Beginnings & Endings In The Marvel U

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 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, we take a look at two sides of the coin in Marvel Editorial - series launches and cancelations. With All-New Marvel NOW! continuing its rollout, Axel looks into the theories and stories driving James Robinson and Leonard Kirk's "Fantastic Four" as well as Nathan Edmondson and Mitchell Gerads' "The Punisher." Meanwhile, the end of series including "Daredevil," "X-Men: Legacy" and "Wolverine & The X-Men" is explored in terms of Marvel's overall publishing plans. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Axel, this week I wanted to talk about things beginning and things ending. Let's start with "Fantastic Four" which we now know will be under the purview of James Robinson and Leonard Kirk. Sometimes, I think the worry around Marvel's First Family is that they can come off as a little square. What were you looking for in a pitch to make them interesting that James brought to the table?

Alonso: We weren't looking for anything specific -- just a writer and artist who would have something fresh and interesting to say. We knew that Matt Fraction's run was winding to a close, and Panic [Senior Editor Mark Paniccia] had begun working with James on "All-New Invaders," and they began a conversation that just gained steam. Simple as that. James has a real different story to tell.

It seems like James' focus is returning to a theme we see now and again in superhero comics going back to "Born Again," which is breaking a hero down in order to build them back up. Do you think there's something specific to that idea that makes it worthwhile ground to return to?

Alonso: Maybe. I do know there was something very engaging about James' pitch, or we wouldn't have bought it! [Laughs] The concept of "family" is at the core of "Fantastic Four" -- Matt has been mining that in his run, and Jonathan before him -- so when James suggested a story that shattered that family to pieces -- for reasons you can't predict -- we saw the opportunity to potentially rebuild the Fantastic Four into something new -- or maybe not rebuild them at all! [Laughs] Much like "Born Again" for Daredevil, this story will hit "Fantastic Four" fans in the gut and the heart. Just how bad things can things get for the FF? You're about to find out. Great drama comes out of high stakes, and stakes are high.

MORE ON "FANTASTIC FOUR": James Robinson Ushers in a New Era for "Fantastic Four"

Another incoming series that we haven't had a chance to talk about here is the new "Punisher" monthly from Nathan Edmondson and Mitchell Gerads. That's a character you have a strong connection to and one who has had and on again, off again status in the Marvel U over the past few years. Nathan has done a number of black ops focused action series. How does that lead into his plans on this book?

Alonso: You got that right. We began a dialog with Nathan about the Punisher because the character was definitely in his creative wheelhouse -- that was apparent from his indie work. And Nathan's got fantastic chemistry with [artist] Mitch Gerads, who, I think, was born to draw this book. So this is one of those occasions that came down to turning loose pre-existing creative team on a character we thought they'd excel with. Nathan and Mitch are moving Frank Castle out West -- to Los Angeles -- and he's going to be both the Hunter and the Hunted. But there's a twist: Let's just say that the very act of protecting himself will present Frank with a unique problem -- a huge moral dilemma. The isn't a problem he can just blow to bits.

You mention that change of venue as Frank is moving to Los Angeles for this book. I kind of feel like Marvel's history in New York as its superhero capital of the Universe has meant that the Marvel U's LA is a bit sleazier and more dangerous than we see it in real life. Does that play into this book?

Alonso: I think the change of scenery will do Frank good -- or the story good; for Frank, it's going to be a field trip through hell that's going to test his resolve and force him to prove just how good a solider he really is. L.A.'s distance from super hero central and its proximity to South America will factor into the story, but -- just like Nathan's "Black Widow" -- this series will be firmly set in the Marvel Universe, as we'll remind you...frequently.

MORE ON "PUNISHER": Edmondson's "Punisher" Brings His War to the City of Angels

At the same time as these new books are hitting, there are a number of titles wrapping up in February including the merging of two X-Force titles into one new series and the end of "X-Men: Legacy." Has this kind of change become a necessity in the era of Marvel NOW! where you're constantly asking the writers to come in and kind of reset the stage for ongoing series?

Alonso: In certain cases, it is a matter of strategy. In the aftermath of the upcoming "Uncanny X-Force/Cable and X-Force" crossover, "Vendetta," starting this January, there just isn't enough room for both teams. "Cable & X-Force" and "Uncanny X-Force" were both successful books, but we saw an opportunity to boil down the cast of both to one team -- a dream team that includes some new members -- with one clear mandate. This move makes perfect sense, story-wise, and it blows a huge gust of wind into the sails of tour X-Men publishing plan, teeing up a news series that we're sure will be exciting to fans.

MORE ON "X-FORCE": Spurrier Enters the Shadows with "X-Force"

On the other hand, you've got titles like "Wolverine & The X-Men" and "Daredevil" ending which seem to have had tremendous success. Does that just fall to the fact that the story in each was over?

Alonso: It's a combination of things. Since the X-Office involves so many characters, so many camps or factions, any change to the political landscape allows for the creation of new alliances and enemies, and the emergence of new teams, new titles, new mandates. "X-Force" is a response to such change. Jason Aaron's run on "Wolverine & The X-Men" comes to an end because the story he's telling is over, and the story he wants to tell can be found in "Amazing X-Men." What emerges out of the ashes of Jason's run? Wait and see.

Looking at some fan questions for the week, shellhead85 wondered, "Since FF is coming to an end, will we be seeing Ant-Man (Scott Lang) popping up somewhere?"

Alonso: Most definitely.

Meanwhile, Spidey616 offered this: "With the two X-Force teams merging, curious what's to become of the characters that won't be staying on, in particular fan favorite Colossus and Bishop who's set to make his big screen debut in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past movie?"

Alonso: [I can't tell you that and spoil the X-Office's plans for those characters, Spidey616. You know me better than that. [Laughs]

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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