SDCC: Marvel: Avengers & X-Men "AXIS"

With current event series "Original Sin" hitting the home stretch, Marvel turns its attention Thursday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego to the October-debuting "AXIS," to be written by Rick Remender and illustrated by Adam Kubert, Leinil Yu, Terry Dodson and Jim Cheung.

Remender, Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso and editors Nick Lowe, Mike Marts and Jordan D. White all discussed the event at the "Marvel: Avengers & X-Men 'AXIS'" panel at Comic-Con.

First up for discussion: The recently announced "All-New Captain America," written by Remender and drawn by Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger and Marte Gracia. "We've been building to this for some time," Remender said. "With Steve no longer able to carry the shield, it's time for Sam to step up."

"I couldn't have more fun drawing a flying Captain America," Remender said. "You've seen Sam and Steve working together -- this is the best of both worlds. You get a very different character in Sam. You get somebody that's not necessarily a soldier, who's community-minded, and wants to do good... There's a certain rigidness to Steve that Sam doesn't have. Being able to write a Captain America that has a sense of humor has been fun."

"We're building up Hydra in a way you've never seen before," Remender said, explaining that they spent an hour discussing the villainous organization at a recent Marvel retreat. Lowe, presiding over the panel, showed a new "All-New Captain America" variant cover by Alex Ross on the big screen at room 6DE at the San Diego Convention Center.

Announcement time: The "Uncanny X-Force" team of Remender, Jerome Opeña and Dean White are teaming for an in-continuity original graphic novel titles "Avengers: Rage of Ultron," scheduled for release in April 2015 -- right before Marvel Studios' "Avengers: Age of Ultron" hits theaters.

Remender said that he and Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort wanted to do something like "The Killing Joke" in "Rage of Ultron," a graphic novel that stood on its own but had a significant impact on continuity. "By the end of it, we will have a whole new Ultron, a whole new status quo, and we will have set something up that leads to exciting plans. And Starfox is going to play a big role."

September's "Captain America" #24 and "Uncanny Avengers" #24 both lead in to "AXIS." "Zola is a character that's been elevated quite a bit," Remender explained of the "Cap" tie-in. "Now that the Red Skull is starting to rise up, what we start seeing is Zola moving forward his plans with the Red Skull. That will feed into 'AXIS.' There will be some returns that we hopefully haven't spoiled yet, and there will be the ultimate fate of Jet Black."

On "Uncanny Avengers," Remender said, "We've planned this whole thing out where we see Red Skull and his S-Men early in 'Uncanny Avengers,'" before moving forward to the point where Red Skull's plans are almost complete -- he just needs Scarlet Witch and Rogue."

Lowe tells the crowd that "Magneto" and "Loki: Agent of Asgard" will be key books on the road to "AXIS," and says that "X-Men: First Class" fans will be especially fond of "Magneto." "It's so good," Lowe said.

Turning to "AXIS" itself, Lowe said Marvel is trying to keep a lot of the storyline details secret at this point. He showed some black-and-white art by Adam Kubert, with Remender narrating: "In the opening they're dealing with Plantman," the writer said, calling the character one of his favorite Marvel villains. "Adam has basically redesigned Plantman here." In the pages, the current Avengers squad is heading to a devastated Los Angeles, where Plantman has grown vegetation over the ruins.

Remender said it's a big priority at Marvel currently "to make the Vision the badass that he used to be. When the Vision showed up, the Vision used to be somebody that carried a lot of weight. And if the Vision got in a fight with you, you probably lost that fight. If you're a Vision fan, get ready. Daniel Acuña's redesigned the character in a way that's fantastic."

"AXIS" will have huge ramifications for both siblings Cyclops and Havok, Remender said. "I think there is a brotherhood and a bond forming here."

Lowe mentioned two upcoming villain-centric "AXIS" miniseries: "AXIS: Carnage" by Rick Spears and German Peralta and "AXIS: Hobgoblin" by Kevin Shinick and Javier Rodriguez. Lowe praised Spears' "The Auteur," and said the "Hobgoblin" miniseries will be especially relevant to hardcore Spider-Man fans. Lowe also briefly described the "AXIS" companion series, "AXIS Revolutions."

Remender praised the work writer Cullen Bunn for his work on "Magneto," and said both writers knew that there had to be a confrontation between Magneto and Red Skull in the story, given the context -- dating back to World War II, and as recent as Red Skull defiling Charles Xavier's brain and using it in his plot.

Immediately before fan Q&A, Lowe showed a teaser on the screen that said "Act I: The Red Supremacy," before very quickly shifting to a slide that read "Act II: Inversion," showing multiple characters with the Superior Iron Man in the center. Feigning surprise, Lowe quickly moved the slide off the screen and turned to questions from the audience.

