SPOILER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILER FOR "AVENGERS & X-MEN: AXIS" #1
As it should be expected, fighting evil with evil often leads to disastrous consequences, and when you're talking about the high stakes this tactic takes on in the Marvel Universe, it could very well result in unleashing an even greater villainy upon the world. That's exactly what happened when Magneto murdered the Red Skull, after discovering the Nazi supervillain had stolen the brain and telepathic powers of his fallen friend Charles Xavier, using them to embark upon a campaign of mutant genocide.
Things went from bad to worse when the Skull's murder unleashed the powerful and malevolent psychic entity known as Red Onslaught, setting the stage for Marvel's "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" event by writer Rick Remender and an all-star team of artists. The debut issue of the series, featuring art by Adam Kubert, saw the titular teams both uniting and battling each other as they struggled to combat the powerful psychic influence of Red Onslaught.
In today's inaugural installment of ALL AXIS PASS, CBR's series of post-game chats about each issue of the series, Remender joins us for discussion and insight into the events of the first chapter, and how outside influences, like the death of Wolverine and Kieron Gillen leaving "Iron Man," impacted his story.
CBR News: After reading this first issue of "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS," while the obvious story is about the titular heroes fighting Red Onslaught, what they're really battling is pettiness and human weakness.
Rick Remender: I think the Red Skull always sort of represents what's worst in people. In the terms of his hatred and his goals, he's a Nazi. This incarnation of the Red Skull was taken right out of 1942, frozen cryogenically, and digitally stored and reawakened by Arnim Zola. So he's still thinking in the same terms. Now he's focused on the purity of the genetic gene pool and he sees mutants, Inhumans and super humans as filth.
His goal and how he's going to achieve it is something that's going to have emotional ramifications for the people that are involved once they put eyes on what he's been up to. So beyond just the things you listed, the great thing about the Red Skull is that he pretty much personifies everything wrong with mankind in general. He is the worst in all of us.
And with his telepathy, he has the power to bring out and exacerbate many of the flaws that make Marvel heroes who they are. It feels like all the heroes are being forced to confront many of their personal demons in the first part of this issue.
Yes -- after Magneto kills the Red Skull and Onslaught is released, you have a creature that's a personification of all the ugly hatred and evil of the Red Skull, but powered by the telepathy and psionic energy of Charles Xavier. He's the embodiment of that hatred; a seething beast of terror. He just permeates and broadcasts hatred across the globe.
So as you saw in the opening of Issue #1, the Avengers are in the middle of a mission with Plantman when all of a sudden they start turning on each other because this hate broadcast is spreading across the planet. These two forces mixed together equals World War Hate, which I believe will be examined in books like "All-New X-Factor" and the "Revolutions" miniseries.
We saw the Avengers' flaws being turned against them here, while the character flaws of the X-Men have divided them into two different factions. In "Axis" #1, though, Cyclops and his brother Havok shake hands and agree to come together as X-Men. Does that moment signify a true closing of the gap that divides the two X-Men factions?
For sure. A lot of the plans I put into place were to examine the idea of unity and to create a greater metaphor about man's inability to work with one another. I wanted to show that if the left and the right and the people on the various sides can't reach across the divide and work with each other what will end up happening is terrible catastrophe.
This is my way of having the X-Men and the Avengers earn their unity instead of saying, "Hey, let's be pals now!" But now that they've earned their unity, they realized they've done it too late. The heroes are once again being punished for their inability to cooperate and work as one, by the Red Skull having accomplished so much of his goals in the background while they've been dealing with other things and one another.â€¨The Scott and the Alex of it all will end up playing a really interesting role down the road as a lot of the various things that we're doing in this story spill out and have lasting ramifications on both the X-Men and the Avengers. We'll being seeing a new relationship between Alex and Scott, for sure.
Havok is the leader of the Uncanny Avengers who were opposed to the direction Cyclops has taken his faction of the X-Men, and the now deceased Wolverine was the leader of Cyclops' rival faction. So would this scene we're talking about have been different if Wolverine had been involved? Was it easier for Scott to shake his brother's hand than it would have been for him to shake Wolverine's hand?
Definitely. When I originally wrote the first part of this story, Wolverine was involved. This was before I knew he would be dead. I found, though, that Wolverine being removed from the comic and being removed from the story actually enabled me to focus on characters that aren't necessarily given that much attention.
So the role I originally had planned for Wolverine became a Magneto role, which then fed into some very interesting things with Scarlet Witch as well as some interesting dynamics between Magneto and some of the other heroes, and ultimately some of the other villains.
