Dragging "Angela" to Hel, Entering X-Men's "Extraordinary" Era

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 Community, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!

This week, Alonso shares insight into two new releases from the past week -- "Angela: Queen of Hel" from writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans; plus "Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D." from writer Frank Barbiere and artist Brent Schoonover. Alonso also previews next week's big #1s -- "Extraordinary X-Men" by Jeff Lemire & Humberto Ramos; "Drax" by CM Punk, Cullen Bunn & Scott Hepburn; and "Deadpool" by long-time series writer Gerry Duggan and artist Mike Hawthorne. All that and more, including talk of two different variant cover initiatives and your questions, direct from the CBR Community.

Albert Ching: Axel, we're in the middle of a very busy period for new #1s at Marvel. "Angela: Queen of Hel" debuted this week, from writer Marguerite Bennett and artists Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans. It's approaching on three years now that Angela has been a part of the Marvel Universe, and the character feels fairly established at this point -- what do you like about this new series and where that character has landed?

Axel Alonso: I like that this series has upended the strong female Amazonian archetype, giving depth of emotion and character to a stoic, no-nonsense warrior. I also like how it pays homage to Angela's co-creator Neil Gaiman with its literary and at-times humorous tone. It's opened up new crawlspace in the world of the "Thor" books for us to explore, but it is still very connected to that world. Look for some familiar Asgardians to turn up in "Angela: Queen of Hel" #3, in fact.

Marguerite Bennett Maps Out Journey of "Angela: Queen of Hel"

The issue also confirmed the romantic relationship between Angela and Sera, something that had been speculated about by fans. So is it accurate to say that Angela is the first gay or bisexual lead character in the All-New, All-Different Marvel era?

Alonso: That's a question for readers to ponder and answer for themselves. We're not looking to put labels on the character or the series. We'd prefer that the story Marguerite, Kim and Stephanie are telling -- all aspects of it -- speak for itself.

Another debut from this week was "Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D.", a unique concept for a book, with Marvel's monsters -- some of the publisher's oldest characters -- working as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. What was intriguing to you about this series and it how it's turned out, in terms of the different tone it offers to Marvel's current lineup?

Alonso: You don't throw together a group of characters like this -- a werewolf, a swamp monster, an amphibian creature, a monkey with a Glock and a guy named Dum Dum -- and not see the potential for humor. I mean, c'mon! [Laughs]

The past couple years we've brought more comedy into our dramas and more drama into our comedies - and fans are responding to it. "Howard the Duck," "Squirrel Girl," "Silver Surfer" and, of course, "Deadpool" are all books that walk the line between comedy and drama in very different ways, and I expect "Howling Commandos" will bring a new flavor to the mix. Plus, did I mention it's got Hit-Monkey?

Barbiere & Schoonover's "Howling Commandos of SHIELD" Pits Monster Against Monster

You and Hit-Monkey go back to the very beginning, as editor of his first appearances.

Alonso: I love that shades-wearing, saxophone-playing, heavy-hearted killer monkey.

Next week there are a lot of big #1s, and let's talk about a few: We'll start with Jeff Lemire and Humberto Ramos on "Extraordinary X-Men" #1. That's the new flagship X-book in this current era, featuring two high-profile creators new to the X-Men. X-fans have been a little nervous about what the future may hold -- what can you say about what those readers have in store for them with this new series?

Alonso: Attention, Nervous X-Men fans: If you're looking to kill a franchise, you don't deploy a creative team like Jeff Lemire and Humberto Ramos to the flagship title. [Laughs] Lemire is a rising star and Humberto Ramos is associated with some of the best sales of the last decade, due to his work on "Amazing Spider-Man," and they're both inspired to use the launching pad of "All-New, All-Different Marvel" to full effect.

Jeff handpicked the team, and it's comprised of veterans -- Storm, Colossus, Iceman, Nightcrawler -- and wildcards, like Jean Grey and Old Man Logan. What could possibly go wrong there? [Laughs] And he's putting them and all of mutantkind in a pressure cooker that will test them and their relationships. In the eight months between the conclusions to "Secret Wars" and where this story picks up, major things have happened to rock the mutants' world and make them more vulnerable than ever. "Extraordinary X-Men" sets the stage for everything.

