The Full Scope of "Avengers Vs. X-Men"

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 earlier this year 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!

After stopping by CBR earlier in the week to doll out the behind-the-scenes story of how the event came to be, Axel returns to CBR today to dig into how the event will work. From the creative collaborations that will allow Brian Bendis, Jason Aaron, Jonathan Hickman, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction each to have their way with a part of the story on through to the big moves in the Marvel line that will play a part in the story, Alonso reveals tons of new detail -- including how and when tie-in comics will come along. And for fans of Marvel characters both marquee and obscure, the E-i-C teases the fate of characters from Cable to the Fantastic Four and from the Thunderbolts to Squirrel Girl. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: When we spoke about the "Point One" issue a few weeks back, you particularly spoke to how Ed Brubaker was playing against expectations for his Marvel work by writing a story focusing on The Watcher. With the five writers behind "Avengers Vs. X-Men" all stepping in to some new territory in one form or another, how do you feel their styles will mesh? Are there some ways in which they'll be "playing against type," or will their individual voices carry through even as they work together?

Axel Alonso: Not really. The five writers involved in this event -- Brian Bendis, Jason Aaron, Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman and Ed Brubaker -- are all invested in this story and none of them are strangers to doing stories of incredible scope. While the overall story was workshopped by the entire group -- with ["Avengers" writer] Brian [Bendis] and ["X-Men: Schism" writer] Jason [Aaron] playing leading roles in the specific plotting of the story, each issue will be written by one of these writers, each of whom will bring their unique voice to that chapter. Brian writes "AvX" and it feels like a Brian Bendis comic, not a comic written by committee.

And although these guys have worked together in some capacity before across the summits, has the actual work of breaking a story a team proven more difficult in some ways?

Alonso: When you're doing a story as huge as "AvX," big questions emerge -- like, "Will Wolverine and Cyclops going to put aside their differences and unite a common foe?" That's the type of question that will divide fans, and it does the same thing will us. At least initially. See, it's our job to wrestle through those tough questions and come to a conclusion. To commit. That's what we do in our summits. It's not always pretty, but it works for us. [Laughs]

12-issues is a pretty big size for a series like this, even by event standards. By sheer scope alone, does "AvX" call the plays for how the rest of Marvel's publishing line will look through 2012, or does it play to the idea of events as the spine of the Marvel U in a different way?

Alonso: "AvX" is 12 issues long, shipping bi-weekly over six months, so it's going to have a lot inertia. Every two weeks, you get a new chapter of the story; every two months, you get a game-changing twist that escalates the stakes.  Each Act will feature one double-sized issue and there will be a prologue -- "AvX" #0 -- by Brian, Jason and Frank Cho.

If you're a long-term reader, you will be rewarded for reading stories that hearken back to "House of M" and "Messiah CompleX" -- heck, to the "Death of Phoenix" story. If you're a new reader, or your memory is a bit hazy, we're taking great pains to make sure the story is easily accessible. Something horrible is heading towards Earth: a living comet that razes worlds and leaves something behind in its wake, and the world's greatest super teams take very different positions on how to deal with this problem -- positions that cut to the very core of who they are and what they stand for.

As the main series rolls out over the course of six months, I assume there will be tie-ins from stories that intersect with the monthly books and possibly even special miniseries. How will those elements of "AvX" compare to past events?

Alonso: Two things on that. First, this is the first universe-spanning event where the Avengers and the X-Men have had an equal stake. Till now, the X-Men have played a tangential role in our events -- they sat our "Civil War," they defended their home turf in "Secret Invasion," and they played a tangential role in "Fear Itself." That ends with "AvX." Just like the title says, they've got an equal role, an equal stake, in this story.

Second, "AvX" will feature far fewer tie-ins than we've done in the past.  We're limiting them to ongoing books that directly tie into the Avengers and X-Men franchises, and we're being very conservative. We have one standalone tie-in series -- the high concept for which is completely brilliant -- and we'll be announcing it soon. The title says it all.

A while ago, you had teased this event by describing it as "three simple words that speak to the hardcore Marvel fan and the guy or gal on the street who's seen one or two super hero movies." I think "Avengers Vs. X-Men" will cull up some kind of imagery for even the most casual Marvel fan. In what ways are you working on this as a pitch to the general public or moviegoers? Is part of your goal to use the "Avengers" movie or what have you to bring more people back to the comics in a direct way?

Alonso: Absolutely. What's not to understand? Whether you're a long-term Marvel fan, or you only know these characters from the multiplex, those three words are going to mean something to you. With all of Marvel Studios' successes, who doesn't know who Cap, Thor and Iron Man are? That wasn't true when we did "Civil War" or "Secret Invasion" -- it wasn't true a few months ago. Hollywood has made marketing this event easier. It's Robert Downey Jr. versus Hugh Jackman! [Laughs]

Like I said, our goal is to make this story immediately accessible -- and it starts with a simple inciting incident that creates clear battle-lines. There is no good guy or bad guy when this starts; just two camps with understandable and defensible positions. You will take a side. Already, the message boards are lighting up as Avengers- and X-Men fans declare their allegiance to their favorite teams. I can't image how hot the debate is going to be as the story unfolds.

We've heard for a while from Marvel how "Fear Itself" and "Schism" and "Avengers: Children's Crusade" were all ending at the same time in order to lead to this event. What shape did you want each team in by the end of those stories -- emotionally, mentally and in terms of their philosophies -- to prepare for this Phoenix Force heading to earth?

