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Killing Namor, New Starts for “Thor,” “Ms. Marvel” & “Spider-Woman”

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Killing Namor, New Starts for “Thor,” “Ms. Marvel” & “Spider-Woman”

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 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 Community, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!

RELATED: Marvel Reveals Major Character Death in “Squadron Supreme” #1

This week, Alonso shares his reaction to writer Ta-Nehisi Coates winning the National Book Award for “Between the World and Me” — and gives an update on Coates’ upcoming “Black Panther” run with artist Brian Stelfreeze, revealing that Coates has already written the first four issues. Moving toward some of the big fictional events of the week, Alonso provides some insight into the decision to kill off Namor the Sub-Mariner in next month’s “Squadron Supreme” #1, and what that says about the mission statement of the series and its stars. Alonso also talks three of this week’s new All-New, All-Different Marvel #1s — “The Mighty Thor” #1 by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman; “Spider-Woman” #1 by Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez; and “Ms. Marvel” #1 by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa and Adrian Alphona — along with answers to your questions, straight from the CBR Community.

Albert Ching: How does it feel to have a National Book Award winner on your roster of writers?

Axel Alonso: That’s a first, right? [Laughs] It’s a fantastic book, a moving meditation on one of the most urgent issues of the day, written in the form of a letter from Ta-Nehisi to his son. It’s a powerful, stirring, thought-provoking book with a universal message. I don’t see how any father — any parent — wouldn’t be moved by it. I wasn’t at all surprised that Ta-Nehisi won.

That said, I am surprised that Ta-Nehisi has already written the first four issues of the first arc [for “Black Panther”]. And they’re great. He is not playing. He’s a natural. It’s not always easy for prose writers to transition into writing comics, but I think the fact that Ta-Nehisi is a lifelong comic reader gave him a leg up. And he’s been working closely with [artist] Brian Stelfreeze, who’s been giving him pointers on storytelling along the way. Brian has almost completed the first issue and it’s spectacular work.

Shifting directions to something that made news from Marvel this week, it was announced that Namor — Marvel’s longest-running superhero — will be killed off in next month’s “Squadron Supreme” #1. The book’s not out yet so we can’t really get into plot details, but what can you share about what went into that decision, and taking Namor off the playing field in this series?

Alonso: James Robinson broached the idea [of killing Namor in “Squadron Supreme”] at an editorial retreat, when we were discussing the new series launches coming out of “Secret Wars.” He wanted to tell a big story out the gate that communicated loud and clear what made the Squadron Supreme different from other super-teams in the Marvel Universe — not just their mission statement, but their M.O. and the moral compass that guides them. James wanted to go big, and he had an organic touch point to get Namor into the thick of it, so things just kind of led to this. Namor’s head on a platter not only sends a very strong message about who the Squadron Supreme are, but puts the rest of the Marvel Universe on high alert. They’re here. [Laughs]

It also seems to send a message that this is a book for core Marvel fans to pay attention to, even though previous versions of the “Squadron Supreme” were separate from the main Marvel Universe.

Alonso: Without a doubt. We wanted to make it abundantly clear that this “Squadron Supreme” series takes place in the Marvel Universe, not an alternate universe. “Secret Wars” spat them into our laps, like they were always there, and they’re going to have an immediate impact.

Marvel’s February 2016 solicitations, released this week, revealed that Leinil Yu is joining the main “Star Wars” series. That book has set a high bar for artists so far, and Yu fits in that pattern — I could guess what made him a good fit for this, but what can you say about what made him the right choice for the next artist to join this series?

Alonso: Pretty much everything you just said. Leinil is a top-tier artist at the height of his game, and his involvement should send a message to fans about how seriously we take the “Star Wars” line. Leinil is one of the few artists that can draw anything well, but he really excels with big-budget, widescreen action and world-building, and that describes “Star Wars ” to the “T.”

RELATED: The First Page of “The Mighty Thor” #1 Is the Most Human Thing You’ll Read This Week

We’re still right in the middle of all of the many Marvel All-New, All Different series premiering this fall, so let’s talk about a few that started this week. We’ll start with “The Mighty Thor” #1 by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman. Something that was striking about that issue was the very down-to-Earth depiction of Jane Foster’s struggle with cancer and her chemotherapy. The issue opens with a scene of that, even. How much do you like that juxtaposition — bringing a human element into a comic about Asgardians and starring the God of Thunder?

