Typically, when the heroes of the Marvel Universe battle each other, the only real damage that’s done is some bruising, both physical and ego. That’s because even though they may disagree on or misunderstand certain situations, they generally aren’t out to kill each other. What happens, though, when a cosmic force empowers several heroes and starts to remove their restraint and rationality? And what happens when those cosmically-empowered heroes come to believe that the only thing standing in the way of a global utopia is another group of heroes?
An all-star team of writers and artists are answering those questions and more in the pages of the twelve-issue event series “Avengers Vs X-Men.” In issue #8 of the series, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Adam Kubert, Namor, one of the five X-Men who have been turned into avatars of the cosmic being known as the Phoenix, attacked the nation of Wakanda in hopes of crushing the resistance the Avengers have shown to the Phoenix Five’s plans for Earth.
In today’s edition of the AVX COMMENTARY TRACK, Senior Vice President of Publishing and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, whose office oversees the Avengers titles, joins us for some insight into the pivotal pages of issue #8. Plus, our “making of” feature will examine how the book’s creators brought to life the awe-inspiring mental powers of Professor X.
CBR News: We open up issue #8 with Namor assaulting the African nation of Wakanda, where the Avengers have taken refuge. The country has been through an awful lot in recent months: a coup, the destruction of their chief natural resource, Vibranium and now, an all-out assault by Namor and the forces of Atlantis. What does this latest disaster mean to a country that has never been conquered? And how does it compare to the two most recent disasters?
Tom Brevoort: I would argue that by the end of this issue, Wakanda is still unconquered. So at the very least, its perfect record remains unbroken. [Laughs]
The collateral damage that exists here is a very different thing than losing the Vibranium in the previous “DoomWar” story. That was an economic hardship, and as we saw recently in “Fantastic Four,” perhaps not as much of an economic hardship as we might have thought.
This is more an act of god-style catastrophe. This is a Hurricane Katrina situation for Wakanda. That said, they’re about as technologically advanced as any civilization on Earth, so the rebuilding and reconstruction efforts will probably not be as substantial. But there’s definitely been a loss of life, a loss of property and a lot of damage done. The Wakandans aren’t going to be feeling too fondly towards Namor and the Atlanteans and possibly the X-Men and mutants in general any time soon.
T’Challa is normally a big picture guy, but it’s clear here that Namor’s assault on his home nation has upset him quite a bit. How personally is he taking this attack? Is he still thinking clearly and seeing the big picture?
I think the Black Panther is always thinking about the big picture. There are a couple of things going on at this point, though. One is that T’Challa’s role has changed. He’s not actually the ruler of Wakanda. That would be Shuri, his sister. So his perspective and responsibility in this moment is not what it would have been a year or two back when he was the actual head of this nation.
The Panther takes any assault on Wakanda, anything that endangers its citizens and the land, very personally, and deals with it in a straightforward manner. I don’t know that he takes this attack any more personally than any other attack in the past. He has not been a font of kindness or forgiveness for those that would put upon the Wakandan people.
In this scene, we also see Cap’s reaction to Namor’s assault on Wakanda, and he has a different perspective on the Sub-Mariner, having fought side by side with him during World War II. What’s it like for him to see a former comrade attack a nation of innocents?
I imagine that Cap doesn’t like it too much. Although, over the years, both during the pre- and post-World War II periods, we’ve seen Namor wage war on the surface world plenty of times. Certainly, young Steve Rogers, before he was Cap, would have been in and around New York during the time when a young Namor was attacking that city.
It’s definitely not a course of action that Cap endorses, and at this point he hoped that perhaps Namor had grown and forged alliances and found a common understanding with the people of the surface world. However, the effect of having the Phoenix Force burning inside him may have impacted Namor’s judgment.
Ultimately though, Cap also has to feel some responsibility for this attack in that the Avengers are in Wakanda because they have been given safe refuge there from the X-Men who are hunting them. Namor’s whole presence here is because the Avengers are here. Wakanda is a pretty natural place for the Avengers to stage operations from since the Panther is one of their own, but if they were not there at this moment, then none of this would have happened. I think Cap takes this more personal than even the Panther does.
