With the October release of Marvel Comics' "AXIS" event drawing closer, the publisher has kept details carefully under wraps for the tale that spins out of writer Rick Remender's "Uncanny Avengers" run. While the "Road to Axis" tie-ins are set for "Uncanny Avengers," "Magneto," "Loki: Agent of Asgard" and "Captain America" for the coming months, there's still a lot of unknowns when it comes to the events teased in the opening issue of "Uncanny Avengers."
With tidbits of "The Red Supremacy," the first of three "AXIS" acts, already out in the open, Remender and Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort were on hand for a special "AXIS" press conference call to discuss the second act of "AXIS": "Inversion," which promises to introduce many new ideas to the Marvel Universe, and set up the story for the third act of the nine-issue event series.
After introductions, Marvel PR guru Chris D'Lando kicked off the call with a quick explanation of "AXIS" and the "recalibration of the Marvel Universe's moral compass" in "Inversion," which features Marvel heroes and villains having their roles inverted. While there's a ways to go until November, Remender was able to very briefly discuss a few details about the story as Act Two begins.
"I think the fun of something like this in my mind is to constantly subvert expectations and surprise people with exciting new things," said Remender. "In all honesty, the idea of having an event like this where over the course of three months, the seismic shifts over each act also bridge into an entirely new high concept keeps people on their toes. It's not going to be one thing from A to Z. I veer the wheel a few times, crash the car, careen off the cliff, go onto an embankment, meet a homeless guy and play the harmonica."
Act One is the Avengers and X-Men trying to take down the Red Skull and his S-Men, and the way that things go, and how the heroes are forced to deal with Red Onslaught "leads to a bit of a whammy that no one's quite aware of at first," said Remender. The "Inversion" aspect had Remender twisting alignments around, but it's not as cut and dry as you'd think. "Loki, who is somewhat of a center point, it twists certain aspects of his character," he said -- noting that it was more about specific alignments that are inverted rather than "good guy becomes bad guy," and there are many character-defining moments. "Inverting the characters shows you the antithesis of what they normally are, which shines a light on their character," he said.
However, Remender was quick to stress that this isn't mind control -- the decisions of the characters is focused by different choices based on their traits. All of it leads into the big third act, which Remender describes as "the biggest X-Men showdown I could think of."
The new "Superior Iron Man" book is going to be launching out of "AXIS," as seen on the covers by Jim Cheung. Tony Stark's Inversion is one of the aspects of the story that Remender discussed a lot with Brevoort and Kieron Gillen. "Flipping his alignment turns him back into who he was, which shows the growth the character has had since his first appearance," said Remender, noting that the Inverted Tony will find " an interesting new use for a consumer version of Extremis, which will make Tony quite rich." He's also able to delve into the role Tony might have in the Californian tech industry. Tom Taylor will pick up the ball with Tony Stark after "AXIS" for "Superior Iron Man."
The promotional art by Paul Renaud has one or two more other Inversions -- and Brevoort noted that not every character was going to have a new look. "Not everybody's getting a new set of clothes, even though they'll have a new outlook on things," said Brevoort.
"Those characters are playing big roles, but those are the ones who are more visually changing, so it's not just Luke Cage smiling or Luke Cage frowning," Remender said, further saying that Deadpool would be playing a "really big role in 'AXIS' in a couple of surprising ways," and that what the "Deadpool" creative team has planned is "amazing."
"There are changes coming for a whole handful: Scarlet Witch, Magneto, Doctor Doom, Loki, Kid Apocalypse -- this is all fireworks factory. There is no lead-up," said Remender. "You step into issue #1 of 'AXIS,' you're already going 100 miles an hour. A lot of the characters in the Marvel Universe that are involved are going to ... go through some huge and interesting changes."
In terms of how the tie-ins will play into the "Inversion" effect, Brevoort said editor Nick Lowe had been driving himself "batty" talking about the "Carnage" and "Hobgoblin" miniseries because it features the Inverted versions of the characters. "This will be a morally upstanding Carnage and a Hobgoblin who is perhaps a good businessman rather than a bad businessman," said Brevoort. "It gives you a totally different Hobgoblin and a totally different Carnage to do a story about as part of this. This will be different than any Hobgoblin or Carnage project you've seen up until now -- for good or for ill."
"I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that Carnage on a redemption arc still ends up with a lot of bloodshed," said Remender, laughing. "I think what Rick Spears has cooked up with that Carnage mini is something really special."
"AXIS" is the first event of the Marvel Universe featuring Sam Wilson as Captain America, and Remender said that there was a draft where Sam was zipping left to right all over the place, saving everybody from everything. "As I broke it down, as we were putting together the final beats, Sam's role shifted a little bit," said Remender. "Sam, like a lot of the other characters, plays a pretty heavy price. I think it's okay to say ... you'll be seeing a pretty big fight between Sam Wilson Captain America and all of the X-Men. It was nice to put Sam into that situation and see how that dynamic plays out -- Tony Stark getting order from Sam -- it was a nice stage to give Sam his first dance with the larger Marvel Universe as Cap."
Apocalypse features on one of Jim Cheung's cover, and Remender confirmed that the classic X-Men villain is back, saying there was connective tissue between "Uncanny X-Force," "Uncanny Avengers" and "AXIS." "At a certain point, I didn't even know this would be an event," Remender said of "AXIS." "As it built and the X-Men had a larger role, the Apocalypse beat blossomed into something really wonderful that I think people are going to have a lot of fun with."