Alonso: It's hard for me to answer that question without giving away too much. What I can say in all confidence is, we worked hard to coordinate it so "Fear Itself," "Schism" and "Avengers: Children's Crusade" dovetailed to a close around the same time. We were setting up our ducks for this. Certain characters will take the foreground of the story -- Captain America and Cyclops, for instance -- but there are other roles to be defined. Who will Wolverine side with? With the world's biggest super-teams going to war, would Cap think to tap, say, the Hulk? Hope and Wanda -- the woman who almost decimated the mutant race and the so-called "Mutant Messiah" -- what side of the battlelines are they on?

One specific title we know that will play into the proceedings is Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness' incoming "Avengers: X-Sanction," which brings Cable back into the picture. We know how he feels about Hope, so in what ways does that series give the final push towards this event?

Alonso: You kind of answered the question: The Phoenix Force is headed toward a host, and all signs point to a young woman with green eyes and red-hair named Hope. Well, who raised her, trained her, kept her alive and made her into the person she is? Cable. How'd he come back from the dead? What's his goal, his mission? Read and find out.

Well, you've been talking for a while about characters who have got some big moves coming up from Nova to Hawkeye. How has platforming characters that have been out of the spotlight such as Cable become a big part of the story discussion?

Alonso: In our first summit workshopping this story, we were discussing the arrival of the Phoenix Force, and Nova was invoked for the first time. What if he were to encounter it in outer space as it hurtled toward Earth? From there, he became an organic part of the story. "AvX" will provide a nice launching pad for him in 2012. Other characters that play a big role include Hope and Wanda, Hawkeye, Iron Fist -- I should shut up now. [Laughs]

Of course, look for Marvel's biggest stars to eat up the screen: Cap, Cyclops, Wolverine, Iron Man, Emma Frost, Thor, Spider-Man, Hulk...

There's plenty more to come on all this, I'm sure, in the weeks ahead as the stories leading into "AvX" get under way, but now that the word is finally out there, what's your #1 concern moving forward?

Alonso: I don't know that I've got a concern. [Laughs] We've been planning this for a while. It's our biggest writers and artists, working on our biggest characters to tell one of the biggest stories we've ever told -- a story that will truly transform the Marvel Universe in 2012. I'm almost as excited about the post-"AvX" Marvel Universe as I am about "AvX." Almost.

As one might expect from a major announcement like this, we've got our share of fan questions on "AvX" this week. Let's start with Ravin' Ray who's checking in on the other big pillar of the Marvel U: "On AvX: Will Steve be calling on all Avengers members including former, reserve and inactive members to his side for this? While Ben Grimm is active, Sue and Reed are former members. I'm ambivalent about the FF, the third of the triumvirate of the original Silver Age teams, possibly not being involved in this, especially since Hickman's a co-writer. On the one hand I want them to interact with the rest of the MU more. On the other hand I want them to do their own distinct stuff and set their own mark on the MU."

Alonso: It's possible -- even likely -- that at least some of the FF will be involved in "AvX," particularly the Thing who, as you say, is an active Avenger. That said, there won't be any tie-ins in "FF." Like the title says, it's "Avengers vs. X-Men." While it's a Marvel Universe-spanning event, the two opposing sides are clear-cut: On one side, the Avengers; on the other, the X-Men. And there will be a winner.

Countgate had a similar query as to the players who may be involved along the line asking, "Thunderbolts is often included on Avengers events, like Siege. They will have some part in AvX, given the Raft was destroyed and they are operating from the Avengers Mansion? "

Alonso: While Luke Cage will be an integral part of "AvX," there won't be a "Thunderbolts" tie-in issue. That said, if the Thunderbolts don't get the job done in this April's 15th Anniversary issue, the Avengers and X-Men might not have a world left to fight over. When the time-traveling T-Bolts crash land in the first days of the Thunderbolts, you can bet that that Baron Zemo won't let a pesky thing like disrupting the Space/Time Continuum stop him from using the future Bolts in his plans for world domination. In the process, the Thunderbolts make a decision that will change the course of their history forever. Featuring Cover Art by TBolts Co-Creator Mark Bagley and tons of more surprises in this Anniversary Event!

On the creative front, poker hlis wrote in wondering "Would there be variant covers for all 12 comics?" and I'll provide the follow up by asking how wide a net you guys may be casting for talent to contribute covers outside the big three artists on the interiors?

Alonso: There will be variants featuring our best cover artists. They'll knock your eyes out.

Linnus was one of many people on the boards wondering about the fate of a character Marvel has been hyping as important when he asked, "How are Fearless and Battle Scars and the main protagonist Marcus Johnson and Valkyrie connected to 'Avengers vs X-men'?"

Alonso: Wait and see, Linnus!

Spidey616 chimed in with another hot topic, wondering "Between 'Avengers Vs. X-Men' and the recent news that Bendis will be stepping down from Avengers in 2012, curious where his Age of Ultron storyline with Bryan Hitch falls into place in relation to AvX?"

Alonso: Brian and Bryan's "Age of Ultron" story is not related at all to "AvX," but it's still happening. We're just not ready to say anything more than that at the moment.

Finally, Blackknight75 added his question to a chorus of folks when he asked, "Any chance that when the Phoenix Force comes to Earth, it will choose Squirrel Girl as its new host? "

Alonso: Thanks for "spoiling" our event, Blacknight75.

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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