Here, we see T’Challa distract Namor. Now, I know the two couldn’t go toe-to-toe physically, but the enchantment the goddess Bast worked on T’challa in a recent issue of “Fantastic Four” has me curious. Just how powerful is he, now?
Exactly what that means is more of a question for another day. Clearly, that story coming out when it did, and the fact that Jonathan Hickman hinted at the events of AVX in that story, has a relevance and bearing here. In terms, though, of exactly what T’Challa is capable of now from a power and ability standpoint is something that will be explored in much greater depth in the months ahead.
For right here and right now, much like any of the other Avenger, I think the Black Panther, even a souped-up version, is not going to be the equal of a Phoenix-amped Namor.
What about in a battle of wits? T’Challa was always one of the most cunning individuals in the Marvel Universe, and the enchantment in “Fantastic Four” seemed to suggest that he can now call on the wisdom of all the Black Panthers that came before him.
Certainly the Panther’s stock in trade is his cunning and foresight; his ability to be six or seven moves ahead of his opponents and have contingencies in place to deal with whatever circumstances might arise. So I think on that level, particularly, he’s savvier and a more controlled fighter; a more precise opponent than Namor, who for all his good qualities tends to react based on passion, anger and physical prowess. There doesn’t tend to be a whole lot of strategy to what Namor does, even on a day when he’s not sort of juiced up by having the Phoenix burning inside of him.
In essence, the Namor that’s in the story is a character with all sort of subtlety burned away from him. It’s a pure essence of the character who’s very much ruled by heart and passion and fire, whereas the Panther is more cold and analytical and thoughtful. He wins fights with his mind even more so than his body.
The Hulk’s broken arm here is nowhere near as intense as the Sentry ripping Ares apart in “Siege,” but it’s still a pretty powerful and a painful visual. Who came up with it? Brian or Adam?
Brian looked at the previous couple of issues we had done, where the action sort of ranged across the world and we were jumping from location to location for the different conflicts, and he sat down deliberately to counter-program to that by doing one big massive fight scene in this issue. It felt like we’ve been doing vignettes over the past couple of issues, and it was time to really put the pedal to the floor and show a huge, knock-down, drag-out fight.
As we talked about the first draft of the script, one of the things we discussed was the need to push things further. For this to be just an ordinary fight between Marvel super heroes wasn’t enough. This had to go down at an elevated level simply because of the power level of the combatants involved and because you could have had this fight with just a normal Namor and it still would have been a sizable conflict. Certainly, this group of five or six guys jumping on Namor probably would have ended it by this point, if not for the Phoenix, but it would have been a real, legitimate fight.
Just to underline the level of the conflict, doing something like having Namor almost incidentally crack the Red Hulk’s arm is a shocking moment and the kind of thing you don’t expect to see happen in a fight like this. It draws a big exclamation point on it and emphasizes the absolute jeopardy that the Avengers are in here, despite the fact that they’ve got the numeric advantage. Brian was really trying there to ramp it all up, and Adam visualized it in a crazy, painful way.
In the last issue, Emma Frost wound up Namor so he would go attack Wakanda. Why does she lie about the part she played in launching Namor’s assault?
I don’t know that I want to say too much at this point, given the story that’s still to come. I think ultimately, though, the fact that Emma was sneaking around to do this in the first place indicates that, if nothing else, she knows Scott wouldn’t approve of this action, even if it’s an action that she believes to be necessary and in the best interest of what they’re trying to achieve.
I think Emma by nature is a little bit duplicitous. She doesn’t tend to turn over all her cards in any of her dealings. She tends to play mind games of one sort or another with the folks around her. She is pretty guarded for all that she’s also a flamboyant and in-your-face sort of a character. So it seems to me that it wouldn’t be in her nature to step up and say, “I did this. I made this happen.” She wouldn’t reveal that information to people, even to people who are her allies, unless there was a clear advantage for her to do so.
Emma writes off Namor’s actions by basically saying he would do what he wanted anyway and there would have been no way to sway him. Is she right? Would Namor have attacked Wakanda if she hadn’t wound him up last issue?
He very well might have. This is not out of character for Namor. Namor has waged war on the surface world often enough that it’s something he’s willing to do if he believes the circumstances require that sort of an action. He doesn’t step back from declaring war, waging war and dealing with the consequences of that.
