Inside "AvX" #0

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, Axel provides a full commentary track for the prelude to Marvel's highly anticipated event series: "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #0! Before the return of the Phoenix Force brings on an epic clash between the Avengers and the X-Men in next week's issue #1, the #0 issue delves into the status of Scarlet Witch (at the hands of Brian Michael Bendis) and Hope Summers (courtesy of Jason Aaron). Below, Alonso reveals the purpose of the double-shot issue from where Scarlet Witch has been since her Avengers heyday and Avengers betrayal, what Hope's status as both Mutant Messiah and 17-year-old girl means for her mental state in the wake of the Phoenix, how Frank Cho's brutal bits of art helped bolster the cast, why the Vision had to return and many more questions from the CBR Boards. Read on!

SPOILER WARNING: Some details from inside Marvel's "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #0 lie ahead!

Kiel Phegley: Axel, "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #0 hit this week, giving readers the first big tease of the action in the main story. The issue is split between stories featuring the Scarlet Witch and Hope Summers. We all knew that Hope would be big in this story from the moment the Phoenix teasers hit, but how did Scarlet Witch factor in? We've heard you guys say "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" was wrapping just in time for all this to synch up, but did you know she'd be a part of the action from the moment this event was decided upon?

Axel Alonso: Yes. We knew Wanda had an important role in this story from day one. From the moment that Hope became the Phoenix Force's target. In Hope, you have a teenage girl who is responsible for the resurrection of the mutant species. In Wanda, you have a woman who almost eliminated the mutant species from the face of the earth. There's a Yin-Yang thing going on there -- one of them said, "No More Mutants"; the other one said, "Hell yeah, more mutants."

Brian wrote the Wanda story, and the last time he wrote a story featuring this character, it changed a lot of things for the Marvel U and changed a lot of things about his relationship with the internet. Was he itching to get Scarlet Witch back in his hands and do something with that character?

Alonso: Brian actually got the chance to write Wanda when he wrote that story in "New Avengers" #26 after Hawkeye comes back from the dead and finds her living in a village in Wundagore, amnesiatic, but since then he couldn't wait to write the Scarlet Witch again. When her role took shape at the first "AvX" summit, his excitement was off the charts. Of course, it was donut-fueled.

Though she's very sympathetic here -- a way we haven't conceived of her in a long time. Did you guys want to put out a taste of who the character once was for fans who maybe haven't been reading everything surrounding her since "Disassembled?"

Alonso: Yeah. We took great pains to make sure that "Avengers Vs. X-Men" is new reader-friendly -- that anyone can pick up issue #1 and get right into the story. We introduce the threat, the sides, the stakes and pay special attention to the introduction of characters like Wanda and Hope, who aren't as familiar as, say, Cap, Iron Man or Thor. As for Wanda, we take out time introducing her, but there's an oh $#!% moment about a third of the way into "AvX" that casts little doubt that Wanda is a key player in this story.

That said, our prologue one-shot, "AvX" #0 -- which sold out this week on its first day and has gone back for a second print -- serves as a primer that fleshes out who Hope and Wanda are, in the context of the respective worlds of the X-Men and the Avengers. The two stories in "AvX" #0 -- written by Brian [Bendis] and Jason [Aaron] and illustrated by Frank Cho -- cut to the core of each character.

One common question we hear when a story featuring heroes squaring off is "Where are the villains?" and you guys found places for a number of bad guys here -- including MODOK! That's a character where people are either ambivalent or love him. Where do you fall?

Alonso: I love MODOK. I was with some hip-hop artists the other day who were debating, "Who's more 'hip-hop' -- Modok or Dr. Doom?" Modok won. Giant head, tiny arms and legs. Modok! [Laughter]

On the other side of the equation, the crux of this story is the confrontation between Wanda and the Vision. We've not had the full, original version of Vision around in quite a while either. Why is he so central to what becomes of the Scarlet Witch?

Alonso: Brian thought that the Vision was important because of his role in Wanda's life -- I mean, he was her husband! What role that character plays in "AvX" will have to reveal itself over time.

