The End of The Bendis "X-Men" Era, The Arrival of "A-Force"

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!

Marvel Announces Female-led "A-Force" From Wilson, Bennett, Molina

It's been another very full week of "Secret Wars"-related announcements, and Alonso shares his perspective on all of them -- including the freshly announced "A-Force" -- from writers G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett and artist Jorge Molina -- an all-female assemblage of Earth's Mightiest Heroes that will serve as "the" Avengers team during "Secret Wars" ("and beyond," Alonso says). This week also brought news that took many fans by surprise: That Brian Michael Bendis will be stepping away from writing duties on "Uncanny X-Men" and "All-New X-Men" as of May's "Uncanny X-Men" #600. Alonso gives his thoughts on what has made Bendis' X-Men run unique, along with hints of more creative team shakeups to come. All that, and lots more, including Alonso's take on the New England Patriots' narrow victory against the Seattle Seahawks in last Sunday's Super Bowl XLIX.

Albert Ching: So, Axel, as a 49ers fan, I'm guessing you were happy to see the Seahawks go down on Sunday?

Axel Alonso: It was kind of nice not to see Richard Sherman gloating on the sidelines.

That had to be the most dramatic Super Bowl ever. So many subplots, pre-game controversy, and the craziest turn of events ever seen in the final couple minutes of a game. When [Seahawks receiver Jermaine] Kearse snagged that miracle catch on the sideline, at the same stadium where [New York Giants receiver] David Tyree caught the "Helmet Catch" in [Super Bowl XLII], it was like God reaching down to slap the Patriots! Then to see [Patriots cornerback] Malcolm Butler jumped the route on that slant pass for an interception on the 1-yard line!? I mean, c'mon! [New England Patriots head coach] Bill Bellichik is Reed Richards-level smart. Not calling time-out after Kearse's catch was a heavy-duty Jedi Mind Trick; all the pressure shifted to [Seattle Seahawks head coach] Pete Carroll, and it worked.

WATCH: Netflix's First "Daredevil" Trailer Shows No Fear

Definitely a noteworthy game! And the first Marvel thing I wanted to ask about isn't from publishing, but I'm curious for your thoughts on the first teaser trailer for the "Daredevil" Netflix series -- it certainly doesn't look like Marvel live-actions projects we've seen in the past.

Alonso: I binge-watched the first four episodes, and I absolutely loved it. I cannot wait to see the rest. "Daredevil" flexes a very different set of muscles than anything you've seen from Marvel -- on TV or the big screen. It builds a world. The performances are amazing -- especially Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock and Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk -- the cinematography is lush and atmospheric, and the action sequences will blow your mind.

Only a little more than two months away on that. Switching to publishing, definitely need to talk about this week's news that Bendis is leaving his X-Men titles in May. That opens up a lot of questions, but let's start with this -- from your perspective, both as Editor-in-Chief and a longtime former X-Men editor in the years before Bendis was on the books, what are some of the things that he brought to the X-titles that you see as unique and special over these past couple of years?

Alonso: I always thought Brian would be perfect for X-Men. He has a real ear for kids -- how they speak, what they care about, what they think -- and he excels with ensemble casts and the nuances of friendships and families. And X-Men lives or dies by that. And Brian nailed all that while giving us some of the biggest stories ever.

And of course, he's left us with a fascinating expanded cast that we can play with -- depending on who survives "Secret Wars." [Laughs]

EXCLUSIVE: Bendis Announces "X-Men" Departure with "Uncanny" #600

Perhaps to dissuade any fears, Marvel announced shortly after the X-Men news that Bendis has re-upped his exclusive -- he's not going anywhere, and seems to have a lot going on at Marvel still. When it was known he'd be leaving the Avengers, it was easy to speculate, "Maybe he's going to do X-Men next." At this point, it's harder to guess. Is there any insight you'd like to share on what his next step might be at Marvel?

Alonso: There is not. [Laughs]

Fair enough -- it's already known he's doing "Ultimate End," plus there's still "Guardians of the Galaxy." And we've talked in the past about how some X-Men fans can be paranoid at times -- which is something Bendis addressed in his interview on leaving X-Men. There are some X-Men fans out there who may interpret this development as potential bad news for the franchise -- is there anything you want to say to advise those fans about the X-Men's future?

Alonso: It's ridiculous how people go on and on and on about this. The X-Men are core characters in the Marvel mythology. We have big plans for them. We love them.

We already knew Jonathan Hickman was wrapping his Avengers run with "Secret Wars," and now it's been revealed that Bendis is leaving X-Men. Is it safe to say this isn't the last major creative team upheaval, maybe longtime creator departure, that fans will see in the near future? More shakeups to come?

Alonso: Yeah. There will be a lot of well-calculated shakeups. A portion of these will involve a game of creator musical chairs, a portion won't. Some of these changes start during "Secret Wars," some after. "Secret Wars" will transform the Marvel Universe, but the building blocks start getting laid down in May.

