SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" #2, available now.
Traditionally, the threats that arise during Marvel Comics' epic events are tackled by a large assembly of costumed champions. But even amongst the seas of masks and spandex, individual heroes nearly always find a place to shine in these stories. In fact, the best opportunity to highlight exceptional acts of bravery and examine the aspects that define a hero are often during these colossal stories, when the eyes of the rest of the superhero community -- and tens of thousands of readers, of course -- are on those characters.
In "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" #2, writer Rick Remender and artist Adam Kubert provided exactly such a moment in an issue that was both intimate and epic. Chronicling a heroic coalition's battle against the Red Onslaught and his adamantium encased Stark Sentinels, the pair managed to not only place the entire Marvel U at risk, they provided a character study of the soon-to-be-superior Iron Man.
In today's installment of ALL AXIS PASS, our series of post game chats about each issue of "AXIS," Remender joins us for a discussion about the issue's big story beats and the characters who played a major role in it, including Tony Stark, Magneto, and the Summers brothers, Scott and Alex.
CBR News: Rick, "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" #2 is the second chapter in this epic story you're telling, but it's also a bit of an intimate character piece or 'love letter' to Iron Man. Is that what you were aiming for?
Rick Remender: Yeah, these first three issues are the culmination and the ending of "Uncanny Avengers." When I was building to this, before I knew it was something that was going to be spun into an event, I was working very closely with Kieron Gillen, who was writing "Iron Man" at the time, and putting together a whole list of things that we wanted to do.â€¨After getting the list of ideas down -- we cooked up the Extremis and a few other things that will happen post "inversion" -- I went back and rewatched the Iron Man movies and reread a bunch of my favorite Iron Man comics of the past. I tried to sink into the character and give him a nice spotlight, so he's sort of the focus of Issue #2, given that some of what they're dealing with and what they're up against was his doing.
It felt like the focus on Iron Man was a way of exploring two of his big aspects: His competitive streak and the responsibility he takes for the consequences that often arise because of his ambitious nature.
The more I sink into the character, the more I try to imagine what is behind the philanthropist playboy and his desire to do good coming from who he used to be. That kind of built into something I wanted to say about the character.
Both aspects of Tony are driving forward, a lot of time, from a place of ego, whether or not he's entirely aware of it. That was sort of the ugliness I wanted him to grapple with in this issue.
Another character you focus on is Magneto, who, understandably, spends a lot of time reacting to Tony's creation of the Sentinels they're facing. I'm curious though -- does Magneto realize that he himself played a role in escalating this situation with the Red Skull and Onslaught?
Sure, that's sort of the subtext and why he was continuously hammering it home that this was all Tony's fault. Of course, not everybody has been downloaded on what happened in "Uncanny Avengers" #25 leading to Onslaught and his arrival, so the bluster and blame shifting is something Magneto is doing to kind of mask that. Ultimately, he'll have a personal stake in trying to resolve where we're headed with the story and continue to play a role in what he's done here.
I think the current iteration of Magneto sees what happened as an unforeseeable, terrible eventuality, not something that he takes a lot of personal responsibility for. He just wants to end it, I think.
What's it like writing Magneto? You haven't written him that much, but the times that you have, like in "Uncanny X-Force," he seems to be a character you found interesting.
I find him quite interesting. Originally, the story with Magneto was a five-issue story that we ended up cutting down to one to get to the heart of it. It became more of a character piece. I cooked up this idea that he was going to be out hunting Nazis and cleaning up any residuals from his horrible past.
That idea kind of sat with me, and eventually they took it and built it up with Cullen Bunn in the really excellent "Magneto" series that they're doing now. Magneto's role in this had always been in place, though, so I could kind of get back into that.
I didn't have all the time and real estate I needed to flesh it out and dig into it, so that's where Cullen came in. He did that in his "Magneto" series, which I highly recommend everyone read, because not only does it inform a lot of what's happening in this story, it ties into the "X-Force" issue that I wrote. The Nazi that Magneto sent Wolverine to kill is drawn out of Magneto's mind by Red Skull.
It also really develops and moves forward Magneto's perspective and point of view in a way that I didn't have the time and space to do. Those two things together, I think, paint a really nice picture of where he's at moving into this.
