19th century German Field Marshall Helmut Von Moltke the Elder is famous for his declaration and belief that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. Von Moltke believed that military leaders must always be ready to adapt and react to the changing conditions on a battlefield.
It’s a wise strategy, but it’s hard one to adopt in a chaotic place like the Marvel Universe where the fantastic is possible. Captain America and Cyclops, two of the premier military minds in the Marvel U, have trained to think and adapt to all manner of forces and combatants. In “Avengers Vs. X-Men”, written and drawn by an all-star team of Marvel creators, Cap and Cyclops pit their training against each other as their titular armies battle over how best to handle the threat of the destructive cosmic entity known as the Phoenix.
Cosmic entities are some of the most unpredictable beings in the Marvel Universe and in “Avengers Vs. X-Men” #5 by writer Matt Fraction and artist John Romita Jr., the Phoenix make a surprising and unsuspected move. In today’s installment of CBR’s AVX COMMENTARY TRACK, Fraction looks at some of the pivotal scenes in the issue. Plus, we’ll have an assortment of behind the scenes bonus features: a “making of,” a look at some deleted scenes, and an exclusive teaser image for “AvX” #6
CBR News: Matt, you open things up with the Phoenix heading towards the moon and a big slugfest between the Avengers and the X-Men over who gets to decide the fate of Hope Summers. It looks like Hope doesn’t want them fighting over her, though.
Matt Fraction: Yeah, these pages conclude her little monologue on Thomas Ferebee, the man who pushed the button that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. I always wondered if Ferebee was haunted by what he did. How could you be human and not be? You’d have to mechanize your thoughts and beliefs and press them pretty far down.
Hope has been told, and we’ve been telling readers since Hope’s inception, that she’s either one thing or the other. She either is the mutant messiah or she isn’t. Her whole life has been about this binary. Her spirit, soul and character are stuck in the middle of that. So this was the thing that kind of got my fingers moving; got me typing. And it felt very true to her character. It felt like the kind of thing she would wonder about.
Then by the time we get to the end of this issue we present a third option that hopefully no one saw coming. It’s all for naught. Hope believed she was A or B and we put a C option on the table, surprising her most of all. For me, the most X-Men line in this whole issue is right there on the bottom of the left hand page, “My name is Hope Summers and this is all my fault.” It’s her fault that everyone is fighting on the moon. That’s as X-Men as you get in certain ways.
The juxtaposition on the double page spread here is interesting. You’ve got the X-Men and the Avengers fighting over Hope, but not paying attention to her. Plus, there’s Wolverine ignoring the battle and running towards her.
Right, they had this agreement that if and when the time comes Wolverine would finish her off. Now as the Phoenix is getting close and her powers are getting more and more out of control, she’s getting Logan to fulfill that promise. The Phoenix isn’t even here yet and on the next page she’s leveled everybody. How fun is that?
After Hope levels both teams, she begs Wolverine to kill her and he makes his approach to do just that. Why did she make this decision? Is the Phoenix’s power causing her too much pain? Is she afraid she’s about to lose control and destroy everything?
It’s a little bit of everything. She just flattened both the X-Men and the Avengers in one go and the Phoenix isn’t even here yet. So she’s suspecting that she’s the bomb; that she’s going to raze everything in cosmic fire and wants Wolverine to finish the job.
Also with this scene, any chance you can get to have John Romita draw Wolverine looking like he’s made up of smoldering pepperoni, you should take it. It’s sort of a classic Romita Jr. moment.
Cyclops actually stops smoldering pepperoni Wolverine from killing Hope. Did Cyclops hear Hope when she asked Wolverine to kill her?
Absolutely, Scott Summers believes in Hope even when she doesn’t. He’s not going to let her go. Scott’s been going towards this since “House of M.” This is the redemption and rebirth of the mutant race and it’s worth fighting for. This is everything he’s done since “House of M” and “Messiah CompleX.” Every bit of his soul he’s had to sell, every ounce of his humanity that he’s had to barter, every moment of the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few, every ounce of compassion that he’s had to rid himself of was pointing here. So as the Phoenix is overhead, he’s not going to let Wolverine of all people gut this poor girl who he loves like a daughter and believes in.
It looks like you’re doing two things on this page; one queing up some fights in “AVX: VS” and the other showing that things have gotten ugly and personal. Is that correct?
Yes. This sequence with Namor and the Thing grabbing each others faces and just trying to beat each other one up is one of my favorite panels in the entire series so far. “I’m going to grab your face and punch it!” Is a great summary of Namor and Thing’s relationship. [Laughs] So it delighted me to see how John drew that.
