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ALL AXIS PASS: Brevoort on Kluh, Iron Man and X-Men United

by  in Comic News Comment
ALL AXIS PASS: Brevoort on Kluh, Iron Man and X-Men United

Heroes and villains typically make conscious choices about whether to inspire and stand up for what’s right or terrorize and advance their own petty and vicious self-interests. But what happens when a number of heroes and villains suddenly find their choices reversed, without having a say in the matter? How will they act? And how will the unaffected world react to them?

RELATED: Villains, Inversions & What to Expect From “AXIS: Act Two”

These are some of the central questions in “Inversion,” the second act of Marvel Comics“Avengers & X-Men: AXIS,” which kicked off today in Issue #4. And in this edition of ALL AXIS PASS, our series of post-game chats about each issue of the titular event, Marvel Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort joins CBR for a chat about the issue, written by Rick Remender and illustrated by Leinil Yu. In addition to explaining exactly how the Inversions work, using D&D terminology, we discuss some of the characters who played large roles in the latest chapter, like the newly emerged Hulk’s Hulk known as Kluh, the inverted Avengers and X-Men teams, and Spider-Man, one of the few heroes in the series thus far who was not exposed to the alignment-flipping inversion spell.

CBR News: Tom, since “Avengers & X-Men: AXIS” is part one of “Inversion” let’s start off by talking about the inversion phenomenon in general. The personality traits of the characters affected by the Scarlet Witch and Doctor Doom’s inversion spell appear to manifest differently, but are there common traits that the affected characters share? Like ruthlessness and recklessness for heroes, or altruism for the villains?

Tom Brevoort: Not specifically. The way Rick [Remender] and I would talk about it amongst ourselves was essentially, and this is as geeky as you can possibly get, in “Dungeons & Dragons” terms. In D&D, every character has what they call an alignment on a scale of nine. You’ve probably seen those graphics on Tumblr where people take television show and movie casts and drop them into the block of the nine possible alignments.

In essence, what the Inversion does is reverse your alignment. So somebody that is a Lawful Good character will begin to exhibit behavior that is Chaotic Evil. And somebody that is Chaotic Good will end up behaving in a way that’s more Lawful Evil and so forth and so on. So it’s not as simple as good guys get bad and bad guys get good. It’s about particular character traits manifesting themselves in an opposite fashion.

So in the broadest sense, yes, that probably means that heroes are going to be more ruthless because typically the heroes are not that ruthless as compared to the villains. But it’s not necessarily as simple as that. The guiding principle is slightly different.

One hero that appears to behaving in some interesting ways is the inverted Hulk. Is the conflicted and less intelligent Hulk that we see in “AXIS” #4 the inverted version of his current Doc Green persona?

Essentially yes. The Hulk, as we see him through most of Issue #4, is passive and not particularly intelligent. He’s sort of docile and, in essence, he’s the opposite of most of the traits that we typically think of when we think of the Hulk. Also inverted though, in a strange manner, are his transformations. Typically it’s that Bruce Banner gets angry and becomes the Hulk. In this instance though, the Hulk becomes saddened and dismayed and transforms effectively into a being that is the Hulk’s version of the Hulk, a being we’ve been calling Kluh!

What inspired the creation of Kluh?

He was an idea that Rick hit on, and — I could be misremembering this, but I believe it stems from a conversation between Rick and Gerry Duggan, who is writing “Hulk” and is a friend of Rick’s. They tend to talk about stories and toss ideas around a lot. I believe in one of their conversation they started talking about the idea of the Hulk’s Hulk; what that would be and how cool that could be. In a way, it’s sort of a throwback to the Devil Hulk that Paul Jenkins did years and years ago, which was made up of all the worst traits in Bruce Banner’s psyche that never got let out.

Who came up with the visual design for Kluh?

Kluh was designed by Jim Cheung. The basic description of the character as big, black, with plates, and larger than the Hulk was Rick’s, but it was Jim that developed the actual look of the character.

