Breaking New Ground With "Ms. Marvel" & Old Universes With "Cataclysm"

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, the latest Marvel Creative Summit hit New York, and in between planning the latest stories with writers from Brian Bendis to Jason Aaron to Dan Slott, Axel took some time to talk to us about the publisher's latest breaking news. From the introduction of the all-new teen "Ms. Marvel" from G. Willow Wison and Adrian Alphona to a rebuilt "X-Force" title from Si Spurrier and Rock-He Kim, All-New Marvel NOW! continues to add titles to its 2014 slate. Meanwhile, Galactus has arrived in the Ultimate Universe as "Cataclysm" gets underway, and Alonso shares what fates await those characters as well as the results of the summit and more. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Axel, I understand it was a crazy week at Marvel thanks to some of the writers being in town for the latest big creative summit. What can you tell us about who showed up this time, and what stories were on the table for discussion?

Axel Alonso: The editorial staff was joined by a small group of our writers: Brian Bendis, Dan Slott, Jason Aaron, Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman, Mark Waid, Rick Remender, Kieron Gillen, Sam Humphries and, making his debut, Skottie Young. Hmmm...ponder that. We discussed a lot: "Inhuman," a May event that's structured unlike anything we've done before, and a big, new story just kind of emerged from out of nowhere. It all started when someone threw out one of those questions -- "How about we [blank]?" -- and it just caught fire in the room.

While that was going on, your Twitter account was kind of slap happy with a few "potential character names" thrown out from Hulk Sue to Man-Knight. Any chance any of this madness will work its way to the page eventually?

Alonso: Without a doubt. Both are actually clues.

Meanwhile, as we're in the thick of All-New Marvel NOW!, it was another week of news for Marvel. Let's start by talking about the new "Ms. Marvel" series from G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona. This seems like a very personal project for the creators and Editor Sana Amanat who helped come up with the pitch. What was your first response to the character, and what did you see her place in the Marvel U as?

Alonso: I loved it. Sana was passionate about this series, and she approached it from the right place. The Marvel Universe is best when it reflects the diversity of the world around it, but sculpts a narrative that is universal. Kamala Khan is an extension of a tradition that includes Peter Parker: she's a 16-year-old Pakistani-American kid who lives just outside New York City -- in this case, Jersey City -- navigating strict Muslim parents and an even stricter older brother as she figures out her life's path when she's suddenly bestowed with great powers and learns the great responsibility that comes with them. Kamala grew up imagining what it would be like to wield the power of the super heroes across the river in Manhattan; now she's about to find out.

I must admit that this seems like the kind of announcement you know going in will stir a lot of talk, and already this all reminds me of the debut of Miles Morales in 2011. Overall, what's the #1 thing you think about when diversifying the Marvel U like this?

Alonso: We did expect it to elicit the same raised eyebrows Miles Morales did a couple years ago -- pro and con. But we know that at the end of the day, the success of "Ms. Marvel" hinges on the authenticity of the character and the universality of her journey. Whatever his or her opinion is now, the reader will ultimately judge "Ms. Marvel" by the story we tell. And Willow and Adrian are creating a fascinating character in Kamala.

Of course, our new character is taking her cues from Carol Danvers in more ways than one. With a brand new "Captain Marvel" series on its way next year, do you anticipate these two series to be tied close together once they get underway?

Alonso: Captain Marvel's adventures will be taking her far away from New York, so her paths won't intersect M. Marvel's in the immediate future. That said, it's probably best that the new Ms. Marvel -- Kamala Khan -- forge her own path before she finally meets her predecessor. When the two finally do meet, that's going to be a big moment.

Speaking of Miles Morales, one of the big releases of the week was "Ultimate Cataclysm" #1. It seems like Brian and Mark's intent was the first issue was "let everything go straight to hell for the heroes." Overall, what kinds of discussions did the staff have around the stakes for this series? How did you want to make it stand out from past events?

Alonso: We established and built up the threat of Galactus in "Hunger" so we were able to hit the ground running with issue 1 of "Cataclysm." As with any event, we view "Cataclysm" as an unlimited-budget, widescreen blockbuster that will bring drastic changes to the Ultimate Universe. The first question is: What -- if anything -- will survive?

Of course, Miles was our POV character for the story and is in many ways the lead hero of the whole Ultimate U. What does placing arguably the most street level cast member of the Ultimate U for a series focusing on a Galactus attack bode for the book as a whole?

Alonso: Miles gives us a grounded, relatable POV for a huge story. Miles thinks what you'd think: "A gigantic purple guy is eating the world...? What the heck can a guy like me do?"

You know, there's been so much talk about whether this could be the end of the Ultimate U, the thing that most occurred to me while reading #1 was "Where is the Ultimate Nullifier?" Then I thought, "Does someone in the classic Marvel U have it?" With crossovers between the two universes on the table after "Spider-Men," what are the odds that some of the traditional Marvel heroes could play a role before this is all said and done?

Alonso: Well, we did open up a wormhole in "Spider-Men" so it's not farfetched we'll use it again.

Lastly, Marvel also revealed this week that a new "X-Force" series is in the works. Since Marvel NOW! launched with two series based on Cable's original X-team each with their own specific missions, what does this new series mean for the stories fans have been following in "Uncanny" and "Cable And"?

Alonso: First, fans of "Uncanny X-Force" and "Cable and X-Force" will see those teams stories collide this January in the X-Force crossover "Vendetta." Those events will pave the way for the new volume of "X-Force" by Si Spurrier and Rock-He Kim that was announced yesterday in USA Today. The X-Force returns to its original mission statement as the black ops team that's willing to fight dirty to protect Mutantkind -- only this time, it's not hiding its existence from the world.

Si Spurrier is a writer who's made a rather strange impression on the X-Universe thanks to the tone of "X-Men Legacy." How does this new series match up with or totally turn from what readers have seen him do there?

Alonso: "X-Force" is a very different book from "X-Men: Legacy" so there will be a very different tone to the book. Si's a terrific and versatile writer -- those 18 and older who aren't squeamish should definitely check out Si's "Crossed: Wish You Were Here" webcomic which is available free online -- and he'll be flexing a lot of the same muscles on "X-Force": three-dimensional characters facing complex problems that require equally complex responses. No easy answers. But, of course, if you became a fan of Si's on "Legacy," you should pick up "X-Force" anyway.

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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