Preparing for Battle with "Civil War II" and "Apocalypse Wars"

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 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, Alonso shares all sorts of behind-the-scene insight on "Civil War II," which Marvel made official this week after an initial tease back in October. With the "Invincible Iron Man" team of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez leading the way, Alonso promises a different story than the 2006-2007 original by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven -- albeit with a similar end result in dividing the readership among philosophical lines. In an event-heavy edition of the column, Alonso also talks the March-debuting "Avengers: Standoff" and "Apocalypse Wars," the latter of which looks to capitalize on the buzz from the "X-Men: Apocalypse" feature film. All that and more, including discussion of the freshly released "Scarlet Witch" #1 by James Robinson and Vanesa R. Del Rey, the forthcoming "Haunted Mansion" Disney Kingdoms series from Joshua Williamson and Jorge Coelho and answers to your questions, directly from the CBR Community.

Albert Ching: Axel, we've got to start with "Civil War II," which was made official by Marvel earlier this week. I know it's too early to talk plot details, but let's get into the broad strokes -- on one hand, a "Civil War II" feels like a no-brainer given the success of the original and the profile of that title with "Captain America: Civil War" out in theaters next May. But it also feels like sort of a risk, too, living up to the original and the perception that Marvel may be going back to the same territory. How did the plan to go forward with "Civil War II" as the big 2016 Marvel event materialize?

Axel Alonso: Well, for starters, this is an entirely new and completely different story. Obviously, I can't say too much about it at this juncture, but I can say this: Part of the reason that "Civil War" was so huge was because it spoke to the most pressing question of the day at that time. Outside comic book circles, the world took notice. "Civil War II" will do the same. Like "Civil War," "Civil War II" will force you to take a side. There is no good guy or bad guy, so it won't be easy.

That was definitely a big part of the fun of the original -- I remember the "I'm with..." images from the message boards of the day. And what you just described sounds similar in approach to this year's "Secret Wars," which was not a direct sequel to either of the original "Secret Wars." It shares some of the themes and scale, uses a "Battleworld," but is more of a spiritual follow-up than a sequel. Is "Civil War II" roughly the same type of approach?

Alonso: "Secret Wars" was a fundamentally Marvel Universe event -- a deep-dive into Marvel mythology and history -- and we planned it for years. What distinguishes "Civil War II" from "Secret Wars" is there's a metaphor at its core that speaks to one the most prevailing issues of the day, something that everyone is aware of and talking about. And we didn't spend years planning it -- in fact, we weren't even planning on doing a "Civil War II." It came about because I was discussing the upcoming "Civil War" movie with my boss, Dan Buckley, over lunch, and we pondered what issue or question would provide the fulcrum for a story of that scope today. It was a hypothetical conversation. I took those seeds of that conversation to Brian Bendis and Tom Brevoort and we watered them a little, and a story emerged that showed enough potential that we invited Dan, Joe Quesada, Mark Paniccia, Nick Lowe, Steve Wacker, Sana Amanat and C.B. Cebulski to give us feedback. We grew that idea across several emails and there eventually came a point when Dan called it: "You know, what this is, right? This is 'Civil War II'." [Laughs]

So, this was more an instance where the title fit the story, not the other way around.

On a similar note, I wanted to get your take on this creative team. Bendis may have the record for having written the most line-wide Marvel events, from "House of M," "Secret Invasion," being one-fifth of the "Avengers vs. X-Men" writing team along with "Age of Ultron." Marquez has taken on bigger and bigger projects at Marvel, and this looks to be the biggest yet. What has you excited about this team on this story?

Alonso: What's got me excited is what's already on display in the pages of "Invincible Iron Man." Brian is writing one of the most compelling and fun Iron Man stories I've ever read -- he's managed to capture in the bottle the feeling you get when you go to the movie theater -- and, of course, David Marquez is supplying the acting, cinematography, unlimited special effects budget, etc., and absolutely killing it. David is doing next-level $#!# right now, plain and simple. He's already met the challenge of "Invincible Iron Man;" now, he's now going to embrace the challenge of "Civil War II."

From the start, Marvel made it clear to readers that "Invincible Iron Man" was an important book, describing it as the "flagship" of the All-New, All-Different Marvel era. It's already been seen that Iron Man is playing a big role here -- can readers look to "Invincible Iron Man" for clues or overtures of where "Civil War II" might be going?

Alonso: I'm sure Brian will use the next few issues to set up his characters for what's to come. Tony and one other character, in particular. That said, we want readers to hit the ground running when they pick up "Civil War II." We want them to immediately understand the key players and the stakes, and wrestle with the question at the core of the series that divides our heroes.

New "Avengers: Standoff" Crossover Solicits, Covers Deepen the Mystery of Pleasant Hill

Also this week, readers learned a bit more about a story announced a few months back: "Avengers: Standoff." That's starting just a couple months before "Civil War II" -- is that event in any way thematically connected to "Civil War II"? It looks to involve potentially a lot of the same players.

Alonso: Not really. Tom Brevoort and ["All-New Captain America" writer] Nick Spencer concocted this story before we started our "Civil War II" discussion. It's an event that spans some of the "Avengers" titles, and it has developments and revelations that will reposition some key characters before "Civil War II" starts -- particularly Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers. But "Standoff" is not a prelude to "Civil War II." It's its own thing.

