Marvel NOW! Gets Young & Hungry with "Champions" and the New "Iron Man"

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!

It's been a busy week for Marvel Comics news, specifically with the announcements of some of the biggest Marvel NOW! launches set for this fall: "Champions," featuring a young team of heroes consisting of Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Ms. Marvel, The Totally Awesome Hulk, Nova, Viv Vision and teen Cyclops from the creative team of Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos; "Invincible Iron Man" from Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli, starring the recently introduced Riri Williams in the lead role; the previously teased "Death of X" miniseries, featuring a collision between the X-Men and Inhumans courtesy of co-writers & Jeff Lemire and artist Aaron Kuder; the offbeat "Great Lakes Avengers" from writer Zac Gorman and Will Robson; and "Unworthy Thor," with Jason Aaron and Olivier Coipel putting the classic Thor -- now known solely as "Odinson" -- back in a starring role. Alonso gives his thoughts on each of these launches, along with a cameo from Marvel editor Wil Moss, who explains that the return of Odinson does not mean a lower profile for the current Thor, Jane Foster. [NOTE: This interview took place before Friday's "CAGE!" and "Captain Marvel" announcements.]

Albert Ching: Axel, as the full new Marvel NOW! lineup reveal approaches with next Wednesday's release of the Marvel NOW! Previews magazine, there were quite a few major series announcements these past few days. Let's start with "Champions" from Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos, and specifically with that creative team. Fans my age remember their work together on "Impulse" back in the '90s -- what was the motivation on Marvel's part to re-team them up for this story?

Axel Alonso: The series -- this team and its mission statement -- grew organically out of "Civil War II." Mark was part of that discussion, and since he is the "Avengers" writer, it just made perfect sense that he'd take point on this. Humberto was natural fit for the series, given his chemistry with Mark and the fact that the team is composed of young characters, which he excels with.

Given the positioning of it as one of the first announcements of the new Marvel NOW! era and the prominence of the characters involved -- how big of a book is this? "All-New, All-Different Avengers" was one of the flagships of last year's launches, and this seems to be carrying on in that spirit -- is "Champions" one of Marvel's flagship books going forward?

Alonso: Without a doubt. The same way that "Uncanny Avengers" was a flagship book coming out of the original Marvel NOW!, "Champions" makes a huge statement about the Marvel Universe in the aftermath of "Civil War II."

It's said to be a different type of team book, and it also feels like the culmination of a lot of things Marvel has been doing in recent years, with its clear focus on younger, more diverse characters. What's exciting to you about seeing the "Champions" team together?

Alonso: They're diverse, they're all fairly new, and they've all connected with readers, new and old, for different reasons. To see them interact is going to be a lot of fun, especially when you consider what drew them together in the first place.

This week also brought the news of a new "Invincible Iron Man" series from Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli that will star Riri Williams. That's certainly a bold move, to replace a character as famous as Tony Stark with a relatively brand-new character -- what was the behind the scenes process like in making this decision? What gave Marvel the confidence to move forward?

Alonso: Like "Champions," this move was an organic outgrowth of "Civil War II." We promised that it would bring about change the Marvel Universe, and we weren't joking. And if the reaction to this announcement proves anything, it's that people have a visceral reaction to seeing someone like her wearing that armor! [Laughs]

I think Riri is a fantastic hero for our times, who will hopefully prove a great role model for the future. Will she be "Iron Man"...or will she forge her own identity and adopt her own identity? And where the heck is Tony Stark? Wait and see.

Riri fits in the tradition of a lot of newer Marvel characters -- younger, something of a legacy character and represents a demographic that you don't often see in lead roles in mainstream superhero comics. What do you like about this character that Bendis and Mike Deodato created? And was it always the plan for her to take this much as a lead role?

Alonso: Like Miles, Kamala and Amadeus, Riri is a character that we were always invested in. Brian had ambitious plans for her when he took over "Invincible Iron Man," and those plans got a lot bigger as the details of "Civil War II" came into sharp focus. Stuff sets this up.

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