It's clear in this issue, both from his actions and Havok's monologue, that Cyclops feels very culpable for the predicament the heroes are in, a feeling that's allowed him to fight side by side with his brother instead of remaining ideologically against him. So what did it mean to Havok to have Cyclops fighting alongside him and the Wasp after recently experiencing the loss of his daughter in "Uncanny Avengers?"
I wanted there to be some sort of an up for Alex, given the meat grinder that we put him through and the price that he personally paid to save the world from Kang and his machinations. This reunion with Scott is literally something that I had been planning since "Uncanny Avengers" #1, where I created Havok's point of view to be diametrically opposed to Scott's. So they were two brothers on different sides of a battlefield and I wanted to show that after the lessons he learned, and the price that he paid for unity, and what he had been through, that there was a change on the other side of it. So when the next catastrophe arose and everybody was mired in this terrible evil soup of the Red Onslaught, both men, given what they've been through, put that aside, and come together to deal with the catastrophe at hand.
So while things will definitely change for both of those characters through out the story, and the story's end will also lead to some drastic changes for both of them, this is the point where I wanted to give some sort of up. The brothers get to work side by side to try and do a final push against an unbeatable foe.
Cyclops, Havok and Wasp put up a valiant fight against the Red Onslaught, but in the end, they, and the other heroes, are captured by his Sentinels, and Iron Man is the only hero remaining. At this point, the Red Onslaught verbally torments Tony. Is this just the Skull's cruelty in general, or does he have a special animus against Tony Stark?
It's more like pulling the wings off a fly that he's been torturing. A lot of the back story with Skull and Iron Man was hinted at in Kieron's run, but we never got to show all of it. A lot of it is hinted at in Issue #1, and the end result is that the Skull is a sadistic monster. He's basically tweaked and manipulated Tony, and telepathically controlled him to make these two unstoppable Stark Sentinels plated in adamantium and built with the "Civil War" files so that they're perfectly suited to defeat any hero that they come into contact with.
Really, what you're getting there at the end is the hubris of Red Skull who has won and sees no way that he will be defeated, sort of pulling the wings off Tony, who is an egotist. I think in some cases when two egotists meet, it's like two sociopaths. They end up locked in conflict, because to people of that nature, winning a conflict is the same emotion that most of us equate to love.
On the final page, we discover all hope is not lost as Magneto returns with a collection of villains and a few anti-heroes. Will we see why and how this group came together in the next issue of "AXIS?" Or is that a story we'll see elsewhere?
The details of who Magneto grabs, why he grabs them, and how he convinces them to join him are going to play out in the "Magneto" series. A good portion of the cast he's put together there have different motivations, but their larger motivation, even for somebody like Doom, is that obviously we've seen what Onslaught did to the Marvel Universe way back when he first showed up. And now, we have a being with the power of Onslaught merged with Red Skull. That's not something that these guys want. They're not going to want to live in a world that's controlled by somebody like the Red Skull. That's not going to suit any of their purposes.
We've been talking about the idea of coming together and how hard that's been for the heroes, but here we have a band of villains that assembles quite quickly. Is that meant to be part of your commentary on heroic unity?
No, it's just a matter of timing. Obviously, if I had 500 pages, I would spend all that time slowly building these things; planting the villains and explaining each one in particular. That's the joy of having somebody like Cullen, or Al Ewing on "Loki: Agent of Asgard," or any of the people doing the tie-ins with the villains. They can come in and finish those stories out. I believe Frank Barbieri and Nick Spencer are doing that on "Avengers World" with Doom, and some of the real interesting things happening in that story. The real estate that I lack, they end up filling the gaps of.
Ultimately though, without spoiling Cullen's story, the villains come together in large part so they can defeat this thing that is looking to take over the world. They all like the world and want it for themselves, or pieces of it. The Red Onslaught's plans don't fit their agenda. The level of the danger here is one of the motivating aspects in terms of their timeliness in gathering together.
So, self interest.
Right. Self interest is at the heart of most things that they do, and this isn't something that they could wait very long on.
Looking ahead, again, you leave things set up for another big battle. What sorts of teases can you offer up about "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" #3?
Issue #3 is the really the big twist. If the war in the reeducation camps of Genosha is the inciting incident, then this is the payout for it where the heroes, the villains, and everybody left manage to save the day -- and they also manage to make things much worse. From there, without spoiling things, the train picks up speed and starts to go a little crazy.
Like I said from the beginning, each act of this is really its own event. Each act of this is its very own thing, and each act has its own high concept that it's operating from. One kind of feeds out from the next.