The Best At What He Does, Bub: Axel Alonso talks 'Wolverine'

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Under the tenure of Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada, Marvel Comics has managed to arguably reinvent itself in front of the comic book world, turning around not only it's sales, but it's quality of product as well. Those two men would be the first to admit that it's been a team effort and one of the most important players in that team is Marvel group editor Axel Alonso, whose Midas touch has brought critical acclaim to books like "Incredible Hulk" and given new life to series such as "X-Force." His newest venture will be slightly different than before: this time he's taking on one of the world's most popular comic book heroes in one of the best selling comic books, "Wolverine."

"Wolverine is a hunter," Alonso explained to CBR News of the series' title character. "He has unique senses, instincts and skills, and a moral code that sets him apart in the Marvel Universe. We're going to do stories that take advantage of this. I think it's Logan's moral code, more than anything, that makes him popular -- the fact that he isn't afraid to unleash the inner animal on those who deserve it. Unlike Bruce Banner who is fighting a battle with the monster within, Logan has made peace with that animal. Every now and then he knows that he has to let it out to play. I think that some folks appreciate the fact that he'll go all the way in dispensing justice."

Even though "Wolverine" is one of the consistently best-selling comics, Alonso admits that it wasn't always his first choice to edit the series. "I'd never coveted the title, to be honest. Once I took a long look at the character separate from the rest of the X-Men team, I realized the possibilities for the title. I have a very different mandate with 'Wolverine' than I did with 'X-Force' [now 'X-Statix'] or 'Incredible Hulk.' 'Wolverine' monthly is a solid performer that has carved out -- pun intended -- a comfortable spot in the Top Twenty. What I've been asked to do is help the current creative team -- Frank [Tieri] and Sean [Chen] -- refocus the book so that it has its own identity in the X-Men line."

Part of this identity, explains Alonso, is derived from the understanding that "Wolverine" is about Logan cutting loose. "Logan is the ultimate loner. What he does in 'New X-men' -- that's his job. He wears a uniform, he takes orders, he fights Sentinels, he's on the clock. What he does in 'Wolverine' -- that's his free time. He's doing what guys like him do with their leisure time: Look for trouble."

Alonso also rejects the idea that "Wolverine" has lacked a real direction prior to his editorial tenure; rather, he just feels that the book itself is more conducive to in your face action, as opposed to epic story arcs. "I don't know if it lacked direction. Prior to coming on the title, I'd viewed 'Wolverine' as something like the WWF of the Marvel line -- big, fun, gaudy action. That said, Frank Tieri always wanted to toughen the book up, ditch the trappings that come with the spandex, and I was, in Joe Q's eyes, the logical fit for this change."

The acclaimed editor also promises that "Wolverine" will succeed or fail on its own merits, not based on the character's connections to all the other X-Men comic books or even film appearances. "Our goal is a series you love or hate on its own terms," stresses Alonso and adds, "We're not really impacted at all by the movie, creatively speaking. It's sort of like my mandate on 'Hulk': make the character accessible."

It's also worth noting that Alonso isn't going to take credit for the series' success just because he's come onboard as editor- he truly believes in the work of the existing creative team. "First off, this isn't the 'Alonso era.' Frank and Sean, [new inker] and [new colorist] Edgar Tadeo are providing a clean jumping-on point for new readers. I'd call it more of a 're-focusing' of the title than a 'revamp.' When I took over 'X-Force' and 'Hulk,' I had no idea what kind of reception the 'revamps' would get from old readers. With 'Wolverine,' I expect that the people who've been enjoying Frank and Sean's work thus far will be pleasantly surprised, and that the series might get a few new readers as well. Issues #181-186 will function as a self-contained story that will, we think, effectively reintroduce you to the character. His conflict with another major Marvel icon in the last issue will clarify who he is, what he wants, and what sets him apart from the rest of the characters in the Marvel Universe -- from, say Spider-Man to the Punisher."

While Tieri has been the target of mixed reviews for his work on "Wolverine," Alonso explains that it's all part of being a comic book writer and relates it to one of his successful revamps. "All writers elicit 'mixed reactions.' Bruce Jones, who's done so much to spike interest in 'Incredible Hulk,' is still vilified in certain corners. That's just the way it goes. What I'd say is this: If Alan Moore's aged port, Frank Tieri's an ice-cold Bud -- which can taste pretty ^&%^&^% good. Look, Frank isn't looking to redefine or deconstruct the medium as we know it -- he's just looking to entertain you."

Conversely, artist Sean Chen has been seemingly cheered by most fans and Alonso says it's the result of Chen working harder to become even better at his craft. "All I know is Sean's a great artist who's doing wonderful work on this title. He's shifted a gear with grace and professionalism -- and, frankly, surprised me with the subtlety of his storytelling. The results will be immediately apparent in issue #181."

Knowing that some fans will want to know what's coming up next in "Wolverine" and that people are screaming for social relevance in comic books, Alonso finds a way to satisfy both camps with a one sentence preview for the series' future. "Logan will slice open society's dark underbelly," says the editor of the upcoming events in "Wolverine."

And the best part of being the editor of "Wolverine," according to Axel Alonso?

"When I talk to animals, they can understand me. I'm positive of this," says Alonso, with a straight face.

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