SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" #5, available now.
Suddenly discovering the fact that your friends have betrayed you and all you hold dear is terrifying enough, but the scenario becomes even more nightmarish when your traitorous friends have the abilities to destroy or conquer the world.
Unfortunately for the majority of Marvel Comics' heroes, this is the scenario they faced in the opening scene of "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" #5. Heroes whose alignment and personal code of ethics has been flipped to the dark side by a mysterious inversion spell have now begun launching surprise attacks on non-inverted heroes, imprisoning a large number of them in Hank Pym's microscopic prison.
In today's installment of ALL AXIS PASS, our series of post game chats about each issue of the titular series, "AXIS" writer Rick Remender joins us for a discussion about the huge events and prominent characters he and artists Terry and Rachel Dodson presented in Issue #5, including the new Apocalypse, the inverted Avengers -- including the now shockingly fascist Captain America -- and how Steve Rogers, Nova and Spider-Man are preparing to deal with their new reality.
CBR News: Rick, "AXIS" #5 gives you another chance to tackle a Marvel icon you haven't written much: Spider-Man. I believe you only wrote him in a "Punisher Annual," correct?
Rick Remender: Yeah, that's right. Jason Pearson drew that Annual. That was a treat.
And yes, I haven't written a lot of Spider-Man. I always wanted to be a comedy writer. I tend to go with super-abstract comedy, or dark and depressing. [Laughs] On my gas gauge, those are the two ends of the spectrum, and the needle is normally pointing towards one or the other. So writing Spider-Man is a real pleasure, just the same as getting to do a sort of arrogant, sardonic Tony Stark, or doing a lunatic Deadpool. I really enjoy writing those kinds of characters.
It felt like Spider-Man's perspective was sort of the reader's perspective on all the inversion madness that's taking place.
Yeah, when you're writing these things you've got so many different rain drops to dance through. One of the things that was requested that I agreed to and really liked was that for continuity purposes that will be revealed later, Spider-Man not be on the island when the inversion happened. Also, because it seemed very similar to what had just been done with the "Superior Spider-Man." This also allowed us to give Nova a nice bit of elevation here and tell a story that then cued up the fight of his life, because Gerry Duggan has some very nice ideas for Nova versus Kluh. KLUH! I like silly things. [Laughs]
So as I was developing it and putting it together, I got more into how interesting it is that Steve Rogers has to put together a team when he's only got a couple friends left. [Laughs] And what better friend to have than Spider-Man? I also really liked this new Nova. When Gerry told me his ideas, I was just bouncing. I read those "Nova" issues, and they're fantastic. They're perfect comic books.
So yes, Spider-Man does play the audience's eyes with his perspective of, "I'm not an inverted super hero. What's going on?"
In "AXIS #5" Spider-Man and Nova were able to escape the inverted Avengers with help of an inverted Magneto. That sequence was especially interesting to me because I almost forgot that Magneto had been inverted since we've seen him act heroically before. How much of a shift was involved in Magneto's inversion? Was it as drastic as say Sam Wilson's?
No. With Sam, you have somebody whose life is dedicated to helping other people. He's selfless, kind and noble. He's constantly putting his life in the line of fire to help other people. In Magneto, you've got somebody who's teetered quite a bit between a despicable, murderous, nightmare and somebody who's trying to redeem themselves, but ends up sliding back down that hill. â€¨In his "Magneto" series, Cullen Bunn has been taking the character down a road of vengeance. He's been murderous. So I take those attributes of the current Marvel Universe character, and I invert that. Instead of vengeful, he becomes forgiving.
Magneto's inversion leaves him almost how we saw him back in "Uncanny X-Men" #200. He's a man who's desperately trying to redeem himself and do right. These are character alignment inversions, though, so he still has the same memories and knows who he is, but now his choices, what informs those choices, and what he chooses to allow to inform those choices is inverted.
Is another way to look at things a sort of a good and evil spectrum. Sam was far over on one side, so he was flipped way over to the other, whereas Magneto was more in the middle of the spectrum and the position he was flipped to wasn't as drastic a shift.
Yeah. I think, in the simplest possible terms, I tried to avoid good to evil and focus more on who the characters were and three words that could define them. I then would invert those words. So Sam is selfless and now at his core he's selfish. Sam believed in Democracy and the ideals that his father taught him in his sermons. All of that is now inverted to the opposite where he is cynical, selfish and does not believe in democracy.
I know you're wary of spoilers, but will his inverted actions in "AXIS" impact what's going on in "All-New Captain America?"
The two stories take place at different times that will be revealed when they're both finished for numerous reasons. "AXIS" has larger ramifications for Sam, for the X-Men, and for the Avengers. A lot of what turned "AXIS" from an "Uncanny Avengers" story and into a mini-event were the ideas that we were cooking up for the ramifications of what comes out of this. One of those being Tony Stark's inversion. There's a number of others, including a huge one that's coming up in issues #7-8 that we haven't even begun to tease to people.
So it will definitely have an effect, but you'll have to wait until the end of "AXIS" and the first arc of "All-New Cap" to see what it will be.
Sam is part of a team of like-minded Avengers who have all had their alignments flipped. How has that impacted the team's sense of loyalty? Are the inverted Avengers still a tight knit group of friends, or are they more a team of villains who could turn on each other at any minute?