A line-specific event.

Alonso: Exactly. You see it in the Spider-Man line, the X-Men line, the "Guardians" books.

EXCLUSIVE: Bunn's "Uncanny X-Men" Wade Into the "Apocalypse Wars"

Speaking of line-specific events: This week brought news of the X-Men initiative titled "Apocalypse Wars," with three separate stories in the three core X-Men books, each focusing on Apocalypse. Obviously "X-Men: Apocalypse" is coming to theaters in a few months, but what motivated Marvel to tie in to that film in this way? It feels like a more overt tie-in to a Fox X-Men film than readers have seen recently from Marvel publishing.

Alonso: In the vein of "Fall of the Mutants," this is a thematic crossover of the entire X-Men line that takes advantage of the halo effect of the movie -- what better timing to do this, and get people in the stores while people are thinking about Apocalypse? It's been hatching since the first retreat where we had Jeff [Lemire], Dennis [Hopeless] and Cullen [Bunn] on the three core books so it's no coincidence that Archangel is a central character in Cullen's "Uncanny X-Men" and Kid Apocalypse is part of the cast of "All-New X-Men." Each writer has their particular "in" to tell a story that involves Apocalypse, but because we're not knitting them together tightly, each book is free to tell a story that fits its mission statement.

On Thursday morning, the first crop of Free Comic Book Day books announced, with Marvel's offering an "Avengers" issue with an as-yet unrevealed creative team. Is that a sign a new "Avengers" series is in the works?

Alonso: All I'll say is that it's a tease for something that's in the works.

The big series debut from Marvel this week was "Scarlet Witch" #1, written by James Robinson and with art by Vanesa R. Del Rey. It's an impressive first issue, and the start of a series featuring a different artist on each issue. What inspired Marvel to take that unique approach -- make this into something of a prestige book with a distinct vision in each issue?

Alonso: We wanted to do a series that really used Wanda to tell stories that she is unique to tell. And James -- who has been angling to write her solo book for years -- pitched a series that had her embarking on a magical walkabout -- a magical mystery tour, so to speak. The idea was that Wanda would travel the world, encountering a different form of magic at various pit stops that required her attention, and that each of these issues would be self-contained, but part of a larger puzzle. That there would be a through line to this journey, a larger super-story. Also, we thought it would be cool if each issue featured a new artist that was tapped because his or her style really suited the story. So there's a reason that Vanesa R. Del Rey drew issue #1, Marco Rudy is drawing #2, Steve Dillon is drawing issue #3.

Marvel's "Haunted Mansion" Comic Series Adds Williamson & Coelho

Also announced this week was the creative team for "Haunted Mansion," with Haunted Mansion superfan Joshua Williamson writing and Jorge Coelho on art. This is the latest in Marvel's Disney Kingdoms line, and more than the other feels aimed a bit more at the core Marvel reader based on its genre. What intrigued you about this one?

Alonso: This owes a little bit more to [Marvel SVP & Marketing] David Gabriel than me. David is in regular contact with the Disney Imagineers, he recommends properties to me for adaptation, and this is one he felt we could really excel with.

I think he's right. And I think you might be right -- the hard lean into that particular genre may appeal to Marvel readers and beyond. But at the end of the day, this is really about creating new comics product for new comics fans, and so far we've been really successful. I think the offerings have been interesting and diverse, and this should be a new chocolate in the box.

Let's wrap with a couple of questions from the CBR Community. scouse mouse is playing the "Secret Wars" long game and asks, "During 'Secret Wars' it was announced that each of the tie-in minis would provide something that would carry over into the new Marvel Universe. We have seen things like Regent moving over from 'Renew Your Vows' to Weirdworld itself from 'Weirdworld'. As it stands though, nothing from the X-related minis seems to have carried over so far. Can you give any hints as to what may have come across from the likes of 'Inferno' and 'Age of Apocalypse' or was it not so literal that every tie-in would provide something?"

Alonso: Well, for starters, there's Old Man Logan, who'll arrive in the Marvel Universe next month, courtesy of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino. That said, our new line of X-Men titles has only just launched, with "Uncanny X-Men" also yet to debut. With so much ground to cover in terms of establishing their status quos in a world where Terrigen Mists are preying upon the mutant race, our writers have a lot of ground to cover before revealing what they cherry-picked from the "Secret Wars." Dennis Hopeless did have a hand in both "Inferno" and "House of M," after all. And also don't rule out the possibility that an X-Men character from Battleworld might ultimately turn up in a non-X-title.

Then we'll close with perennial Q&A MVP Spidey616, who asks, "After Bendis said in interviews he hoped to have an uninterrupted 'Iron Man' run with David Marquez, I was a bit surprised to see Mike Deodato Jr. was drawing issue #6, until the 'Civil War II' announcement this week. Is Marquez just taking a break from the Iron Man title to focus on 'Civil War II' or is it a wait and see thing after he finishes drawing this big event book? Is Deodato the regular artist for 'Iron Man' or is there a plan to have a rotating art team?"

Alonso: The plan is for David Marquez to return to "Invincible Iron Man" after he's done with "Civil War II."

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!

How Can the Marvel Cinematic Universe Keep Scaling Up?

More in CBR Exclusives