"AvX" Turncoats & Neal Adams' "First X-Men"

Fridays on CBR mean Axel's In Charge.

Welcome to MARVEL A-I-C: AXEL-IN-CHARGE, CBR's regular interview feature with Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso!

An editor with years of experience who's brought out comics to both critical acclaim and best-selling status, Alonso stepped into the chair at the top of Marvel's Editorial department earlier this year and since then has been working to bring his signature stylings to the entire Marvel U. Anchored by regular question and answer rounds with the denizens of the CBR Message Boards, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!

This week, Alonso looks into the seedier side of the Marvel Universe's current mega event as we uncover the traitorous characters driving the twists of "Avengers Vs. X-Men." Below, he discusses the role characters like Rachel Summers, the Protector and Tony Stark play in the main series and its tie-ins and teases how they impact the future of Marvel's teams and the cosmic line. Plus, the E-i-C shares new details on the origins of Neal Adams' incoming "First X-Men" series along with your questions on the Watcher, "SHIELD" and more. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Axel, "AvX" had its fourth issue out this week, and as fast a clip as the main series has been chugging along so far, we're also well into the tie-in issues in the regular books now. I wanted to talk about some of the supporting characters that have had an impact on both sides of the story. In the past, you've said how the "AvX" writing team centered in on who would be the main players early -- Cyclops, Captain America, Wolverine, etc. Did you also immediately know the supporting characters and story threads that would work their way into tie-ins, or was the first goal just breaking out the main book?

Axel Alonso: The tie-in stories unfolded at the same time as the core event story. Remember, the beauty of this event is that our five writers [Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman and Ed Brubaker] all wrote core monthly titles. As the core story -- told in "AvX" #1-12 -- developed, we'd discover side stories that could be told in the monthlies. The story where Captain America goes to Wolverine to inform him that the Phoenix Force is headed Earth's way -- which occupies just one page in "AvX" #1 -- was fleshed out in "Wolverine & The X-Men" because [writer] Jason [Aaron] said it made sense there and we agreed. The adventures of team that tries to intercept the Phoenix Force in outer space appears in "Secret Avengers" because Tom [Brevoort] suggested that would be a good place for it. There was no fuss or fighting about that stuff.

Looking at the characters who have had some impact, we've got Rachel Summers who in issue #3 became the first "turncoat" of the story who switched sides. Fans had been asking about her status from the moment this series was announced, and she was off the table for quite a while before then. Was part of Jason Aaron's plan in making her a piece of the "Wolverine & The X-Men" cast getting Rachel ready to take part in "AvX"?

Alonso: There are pieces you need on the board before the event starts -- characters that are a part of the larger story but aren't at the foreground of the action. So yeah, that was Jason's plan.

Like Rachel's role, Wolverine has also found himself forced to switch allegiances so far -- or at least he's been forced to be a solo operative in this story. By the end of this story, do you see him lining up with one definitive camp or ideal, or is he just better as the man on his own?

Alonso: From day one, we knew Logan was going to be a wild card in this story -- given his dual allegiance to the Avengers and the X-Men and his history with Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force. He's going to remain a wild card throughout "AvX." Whether he sides with the Avengers, the X-Men -- or neither -- is something readers will enjoy discovering for themselves. There are plenty of twists and turns in this event, and our recently released teaser image for Act 2 is just the tip of the iceberg. After people read issue #5, they'll have a much clearer sense why Act 2 is really Round 2 of a three-round war.

Of course, that teaser read "No More Avengers." Can we assume this is where the Scarlet Witch will reenter the fray?

Alonso: Ever heard the term "gun on the mantle"? That's Wanda. [Laughs] We showed her -- we better be prepared to use her.

Another character I wanted to talk about was the Protector, who a lot of fans still refer to as Marvel Boy. Brian Bendis has had this guy on his radar for a while, and up until this week, his role in "AvX" was to butt heads with Iron Man early on. Now in "Avengers" we see him also playing double-crosser. Did having those kinds of characters beholden only to themselves make plotting this story out more complicated or more interesting?

Alonso: More interesting. Look, the Marvel Universe is filled with complex individuals with long and complicated histories. Act 1 presents each of them with an extremely complex issue to deal, the plot thickens in Act 2 and some lines are broken, and again in Act 3. Don't assume that all allegiances will remain intact throughout the course of the story -- don't even assume you'll stay on the same side.

We've heard a lot of talk lately about the impending return of Cosmic. Is this story thread with the Protector, Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel an early touchstone for where some of those ideas will launch in the future?

Alonso: To a degree, yes. And don't forget Nova.

