NYCC: Marvel Previews Its Unlimited Potential in Members-Only Event

As New York Comic Con 2014 drew to a close, Marvel Comics invited members of its Marvel Unlimited Plus service to a special panel that featured Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, Brian Michael Bendis, Ryan Stegman, Nick Spencer, Phil Noto, Gerry Duggan and Dan Slott. Hosted by Director of Marvel Digital Ryan Penagos, this legion of creators debuted some never-before-seen previews of their upcoming work and sat tight through a special viewing of some upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe footage.

Although the room wasn't quite packed, Penagos greeted the attendees and acknowledged that -- out of about 5 or 6 Marvel Unlimited events he has previously hosted -- "this is the biggest crowd for one of these." He then advised the audience to stow their recording devices because "everything we're showing has never been shown, or has been seen by one crowd, maybe two." To reinforce this, a handful of security officers -- referred to by Penagos as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents -- patrolled the aisles during the panel.

The panel kicked off with some never-before-seen artwork from "Guardians of the Galaxy" #20 by Ed McGuinness, showcasing Drax as he hoists the Cancerverse's version of Mjiolner. "Ed McGuinness doing an amazing job," Bendis gushed. "It's quite wonderful to write for him." He promised that this arc would feature "the final fate in the Cancerverse." "Hopefully, some of you will post on the Internet about this," he joked. "Hopefully, you'll get some closure from this."

The presentation then dovetailed into another Bendis creation -- "Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man" with art by David Marquez. According to Bendis, Marquez is "growing in leaps and bounds from an already amazing place" as he works on the series. "You'll find out everything you want to know about Peter Parker," Bendis teased. "You'll see the return of Miles's father -- we will finally find out what giant secret Miles' father has been carrying around."

Before delving into his next project, Bendis made a quick aside about some of the fans he has encountered on social media, particularly on his Tumblr blog. "Every question I get on Tumblr is, 'Can you tell me the end of the story?'" he said with a laugh, citing "Death of Wolverine" as a frequently visited topic.

Subsequently, he took a look at the mutant side of affairs with a preview of "Uncanny X-Men" #20, as drawn by Kris Anka. Describing the issue as "knee-deep" in "The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier," Bendis promised it will tick through Xavier's "laundry list of secrets," "the most dangerous being this one mutant" who has "power over space and time and matter -- that level of power is uncontrollable." He slyly added that the X-Men need to "take care, or all hell will break loose -- what Cyclops intends to do with [this power] will tear an even bigger hole through the mutant population going forward." He also briefly mentioned the shocking revelation that Xavier was married to Mystique. "That can of worms is about to pop as well."

Bendis also touched upon his stint on "All-New X-Men" with Mahmud Asrar, recounting how the original five X-Men (plus X-23) "tripped and fell into the Ultimate universe." With the cover of Issue #33 -- a dramatic shot of Miles and Jean at odds -- illuminating the screen behind him, Bendis painted the picture of the young X-Men "discovering a world where man created mutants." "There's a good chance that not all the original X-Men will return to the regular universe," he warned. Bendis closed out his portion of the panel saying, "Both ['Uncanny' and All-New'] are heading straight into 'Secret Wars,'" before Penagos quickly shifted to the next panelist.

"Amazing Spider-Man" scribe Dan Slott dug into "Spider-Verse," touting "Amazing Spider-Man" #9 as "the first full chapter" and "opening ballet" of the long-awaited event. Slott recapped the story so far as "Morlun and his family... hunting spiders through all space and time" and mentioned a few upcoming guest stars, including old man Spider-Man from "Amazing Spider-Man" #500 and "Edge of Spider-Verse" #2's Gwen Stacy, which was met with furious applause. "Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez are killing it on 'Edge of Spider-Verse,'" Slott agreed, confirming that the issue will be Spider-Gwen's debut in "Spider-Verse." The character will also appear on the cover of "Amazing Spider-Man" #13. He backtracked a little, saying, "you and your childhoods hate me for Issue #7" of "Amazing Spider-Man."

"I got pissed off at Dan!" Penagos declared.

