Romero's "Empire of the Dead" Leads The NYCC Charge

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 Message Boards, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!

This week, the waves of news expected from the incoming New York Comicon start to spurt from the dam as Marvel has already revealed projects like George A. Romero and Alex Maleev's "Empire of the Dead" and Charles Soule and Javier Pulido's "She-Hulk." Combine these two very opposite launches with a teaser that seems to confirm fan suspicions about "Captain Marvel's" return in the All-New Marvel NOW! and some sideways looks into the overall plan for Kieron Gillen's "Iron Man," and Alonso has a lot to discuss as the big burst of announcements from the show draws near. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Axel, from the look of it things have been a bit busy at Marvel this week. Did one of the Ramones show up in the offices?

Axel Alonso: Yep. Marky Ramone. Great guy, big hair, huge Marvel fan.

Well you've got celebrity news of another kind this week in the form of George Romero coming to Marvel to do an original zombie series. We've talked a lot in the column about your continued efforts to get big name voices from outside the comics space into the medium in this way. Is that how this series came about?

Alonso: First, let me come clean: I think every story is improved on by the appearance of a zombie! [Laughter] Look, the public's ongoing fascination with zombies all goes back to the vision of George Romero, who singlehandedly created the genre and has been redefining it over several decades. So I'm thrilled to have George writing an original story for Marvel.

I reached out to George through a mutual friend to see if he'd be interested in writing an original story for Marvel. He mulled it over and found that he was. The result is "Empire of the Dead," an all-new, original series that adds to the tapestry he's been weaving in his movies. For decades, George has used the zombie apocalypse - and mankind's new place in the food chain - to comment on human nature and modern civilization. Each time he has something new to say - and "Empire" definitely has something new to say. George wrote it himself - in screenplay format that we broke down into individual issues - and for the very first time, he is bringing the zombie holocaust to New York City, which has radically transformed as a result of all that's happened. But that's not all: George has injected this story with a killer hook that we're going to reveal at New York Comicon - a game-changer that'll knock people's socks off.

And Alex Maleev is drawing this series, which I think must focus a bit on the realism side of George's style as well.

Alonso: Without a doubt. I've been dying to work with Alex for a while. He's one of my best friends in the industry - he lives a couple blocks from me, and our sons go to the same school - but the stars never align for us to work together until now. From the start, I knew he was the perfect artist to bring this story to the comic book page. Alex is a sophisticated and nuanced storyteller who possesses the uncanny ability to make environment a character - and that is essential to this story. [Laughs] You have never seen a New York City quite like this.

We are a week out from NYCC, and it seems that Marvel will have about an announcement a minute if these teasers are to be believed. While I'm sure you're not confirming all the particulars, one teaser that caught some interest is the Kelly Sue DeConnick/David Lopez teaser labeled "Higher." That certainly feels like the next phase of "Captain Marvel." Is part of All-New Marvel NOW! about putting that fresh spin on continuing series that maybe need the spotlight shined on them.

Alonso: Sure. A few of these spoilers do refer to ongoing series that will be getting a fresh spin or compelling story hook. And a few spoilers refer to brand-new series by creative teams we're very excited about. I won't comment on what the "Higher" spoiler refers to, other than to say that each spoiler was designed to fuel speculation. Take the "Atonement" spoiler, for instance, that refers to a series by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto. I've heard some interesting theories, triggered by the word itself and even the color of the logo. Does it refer to "Cyclops," "Black Widow," "Scarlet Witch," "Magneto," "Ant-Man," "Winter Soldier," "Iron Man," "Rawhide Kid"...?

One thing we do know that's coming on the Kelly Sue front is Warren Ellis joining her on "Avengers Assemble." That will obviously build on what she's done in "Captain Marvel" and "Avengers Assemble" already, but is it also in some ways a follow up on Warren's ideas from "Avengers: Endless Wartime"? Are their takes on this franchise dovetailing in any way?

Alonso: I don't think that Warren's take on the team and Kelly Sue's take are all that different, but the story they're telling doesn't specifically pick up on any business from "Avengers: Endless Wartime." I would expect similar banter and interactions between Captains Marvel and America, though.

One All-New Marvel NOW! title we do know about is "She-Hulk" by Charles Soule and Javier Pullido. That's a character that's always had its tongue in its cheek to some extent, but it's also a legacy character as one of the last core Marvel heroes co-created by Stan Lee. But with a new ongoing series for Jen Walters, did you want to play towards the comedic side of her more or shift in a new direction considering how often that's been tried in the past?

Alonso: The best Marvel Comics tap into what makes each character unique - and what's unique about She-Hulk is that (a) she's a female super hero who doesn't have the luxury of a secret identity, and (b) she's a big city lawyer. That's a lot to reconcile. So while this series won't be quite as tongue-in-cheek as what Dan Slott did with the character, it's not like it won't have its fair share of laughs.

Jennifer Walters is big and beautiful, she's got brains and brawn, she's invulnerable and extremely vulnerable. She's a 21st century woman who's constantly dealing with the tug of war between her two jobs. That's what we're tapping into. And Charles Soule is a lawyer himself so he's using his knowledge of law and the legal system to craft some really fun and fascinating stories. You'll see all sides of Jennifer as she bumps shoulders - in court and on the battlefield - with major players in the Marvel Universe: Iron Man, Daredevil, Dr. Doom. The only question is, will she be punching them, defending them, or squaring off against them in court?

Lastly, I know there's one big thing coming before NYCC and that's some big moments for Kieron Gillen's "Iron Man," both in the series and the "Fatal Frontier" Infinite Comic. How are these two playing off each other, and is that indicative of where Infinite Comics will go from here?

Alonso: One story is a life-changing, huge, ambitious story that has been brewing since issue 6 and culminates in 17, with a jaw-dropping reveal. The other is an epic that brings back characters introduced in Kieron's first arc, plus Dr. Doom. So both are fairly significant stories and they will dovetail into the "Iron Man Annual" that comes out this February. It should be pretty heavy on many levels.

Have some questions for Marvel's AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the CUP O' Q&A thread in CBR's Marvel Universe forum. It's now the dedicated thread for all connections between Board Members and the Marvel Executive staff that CBR will pull questions for next week's installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!

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