"Spider-Gwen" Arrives, the "Runaways" Return

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!

SPIDER-MANDATE: Latour Heads Up Our All "Spider-Gwen" Jam Session

Since the first images of Spider-Gwen were seen last year -- in advance of last fall's "Edge of Spider-Verse" #2 -- the character has caught the attention and affection of fans. This week saw the arrival of "Spider-Gwen" #1, the first issue of an ongoing solo series by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez, and Alonso discusses the impact the character has had in a short time. Another big release from this week was the "Thor Annual" #1, featuring the Marvel debuts of creators including CM Punk, Rob Guillory and Noelle Stevenson, and Alonso shares his thoughts on all three -- plus Stevenson's new "Runaways" series, a long-awaited revival of that beloved series launching during "Secret Wars" with artist Sanford Greene. Plus, Alonso talks the season finale of "Marvel's Agent Carter," "Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies," "Thor" and more -- including answers to your questions, straight from the CBR Community.

Axel, before we get to the Marvel publishing matters of the week -- this past Tuesday was the season finale of "Marvel's Agent Carter." That show has been very warmly received through its run, and frankly, there are a lot of people who were excited to watch a live-action Marvel product starring a female lead character. What was your take on this week's finale, and the show in general?

Axel Alonso: The season finale had laughs, heart, action, and those huge emotional scenes near the end. And I loved how the finale tightly connected "Agent Carter" with pieces of the two Captain America movies as well as to the MCU and the events we've seen in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." while establishing her as a hero in her own right. Peggy Carter fully embodies a true Marvel hero -- overcomes tragedy; faces down adversity; does what she believes is right, even if that puts her at odds with the powers that be. I'm very proud of what Marvel TV put together in Agent Carter. They stuck the landing.

Peggy Carter stars in the current "Operation S.I.N." miniseries, but has there been talk within Marvel on how to further capitalize on her current popularity?

Alonso: Absolutely. Ongoing conversations. We pay close attention to Marvel's TV slate, both what's been televised and what's coming down the road. We're always up for cross-pollinating. Not to mention 2015 happens to be the 50th Anniversary of S.H.I.E.L.D. There's a lot of cool stuff on the horizon.

Speaking of characters that have been very well received -- this week saw the hotly anticipated "Spider-Gwen" #1. Looking back at the character's origins, it really is a remarkable situation -- having made her initial appearance in an anthology title, not even the first issue of that series, and attracting a following so quickly. For you as Editor-in-Chief, how unique is that to see, a character connecting with a large audience so rapidly?

Alonso: It's unbelievable. Who could've anticipated this this avalanche of interest and sales? [Spider-Man Group Editor] Nick Lowe has put together a top-quality book by a creative team that's got a lot of history and even more chemistry. [Writer] Jason [Latour] and [artist] Robbi [Rodriguez] and [colorist] Rico [Renzi] are all buddies who've wanted to work together for some time; to see them hit one out of the park like this is really cool. "Spider-Gwen" has got a unique feel and visual style that goes right on down to the color palette.

It also hits on a recurring theme we've been talking about the past few weeks -- a perfect example of Marvel, and comics at large, reaching new and different audiences. "Spider-Gwen" feels like something that maybe just a few years ago wouldn't have been met with the same kind of reception as it has.

Alonso: Without a doubt. Timing definitely was a factor. We've got such momentum right now in regards to the diversity and breadth of the series we're producing, especially in regards to our female lead titles. I think that retailers and fans have a lot of confidence that we'll deliver the goods. And the fact that Spider-Gwen sprang out of the red-hot "Spider-Verse" event certainly didn't hurt either.

"More Nerve-Racking Than Getting Punched in the Face": CM Punk & Rob Guillory Talk Thor

Another anticipated book released this week is "Thor Annual" #1 -- which included CM Punk's comic book writing debut. We've talked about how you pretty closely involved with bringing him into Marvel initially -- when someone like that starts writing comics, certainly some people are skeptical at first, but now they can see what he's got. What kind of potential do you see in him in the future? He's made it no secret he wants to do more, though he is a busy guy.

Alonso: CM Punk's Young Thor story is loads of fun so we're certainly up for him doing more. We're already talking with him about a future project that is... inspired casting. He's game, we're game, it's really just a matter of him carving out that time in his schedule to do it.

Right -- surely training for a UFC fight and writing comic books is a tricky balance, schedule-wise. And it's also cool to see Rob Guillory's first Marvel work after many years on "Chew."

Alonso: About time. Love his work.

Moving on to announcements from this week -- as revealed earlier today on CBR, a new "Runaways" series is launching out of "Secret Wars." For years, "Runaways" was maybe the #1 thing I heard fans asking about at Marvel panels. "When is Marvel going to bring 'Runaways' back?" The title hasn't been published for years, but still has a huge following. This is going to be a little different because it's part of "Secret Wars" and Battleworld, but what can you say about the decision to bring "Runaways" back now, and what fans can expect?

Alonso: "Runaways" is such a special property, the circumstances have to be just right to bring it back -- the right creators, the right cast, the right situation -- and "Secret Wars" provided an opportunity for all three to come together. Noelle and Sanford, working with editor Wil Moss, have come up with a take on "Runaways" that honors the spirit of Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona's original series while being fresh and new. The cast has some familiar MU faces -- even if they're alternate reality versions -- some brand new characters, and just mmmmmaybe an original Runaway.

