Being a hero often means making the hard choices. When you’re a Marvel Comics hero and the shared universe you inhabit is in danger of being destroyed by a destructive cosmic entity like the Phoenix, it can seem like every choice you make is a difficult one. Especially if there’s another team opposing you because they believe the way you want to handle the Phoenix problem is wrong.
That is precisely what’s happening in Marvel’s massive “Avengers Vs. X-Men” event by an all-star team of Marvel creators. In issue #4, in stores now, writer Jonathan Hickman and artist John Romita Jr had the titular teams make their final moves and machinations in preparation for the Phoenix’s arrival. Hickman joins us for today’s installment of CBR’ AVX COMMENTARY TRACK where he discusses some of the pivotal scenes in “AvX” #4 and looks at some of the “deleted scenes” in the issue. Plus, we’ll have a “making of” look at one scene and see how it’s brought to life via script, pencils, inks, and colors as well as an exclusive teaser from “AvX” #5.
CBR News: When he last saw Hope in “Avengers Vs X-Men” #3 she was running out of an electronics store. Here, though, she arrives with beer and a jet plane to pick Wolverine up. I take it Hope has been pretty busy off panel?
Jonathan Hickman: Yeah. She got ahold of a jet and I’m not even sure what book that got covered in because, as this thing got bigger and bigger, really only the editors can keep up with what’s ending up where. But the premise here though, was that she figured out a way to get to where she needed to be and came up with a plan to get off planet. So she’s executing it. And to help her execute it she brought beer, which always seems to work on Wolverine. [Laughs]
Here we’ve got a pretty epic confrontation between Thor and the Phoenix. What exactly happens in this scene. Does Thor hit the Phoenix so hard that it needs to stop and refuel?
Yeah, the idea was here’s was basically Phoenix versus a god, which, you know, seems like a fair fight. So Thor went and smacked the Phoenix so hard that he knocked the bird out. [Laughs] He thinks he won, but it lands on another planet and then all of a sudden the planet lights up and the Phoenix consumes it. At that point Thor realizes he’s screwed, and we realize not even a god can stop it.
Here we get an interesting conversation between Wolverine and Hope as she makes a case for him helping her. This is your first time writing Hope, correct? What’s your sense of her as a character?
It doesn’t feel that way since we’d been talking about this story for so long before I had written a page, but yes this is this first little published bit I’ve done with her. In this scene she’s explaining her perspective, which is she believes she’s right and she’s willing to gamble everything on the belief that not only is the Phoenix coming to inhabit her, but from that a wonderful event is going to occur. She believes this to such an extent that she is absolutely willing to do anything to convince who she needs to help her to offer their assistance.
Of course the contrast here is that Wolverine knows that this all ends badly no matter what, and he knows that he’s the only one that will pull the trigger. So, it seems they come to an understanding.
Why does she go to Wolverine for help instead of someone like Cyclops who believes in her wholeheartedly?
She feels that if she is going to do this it needs to be her and not anyone else choosing her destiny. That this was the only path that she could take. That’s why she put this together the way she did. Plus, I think she knows that as much as she believes this, Scott is even more dogmatic, which would leave them nowhere to go if they’re wrong.
So Wolverine doesn’t have the agenda that Cyclops does?
No, Wolverine represents the one percent chance for her that she might be wrong and what everybody else is saying about her might be true. Even though she completely and utterly believes that she is the Mutant Messiah, Wolverine is her failsafe.
Imposing your will upon others is a morally murky act for many telepaths in the Marvel Universe, but here it looks like Emma Frost takes control of Toad and uses him to access Cerebra. Is that’s what’s happening in this scene? Or is Toad allowing Emma access to his mind because he believes in Cyclops’ cause?
She’s just using his body to give her mind access to Cerebra. Her mind takes over his and walks him in there so she and Cyclops can find out what they need to know. Plus, this is for all the marbles, so personal choices get murky. And, you know, it’s Toad. [Laughs]
Here we’ve got a fantastic splash page by John Romita Jr featuring Spider-Man and Daredevil, two characters he’s acclaimed for drawing. Coincidence? Or did you write this page specifically to see John’s rendition of those characters?
I don’t remember exactly when we came up with it during the planning stages, but there was a list of all the “Vs.” fights and the locations they would be in. This is just kind of injecting that stuff into the story and saying, “Look at all this other stuff that’s going on!” It’s not essential to the primary narrative of this issue, but this is where some of our cool “Vs.” battles spring from.
And John’s Daredevil and Spider-Man are fantastic, but really it doesn’t matter who he’s drawing. If he was drawing a fight where it’s somebody like Tigra versus Leach, John would still draw it cool.