Let's look at the latest crop of announced "Secret Wars" tie-ins. Wanted to start with "Master of Kung Fu," which sounds like a book that's right up your alley. You're a big fan of Shang-Chi as a character, and we've talked before about the work Haden Blackman was doing on "Elektra." I'm interested to hear what you're excited about with this, and what fans can expect with this twist on the concept -- which sounds a bit different than Shang-Chi stories readers have seen before?

Alonso: "Master of Kung Fu" takes place in the region of Battleworld known as K'un-Lun, where virtually everyone is a master of some martial arts discipline. Everyone. One of them is Shang-Chi and when we meet him, let's just say he won't be at his best, and he'll be preparing for high-stakes martial arts tournament featuring virtually everyone from the Marvel Universe that has a martial arts skill. Characters you might expect, and characters you might not. The series is written by Haden Blackman, who did amazing work on "Elektra," and illustrated by Dalibor Talajić, who's quite possibly the biggest Shang-Chi fan out there. He drew these sample pages just to give us a taste of what he'd do. These pages are not from "Master of Kung Fu" -- they are just pages that Dalibor cooked up to tell us why we'd be crazy not to hire him.

So does "Secret Wars" and Battleworld allow the opportunity to go a little more full-tilt into genres, like kung fu, than perhaps was possible before?

Alonso: One of the things that excites me about this event is that it creates the oxygen to launch series during and after the event that go full-tilt into any genre we want: martial arts, war, western, horror, fantasy, humor, romance -- you name it.

Then there's "Secret Wars 2099." Though it seems outwardly a lot different from what Peter David and Will Sliney have been doing in "Spider-Man 2099," is it fair to say it's of a similar spirit?

Alonso: If you're a fan of "Spider-Man 2099," you're going to want to read this book. Peter's expanding his canvas and working with an unlimited special effects budget. The series follows the Avengers from the Marvel Universe's future, some of whom we've never seen before, with an unexpected leader and mission statement. Indeed, the concept of hero and villain won't necessarily be quite what you're used to.

Then there's "Secret Wars: Battleworld," which sounds like the "VS." companion series that ran during "Avengers vs. X-Men" -- is that about right?

Alonso: It's essentially the "VS." of "Secret Wars." There will be plenty of fighting in "Secret Wars," as the name suggests. Some of the conflicts that are too big or too sprawling or just too plain nuts for the main series -- they'll play out in this series. The first issue features Joshua Williamson & Mike Henderson and Ed Brisson & Scott Hepburn and includes the Punisher, as you've never seen him before, being hunted down by the new Fantastic Four. And the second issue will spotlight a very different version of General Thaddeus Ross by Donny Cates and Marco Turini.

Another anthology series has been announced, "Secret Wars Journal." That sounds like maybe the flipside of "Battleworld" -- some of the quieter stories?

Alonso: Back when we did "Civil War," we had a little book called "Frontline." "Secret Wars Journal" is comparable to "Frontline." It's an anthology which will tell a variety of shorter -- not necessarily smaller, but shorter -- stories about unique characters from across the Marvel Universe. The first issue includes Millie the Model, the Young Avengers of 1602, and one of my personal favorites, Night Nurse. Future issues will feature a similarly eclectic mix of characters, and also talent, as well.

In more "Secret Wars" news for the week, Marvel announced "Deadpool's Secret Secret Wars." It's written by Cullen Bunn as the latest in his series of Deadpool miniseries, but the concept is a bit of a surprise -- it actually takes place during the original 1984 "Secret Wars." Sounds like another fun one, but what inspired revisiting that story during the course of the new "Secret Wars," which has been positioned as very much a separate and new event?

Alonso: Cullen's had a really terrific run of Deadpool miniseries, and one of the reasons they work so well is that they work as self-contained units -- they are miniseries in the truest sense. Even when they continue from one series to the next -- as in the Deadpool "Killogy" -- each mini is a self-contained story that any fan of Deadpool can pick up without worrying about continuity -- and Deadpool has a lot of fans out there. The idea for this series is actually one Cullen had when he was coming up with a sequel to "Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe" and it just seemed like this event was the perfect time to unveil it. It's got a "Secret Wars" connection, but it can still be enjoyed all on its own.

Finally, today's announcement of "A-Force" certainly has a lot of people very excited. We've talked a lot in the past about increasing representation at Marvel of both female characters and creators -- how major of a step do you view "A-Force" in that larger movement? And just to clarify: Will this be "the" Avengers book during the course of "Secret Wars," and is this the G. Willow Wilson-developed project that was teased back in December with the news that she was now exclusive with Marvel?

Alonso: Yes, during the course of "Secret Wars" and beyond. And yes, "A-Force" is what we were alluding to back in December. This plan has been hatching for some time. We are... I am very excited.

It's been a busy week, and let's close things out with a question from the CBR Community. Sasquatch by Night asks, "Are there any plans for James Rhodes (War Machine)? Since he was actually Iron Man during the original 'Secret Wars,' it would be great to see him having a place in whatever the Marvel Universe is becoming."

Alonso: Rhodey's been appearing regularly in the pages of "Avengers" and "New Avengers" as "Time Runs Out." Beyond that? Wait and see.

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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