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Revealing Spider-Man’s “Clone Conspiracy,” “Han Solo’s” Solo Mission

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Revealing Spider-Man’s “Clone Conspiracy,” “Han Solo’s” Solo Mission

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 in comics receiving 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: “Spider-Man: Dead No More’s” True Title Revealed: “The Clone Conspiracy”

Marvel made some big news Friday by revealing that upcoming Spider-Man story “Dead No More” — hyped by the publisher since January — is actually titled “The Clone Conspiracy,” and will feature the return of The Jackal, a key figure of both the original Spider-Man clone story and the highly divisive one from the 1990s. Alonso discusses keeping the secret and returning to controversial clone territory, plus the decision to make the story its own five-issue event series, rather than containing it within “Amazing Spider-Man.” Also this week, Marvel launched its latest Star Wars series — this time starring “Han Solo,” and from the team of Marjorie Liu and Mark Brooks. Alonso talks bringing that creative team together, and putting together a book starring one of Star Wars’ most recognizable icons. All that and more, including insight into the satire of “Vote Loki” and Bruce Banner’s reappearance in “Civil War II” — and what that may mean for Marvel’s heroes, given Ulysses’ vision in that issue.

Albert Ching: Axel, let’s start with the major news from late this week that the much-hyped “Dead No More” story is actually titled “The Clone Conspiracy.” Clearly, we’ve seen Marvel take some unconventional tactics with marketing before, but this was an unusually long game — given how long “Dead No More” has been teased. What went into keeping the “Clone Conspiracy” title a secret — and for maintaining the “Dead No More” red herring for this many months?

Axel Alonso: In this day and age, when it’s nearly impossible to keep anything secret, we wanted to keep the cat in the bag for as long as we could. After FCBD, enough threads were out there for astute readers to put together, but we wanted to keep some stuff under our hat until we were ready to start talking story.

Of course, there’s also the fact that for many people, the word “clone” in any type of proximity with “Spider-Man” is still, to put it mildly, something of a sore subject; despite successes with books touching upon the Clone Saga era like “Scarlet Spider.” Was there any apprehension within Marvel to delve back into this territory to this degree? And how much is that part of the fun — playing with expectations and aiming to subvert them?

Alonso: It was certainly a debate up at the office, but what we’ve found is that the word “clone” elicits very different emotional responses from different people. Dan [Slott] has never shied away from touching hot stoves, and we just figured it was time to call this story what it actually was. The Jackal is back, better than ever, and there are clones involved, but this is very different from any clone story you’ve seen before.

On the same subject — it was also announced that “The Clone Conspiracy” will be its own event, not a story running through “Amazing Spider-Man.” Other than the obvious difference in publishing and presentation, what does that mean to you in terms of how important of this is to Marvel as a whole?

Alonso: Every “Amazing Spider-Man” event has been hugely important to us, especially from “Spider-Island” through “Spider-Verse.” This time, as Dan was shaping the story, it got too big to be held in the space allotted, so we changed our publishing plan. Christos Gage is coming in to co-write the issues of “Amazing Spider-Man” so Dan can keep a hand on that while still focusing on the event series.

Let’s look at a few of the big books from this week. “Civil War II” #2 saw a big return right at the very end — Bruce Banner, who’s been mostly off-panel since the end of “Secret Wars,” with Amadeus Cho now in the role of the Hulk. What made now the right time to bring that classic character back, and is it fair to say he’s playing a big role in “Civil War II” going forward? (He missed the first one, after all.)

Alonso: Well, you saw Ulysses’ vision, right? The 2-page spread? Yes, Banner does play a big role moving forward.

Marvel’s latest Star Wars series, “Han Solo,” debuted this week, from the team of Marjorie Liu and Mark Brooks. Liu was a Marvel regular for quite a while, but this is her first book back at the company after a couple years away following the end of “Astonishing X-Men.” What made her right for “Han Solo”?

Alonso: Marjorie was actually in the very first batch of writers we approached to write a “Star Wars” miniseries when we started working on them. We asked her who and what she’d want to write in that galaxy far, far away, and she came to us with a bunch of awesome ideas. It was her Han Solo pitch that really leapt out at us. I think we’ve all wanted to see him pilot the Falcon in the ultimate race through space.

I can’t ignore that it’s been even longer since readers have seen interior work from Mark Brooks — what does it mean to you to have him back illustrating a full series? And was it as simple as it seems — the lure of Star Wars and one of the franchise’s most iconic heroes — that brought it back?

Alonso: Mark’s cover work over the last few years has been phenomenal, but the fact is there just aren’t enough hours in the day for him to do both those incredible, elaborate covers — on multiple series at once, mind you — and interior work.

That said… the lure of “Star Wars” is a powerful thing. Mark has done covers for our “Kanan” and “Darth Vader” series as well as tons of variant covers for all the “Star Wars” books, but he is a massive “Star Wars” fan, and when it came time to cast an artist on “Han,” all it took was one phone call and he was read to jump back on interiors. And we couldn’t be happier — his pages are looking better than ever.

Also new this week — “Vote Loki” #1, which is the latest in Marvel’s current wave of non-traditional superhero-adjacent fare. Quite plainly, there’s a lot of satire of actual American politics in what Christopher Hastings and Langdon Foss are doing. Though I know it isn’t Marvel’s aim to take sides or preach, how important do you see having an element of real-world resonance in this series in particular?

Alonso: Yes, “Vote Loki” will comment on American politics, but in a non-partisan way. No one — Democrat, Republican or Third Party — will escape its snarky gaze. That said, this series does have something to say about this particular election, this particular time in American society and American politics and what we have created, and I think it’s very on-point. I’ve lived through so many Presidential elections, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one quite like this; neither have the creators of “Vote Loki.”

Let’s wrap by looking toward next week and “Civil War II: Choosing Sides” #1. Though the event anthology format is a familiar one for Marvel at this point, some readers may not be quite sure what to expect from this book (given the many creators and characters involved) and how it fits in to the larger picture. For you, what makes this series a valuable part of the overall “Civil War II” landscape?

Alonso: “Choosing Sides” gives us the opportunity to do stories with — and check in with — characters that don’t have their own regular series at the moment, and to enlist creative contributions from artists that don’t have the bandwidth to take on a larger commitment. So it increases the storytelling breadth of the event and allows for a greater range of possible takes on the themes that are central to the core series.

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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