at least not initially. Certainly you have characters expressing doubts as things go on through the first act. It’s really when we get to the second act that things take a wild left turn. Then you’ll have people starting to examine and question which side of the fence that they’re on.
In terms of Wolverine, we always wanted to highlight him as a wild card. You may see him standing with the X-Men. You may see him standing with the Avengers, but it doesn’t matter — ultimately he’s always going to be on Wolverine’s side. He’s going to go the way he wants to go. So that’s going to put him into conflict with both sides from time to time.
MAKING OF EMMA FROST VS. IRON MAN
A lot goes into the making of a comic book. A scene starts as words before it’s brought to life by a penciller. Then that scene is further fleshed by an inker and colorist. IN AVX: THE BONUS FEATURES we’ll give you a closer look at how some of the pivotal scenes in each issue are brought to life.
Here we see John Romita Jr’s pencils for the face off between Emma Frost and Iron Man.
Next we see how Scott Hanna’s ink further fleshes out the scene, adding depth and fine detail.
Finally, we see how Laura Martin’s colors and effects add vibrancy and impact to this mental and mechanical battle.
“Avengers Vs. X-Men” #3 by Ed Brubaker, John Romita, Jr., Scott Hanna and Laura Martin goes on sale May 2. Check out a preview right here on CBR.