A young fan asked how the Fantastic Four play into the story. "The Fantastic Four are awesome," Lowe said. "This story doesn't really involve them. This story stems out of what Rick is doing in 'Uncanny Avengers.'"

An audience member shared his enthusiasm for seeing the Onslaught persona return, asking how the idea surfaced. Remender said it started with Tom Brevoort. "It's a very iconic and big idea," Remender said, although he initially was reluctant to revisit the concept. Soon, though, the notion took hold with him, and Remender had five pages of Onslaught ideas in his notebook. "Onslaught is one of the few villains that is important to the Avengers and the X-Men already," White added.

Diverting a bit from the topic at hand, a fan asked about potentially updates to the Marvel Unlimited app, like making it easier to find tie-in issues of events. Lowe said Marvel is in a "constant process in trying to improve" the app, and pointed to recent additions like adaptive audio.

Lowe explained to a fan why an early "AXIS" teaser shifted from depicting Green Goblin to Norman Osborn. Following the "Goblin Nation" storyline in "Superior Spider-Man," Lowe said, "it wasn't going to be possible" for Norman Osborn to have a role in "AXIS." "What Dan ended up doing with Norman didn't fit with 'AXIS' anymore," Remender added. "I think it worked out for the better. We still have big Spider-Man piece, and Spider-Man himself, will play a role. Hobgoblin is a more interesting piece, I think, once we got to it."

"Did 'AXIS' change the writing process of 'Uncanny Avengers'?" "The scope for it changes," Remender said. "There are giant ramifications in this for Iron Man." Remender said this is his opportunity to tell a big, bombastic story, with what's said to be lasting changes -- "that hopefully make for better stories to come."

Any chance for Dani Moonstar or Madorx to show up soon? Lowe asked i Marts or Lowe could say anything about that at this point. Marts declined. "Madrox is going to have a tiny appearance in a non-X-book or 'AXIS' book soon," White added. Marts said both characters are popular and the subject of frequent requests from fans, and characters Marvel discuss a lot internally.

The next fan up to the microphone asked about the X-Men perhaps getting overshadowed by the Avengers in "AXIS." Joking about recent rumors of the X-Men books being dropped, Lowe replied, "We decided we didn't like the X-Men, so we put that hack Brian Michael Bendis on it."

"There is a huge X-Men aspect in 'AXIS,'" Remender added. "I love the X-Men. And there are beats in here that reunite piece of the X-Men with real heart, and get us to things we've been building for a long time," along with the return of an X-Men villain.

The female Thor will not be in "AXIS" due to where the story takes place in continuity, but Remender said there will be a 'big Loki beat, unlike anything we've seen" -- along with plenty more for female Thor down the road. "This is an Odinson story," Remender added, saying he talks regularly with Aaron on the phone about their intertwining plans.

A fan asked if it was ever the plan for Cyclops to die in "Avengers vs. X-Men." "It was probably an option, like any number of things, but it was never a plan," Alonso said. Turning to a recent topic discussed in AXEL-IN-CHARGE, Alonso mentioned how at one point the idea was floated within Marvel to kill the Avengers at the beginning of "AvX," and replace them with the X-Men. Alonso wasn't a fan of the idea, but said, "We'll put almost anything on the table."

Next question asked about the origins of making Falcon the new Captain America, and how the reaction has been. Remender said the reaction has been mostly positive.

Turning to the development of the idea, "It was based on a lot of things I was planning with Steve, where Steve would be put through a bit of a meat-grinder," Remender said. "I wanted to see something that left Steve on the board, but incapable of filling the role of Super-Soldier. Sam was a character I loved writing. I wrote a scene with him in the 'Nuke' arc that led me to believe he would be such a wonderful counter-measure to Steve. They are of two different generations. They are The Greatest Generation vs. Generation X."

Remender said that he believes Sam Wilson is an "incredibly interesting character" with a "fascinating background." Alonso said he related more to Falcon than Captain America as a young reader, and told the crowd that these ideas -- All-New Captain America, female Thor and Superior Iron Man -- are writer-driven, not editorial mandates.

An Apocalypse fan asked if the classic version of the character will return, and Remender discussed his affection for Apocalypse and the fun he had writing the character in "Uncanny X-Force," and stated that it that does happen, the moment will be earned.

Second-to-last fan question: Any plans for Elixir? "There are plans to bring Elixir into the books soon," Marts said.

Last fan question: Will the teen heroes of Marvel get a focus? Lowe pointed to young mutants features in Jean Grey School books like "Wolverine and the X-Men" and the Young Avengers in "Original Sins," along with young spider-characters in "Spider-Verse."

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