Definitely the latter. They are working with one another until it no longer suits their purposes. In terms of who they are and what they are, we saw that Doc Green is a very calculated, intelligent and ruthless Hulk. Inverted, that Hulk becomes a very dumb, kind and soft spoken Hulk. When you make him sad, though, Kluh is born. [Laughs] It's just a matter of following yourself down the bizarro rabbit hole and going, "Okay how does all this work?"
Each one of them have different amounts of evil, to simplify it, and different motives. They're still the same people, but now their inclination, in let's say the Scarlet Witch's case, has moved from spending her time trying to protect mankind and promote unity to perhaps burning Latveria down in front of Doctor Doom and beating him to death for what he did to her in the past. Things like that.â€¨There's a lot of zigs and zags coming up. I don't want to give them away, but I will say the Axis of Evil, as they call themselves, because they recognize the fact that they like being mischievous, will not remain on the same side for the entire arc.
I'm almost imagining them as the villainous cabal of clashing egos and agendas that came together back during the "Acts of Vengeance" crossover.
It's very similar in that people who are dirtbags tend to make dirtbag decisions that are selfish, and they don't take in the ramifications those decisions might have on people around them.
The inversions have led to the dark side of another character you've been writing for a while becoming dominant: Evan, the teenaged clone of Apocalypse, who you introduced back in your "Uncanny X-Force" run. Was this always part of your long term plan for Evan?
It was, and it's not entirely done. I had such a head of steam on "X-Force" that I had written outlines for years. Those ended up becoming "Secret Avengers" and "Uncanny Avengers." So many of those stories ended up bleeding into others, which is kind of fun because you can start with "Uncanny X-Force" #1 and you can follow that into "Secret Avengers" and then "Uncanny Avengers" and into "AXIS." There are a lot of threads that kind of make that one big story with a lot of different characters.
Evan, his journey and what was released from his DNA and consciousness when he was inverted sure does look a lot like Apocalypse. En Sabh Nur was cooked into his genes, and that's going to play a huge role. That huge role will then lead to the next stage of Evan's life, which we've already planned out, and the giant ramifications from that.â€¨We'll be circling back around to that again in some other things, and if Evan doesn't survive, maybe there's somebody else who ends up in an interesting situation coming out of this.
As you mentioned, the other teenager you wrote in "AXIS" #5 was Nova, whose adventures are written by your friend Gerry Duggan. It sounds like you had a good time writing Sam, and by pitting him against Kluh, it looks like you set him up for a story that could be equivocal to Spider-Man versus the Juggernaut.
The thing I equated it to was, there was an issue of "Amazing Spider-Man" that I read as a kid where he fought Firelord. He was completely out of his depth and had no reason to think he could defeat a Herald of Galactus, but the story was really wonderful.
This is something that when Gerry and I started talking about it and he told me his ideas, I was like, "Wow!" It was important to me that if you want the ramifications of what happen between Nova and Kluh, you should read "Nova." It's a good book, and it's a really cool, interesting story. Those issues will hook you on Sam [Alexander, the current Nova].
You don't have to read them, of course, but it was important to structure this event in a way where all of the ancillary, connective tissue and all of the crossovers bled out of the main event so that if you were reading one, you could follow the road into those other stories and then come back into the main event. If you haven't read those stories, it's not a huge deal -- we can catch you up. But if you have read them, then you have a much more informed point of view on what's going to be happening in the climax of "AXIS."
I found that to be the most difficult part of this. It was the part that took days and days of collaborating, taking to other writers, and trying to figure out how it all works. In the end, when I sit down and read all of the books together, all of the various crossovers that have happened so far and the ones that are happening as we move forward, they all feel very important. They all inform very important parts of the main story.
Let's start to wrap up by talking about the work done on this issue by artists Terry and Rachel Dodson, who are familiar with both Spider-Man and the X-Men.
Rachel is one of my favorite inkers. She's so clean and so precise. Her pullouts with the brush and the quill, or whatever she's using, are so technically perfect. There's not a line out of place, and there's not an unnecessary line or squiggle anywhere.
Terry lets his amazing ability at storytelling and draftsmanship tell the story in very clean and fluid panel layouts. Plus, he's amazing illustrator, so the illustrations are fluid, dynamic and beautiful to look at. He also knows how to move the camera. He pulls the camera back on establishing shots on every page. He resets the stage. He knows how to prioritize giving you a clear and exciting storytelling experience over a bunch of huge figures that are dominating the page so that he can resell them.
"Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" #6 is fast approaching, thanks to the condensed release schedule. What sorts of hints and teases can you offer up about the issue?
Issues #4-5 are sort of the set up for the inversions, and Issue #6 is literally the pay off to everything. Issue #6 is where all of the trains that we have coming out of the station converge, and a lot of big things that you saw in Issue #5 that might not seem important you'll recognize in #6.
This is all heading for a tumultuous climax. Keep reading, because each issue builds off the next. You'll start seeing more and more why everything we've done is there for a reason. It all starts to pay out in issues #6-9.
So we'll start to get more clues about how the Red Skull escaped Avengers Tower and who might have freed him in Issue #6?
Yes -- and that's obviously going to play a big role with all the various factions and characters. We haven't had a character on the stage who is there haphazardly. They're all playing roles that are coming to a head here, whether you've seen them in the last few issues or not!