What was it like for Cyclops to learn that the Red Skull had taken his mentor's brain? Who's he more furious at -- the Skull, or himself?
I can only speak for my approach to Scott in this series, which is that I think it's a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B. Ultimately, the Red Skull is a vile scum bag villain who has dug up Scott's mentor, Charles Xavier, and after unearthing him lopped off the top of his head, took important components of his brain, and bio welded them to his own to exploit Xavier's gifts. Of course Charles wouldn't be in the ground though if it weren't for Scott, but Scott was possessed by the Phoenix.
I address that and deal with it a good bit, but when you place yourself in the character's shoes, I think it's pretty easy to see Scott as somebody who sees this as partially his fault, and something that's important for him to stop.
At the end of the issue, the Avengers, the X-Men, and even some of Inhumans come together to face Red Onslaught, and when they do, Onslaught reveals that he used Tony Stark to help him construct a new breed of Sentinel. Based on what Onslaught said, it appears that he manipulated Tony's hubris in order to gain his aid.
That's the mind game. What happened goes back to something I cooked up with Kieron Gillen when he was still writing "Iron Man," and there were some Red Skull appearances that were setting this all up.
Ultimately, the Red Skull mind controlled Tony to build these Stark Sentinels, but he found some part of Tony hidden way down deep that was holding on to bits and pieces of the "Civil War" files. Those files are very dangerous things. After examining Tony and being inside his head, Skull's sort of come to the conclusion that Tony's mind held onto these things because of his hubris and egotism. We deal with the whys and wherefores in Issue #2, so I don't want to give too many things away, but more than anything, a lot of what Red Onslaught is saying is to torture Tony as he reveals to him that he's been mind controlling and using him to create these unstoppable, adamantium Stark Sentinels.
What's it like writing Tony Stark? Have you had much of a chance to write the character?
I had not, no. I had written a few lines of dialogue here and there in the past, but I found, because of my plans with Kieron way back when and the original plans for this series, Iron Man was always integral to what we were doing. He always was going to play a big role in this, and that big role stuck, even after we had to rework the series into a number of different permutations.
The demands of an event are always so many, but the Tony beat was a big one that stuck. I knew I was going to have a whole lot of Iron Man to write, and I've really loved it. I think that what we're doing here is really going to shake that character up, and I found that I sunk right into his voice. He's sardonic and sort of aloof. He's more of a high-functioning egotist super genius, but there's still that bit of what I did with Deadpool, where his sarcasm is kind of bleeding through in any situation.
It's a fine line. Spider-Man has that as well, but his is a little punchier, happier and a little more campy. Deadpool's can be a little more dry, crazy, dark and sort of abstract and random. Tony's is more of a self-aware egotist, but at the same time, quite clever and almost Errol Flynn-like. So yeah, it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed writing Tony.
Before we wrap up, I want to talk about the great art done by Adam Kubert. How did it feel to be kicking off the story of Onslaught's big return with the artist who brought to life the character's most iconic stories back in the '90s?
It felt good. It was fun. I liked paying homage to that stuff. I wasn't reading superhero books back then -- I was off in Indy land -- so this stuff didn't have that childlike connection to me. But I was aware of it, and I was aware of Adam's work back then and his work on the X-Men and Wolverine. He's such a tremendous talent that being able to pick something like this up, dust it off, and hopefully make it interesting and do something great with will pay respect to the time and energy he put in back then, and hopefully reimagine the character in a way that it has some longevity moving into the future.
You set the stage for what looks to be a hell of a fight in Issue #2. What sort of teases can you offer up about what the next chapter holds?
The second issue is very Iron Man and Havok centric. Those are sort of the two focus characters. As the fight progresses, one of the members of the resistance against Red Onslaught will make a decision that has some pretty interesting ramifications in Issue #3, which deals with some of the less heroic members of the Marvel Universe. What we're setting up in Issue #2 will have a huge status quo shift for Tony, and lead to some very interesting Iron Man comics coming out of the series.
People coming into "AXIS" cold might want to pick up "Uncanny Avengers" #25. I think that does a lot to set the stage and the tone for what leads into the book and I'm proud of that book. Anything I do with AcuÃ±a is always worth picking up.
As for this issue, #1, it's got a lot of gorgeous Adam Kubert art with Laura Martin coloring. It's the first issue of nine very bombastic, crazy comic books. Hopefully people will enjoy the fruit of the labor!