Well, Vision very much rejects Wanda, and the rest of the Avengers left there seem to accept that. But our glaring absence from this meeting is Captain America, who's leading the troops in the regular story. What might he make of the Avengers so harshly shunning the Scarlet Witch?

Alonso: You'll find out in "AvX." First and foremost, we don't assume that everyone who picks up issue #1 knows who Wanda or Hope is. We take great pains to introduce each in a cinematic manner. In broad strokes, Wanda is a disgraced warrior whose relationship to her clan is, let's just say, a bit strained because of a terrible crime she committed many years ago that almost resulted in the genocide of another clan -- her original clan. Clearly, she's got a lot to atone for. As for Hope -- she 's a teenage girl who is shouldering an enormous burden -- hailed as her clan's "messiah," she has trained her whole life for a destiny she doesn't fully understand or want to embrace.

Looking closer at Jason's Hope story, this opening scene which a many readers saw as a preview in other Marvel comics really drives home the idea that Hope as "the chosen one" is bristling against that role. Is that idea one you've had in mind for the character's makeup since her inception?

Alonso: Absolutely. I mean, Hope spent her whole life on the run, protected and trained by bodyguard/mentor/father-figure Cable to be ready for anything. Then she was suddenly plopped back into a world where an entire race of people -- her people -- genuflects before her. Especially their general, who continues to bet the farm on her, who picks up where Cable stopped and constantly prepares her for some big moment to come. That's enough to drive anyone crazy. Let alone a teenage girl. Most teenage girls can barely abide parents and school; Hope's got to abide the expectations of an entire race.

Even though we've talked about how open and new reader friendly "AvX" #1 is supposed to be, I can't help reading this story and thinking of the just wrapped "Avengers: X-Sanction" and how that story's ending has really placed the Phoenix front and center for these characters in a new way. Have you tried to find that balance of acknowledging these stories without directly referencing them throughout?

Alonso: It's always best to assume your audience didn't see season one. Watching "Game of Thrones" on Blu-ray, I notice that as the season unfolds, character continually allude to things that happened in the past -- crimes, wars, betrayals and back-stabbings -- none of which are fully explained. Each of these stories, of course, bring the characters into focus, illuminate their motivates for what they do; we learn what drives each of them: fear, revenge, lust for power, atonement.

In "AvX," we allude to each character's past to help shape their role in the story: Hope's confusion and anxiety about her destiny, Wanda's hunger to atone for past sins, Logan's firsthand knowledge of the Phoenix Force's destructive power, Captain America's resolve to defend the planet as its top soldier, Cyclops' responsibility to his race and abiding faith in the "Messiah Child." As for the Phoenix Force, we'll explain what it is and what it means and allude to its history -- like, the fact that it once consumed another female mutant with red hair and green eyes by the name of Jean Grey.

For this story, all you need to know is that there's a comet headed toward earth, and there are two very powerful tribes with very different reactions to what that means. Their reaction to this development cuts to the very core of who they are and what they stand for. The roles of individual players will come into focus as the event unfolds. Where will Wolverine -- who's both an X-Man and an Avenger -- stand when push comes to shove? That's just one of the big questions hanging over this event.

Frank Cho really brought a different tone to each of these two stories, but the standout scene for me was the brutality of this page where Hope head-butted the hell out of one of the Serpent Society. [Alonso Laughs] What conversations have you had around what the Phoenix Force can do to a character's psychology? Obviously, it drove Jean Grey to become the Dark Phoenix. Is there a part of Hope that may be teetering on the edge?

Alonso: The head-butting scene is pure Hope. She's a badass. Before her mutant power manifested itself, Hope was trained by Cable to do whatever it takes to win a fight. Hope traveled a long hard road to get to where she is now. She's got a lot of "fire" in her. Combine that internal fire with the Phoenix Force and, well, you've got a potentially volatile mix.