Slott then spent some time discussing his other title, "Silver Surfer." In Issue #7, Slott and artist Mike Allred will show that Norrin Radd and Dawn have "been doing this for a while" through the use of "a clip show of things you've missed." Slott described the issue as "a bunch of short stories" that takes the odd couple to "a place in outer space where the stars run out." In crafting the issue, Slott asked Allred to take a crack at "anything you've ever wanted to draw," which resulted in the moon base of Allred's dreams. While divulging the direction of the series, Slott mentioned, "Surfer has been keeping a secret from Dawn," and that she doesn't know what Galactus or a herald is.

As Slott talked about the logistics of Allred's moon base, he recounted an exchange between himself and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. When Slott suggested putting a lost minotaur in the moon base's maze, Brevoort countered, "Aren't minotaurs good at mazes?" To which Slott replied, "Maybe it's a touramin... it's the opposite of a bull and it's bad at mazes? It's a little baby minotaur and it's bad at mazes?" Laughing, Slott said the whole ordeal made it so "I couldn't sleep at night."

Gerry Duggan took the microphone next to showcase his work on "Hulk" #8 with Mark Bagley. "We had a big bomb, with a long fuse, and it's going to go off in Issue #8 and 9." "There is some question about Doc Green's motives," Duggan explained. "He wants to be the only Hulk." He mentioned that Rick Jones and Red She-Hulk would both appear in these issues.

Duggan also expounded on his upcoming "Nova" #22 with Federico Santagati, which will function as a standalone Halloween story. "Nova has been through the wringer lately," he shared. "This is a little bit of a breather before we get to 'AXIS' for Sam, and that's really his big coming out party in the Marvel Universe -- he's really going to have to save the universe." The issue will also feature the students from the Jean Grey school.

"Deadpool" #36, which will take place during the "AXIS" event, will also undergo the Duggan treatment with Mike Hawthorne on pencils. "You're going to see a side of Deadpool that keen eyes might have seen running around in his head," Duggan explained. Due to the nature of the event, Duggan said, "We're calling him Zenpool -- he's inverted Deadpool." He described the preview art as "a bit of hallucination -- or he's serving up a bit of himself for Thanksgiving." Duggan brings Deadpool back to the X-Mansion for this issue. "We're having a lot of fun -- we have found some really delightful ways to hurt Wade."

Jumping off from Duggan's "AXIS"-related issue, Alonso took a moment to speak about the event as a whole. "This is a fun event that stands alone in the universe. It's going to change the characters," he shared. "This is an event where we're rooting for one person one minute and another the next."

Penagos then introduced writer Nick Spencer and his series, "Superior Foes of Spider-Man," as "one of the most best, funniest, laugh-out-loud books." Spencer thanked him, saying, "It's been an honor to work with Steve [Lieber]." All credit to Marvel for letting us stick around." As the book hurtles towards its conclusion, Spencer gave the audience a taste of things to come with mysterious epithets such as "the head of Silverman is out there," "a gang war has erupted," and, "we're going to find out what Boomerang was up to all along."

While discussing the "Superior Foes" run, Penagos also made mention of C.M. Punk, the former WWE Champion who has tweeted his love for the series. Because of this, the Marvel team requested and received a blurb for the back of the "Superior Foes" trade from the retired wrestler.

Spencer then turned to his work on "Avengers World," saying, "some of my favorite Avengers pop up here, in #15," including Sting Ray, 3D Man, U.S. Agent and Valkyrie. As part of the "AXIS" event, the issue will take "a bunch of random heroes and put them on a mission" with "a mysterious benefactor in Victor Von Doom." Although Spencer describes this issue as "a shot in the spotlight" and "their big opportunity," he made sure to mention, "of course, it goes terribly wrong."

Moving on down the line, Ryan Stegman had his chance to talk about his upcoming "Inhuman" #11 with Charles Soule. The issue will feature "two new characters, Reader and Xiaoyi... They come back in Issue #9 [with] a big story with Reader," who Stegman describes as "personally my favorite character." He commented on designing a new look for Medusa, saying, "She's one of my favorite characters to draw, it turns out."

