Marvel's "Power Man & Iron Fist," "Daredevil/Punisher" and More Duos

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!

This week, the inadvertent theme is Marvel characters in pairs -- between the freshly launched "Power Man and Iron Fist" by David Walker and Sanford Greene, the recently announced "Daredevil/Punisher" from Charles Soule plys artists Szymon Kudranski and Reilly Brown and the even more recently announced "Deadpool vs. Gambit," co-written by the team of Ben Acker & Ben Blacker and illustrated by Danilo Beyruth. Alonso shares behind-the-scenes insight on all three, including details on the "Power Man and Iron Fist" development process. All that and more, including discussion of the "Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill" one-shot from Nick Spencer and Mark Bagley, Steve Dillon's work on the upcoming new "Punisher" series and answers to your questions, direct from the CBR Community.

Albert Ching: Axel, before we get into Marvel material, did you see Saturday's Slam Dunk Contest, which appears to be the consensus best one in years?

Axel Alonso: I caught the highlights on SportsCenter. Absolutely insane. What these young guys do -- they look more like NBA 2K avatars than humans. Also, there was none of this seven or eight attempts to get the dunk right. Like Charles Barkley says, you've got to nail it the first time for it to count.

Getting into Marvel territory, let's talk one of the big releases of the week: "Power Man and Iron Fist" #1 by David Walker and Sanford Greene. We've talked about it a bit before; I know it's a book you were excited about in its development. I'd like to hear more about how this series came together, and why Marvel knew this was the right time to have this distant take on the characters -- who readers haven't seen together in a while.

Alonso: We waited to do this right -- to find the right creative team, and the right spot to launch it. Shortly after I read David's first issue of "Shaft," I called him and we chatted, just casual. I asked him what Marvel characters he'd most like to write, and Power Man and Iron Fist were somewhere near the top of the list. So I made a note of that, and since Kaare Andrews was in the midst of his excellent "Iron Fist: The Living Weapon" series, I told David to be ready when opportunity presented itself. Sure enough it did: The post-"Secret Wars" landscape was the perfect landing pad for "Power Man and Iron Fist," David was ready with a great pitch and Sanford's assignments were coming to a close, so we had our book.

And it's a #$@#ing great book. [Laughs] Different from everything else. It's got zany energy, but it's very much a super hero, punch 'em up adventure.

RELATED: Walker Explores Luke Cage's Evolution, Ties that Bind in "Power Man & Iron Fist"

To that point, since it had been a while since we've seen Luke Cage and Danny Rand as a duo, do you think Marvel missing something without it? It feels like injecting the lineup with a relationship that's unique in comics.

Alonso: Hindsight's 20/20, but, yeah. Until now, Rocket and Groot kind of had the trademark on Marvel bromance -- and Groot's got a limited vocabulary -- so it's nice to see another series that is, at its core, a buddy book. And it's very real examination of friendship -- what happens when time passes and life just happens. Luke and Danny are back together for one job, but it's not quite the same as it used to be. They've got undeniable chemistry and they're total badasses when they tag team a bad guy, but both men have grown and grown apart. This series will be about them becoming friends again, and seeing exactly what that means.

Also released this week was the kickoff to the "Avengers: Standoff" event, "Welcome to Pleasant Hill." I think the issue was definitely something people didn't expect, partially because it was a deliberate mystery as told, and also because very little was released about the actual plot in advance. What was compelling to you about this first issue, and how it sets the stage for the event to follow?

Alonso: This was very, very much the brainchild of Nick Spencer and Tom Brevoort. They had an idea for a story that they were going to tell in "All-New Captain America" that they eventually nurtured into a bona fide event. "Welcome to Pleasant Hill" starts quiet -- it's got a little bit of a "Twin Peaks"/"Pleasantville" vibe -- but it sets the stage for a huge-scale story that will, let's just say, reposition some big characters in the Marvel Universe -- and just in time for "Civil War II." I don't want to give away too much.

Looking into the recently released May 2016 solicitations -- there's a "Daredevil/Punisher" digital-first miniseries on the way. Those are two characters fans will see together on screen next month on Netflix, but of course they have a lot of history in comics. This book is spinning right out of Charles Soule's "Daredevil" run -- what can readers look forward to with these two characters getting back together again?

Alonso: Daredevil and Punisher have a very unique relationship with each other and with the scales of justice, as the Netflix trailer aptly points out. With "Daredevil" Season 2 about to drop, we thought it was perfect timing to remind people of that relationship. It's funny, but every Daredevil/Punisher story poses a "who's side are you on?" question to the reader. I mean, whose justice do you prefer for, say, Killgrave from "Jessica Jones"? Daredevil would do everything in his power to take him out with non-lethal force; Frank Castle would just put a bullet in his brain from 500 feet.

