Summer is an especially busy time in the world of comics. It's a time when fans flock to theaters to see the big feature film adaptations of their favorite comics, when they gather in crowded convention halls to meet their favorite creators and hear about comic companies' plans for the future. Super hero readers head to their favorite stores in force as well, because summer is typically the time when companies like Marvel and DC publish their big event stories.
Speaking of big events, Marvel's "Avengers Vs. X-Men" is in full swing, and with Comic-Con International in our rear view mirror, it's time for CBR's COMMENTARY TRACK to catch up with the series. Today, we take a look at "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #7, an issue that saw the Avengers desperately trying to elude the X-Men and their cosmically powered members, the Phoenix Five.
We're joined by issue writer Matt Fraction who provides insight into the pivotal pages of the issue. Plus, our now-traditional "making of" feature focuses on the first page of the issue, showing how Olivier Coipel's pencils are brought to life for the final product.
CBR News: Here we have a face off between Magik, of the Phoenix Five, and Wanda Maximoff, the Avenger known as the Scarlet Witch. From her actions and dialogue on this page it appears that while Magik may have the powers of a god, she has the temperament of a human being.
Matt Fraction: Yes -- she's someone who's scared and angry and blames Wanda for everything that's happened to mutantkind since M-Day and "House of M." In spite of everything that happened in "Avengers: The Children's Crusade," and how that put the lid on Wanda and put her back in the middle of the Marvel U, people still blame her for what happened with Mutants. This is especially apparent with Magik getting into it with her, here.
The wounds of M-Day are still very raw. I don't think any of the mutants have really had a chance to stop and cope with the psychological damage of that day, where the Scarlet Witch robbed many mutants of their abilities and turned them into an endangered species.
At the bottom of the page, Wanda responds to Magik's assault by acting in the role mutants have cast her in. We know she's playing that role up so Tony Stark can gather data on the Phoenix Five, but how does Wanda feel while she's doing it?
She feels awful. This is not something she's proud of, but the Avengers clearly need whatever leverage they have against the Phoenix right now, and the fact that the Phoenix Five are afraid of Wanda is huge. A few pages later, though, she'll lose it and lay into Tony Stark who, in fairness, was clearly manipulating her and pushing her into this ugly place earlier on. So, she clearly feels terrible. She harbors a lot of guilt over this.
Wanda's battle with Magik becomes unwinnable upon the arrival of another member of the Phoenix Five, Emma Frost, so the Avengers need to make an escape. On the previous page, Hawkeye stepped forward to cover Wanda and Captain America's escape and gets horribly burned. Why did he do this? Was it his usual heroic recklessness? Feelings for Wanda? Or something completely different?
I don't think what he's doing is heroic recklessness. It's a suicide mission and he knows it. He's throwing himself in the middle of this to buy the Avengers some time and let them get away. A sacrifice. He's a guy with a bow and arrow fighting a Phoenix. He knows he's not going to win; all he can do is buy some time for the heavy hitters, for Cap and Wanda, to get out, and that's exactly what he does. He pays for it dearly.
When we first chatted about your "Hawkeye" series, you mentioned that something would happen to Hawkeye in "AvX" that wouldn't be required knowledge, but would inform the story in his solo title. Is this what you were hinting about?
Yeah, and we reopen in "Hawkeye" #1 with something similar; the idea of Clint being profoundly injured and taking a second to reevaluate and reexamine who he is and what he does when he's not an Avenger as his body and mind heals. So, spoilers: he doesn't die. Read "Hawkeye," on sale August 1!
Here we see that Hawkeye's fiery fate has caused some controversy and discussion within the ranks of the Phoenix Five. On the top of the page, it looks like while Cyclops may be furious with the Avengers and wants them imprisoned rather than dead.
Yeah, they aren't murderers. They are trying to fix things. These guys aren't historically killers.
In the middle of the page, though, it looks like Namor is arguing for a take no prisoners approach.
Namor has been abused and betrayed an awful lot. Plus, he's the only member of the Phoenix Five who's actually been the ruler of a nation. He understands what's going on in a way that Scott doesn't.
I'm especially curious about the perspective of the Phoenix Five member who doesn't say anything in this scene, Colossus. Can you talk about what's on his mind during this scene?
I don't want to give that away, but in the next few issues you'll get a sense of where he's at. I think he's always been underestimated, though. He's always been the big, strong, silent type with so much more going on under that surface.