EXCLUSIVE: Noelle Stevenson Revives Marvel's "Runaways" During "Secret Wars"

And that's another writer who made a Marvel debut in the "Thor Annual" -- what strengths do you see Noelle Stevenson bringing to "Runaways"?

Alonso: In her "Nimona" graphic novel and in the "Lumberjanes" comic she co-writes, Noelle has proven she has the chops to write diverse, believable teenagers, which is exactly what you need for "Runaways" to work.

Then there's "Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies" -- can't say it's necessarily unexpected, since it was one of the first "Secret Wars" teasers released back in October, but it certainly is more left field than a lot of the series we've been seeing. What can you say about how this series developed?

Alonso: It's zombies vs. robots. The concept sells itself. You've seen the Battleworld map, which reveals the geography of the new Marvel Universe. This series shows what happens when two territories that share a border don't get along too well. It's the ultimate border conflict. Who's stronger?

Then there's "Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde." We've talked about the different genres seen during "Civil War" -- while this certainly looks to be in the tradition of Marvel cosmic adventures, is it fair to say this is also perhaps more of a romance story than we typically see from Marvel?

Alonso: "Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde" is cosmic adventure with a hint of romance. It plays on the Kitty Pryde/Peter Quill pairing we've been seeing in the comics so far -- only it pairs the familiar 616 Star-Lord paired with the Kitty Pryde from "Age of Apocalypse," who happens to be a bit more adversarial than the Kitty that Peter knows and loves. Sparks of all kinds fly.

A new "Marvel Zombies" was announced from Si Spurrier and the appropriately surnamed Kev Walker. At first glance, this doesn't necessarily look too fundamentally different from past "Marvel Zombies" series. How does "Secret Wars" make this "Zombies" story distinct from Marvel's prior outings in the genre?

Alonso: This new "Marvel Zombies" series is a stripped-down reimagining of a zombified Marvel Universe. It's got a little in common previous "Marvel Zombies" stories, but it's... different. In the tradition of the best zombie stories, it focuses on one survivor -- in this case, Elsa Bloodstone, who, haunted by the mistakes of her past and her tumultuous relationship with her dead father, Ulysses Bloodstone, must fight her way through a horde of super-powered cannibal zombies. It's a very personal, human story set in Battleworld's most terrifying new territory.

And there's one more announcement -- a "Thors" book by Jason Aaron and Chris Sprouse; very cool to see him on a Marvel book. It seems like an extension of what Jason Aaron has been doing in Thor for the past couple of years -- what are you excited about for fans to see with this one?

Alonso: "Thors" was one of the first series that emerged out of our initial discussions of "Secret Wars" and Battleworld. Jonathan [Hickman] had the idea for the concept of Thors as the cops of Battleworld and it immediately struck a chord with Jason. Jason took the idea and really made it his own, crafting a series that would spin directly out of the events of "Secret Wars." From there, it was just a matter of casting, and we aimed high -- I'm obviously really happy to see Chris Sprouse doing some Marvel work, and I think he's perfectly cast for this. "Thors" is a kind of a cop drama/mystery featuring all sorts of fantastic alternate reality versions of Thor. Jason has come up with a cool naming system for each of them, as well as ways to classify the different rankings amongst the Thors. It's going to be a lot of fun.

"Secret Wars" Brings Multiple Thundergods In Aaron & Sprouse's "Thors"

Marvel has had such success with the female Thor introduced last year -- she's on this cover, but there are a lot of Thors in the book, clearly. Will she remain front and center in this series?

Alonso: She plays a critical role in the series, but I can't say more right now. You'll understand what I mean when "Secret Wars" actually starts getting underway.

Also wanted to address the news from earlier this month that Marvel editor Sana Amanat has a new position at the company, as Director of Content & Character Development. What can you share about what that entails, and what made her right for the job?

Alonso: Sana was instrumental in the development of Kamala Khan and she'll be bringing that sensibility and keen eye for character development to Marvel's entire publishing line moving forward. Her new role will focus on the franchises that we're developing, namely making sure that all of our divisions -- publishing, TV, animation, films, games, etc. -- are coordinating with the larger vision of each property in mind. And thankfully, her new role will allow her to continue editing a few titles here and there.

Let's wrap with just a couple questions from fans on the CBR Community. Guest_1001 asks, "With Captain Britain playing a prominent role in Jonathan Hickman's two Avengers series and having his own domain on Battleworld, can we expect him to play a significant role in the events of 'Secret Wars'? As a character whose motivations are tied to the multiverse, he seems to be a natural fit."

Alonso: He does, doesn't he? Keep your eyes and ears peeled for further announcements. In the meantime, if you're hankering for a superhero from o'er the pond, check out "Secret Wars: Spider-Verse," featuring Spider-U.K.

Finally, Hypestyle has picked up on the genre talk, asking, "What are the chances that a Wild West-themed one-shot or miniseries might spin out of the 'Secret Wars' saga?"

Alonso: I reckon they're pretty good, pardner.

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!

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