The Inversion gave Remender the chance to explore Cyclops and his point of view, and it's a "very big part" of what happens in "AXIS" #4, and pays off in "AXIS" #7. "You'll see a reshuffling of the X-Universe that takes place in 'AXIS,'" said Remender. "It even builds into the future books that are coming out of the office. ... What the X-Men do in this event isn't something the world can forget any time soon. How they have to deal with things starting with Red Onslaught and how they deal with what the Red Skull was doing." The "endless attempt of the universe to crush [the X-Men] into the mud" will unearth how Remender sees the current incarnation of Scott.
The lower figure in the cover is Kluh, which is what comes out when the Hulk gets really angry. "The blackest, darkest, most evil thing, the thing that was born of the abuse of Bruce Banner as a child -- it's the Hulk's Hulk," said Remender.
The Scarlet Witch and Doctor Doom's relationship will play a role in the series, and it's something that Remender is picking up from "The Children's Crusade" and "House of M." "You've got a Scarlet Witch that's been inverted and a Doctor Doom that's been inverted, and that has some pretty interesting conflicts," said Remender.
More series based on the Inverted heroes "aren't out of the question," but Brevoort couldn't say anything about future plans.
"There is for one character," said Remender. "One of these villains coming out of this will be given a bigger spotlight." He also referenced designs by Jerome Opena.
Remender also discussed some of the characters he was most excited to approach. "Hulk, for one -- because of the Hulk's Hulk," said Remender. "Deadpool. Havok is a huge amount of fun. Apocalypse -- the Summers brothers in general, as the X-Pieces go. Iron Man is a lot of funt o write when he's a megalomaniacal scumbag of the highest order. It's fun to see how Thor's nobility becomes selfishness. ... Going down the list of the characters, the real fun ones came from the villain's side with Sabretooth with -- once inverted, this is a guy who has a lot of blood on his hand and feels how wrong that is, and now he has to figure out what those memories do to him now that he's a moral person. The Loki one is just a little bit and Al [Ewing] and I spent a lot of time getting that one right. There's a huge Loki beat in issue #8. Once you invert them, you can play with so many aspects of it."
With "Avengers" and "New Avengers" jumping forward ahead of "AXIS," discussion of coordination occurred during the recent editorial summit. "While we're going to be jumping ahead eight months, 'Avengers' and 'New Avengers' are going to be telling their stories. You're going to get hints and teases as it's going," said Brevoort. "We don't want to reveal Iron Man's new setup before he's inverted in 'AXIS.' That's only two issues later, all we have to do is not use Iron Man for two issues. ... It should all work alright."
According to Remender, the promise of "AXIS" is "lasting ramifications" and leads to big story. "That's what makes these ongoing stories a lot of fun in the interconnected universe," he said. "'AXIS' will lead to a whole new book that I'm writing that will have a number of characters who are very changed from the story. I don't want to give anything away, but the Inversion isn't going to be completely wrapped up. There's not going to be a perfect bow on this story by the end of things. It'll be a nice conclusion to the immediate threat, but there will be some very interesting aspects of the Inversion moving forward into new stories in the Marvel Universe in a handful of titles."
Apocalypse's role is a "beat that was in my initial notes that I'm excited about" and that what Remender's doing is hitting his last beat and walking away for a while. "This is me getting to the end of my Apocalypse bucket list -- my Apocalist!"
Remender collaborated frequently with Al Ewing and Jason Aaron about Loki, saying that the character has a huge beat that gave him goosebumps. "I think that, ultimately, the difficulties came more from trying to get my head around somebody like Magneto, who is justifiably homicidal. He's one of those grey area characters where you get it -- not that I'm condoning vigilante murder -- but I think that character was one where once inverted, what are his alignments and how do you invert them proportionately. What do you get out of that? Magneto plays a giant role in the story and we get a big Magneto, Quicksilver, Doctor Doom, Scarlet Witch story throughout the second act."
Luke Cage is a part of Axis, a team that will be the Axis of Evil -- "a new band of people who are up to no good."
"Luke Cage is part of it, as is Medusa, so are a few of the others that we've seen. The Cap, the Odinson, the Kluh. Luke's inversion plays a sizable role in the second act, a huge act in the third act -- Luke and Nova get big setups and they flow off into the crossovers. I highly recommend reading those crossovers," said Remender, saying they were able to cross-pollinate where it feels like the crossovers flow out organically. As for Luke himself, "maybe there's a way for Luke to make some money that is lacking in [morals]."
For "Inversion," the inverted characters will still remember everything about their past -- it's just that something has flipped inside of them. "In a broad sense, if you're Sabretooth, you're no longer going to kill someone to achieve your goals, you're going to save someone to take the hit. He's still the same person, but his moral alignment is giving him different information. His character is now aligned in a different way. He's not capable of killing -- at least he's not capable of killing the way he used to. Imagine if you're an amoral sociopath and you wake up with a conscience and a moral compass."
"We've spent a lot of time making lists of what the characters are defined by, and then inverting that," said Remender. "It's led to some very interesting conflicts."
"AXIS" begins in October.