Here, the Scarlet Witch ends her fight with Namor, but I'm curious as to how exactly she does that. It looks like she uses her power to break down his physical form and then reassemble it miles away on Utopia.
That pretty much is what happened.
Wanda is a pretty powerful mutant, but she currently only has access to a small portion of her power. This scene, however, suggests otherwise. Does being in close proximity to a member of the Phoenix Five restore Wanda's ability to alter reality?
She's not really altering reality, here. She's teleporting him, not blinking him out of existence. There is a connection, though, between the way her powers work and her power level when she's near the Phoenix Five.
What's going on with Emma Frost in this scene? Why is she acting like Lady Macbeth and winding Namor up?
This picks up something I seeded in my "Uncanny X-Men" run and always meant to get back to, but I had to leave before I could revisit it. Emma has always been about protecting and training mutants at all costs -- from the earliest days of the character onwards, that's always been what drives her and motivates her to do absolutely everything. She's out to teach, protect and save as many mutants as possible. That trumps everything else in her life. She's sacrificed everything she is, everything she has, historically, to protect mutants.
This is what we're seeing here. She agrees with Namor and thinks Scott is being obstinate. Plus she knows how to push Namor's buttons to get him to do what she wants him to do. In this case, she wants him to be proactive and keep mutants safe. That means taking out the Avengers by any means necessary.
FRACTION'S FINAL THOUGHTS ON "AVX" #7
I had an awfully difficult time writing this issue. I've never been so glad to be finished with a script.
With this issue, I basically had to set up the end of the second act. All this stuff has to be lined up and everything has to be calibrated just so to make the rest of the story work, and going into this, we didn't have all the answers. I had sort of been pointing out that we didn't have the answers, but there was a feeling of "we'll figure it out." As it turned out, though, I had to figure it all out in this issue!
Jonathan Hickman had a similar experience setting up the end of act one. It was just sort of the luck of the draw.
When you begin an issue in a story about warring super hero groups generally it's best to hit the ground running. Here we see a perfect example of how to do that as we take a look at how the first page of "AvX" #7 came to together. We start with Matt Fraction's script. Move onto Olivier Copiel's pencils. Then to Mark Morales' inks, and finish up with the page after Laura Martin adds color to it.
Starting FOUR WIDE PANELS if you please -- first we are TIGHT on PHOENIX-SCOTT. He HOVERS OVER AVENGERS TOWER -- a one-man blockade that keeps Earth's Mightiest Heroes out of their HQ. RIPPLING COILS OF ENERGY pour from SCOTT and penetrate the tower, entering and exiting, ensnaring the whole thing inside a Psionic braid.
SCOTT AVENGERS TOWER is SECURE. No one in or out.
SCOTT So now then...
SCOTT Where is CAPTAIN AMERICA? And more importantly... where is THE SCARLET WITCH?
NAMOR hovers over AVENGERS MANSION. Similar thing -- clearly guarding it to keep the AVENGERS out -- Psionic energy swirling around the place like a tornado of light...
SCOTT (PSY OP) This woman WIPED OUT mutantkind with a SENTENCE FRAGMENT. She HIT ME on Utopia and I actually FELT IT.
NAMOR Their HOVEL is clear...
CUT TO EMMA over the new (well, as of February) AVENGERS ACADEMY COMPOUND as COLOSSUS bursts through it like a human wrecking ball, destroying the place. Energy from a SIEGE COURAGEOUS warp ripples overhead...
SCOTT (PSY OP) I want her off the board. Shut down, contained. SHE is our objective right now. Closing down Avengers ops, making CAP look like an old fool...
SCOTT (PSY OP) ...that's all well and good. WANDA MAXIMOFF is the only REAL THREAT they have in the field right now.
EMMA Their militarized CHILDREN will have to hold their youth rallies somewhere ELSE now...
JUMP CUT: through a SIEGE COURAGEOUS come MAGIK, X-MAN, WARPATH, GAMBIT, HAVOK, and POLARIS -- ROCKETING TO CAMERA. On the warpath, on the go, as it were, hurling every bit of offense they can at their targets...
SCOTT (PSY OP) DON'T WORRY -- we keep THE PRESSURE on the Avengers. We're rebranding the as a GLOBAL TERRORIST NETWORK.
SCOTT (PSY OP) Just remember -- he's not afraid to FIELD HER. And that means WE are going to start getting hurt.
MAGIK (PSY) SCOTT, WE FOUND THEM!