RELATED: Soule Reignites Daredevil & Punisher's Deadly Feud in Crossover Miniseries

On the Punisher topic, saw you showing off Steve Dillon's character sketches from the new Becky Cloonan-written "Punisher" series, also debuting in May, this week on Twitter.

Alonso: Yep, we just wanted to tease people a little bit about where we're headed. Steve is doing some of the best work of his career. His single issue of "Scarlet Witch" was amazing, and it was just a warm-up for this series. I edited Steve on "Preacher," so I know when he's got fire in his belly.

Also from the solicitations in May, something I knew you were hoping for: A hardcover collection of the hip-hop covers, starting with 70-plus of them.

Alonso: Hell yeah. Volume 1 is going to be a handsome book for your coffee table that includes 70-plus covers, along with behind-the-scenes sketches, quotes from rap luminaries and an introduction by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who's been very open about how Marvel comic books shaped his imagination and his writing. And I say "Volume 1" because there will be a Volume 2 -- we're working on those covers now.

This initiative was a phenomenal success. The outpouring of love and support from music sites and hip-hop fans and the artists themselves, not to mention the comic book fans who revealed themselves as hip-hop heads, and hip-hop artists who revealed themselves as Marvel Zombies is amazing. And it is, as I've said, the head of a spear.

This week is the ComicsPRO retailer event, and a lot of publishers are making noise -- Marvel has announced a "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" adaptation starting in June from Chuck Wendig and Luke Ross. It seems like, as an industry, comics have shied away from straight adaptation a bit, but with a movie as big as "Force Awakens," it seems there's likely an audience for it. What brought this project to life at Marvel?

Alonso: We've had great success this year reissuing the classic adaptations of the original films in gorgeous collected editions -- and we figured fans would want to have the complete saga in their library. I mean, way before the movie came out, fans were asking when our adaptation would be happening, and we're more than happy to give them what they want.

And Chuck Wendig seems like the right choice, given his "Aftermath" Star Wars novels along with his comics writing background.

Alonso: He's perfectly qualified, absolutely.

Also announced at ComicsPRO: A "Deadpool vs. Gambit" limited series. We've seen Deadpool in a lot of different situations at this point in various miniseries -- what can fans expect with a pairing with Gambit?

Alonso: The Bens -- Acker and Blacker -- have crafted a great con-man buddy movie -- "The Sting" meets "John Wick." It turns out Wade and Remy have a secret history of working together to pull grifts. The last one went south for them, but they're teaming up again for one big score.

And Gambit's a character fans always seem to want to see more of.

Alonso: Exactly.

Also announced this week was an upcoming "Captain America: Sam Wilson" #7 variant by Jim Steranko. Given how few comics he's done recently -- as in, recent decades -- that's something special. What does it mean to you have a legend like Steranko back in the fold, doing covers?

Alonso:. On the Mt. Rushmore of comic book artists, Steranko is just to the left of Kirby. [Laughs] His narrative innovations -- he's had such an indelible impact on our industry and the way we compose pages and tell stories.

Funny thing is, once a year, I get a call from Jim out of the blue. He's on his cell and he's doing something that Hemingway would do -- chopping wood or climbing a mountain -- and he just wants to talk about the comics: what's going on, where the medium is headed. It's always a fascinating talk, and of course, I always remind him that the door is open... so maybe our conversations paved the road to this...? [Laughs]

Oh, and by the way, he is going to be doing a year of "Captain America" variants to commemorate Cap's 75th anniversary.

Let's wrap with a couple of fan questions from the CBR Community. First ballot question-asker hall of famer Spider616 asks, "Always been a fan of 'Damage Control' created by the late/great Dwayne McDuffie and hope every year to hear some kind of new project announcement related to the concept. With the 'Damage Control' pilot in development, has there been any discussion of a new 'Damage Control' miniseries or possibly creating an monthly ongoing 'Damage Control' series?

Alonso: We have no immediate plans, but with "Civil War II" looming, maybe they'll be needed?

And we'll wrap with true_believer616, who's looking a bit outside the mainstream Marvel Universe: "Are you planning to launch new Icon and MAX Series?"

Alonso: Yes. In fact, we will announce one soon. We'd have announced it sooner, but the artist was interrupted by a personal crisis. It's going to be a crowd pleaser.

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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