That said, the Phoenix Force is two things: the spirit of destruction and rebirth. It razes worlds and plants the seeds for new life. A long time ago, it inhabited a woman named Jean Grey, and she controlled it for some time before it subsumed her. So the big question is, can someone -- can anyone -- harness that power, control that power?

Looking at some fan questions on the week, new board member Nissus had one that ties well into our conversation today: "Is the Scarlet Witch still able to repower the depowered mutants that the 'No More Mutants' spell affected like she did with Rictor or after losing her connection with the life force she is unable to accomplish this?"

Alonso: No, Nissus. Wanda cannot. It was the additional power of the Life Force that enabled her to take those powers away in the first place, so without it, she can't restore any other mutants. However, if she had the power of the Phoen--

Next question!

Shifting to the X-Men side of the equation, Spider X wanted to know: "Brian Wood is taking over 'X-Men' in June. Looking at the solicits it looks like both Jubilee and Warpath are nowhere to be found. Will they still be active characters in the X-Universe and where can we find them?" and Taurean added a smartly written plea for more Jubilee, saying, "I understand that some characters are more popular but I feel that the X-Men have too many books with repeat characters. Can we get a book dedicated to the teen X-Men? Or X-Men that don't always get the limelight?"

Alonso: Simple and plain, X-Men titles that feature teen or obscure X-Men are a hard sell, Spider X. What draws readers to X-Men titles is the iconic characters they know and love. Our best strategy to keep "b-tier" X-Men characters vital is to have them bump shoulders with the Wolverines and Cyclopses of the X-Men Universe. Like Warpath, for instance, who is gong to appear in "AvX." As for Jubilee...? You're going to have to wait a little while longer, Taurean.

Randycat showed up with a hot topic of the week, asking: "Now that it's been announced that Route 666 and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang will not be released in the foreseeable future, are there still any plans for the Crossgen line or characters? Perhaps with a different approach than the previous minis (for example-digital exclusives, or having some of the CG characters appear in the Marvel Universe)?"

Alonso: There are no plans on the horizon, Randycat. Creatively speaking, we'd love to do more. But we need to know there's a big enough audience for them.

scouse mouse combines our character and publishing format questions, asking: "Can you reveal when Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira will be returning to Avenging Spider Man for the Elektra and Wolverine team up? It's been months since we last saw Elektra and its killing me waiting for her Zeb-scripted return!"

Alonso: That's a timely question, scouse mouse. We were just discussing how to announce some changes with the "Avenging Spider-Man" plans. Instead of me sitting through a bunch of meetings with visionary editor (and my own personal life coach) Stephen Wacker about it, let's just make some news here:

Joe [Madueira] and Zeb [Wells'] new Spidey/Wolverine/Elektra story has changed shape and is becoming a slightly bigger project. In addition, Dan Slott's plan for "Amazing Spider-Man" has grown in scope and will affect just about every Spidey-related book in its wake. So, while Zeb and Joe get ready for their big project, we've got some big "Avenging Spidey" stories in the pipe, written an drawn by some of the biggest names in comics...before -- drum roll, please -- Chris Yost comes on as new regular writer, working closely with Slott to reflect some of the big Spidey events coming up soon.

Not to fear, we're all big fans of the work Zeb's been doing on the book -- this week's Captain America story with Leinil Yu is particularly special -- so he comes back for one more issue in August that honors Spidey's 50th anniversary with a very personal story. More on that in the next few weeks. Here's some preview art for "Avenging" (and the secret Zeb & Joe Mad book) that I think you'll like:

Finally, Spidey616 swung in to ask: "Since some time has passed since the Wolverine/Sabretooth reborn project was announced can you give us an update on its status? Should we expect the storyline to appear in the current ongoing Wolverine title or as its own separate mini?"

Alonso: Simone is well into it, Spidey616. To whet your appetite, we ran the first five pages in "Wolverine" #300 in January. And if that weren't enough for you, here's another sneak peek. As for details of exactly where and when, keep your eyes peeled in April!

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!

Crisis on Infinite Earths' Batman Reveals How Dark He Will Really Go

More in CBR Exclusives