In this scene Emma performs another ethically gray telepathic feat when she eavesdrops on Captain America’s thoughts. From her perspective I imagine this is an entirely justified act because the Avengers are trying to stop Hope and mutants from achieving their destiny. Is that correct?
Yeah. She’s got to know what they’re doing, and make no mistake, they’re not on the same side. They believe that Cap and the Avengers are trying to hurt not only someone they care about, but somebody they believe in. So, again, I think casual morality be damned when it comes to protecting your own. So I don’t think she would give this a second thought. It’s information that they had to have.
Here it’s revealed that Wolverine contacted the Avengers to help him deal with Hope. Last issue Logan had a knock down drag out fight with Captain America over how best to handle her, so why is he siding with the Avengers here? Has Logan changed his mind? Does he no longer believe that the best way to stop the Phoenix is to kill Hope?
I don’t think he’s changed his mind at all. Even though Cap feels Wolverine is uncontrollable, Wolverine is still certainly on the Avengers side in all of this. So as soon as this thing looked like it could turn into a containment scenario or a situation where it could be handled off planet he started biding his time to find out what was going to happen and he let the Avengers know. I think it would be wrong to assume that Wolverine is no longer willing or able to do what he needs to do. I know it is.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON “AVX” #4
Well, I’m writing two issues of “AvX,” #4 and #6. And, I gotta tell you, #6 was infinitely easier than #4. One, because it’s a little more in my wheel house, and two, we had to be at a certain place at the beginning of issue #5. By that I mean there were certain things that had to be in issue #4 and I feel like we probably had a bit too much to cover in that one issue. In the long run, I totally feel like it was worth it because of what Matt [Fraction] pulls off in an epic issue #5, but I certainly wished I’d had a little more room to elaborate on some other cool things I wanted to stick in. But I get 35 pages in #6, so it all works out.
Earlier we talked about this being your first time writing Hope, but you got to write a lot of Marvel characters for the first time in this issue, correct? What was that like?
A lot of the character beats I wrote over in “Ultimates” translate to what I’m doing here, so it’s not like it’s completely new or foreign; unlike Hope who there isn’t an analogue for and I have not written anything with her before. So writing these characters was both a little similar and a little different to what I’ve done in the past, but it was a lot of fun. Which is kind of the point of this whole thing.
Were there any “deleted scenes” that didn’t make it into the final script?
Looking back, I would have probably liked to do a little bit more at all the different locations while the fights are going on and give those things multiple beats. That just wasn’t going to happen though. We didn’t have the real estate for that.
[Laughs] I would have also enjoyed another chance to see things on the road with Hope and Wolverine. I would have liked a few extra beats there. Other than that, though, I’m okay with how it turned out.
LOOKING AHEAD TO “AVX” #5, ON SALE JUNE 6
Issue #5 is huge. Matt and all the artists: John, colorist Laura Martin, and inker Scott Hanna are fantastic. I think people are going to be surprised by how this thing veers off into another direction.
One of the great elements of super hero comics is the combination of the ordinary and the fantastic. Characters can and will do the same sort of mundane activities that we all do, but they can do them in strange places or in such a way that makes them utterly fascinating. We see that here in this sequence that shows the characters of “Avengers Vs X-Men” fighting, building, and discovering things. It’s made even more interesting by seeing the sequence brought to life at the script, pencils, inks, and colors stages.
Page 15 – (6 PANELS)
Panel 1 – On Tony in profile (WE SEE that he’s not talking to himself, but wearing a headset). Still working… But talking to Steve Rogers.
If I’m going to build a Phoenix-Killer, I’ve got to figure out a way to crack universal expansion.
You following me, Cap?
Panel 2 – On Cap. In the Savage Land. Punching the shit out of Gambit.
Find the girl, get the girl. That I understand. // Give me a second.
Panel 3 – On Iron Man. Smiling as he’s welding.
Have I ever told you how disappointing it is that you can’t do two things at once.
Yeah, hold that thought. // I’m getting a —
Panel 4 – On Cap. Holding an unconscious Gambit by his shirt with one hand. Looking at a mobile phone/sat phone/super hero communicator in the other.
Well, I’ll be…
Tony, please contact all the other teams and have them pull back and rendezvous at the Tower. // New plan. We don’t have to chase Hope any more.
You found her?
No…Panel 5 – Close on CAP. A recognizable spark in the center of his head.
…but I did just learn where she’s headed.
Panel 6 – Emma Frost. A matching shot of the last panel.
Scott… They know where Hope is going.