Let’s move to another inverted character, Iron Man, who has relocated to San Francisco, laying the groundwork for the upcoming “Superior Iron Man” ongoing series. Why did you guys want to move Tony Stark to northern California?

Well it seemed like a good place! [Laughs] It’s a West Coast city, and it’s a city that, in terms of its heritage, tends to be among the most liberal, accommodating and broad-minded of towns. Thus, I think it’s a town that appeals to Tony Stark in his new liberated, less controlled and more hedonistic sort of outlook. Plus, it’s got good weather.

Was there ever talk about moving him back to Los Angeles, a West Coast town that he has some history with and is also fairly liberated?

Really, it was just a choice. San Francisco seemed right. At some point, Rick said, “San Francisco.” We went, “Okay!” Then away we went.

I think it’s also the fact that we wanted to put Tony in a place that he hadn’t been before. We’ve seen whole cycles of stories with Tony in Los Angeles. San Francisco is a new town. It’s a distinct and specific town and it’s not a place where we’ve seen Tony Stark before.

It’s also a very tech savvy and tech heavy town. Not that Los Angeles isn’t, but it feels like the kind of place that you could imagine Tony Stark living, especially this Tony.

When Tony appears, it’s to offer the people of San Francisco his new Extremis app. That, of course, begs the question of, did he test this app on anyone before offering it?

I think you’ll see more about all of that in the pages of “Superior Iron Man,” particularly the first issue. I don’t want to say too much, but he has this app and he’s offering it to people. Exactly how it works and what it does is all spelled out and showcased much more concretely in “Superior Iron Man,” where they have a full book that really delves into that and Tony’s new persona. [Writer] Tom Taylor really goes to town on it. Then in the 2-3 pages we have, we show him landing and announcing that he’s going to be doing this.

In the final panel of his appearance in “AXIS” #4, Tony drinks a glass of champagne, which suggests to me that he’s become more reckless and out of control. From your perspective would this sequence have read differently if Tony had not taken a drink?

The sequence wouldn’t have read differently without him taking a drink at the end in that he’s not intoxicated when he comes down and makes this announcement. I do think him taking a drink though is a massive and significant thing for Tony Stark to do, with his history of alcoholism. It’s a clear sign that not all is well in his inverted psyche. We’ll see more of that play out in “AXIS” #5 and #6 — particularly 5 — but “Superior Iron Man” is where that will be most directly dramatized and explored.

Let’s talk about the non-inverted Spider-Man. Was he not chosen to be part of the team of heroes that got inverted in Genosha becasue Dan Slott just got done giving readers an extended story about a sort-of inverted Spidey in “Superior Spider-Man?”

Not specifically, although that might have been in the back of Rick’s mind as we laid this out. Certainly, not every character can be there, and you’re going to want characters that have not been inverted to stand next to and contrast and conflict with the characters who are. You don’t want it to be all of one and none of the other.

Spidey is the everyman of the Marvel Universe, and it’s kind of fun to see all of this stuff play in and around him. I don’t think the sequences where Carnage is being good and heroic would have quite the same punch if Spider-Man wasn’t available to react to those scenes. That, too, was a consideration.

Again though, it very well could have been in Rick’s mind that inverting Spidey would have been too similar to stuff that Dan had already done. It never came up, though.

Will Spider-Man continue to play a role in “AXIS” moving forward?

Yes, Spidey is definitely a character in the rest of the story.

Let’s move to what’s going on with the X-Men — Storm makes an announcement at the Jean Grey School that suggests the X-Men have almost become a mutant supremacist army and are taking their cues from Genesis, whose inversion has led him to follow the path of the mutant he was cloned from, Apocalypse. At the same time, it looks like this is the first time in years that the X-Men are truly united.

It definitely looks that way, at least on the surface, here. That having been said, most of the people that are talking in that sequence, including Quentin Quire in the crowd, are all characters that have been inverted. So it does sort of remain to be seen whether the non-inverted X-characters, the people who were not on Genosha and were not affected by that spell, go along with all of this stuff, lock step.