We’ve seen the Avengers space team and Wanda in previous issues, but here you introduce three new players into the series: Lei Kung, Professor Charles Xavier, and Xavier’s son Legion. How big a role will these characters play in the series moving forward?
There are reasons why we are cutting to these folks. They’re all very important. We’re going to see Xavier next issue, and we’re going to see a lot more of Lei Kung. This is a flash forward to our second act in microcosm.
They’re just featured in a couple of panels, but you’ve got connections to Lei Kung from writing “Immortal Iron Fist” and you loved writing the Xavier moments that appeared during your “Uncanny X-Men” run. How did it feel to introduce these characters into the larger story of “AvX?”
It’s always nice to write Xavier, the Great Man, even in a small moment here, especially with Legion, who was one of my favorite characters when I was kid. So to get to write even a sliver of a father-son moment between them was great. And if you’ve been reading “New Avengers” you’ve been getting hints about how important the K’un-L’un stuff is going to be.
One of the things that’s kept Cyclops going these past few years is his faith that Hope is the Mutant Messiah, but considering his statements on the last two panels on this page, has Cyclops’ faith become fanaticism?
At some point he’s stepped into zealotry. He isn’t going to listen to anyone else. He believes what he believes and now he’s going to put all his chips on the table to see if he’s right.
Here we have the reveal of the five Phoenix avatars. Why did you guys choose these characters to bond with the Phoenix instead of some of the other members of Cyclops’ Extinction Team like Storm or Magneto?
Part of it was that these were the big guns that were with Scott when he had to get to the moon. You go to war with the army you have and with these characters it creates interesting situations and raises interesting questions, like “what does it mean that Magik or Namor is there?”
So the only given thing was that these were the people next to Scott when he scrambled to the moon. They’re not necessarily the army he would have chosen had he known this was going to happen, but this is what has happened. So here we go. That said we, the writers, totally knew what was going to happen and went out of our way to orchestrate things.
How powerful are these individual Phoenix avatars? Do each of them have the full power of the Phoenix? Or has it been distributed between them?
It’s split up between them, but even one fifth of the Phoenix is still pretty colossal. So rather then there being one Phoenix there are now functionally five.
Does each member of the Phoenix Five have their own personality and function within the group?
They are cosmically evolved and cosmically aware versions of themselves even though they can kind of speak with one voice like they do on the next page. They’re speaking on behalf of the Phoenix there, but we’ll see going forward that this is still Scott, Namor, Emma, Peter and Illyana. They’re still very much themselves. Especially when you see what they get up to. It’s very much in keeping with what the characters’ personal interests and beliefs are.
In this scene the Phoenix avatars lay out their plans for Earth, and based on what they tell the Avengers it feels like the Phoenix’s ultimate plans for Earth is one of the larger mysteries of the series?
Yes, very much so and going forward we’re going to see that. The Phoenix is an agent of change and here we go. It’s now been unleashed upon the Earth in the shape of these five characters.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON “AVX” #5
The only thing crazier than how this ends is what happens in two weeks. We all sort of agreed that this felt like the place where a Marvel event would usually end and we’re only at the end of the first act. So hopefully it’s onwards and upwards and bigger and crazier from here.
Were there any deleted scenes that didn’t make it into your final script?
This whole event has been an exercise in deleting scenes. That’s part of the reason why we have the “VS” mini-series. There was stuff we didn’t have room for. This is a longer than average comic, but there’s always more that you want to do and include especially with such a huge group of characters.
We only really had a montage with them, but I could have spent pages in K’un- L’un or with Xavier and David or with Wanda. It’s just the reality of things. So hopefully we’re covering that well in our tie-ins.
LOOKING AHEAD TO “AVX” #6, ON SALE JUNE 20
— and we pull back from her to see a psionic sphere of PHOENIX FLAME explode outwards from her with tremendous velocity.
I said —
BIG SHOT. THE AVENGERS and the X-MEN are all awash now in that blast-wave of psychic fire and topple like bowling pins, are tossed like rag dolls. WOLVERINE gets it first, the blast just obliterating him.
HOPE on her knees, holding her head, fire spewing from her eyes. LOGAN — burned black and pink but healing — bone exposed — draws himself up off the ground and crawls towards HOPE… If you can frame it, John, so we can see the PHOENIX IN SPACE coming closer, that’s great.
LOGAN. Logan I WAS WRONG.
I thought I could but I can’t I can’t it’s TOO MUCH Logan it’s TOO MUCH —
In agony, LOGAN struggles to pull himself up off the ground. HOPE reaches for him with blank desperation.
— you have to kill me.
TIGHT ON HOPE. Crying in spite of the flames.
Can you do that now?
Can you do it for ME, Logan?
LOGAN closes his eyes, turning away for a second. It’s a goddamn shame…