As the creators wrapped their previews, Penagos had the lights dimmed and got the cameras rolling, debuting Marvel Cinematic Universe footage that -- in his words -- "you're only the second group to see." This included scenes from "Agent Carter," the recently announced "Guardians of the Galaxy" cartoon, "Ant-Man" and "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

In the "Agent Carter" clip, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) walk along a dock at night. Stark talks with Peggy about some sort of chemical he's discovered that can level an entire city in even a small dose. Stark directs her to Jarvis as he climbs into his speedboat, saying that Jarvis can be of help to her. As she approaches Jarvis, she makes a joke about sneaking up on women in a dark alley. Jarvis says he might not remember that piece of advice because of his concussion. He tells her not to call her at night because he and his wife like to go to bed early. He opens the door to his car and lets her in. The shot jumps to a flurry of action, breaking away to a series of quick cuts where Atwell is seen fighting in an apartment at night.

The "Guardians of the Galaxy" cartoon scene heavily featured Rocket Racoon, guns blazing, running along rooftops and firing on some unseen assailant. Peter Quill, wearing his red leather jacket and mask from the film, swoops down in his ship and tells Rocket he'll need some bigger guns if they're going to keep running together.

The "Ant-Man" footage, shown previously at July at Comic-Con International, opens with winding shot through a lab as Colonel Talbot from "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." chastises Scott Lang, subtly namedropping Hank Pym along the way. The scene cuts to a fully CGI sequence with Lang on a skyscraper rooftop. A flying ant lands next to him. He can't seem to control it very well; the helmet seems to be on the fritz as it hisses and spews sparks. Talbot instructs Lang to jump off the roof. Lang does so, and screams as he plummets to the ground. The ant swoops in, catches him, and they fly directly at the camera. The screen goes black.

Likewise, the "Avengers: Age of Ultron" clip and full trailer were also seen at SDCC. The first scene opens with a party in Stark tower, where everyone lounges around in plain clothes. Mjolnir is on the table. Stark makes a joke about the hammer: "If I can lift it, can I be king of Asgard?" Thor responds, "Of course." Stark tries to lift the hammer with one hand and fails. He leaves and comes back with the armor on his hand and tries again. Rhodey joins him, wearing his Iron Patriot armor. Clint tries for a brief moment, fails, and starts to laugh a lot the situation. Banner gives it his best shot and pretends to Hulk out when he fails, to much laughter. Finally, Rogers tries and budges the hammer ever so slightly. Thor lifts his eyebrows in surprise. Everyone laughs when even Steve can't do it. They ask Natasha to give it a try, and she says, "That is a question I do not need answered." Suddenly, a dark figure with a glowing blue face limps into the room, intoning, "You cannot lift the hammer because none of you are worthy." The Avengers stand up, assuming a defensive stance. Ultron says something about needing them to go extinct as Stark's armor crashes through the wall.

What followed was a trailer featuring a series of quick cuts, all centered on Ultron's lumbering steps toward a whole tower of destruction. He says, "I have a vision." A single piano note plays over his words and we see a city in trouble, its people abandoning cars and fleeing through the streets. A version of "Pinocchio's" "I've Got No Strings" begins to play over a flurry of action sequences: Scarlet Witch in the middle of a city, her feet among the rubble, screaming at the sky with her fists clenched; Quicksilver launching himself at Hawkeye in slow motion; The Avengers' Quinjet swooping down over a city street and releasing Back Widow from its belly -- she lands effortlessly and takes off down the road; A glimpse of Loki's staff, buried in a crate; Hulkbuster armor revving for action, Hulk blasting through a city street toward it, using a car as a shield against its repulsor beams; Natasha placing her hand on Hulk's fist and looking up into his face; Stark struggling through snow, his armor gone; Ultron turns toward the camera, looking at his open palm, and says, "I've got no strings to hold me down." The title card comes up, with the logo and release date, before showing one last scene: Tony Stark stands in the darkness, looking out over a field of bodies. He looks down at his feet, where he sees Steve's shield in pieces on the ground. The trailer ends.

After showing the "Avengers 2" footage -- twice -- to thunderous applause, Penagos allowed a few brief questions from the audience as the crowd filtered out. One question, "Will there be a special needs superhero?" was met with "I don't see why not," and, "It could very well happen" from Alonso.

While the Marvel Unlimited Plus membership is an added fee for Marvel fans, it was clear from the buzz as those subscribers filed out of the room that what Marvel showed them in the private panel was well worth the price of admission.

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