CM Punk talks "Drax" Ongoing, UFC Training and Frank Castle

It sounds like we'll have more to talk about there next week. Another book out this coming Wednesday, and something that's been talked about for a while now due in part to one of the creative talents involved, is "Drax" #1. A lot of people are interested to learn what CM Punk has in him as an ongoing series writer -- we saw his Thor short story a few months ago. What works for you about how that book turned out, and what he and co-writer Cullen Bunn have delivered? Alonso: This is a real fun series that brings another flavor to the "Guardians" stable of titles. And all credit goes to departed editor Jon Moisan, who put this whole thing together and edited the first couple issues. He thought CM Punk might have an interesting take on Drax, and he was right. [Laughs] And CM Punk asked for Cullen to be his tag-team partner because he's a fan of his work. The two of them are having a blast. The book is a raucous, funny, violent piece of work. Scott Hepburn is matching Punk and Cullen's wacko energy beat for beat.

The imminent arrival of "Drax" begs a question that's been asked here before: What's the latest update on the "Gamora" series?

Alonso: The first script is in, and it's great. Nicole [Perlman] has crafted a brilliant story, and we're currently in the process of casting just the right artist for the job, as we need someone who can not only nail this particular character, in all her nuance, but also create epic galactic landscapes.

Next week also sees the release of a new "Deadpool" series. That's a character that certainly has seen a lot interpretations in recent years, from the main book, the Cullen Bunn-written series of miniseries, "Deadpool vs. Thanos" and beyond. The major twist here is that readers are going to find that Deadpool has somehow became rich and famous in the eight-month time jump. What sold you in the leap forward that Gerry Duggan is taking on his now years-long run on this character?

Alonso: The thing about Deadpool is you can twist him like a pretzel and he always retains his shape [Laughs]. He's like a big piece of Silly Putty. As long as you stay true to the core of the character -- in all of his lovable insanity -- you can get away with stuff you could never do with any other high-profile super hero. Sky's the limit.

RELATED: Duggan Discusses Expanding Deadpool's Influence To "Uncanny Avengers"

Gerry understands that, and he's going to take the world around Deadpool and shift it on its axis. The outcast is going to suddenly be the most popular superhero on the face of the planet. He will have his own candy bar, his own sneaker, his own cologne! He'll achieve his wildest dream. Is this one of those "be-careful-what-you-wish-for" scenarios? Probably. Gerry has brought a hook to the story that sets the stage for the arrival of a bunch of new and different Deadpools -- in assorted shapes, sizes and colors, each crazy in their own way -- that are going to create a lot of problems for Wade and the Marvel Universe. They're like highly caffeinated Minions with weapons.

Speaking of Deadpool, we had some fun debuting that Deadpool/Vanilla Ice hip-hop variant cover by Mike Hawthorne last week.

Alonso: I'm still apologizing for that one.

The fact that you waited several months into the initiative to unveil that one probably helped.

Alonso: It's the first of what we are calling "deep cut" variants. We are selectively doing variant for issues #2, #3 and #4 of some new series because... well, we love doing these.

Right, originally it was only planned for #1s.

Alonso: There are so many artists we didn't get a chance to shout out to in round one, so many great album covers we didn't get to tip our hat to. The fact that these covers caught fire they way they did -- they're among the highest ordered variants we've ever done -- well, that was kind of the icing on the cake for us to do more.

There's one more thing to ask about -- it was announced this week that Michael Cho, the author of the graphic novel "Shoplifter," is illustrating 20 variants for Marvel in February. What did Marvel connect with in his work that motivated giving him this high-profile spotlight?

Alonso: What are the odds that two of my favorite artists in this industry would have the last name: "Cho"? Michael is a major talent. His graphic novel "Shoplifter" is one of my favorite graphic novels of the last several years. His art is so elegant and powerful in its simplicity; there's not a wasted brush stroke. Each of his variant covers is poster-worthy. I'm very excited to see him doing work for us. We've even discussed the possibility of him drawing an issue or two of "Totally Awesome Hulk."

Let's head into the weekend with a couple of fan questions from the CBR Community: Daredevil is Legend asks, following the recent "Master of Kung Fu" miniseries, "Any chance we can see more of the Shang Chi from the recent 'Secret Wars' mini?"

Alonso: There are no current plans for Shang-Chi, but [Editor] Jake Thomas said he'd love to revisit that world and that character.

Then we'll wrap with Gotham Thrasher, who wants to know the whereabouts of a couple of Marvel characters: "Any chance of Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze and Captain Britain showing in the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe?"

Alonso: There are no current plans for Captain Britain, and sketchy plans for Johnny Blaze. Unless. Wait. Sounds like a buddy book...

Have some questions for Marvel's AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the AXEL-IN-CHARGE Q&A thread in CBR's Marvel Comics community. It's the dedicated thread that CBR will pull questions for next week's installment of our weekly fan-supported question-and-answer column! Do it to it!

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