The last character I wanted to ask about is Iron Man. While he hasn't turned on anyone in the story yet, even he points out early on that there was a time in the past where he and Cap didn't see eye-to-eye on a massive national security issue. And now in #4, we see Tony working on...something. Where and how will Tony's role in this story step up to a more significant piece of the story?

Alonso: I love Tony's arc in this story! If there's one character arc in "AvX" whose role evolved in the course of charting this story, it was Tony. And if there is one character that had me up out of my seat, acting out scenes, it's Tony. In every event, there's a character whose arc just rings so emotionally true and takes them to a new, fascinating place, physically or spiritually. For me, Tony's arc does just that. You'll know why I say this when the story is over.

One last piece of new "AvX" news is that there's a new Infinite Comic coming on the heels of "AvX" #6. This is the story that Yves "Balak" Bigerel -- the digital comics creator who so impressed both Joe Quesada and Mark Waid -- is contributing to. What does it mean to have him as part of the team for this emerging format?

Alonso: Yves has been thinking about how to use the digital screen as a canvas for a long time. He's got a head start on everyone and he's smart! [Laughs] He has ideas, both for what we can do now and what we will be able to do in the future when the technology is ready. In that sense, he's a visionary for where Infinite Comics can go.

The first Infinite Comic had a very easy entry point into the event: Nova crashing into earth. That concept worked as both a prelude and a digital specific story. What can you say about the story point that this new Infinite Comic ties into? Was there a similar point where you could say, "This is perfect for the format"?

Alonso: We just a story that we thought would really benefit from the application of this technology. I mean, Nova hurtling through space like a bat out of hell, crashing through the Chrysler building, looking up through a semi-conscious fog to see the Avengers. It was just so cinematic. [Writer] Mark [Waid] and [artist] Stuart [Immonen] really took advantage of opportunity: the screen was their canvas and digital tech was their paintbrush.

Piggybacking on last week's talk, some news just hit matching creator and character in a new way, we got word that Neal Adams' long-rumored Wolverine series will be called "First X-Men" and will also unveil some new secrets about the history of a fan favorite character. Neal's obviously a legend in comics and at Marvel, though as we've talked about in the past, it can be tough to get a mini series over for any creator these days. How did you find that balance between letting Neal follow his story interests here and building in a broader hook for modern readers?

Alonso: It's a challenge. Neal pitched us a really great concept for a Wolverine story that we realized, with a little bit of work, might actually fit as an official piece of X-Men history. A story that illuminated the connection between Wolverine's, Professor X and Sabretooth and, indeed, the very concept of a mutant super-team. The few months Neal and [writer] Christos [Gage] and [editor] Nick [Lowe] work-shopped that story really paid off -- it became so much richer and important and relevant, considering surprises that have yet to be revealed in "Avengers Vs. X-Men." I commend Neal and [writer] Christos [Gage] and [editor] Nick [Lowe] for their ability to take this story and make it count.

Neal had a brief but beloved run on X-Men during its original run, but Wolverine wasn't on the scene there. Did you want to steer him towards working in some of his original characters like Havok as part of this series?

Alonso: We didn't steer him. Neal had a Wolverine story on his brain, and I thought it would be super-cool for Neal Adams to draw a Wolverine story. I mean, I went ape over Neal's "X-Men" as a kid. I'm too young to have bought those off the rack, but I hunted them down at garage sales and flea markets. Neal was the future. No one drew like him. The level of photo-realism, the page compositions.

Looking at fan questions on the week, Spidey616 is wondering to the ties between one of the Marvel Characters who's never on anybody's side who we've been waiting for since "Point One" when he asks: "Given the magnitude of AvX and since it's not an official Marvel event until he shows up, when should we expect everyone's favorite Watcher Uatu to pop up?"

Alonso: At this point, the Watcher hasn't appeared in "AvX." There must have been something especially interesting going on in Alpha Centauri or thereabouts.

is-it-just-me followed up on the Cosmic front, wondering, "If the rumors of the marvel cosmic line making a long overdue return are true is there any chance of a warlock and the infinity watch title?"

Alonso: Anything's possible.

EarthOneComics stopped in to check on a fan favorite series, asking: "I'm a big fan of Jonathan Hickman's S.H.I.E.L.D. series. If I recall correctly the second volume was supposed to run 6 issues but it's been months since issue #4 came out. What's the status of the last two issues?"

Alonso: Those issues are being worked on even you read this. Somewhere [artist] Dustin Weaver's ears are burning.

Have some questions for Marvel's AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the CUP O' Q&A thread in CBR's Marvel Universe forum. It's now the dedicated thread for all connections between Board Members and the Marvel Executive staff that CBR will pull questions for next week's installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!

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