And as I said earlier, he’s very much ruled by his passions. So Emma winding him up, if anything, might have tipped him over the edge, but I don’t know that she could have gotten him to do this if it wasn’t already sort of in his brain pan to find the Avengers, step on them and put an end to this so they can get back to the business of fixing the world. Emma definitely had an effect with their conversation, but it’s not like it was mind control or anything.
At this point, the actions of all the Phoenix Five are a little bit suspect because they’re all amped up on Fire and Life Incarnate. The fires of the Phoenix have transformed them into the purest and most unrestrained versions of themselves. Their true, quintessential natures tend to come out as the Phoenix just burns away the need for civility or circumspection. Namor is just being himself with the dial turned up to 11. The same goes for Emma. On another day, in another situation, where she wasn’t harboring the Phoenix, maybe she would have come clean to the other Phoenix Five and said, “Yeah — I had a hand in this.”
Her lying like this adds an interesting level of almost courtly intrigue to the workings of the Phoenix Five.
It certainly makes things more interesting, especially when we get to the end of this issue and the next piece of the puzzle falls into place.
This effect with Xavier’s eyes looks amazing. Who’s responsible for it? Adam? Or was it more of a team effort?
That was Adam. Those images were done separate from the rest of the art on the page, in pencil on colored board. It’s very similar to the approach his pop used on graphic novels like “Yossel” and “Jew Gangster.” The paper is more textured and you get a little bit of the tone of that paper under the drawing, which gives it a different feeling. Then the pieces were digitally composited and colored by Laura. This was really an effect that Adam masterminded.
Xavier making his presence known like this suggests that this scene is a real turning point in his relationship with Cyclops. We know it’s been strained in recent years, but how would you describe their relationship up until this point? What does it mean for Scott to have Xavier call him out like this? And how does Xavier feel doing it?
Over the last few years, Professor X hasn’t really been around a lot. He’s either been dead, off in space or doing things like dealing with his son, Legion. He’s been out of the limelight, and in his absence Scott has had to deal with some fairly appalling situations for mutants and has had to make some very difficult choices. He’s had to assume the responsibility of not just being the favorite son, but the leader of the mutant race.
It’s a fairly natural progression that every generation goes through, where the son replaces the father and so forth. So this moment of disapproval is a strong emotional moment. It’s a strong statement for Xavier to make to Scott and the sort of thing that might make Scott question what he was doing, at least a little bit. But ultimately, I believe that Scott believes in the course he’s set, the actions he’s taken, the price he’s paid and the victories that he’s won by charting this course. While Professor X has been out in the world doing the various things he’s been doing, somebody had to stand up and be responsible and keep mutants safe by preserving what was left of their numbers and their species and find a way to fight through to a better day and a better tomorrow. Cyclops has been the guy who stood up and taken on that responsibility.
He became the person who could do that under Professor X’s tutelage. So is there an air of jealousy here on some level? Does Professor X feel like he’s no longer the number one guy, no longer relevant to the mutant struggle? Is this less a pure statement than it might otherwise be? It’s very easy for Professor X to Monday morning quarterback everything that went on with Cyclops and the X-Men over the last bunch of years, because he hasn’t been around and didn’t have to make those decisions.
I think Cyclops has had to make those choices. I think ultimately he accepts and owns every decision that he’s made, good or bad, that has gotten them to this point. And, of course, the days when Professor X could tell him, “You get two demerits go to the back of the class,” are over.
Does Xavier feel any guilt or remorse over not stepping up earlier, before things got out of hand?
I think he certainly does, and we’ll see some more of that in future issues of AvX as well as a number of the tie-in books. Professor X stepped back onto the stage in issue #6, and this is really his declaration of intent at the end of issue #8. We’re not done seeing Professor X in the third act of AvX. He’ll be a fairly significant player and we’ll get a real sense as to what’s going on in his head and how he feels about events that have transpired and how much responsibility or guilt he may or may not feel over what’s going on and about his absence up to this point.
Will he primarily appear in the remaining “Uncanny X-Men” tie-in issues or the remaining “Wolverine & the X-Men” tie-in issues?