Alonso: I think it’s a very important aspect of this series, one that Jason is taking very seriously. He’s handling this with great sensitivity and great care. And it just gets down to the core of what makes Marvel heroes so beloved — for all their power and larger-than-life adventures, at their core they’re very human and have problems that everyone can relate to. So without losing an iota of the Asgardian grandeur that’s in the title’s DNA, Jason and Russell Dauterman have brought in an element that so many people can relate to — whether it be cancer specifically, or just a debilitating illness. So Thor is a god, yes, but now we know she’s also very mortal, very human.

By the way, over the summer a reader contacted Russell to express her excitement about the revelation that Jane is Thor, saying that Jane’s courage reminded her of her late mother’s own battle with cancer. So, with the blessing of that reader and her family, we named the cancer center that Jane is receiving treatment at in “The Mighty Thor” #1 after the reader’s mother, Maria Wheelock. It’s a small way of not only honoring Maria, but also acknowledging all the other real people out there who are battling or have battled this illness.

Another book bringing some more grounded elements into superhero-ing is “Spider-Woman,” starring a pregnant Jessica Drew. It’s a different dimension than we’ve seen from the character before, or for superhero comics in general, really. Was Dennis Hopeless’ pitch on this an easy sell for Marvel?

Alonso: Without a doubt. A woman reconciling her upcoming motherhood with her current identity as a crime-fighting superhero — that’s a fascinating story, especially with a character as free-spirited as Jessica. Right out the gate, you’ll see that Spider-Woman isn’t rushing into the heat of battle the way she used to, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to. So you could say this is ultimately a story about “responsibility” — about a hero rearranging her priorities, and that won’t always be easy. And, of course, pregnancy takes a physical toll… so there’s that.

Let’s talk one more new #1 from this week, “Ms. Marvel” #1. Kamala Khan has been the breakout Marvel character of the past two years — what are you hoping to see from this new series in terms of the character further evolving and cementing her place within Marvel?

Alonso: The post-“Secret Wars” landscape gives G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miazawa and Adrian Alphona the opportunity to use that eight-month gap to as a jumping-on point for new readers — while elevating Ms. Marvel’s status as a hero. She’s not quite the rookie anymore because now she’s an Avenger. While “[All-New, All-Different] Avengers” will deal with Kamala on that team, “Ms. Marvel” is all about Kamala as Jersey City’s protector. She’s gotten everything she wants — she’s a legit hero on her fantasy team — but can Kamala handle it? That’s what this next season is all about, Kamala trying to come to grips with growing up and the responsibilities that come with it.

Thursday morning news broke that Marvel artists are illustrating superhero-versions of espnW’s IMPACT25, the latest team-up between Marvel and ESPN. The timing seems natural given Marvel’s recent push for more female-led titles — what was important to you about this initiative?

Alonso: When this opportunity presented itself, we jumped on it — especially Sana Amanat, who has been at the forefront of our diversity efforts and “Women of Marvel” campaign. This collaboration is just so on-point with our current mission statement and the national zeitgeist. I mean, has there ever been a better time to highlight the parallel between female athletes and female superheroes? Athletes are the closest thing we have in real life to super heroes. Just look how the world reacted when Ronda Rousey got K.O.’d last weekend. People reacted like they’d just seen Hulk clocked by Howard the Duck! [Laughs] This is our chance to “Marvelize” espnW’s IMPACT25 — the 25 most important people in female athletics in 2015 — of course we were going to do it!

Last thing before fan questions: It debuts today, have you seen any of “Jessica Jones” yet?

Alonso: I’ve only seen the pilot, and I loved it. Very true to the source material.

That leads to the natural question: Any plans for a “Jessica Jones” solo comic? Anything along those lines being talked about at Marvel?

Alonso: I’ll just say that it’s been a subject of discussion.

We’ll wrap with fan questions direct from the CBR Community. We haven’t heard from Spidey616 in a while, but he asks, “Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez have done an amazing job building the world of Spider-Gwen like the introduction of that universe’s Captain America. Has there been any talk or discussion about making spinoff series or projects much like the Spider-Girl MC2 Universe imprint?”

Alonso: There has.

Then CIA remembers to this past summer, asking, “Hey Axel, any updates concerning the remaining two ANAD teasers: Citizen V and Death’s Head?”

Alonso: Not yet.

Have some questions for Marvel’s AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the AXEL-IN-CHARGE Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Comics community. It’s the dedicated thread that CBR will pull questions for next week’s installment of our weekly fan-supported question-and-answer column! Do it to it!

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