There are a lot of those characters, too. I have to assume that not everybody is going to be comfortable with the notion that they’re all going to close ranks essentially behind Genesis-turned-Apocalypse as their figurehead and carry out his vision.

Yes, though, for the first time in what, five years maybe? Pretty much all of the X-Men are in one place and seem to be united behind a common banner, which is kind of crazy given that it’s not the banner you would expect.

You talked about the faculty of the Jean Grey School, but I imagine some of the students will have some interesting reactions to the announcement made by Storm in this issue. Where will see those reactions?

You’ll certainly see some of that in the “Wolverine & the X-Men” tie-in story. You’ll also see some stuff, although it’s less about the reactions of the students, in the “Amazing X-Men” tie-in. That’s much more focused on Nightcrawler and Mystique, but you’ll get another vantage point on that.

Will we also get the perspective of Cyclops’ students at the New Charles Xavier School for Mutants?

I don’t know necessarily if we will, if only because there’s a limited number of pages and a limited number of tie-ins. We might get a little bit with them, but probably more in passing and in the context of the bigger “AXIS” stuff that’s going on.

There’s also the question of what the inverted Magneto makes of all of this. Walking off like he does in Issue #4 suggests that he’s disgusted by what he’s seeing at the Jean Grey School. Will we get more of the inverted Magneto’s perspective in this series, the “Magneto” tie-ins or both?

You’ll get it in both, but you’ll probably get more in the subsequent issues of “AXIS.” The tie-in issues of “Magneto” that are left are more heavily focused on the opening parts of the story than on the closing parts of the story, so we’ll see his through line carry into “AXIS” #5-9. It will be reflected in the “Magneto” tie-ins, but the specific story that [writer] Cullen [Bunn] is telling there is much more focused on the front half of “AXIS” than the back half.

Last time, we spoke about Leinil Yu’s ability to draw anything, and it’s really evident here. It feels like you could have had had multiple artists on this issue with the different style of scenes that jump across the Marvel Universe. Leinil handles them all, though, and he handles them beautifully.

Yeah, Leinil is fabulous. That can’t really be overstated. He and his inker Gerry [Alanguilan] do a phenomenal job with a wide range of characters, styles and environments. Last issue, #3, was pretty much, a solid 20 pages of frenetic action sequences, and while this was not a quiet issue — stuff happened in it — it was much more about characters and personalities.

He’s able to dramatize a conversation between the new Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D. and make it dramatic and interesting in the same way that he can make a big explosive brouhaha between a team of villains, the Red Onslaught and his Sentinels look good. He can really do it all. It feels a little tired saying that because Leinil has done so many big projects with us, and I praise him the same sort of way for each one. He’s so good, so reliable and so consistent, though, in what he does, it can be easy for people to overlook him and the wealth of talent and ability that he brings to the table every time he steps up to the plate.

Finally, what can you tell us about “Avengers & X-Men: AXIS” #5? Will the new Captain America slugging Nick Fury and telling off Maria Hill in this issue have immediate repercussions?

It will, although probably not the repercussions that you’re thinking of. We’ll see some more of that in the opening pages of #5. The other thing about Issue #5 is that it’s where our third master class artist comes on board, Terry Dodson. The work Terry does with his wife Rachel is super clean, super slick, and super stylish. Like the previous four issues, he gets to draw a wide bevy of characters and he does so brilliantly and wonderfully. The issue is very much in the spirit of Issue #4 in terms of the kind of issue it is. So we’ll see more of a bunch of these threads.

Over the course of issues #5 and #6 the things that we begin to see in Issue #4 gather steam and get bigger. We continue to cut to different places. You’re going to see multiple threads and multiple situations happening in different areas throughout the Marvel Universe as a result of what’s gone on and things begin to careen dangerously as the “Inversion” act of this story continues to build.

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