He’ll be in a bunch of places, actually. Brian Bendis does a bunch with him in the “New Avengers” Illuminati issue, #29. You will find different aspects of Xavier’s story in a bunch of places. In fact, Xavier is actually in two or three of Brian’s tie-ins, not just “New Avengers.” Which kind of makes sense since we’ve now let the world know that Brian is going to be moving over and telling X-Men stories in the aftermath of “AvX.”
BREVOORT’S FINAL THOUGHTS ON “AVX” #8
Issue #8 really is the end of Act Two and the beginning of Act Three. Brian specifically set out to do a big rousing blockbuster battle, and I think he succeeded admirably. Plus, I think it’s a great stepping out onto the stage by Adam Kubert, who is a phenomenal storyteller and visualizer. It’s been a while since we’ve really seen him handle all of these characters, X-Men and Avengers alike, so it’s great to see him back, and he’s really tearing up the track on the subsequent issues, as well. He’s really in a great groove and a great place.
The real substantive change that happens here at the end of Act Two is the realization that the Avengers threw pretty much everything they had and maybe a little bit more at Namor and were able to put him down. In doing so, though, the bit of Phoenix that was in him went into the remaining Phoenix Four, making them all proportionally stronger. Theoretically, what won the day here isn’t going to work next time. In fact, every fight is going to be more difficult; if they’re able to beat one of the others, the three remaining will be that much more difficult. Every victory makes the ultimate win dicier
On the part of the Phoenix Five, this too is a new bit of information, that if one of them falls, those remaining get stronger. That certainly can play into the court intrigue you were talking about earlier, in terms of where Emma’s heart is. Certainly, Magik is a real wild card given her sort of shadowy self. Even Colossus, who was already juiced up on the power of Cyttorak and now has the Phoenix raging in him. It’s a volatile situation on a number of levels, and now that this last domino has dropped, things are really going to accelerate into the back four issues. Not that we’ve been lollygagging around until now, but every issue from this point out is an issue of consequence.
BREVOORT LOOKS AHEAD TO “AVX” #9, ON SALE NOW
It’s a big Spidey issue. He’s been in “AvX” up to this point, but he’s been very much a background player, which tends to be his role in these things. This is the point in the story where the true essence of Spidey’s heroism comes to the fore in a big way. He’s very much essential to “AvX” #9.
Tom Brevoort and I discussed how Adam Kubert and his artistic collaborators brought to life the scene demonstrating Charles Xavier’s mental might, but I thought it would be especially interesting to see that scene from it’s beginning in Brian Bendis’ script, to Adam’s pencils, to John Dell’s inks and Laura Martin & Larry Molinar’s colors.
Big panel. From behind Cyclops, the huge angry face of Xavier is projecting in front of him. A real spectacular 3-D effect. Something we haven’t seen before.
Xavier: THIS STOPS NOW, SCOTT!!
This is madness and this is as far as you go!!
CYCLOPS: It’s not your call, CHARLES.
XAVIER: All that I taught you, all that I tried to instill in you as an X-man…
This is punishing disappointment!!
Cyclops barks at the air. The others don’t see anything. Cyclops is raging against his father. His new power barely in control.
CYCLOPS: Get out of my head, Xavier!!
You join us or you leave us be!
This is not your fight. You forfeited your right to tell me what to do when you-
Psychic Xavier looks at us. Pained.
XAVIER: Scott, I’m saying to you as clearly as I can…
Stop this or I will stop YOU.
From behind the Psychic apparition of Xavier, Cyclops curls his lip in defiance.
CYCLOPS: Charles, if you could have, you would have.
XAVIER: Scott, I love you.
I don’t want to do what you’re going to make me do.
CYCLOPS: If you love me, you’ll side with me.
Xavier’s lips purse. That’s it. They are done.
XAVIER: Last chance…
Stop or I’ll stop you.
Same. Psychic Xavier is gone. Just the disaster of Wakanda as far as the eye can see.
Namor, The Wakandan castle grounds, dead Atlanteans, creatures, water and damage. The abandoned Quinncarrier.
Black Panther has stayed. He stands in the middle of the madness. Looking up to them. Standing up to them. Shaming them with his selfless leadership.
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