In-Depth on Marvel's "Divided We Stand" and The Latest Hydra Cap Twists

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 in comics receiving 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!

On the eve of a long Independence Day weekend here in the United States, Marvel hasn't exactly taken the week off -- paying off two weeks of teasers related to the upcoming Marvel NOW! publishing initiative with a "Divided We Stand" teaser image illustrated by Mike Deodato, featuring two groups of characters apparently split across a philosophical divide, giving a glimpse at the post-"Civil War II" feature that asks more questions than it answers. Alonso shares his insight into that image, specifically on the significance of some of the unexpected characters that are there -- such as Riri Williams from "Invincible Iron Man," Slapstick, Solo and Foolkiller -- and the conspicuous absences, headlined by Tony Stark (ominously, his Iron Man helmet is there, but he is not). The biggest debate in the comics world also continued this week, as Marvel released "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #2 by Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz. The issue filled in some of the blanks on how and why Steve Rogers came to be a secret Hydra operative, but continued to fuel conversation and controversy, and Alonso discusses the story as a whole and the reaction to it. Plus, right in time for the 4th of July, Alonso talks today's announcement of "U.S.Avengers," written by Al Ewing and illustrated by Paco Medina.

Albert Ching: Axel, let's start by talking about the new Marvel NOW! group teaser image released on Thursday morning. It's certainly got a lot for fans to chew on -- to start out, just to clarify, is "Divided We Stand" the overarching theme of the post-"Civil War II" line, sort of like "The Heroic Age" after "Siege" way back in 2010?

Axel Alonso: Yes, it's the new status quo of the Marvel Universe in the aftermath of "Civil War II." "Civil War II" will leave deep scars on the Marvel Universe. Some characters will lose everything; others will reach new heights. Some will flex muscles they never did before; some will be off the table completely. There will be new alliances, new teams, new grudges. It's going to be a different world.

Clearly the outcome of "Civil War II" is not everyone getting along again at the end.

Alonso: Yep. Apart from a few grudges, it's not like the heroes are at war with each other. It's just that there are deep philosophical and spiritual divisions.

Let's talk about some of the characters in this teaser. There are a lot of lesser-known characters here, which is not shocking given the overall direction of Marvel publishing over the past couple of years, but it feels like it's really brought home in this image -- you've got characters like Solo, Slapstick and Foolkiller, who were beyond C-level until recent months as part of "Deadpool and the Mercs for Money." How deliberate was that in this image -- the push to represent a wide variety of Marvel characters?

Alonso: What we've done is up the ante on unearthing the treasures in our catalog. From the Guardians of the Galaxy to the Inhumans to Black Panther to Squirrel Girl to new characters like Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, we are doubling down on creating unique books that have their own flavor. This spoiler reflects that in a big way, but it doesn't represent everything that's important in the Marvel Universe in the coming year. Assuming that Thor [Jane Foster], Sam Wilson, Bruce Banner, the X-Men, survive "Civil War II," they'll each have a big place in it. But we're also carving out space for characters like Riri, the new Wasp, Mosaic, Slapstick and Solo to shine. They're a large part of the future.

You alluded to it, but there are a lot of major characters not here -- Peter Parker, Sam Wilson, Jane Foster, and Tony Star, who is the most conspicuous in his absence, given his stature in "Civil War II" and the presence of his helmet in the image. How much should readers interpret based on who's not in this image?

Alonso: The teaser is meant to get people talking. Speculating. There are a lot of rumors, a lot of speculation, about what's going to transpire in "Civil War II," so if Bruce Banner, Hawkeye, Sam Wilson or Tony Stark's absence from this image makes you nervous, well, that's because we've heard the same rumors you have. The primary message of this teaser, however, speaks to the emergence of new heroes -- Riri, Wasp, Mosaic, Solo, Slaptstick, Miss America Chavez -- to hopefully stand alongside recent breakout characters -- Ms. Marvel, Moon Girl, Gwenpool -- alongside perennial favorites like Cap, Thor and Iron Man. If there is one thing we believe, it's that most of our B, C and D-list characters are a creative team and a great idea away from being A-list.

The diversity of the characters in this image was secondary -- it sort of snuck up on us. I did an interview this week, where the reporter pointed out the breadth of cultural representation in the teaser. And yes, there will be LGBT representation, as well.

Then with characters like Moon Girl and the Amadeus Cho Hulk, it shows that Marvel has committed to some bold moves that were recent, as of last year's All-New, All-Different Marvel launch, and not turning over everything with this new status quo.

Alonso: We are committed. And let me say, "Marvel NOW!" is not a reboot. Everything is not starting from scratch. We are not being reborn. This is the continuation of the ongoing story of the Marvel Universe that happens to provide a clean platform to launch new series, and a jumping-on point for new readers. We've used comparable platforms in the past to launch some of our most popular ongoing series -- "Ms. Marvel," "Black Panther," "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur," "Squirrel Girl," "Gwenpool" -- to bring characters like Miles Morales and the Ultimates into the Marvel Universe -- and to reposition perennial characters like Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow and Punisher. We expect to have similar results here. Look for big things from everyone in this picture.

Real life is not static -- you make friends and lose friends, find love and lose love work, travel, struggle, etc. Big events happen that tear the fabric of the world around you -- a war, an election, an economic downturn, 9/11. This is the ebb and flow of life. The same is true of the characters in the Marvel Universe. They go through life changes, large and small. Some of these are reflected in their solo titles; some can't be contained just there because they co-exist in a universe with other heroes. It goes without saying that an event like "Civil War II" will send a ripple effect across the universe that will affects everyone. This teaser provides a glimpse of that.

Mike Deodato illustrated each of these teasers. He's one of the highest-profile and longest-tenured artists at Marvel, and certainly depicts iconic versions of superheroes -- what made him the right choice for this gig?

Alonso: Well, we don't turn over these teasers to just anybody! [Laughs] Hey, Mike is one of the most talented artists in the business, and one of the most professional. I've had the pleasure of working with him on numerous occasions. To be honest, he's in the running for just about anything over here, and he had time in his schedule, so...

That said, I love how he's rendered everyone in the teaser, but in particular some of the lesser-known characters, like Solo, Slapstick and Foolkiller. And check out his insanely cool interpretation of Khary Randolph's design for Mosaic.

So can we assume he's going to be on one of the flagship Marvel NOW! titles?

Alonso: Oh yeah, Mike will have a big seat at the table.

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