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"Thor," "Men of Wrath" and Jason Aaron's Big Week

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 overseen both critically acclaimed and best-selling comics, Alonso stepped into the spot of Marvel's editorial department in early 2011, and has since worked 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!

With "Thor" #1 now out in the world, Alonso addresses the continued interest the series -- which features a new, female God of Thunder introduced by writer Jason Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman -- has received from both comic book fans and mainstream media outlets. Continuing on the big week for Aaron, Alonso talks the writer's new Ron Garney-illustrated series "Men of Wrath," and the current status of Marvel's creator-owned Icon line. Plus talk of the other big Marvel launches from this week -- "Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier" and "Guardians 3000" -- and answers for your questions, straight from the CBR Community!

Albert Ching: Axel, we talked about the new "Thor" #1 quite a bit last week, but here's what struck me this week: When it was announced back in July on "The View," it got a lot of mainstream coverage. A lot of times, especially with comics, that buzz dies down in the interim months before release. Yet this week I've seen a lot of new coverage from mainstream outlets, and it's clear there are people who are really interested in the story. How encouraging is that to you as editor-in-chief that this new Thor has captured the wider public's imagination -- not just comic book readers, but people from all walks of life?

Axel Alonso: We expected there to be controversy, skepticism, elation from fans. Whenever you do something that can be summed up with a single visceral image, you're going to inspire an extreme reaction. The letter column in issue #1 -- in which Jason responds to two fans' extremely different reaction to the announcement -- provides a great snapshot. But we never expected the announcement to get this level of mass media pick-up.

It all boils down to the fact that we now live in a world where everybody knows who Thor is. Who Cap is. Who Iron Man is. Who Black Widow is. These characters are now recognized by everyone. That's why the announcement -- the very image of the new Thor -- inspired the seismic reaction it did. Whether you're a comic book fan or not, the image of the new Thor doesn't quite jibe with the mental image you've already got in your head, and that causes a reaction.

RELATED: Aaron Details the Female Thor Debut, Simonson Talks Prior Changes

Let's talk about the writer of that book, Jason Aaron, since it's a big week for him between this and "Men of Wrath." He's certainly been a significant part of Marvel for years now, but 2014, between "Original Sin" and the new "Thor," looks like it may be his biggest year yet at the publisher. You worked with him on his earliest stuff at Marvel on "Wolverine." Did you see this type of potential in him then?

Alonso: Honestly, I recognized Jason's talent, but it's impossible to predict that a writer will have the right combination of talent and instincts to connect with fans to the degree that he has.

The first time Jason and I talked, he mentioned he liked Wolverine so I asked him if he'd be interested in hearing an idea I had to set up a story: Someone's captured Logan and chained him up at the bottom of a 30-foot pit, above which sits a huge machine gun turret, with an endless supply of shells, manned 24-7 with by triggermen who clock in for 6-hour shifts. Every time Logan's healing factor kicks in, they fill him with bullets. It's an endless cycle. The challenge before Jason was, "How do you get Logan out of that pit?" The only rule was that Logan needed to really earn his way out -- he couldn't just find the inner grit to transcend the pain and jump out of the pit; he'd have to use his heightened senses to read his captors, find their weaknesses, play them. Jason took on the challenge, solved the riddle, and that story became "The Man in the Pit" ("Wolverine" #56).

After that, I gave him the keys to the car to write post-"Messiah CompleX" arc, "Get Mystique," where he worked with Ron Garney, and the rest was history. In no time, all the editors saw his talent and knew his love and respect for the Marvel characters, and he was writing a lot for us.

We've talked about his range before, and it's striking the different type of stories he's done at Marvel, from the slightly more comedic, off the wall "Wolverine and the X-Men," to the high fantasy of "Thor" and harder-edged stuff like "Wolverine" or "PunisherMAX" -- he seems to have a knack for nailing multiple genres that other writers aren't necessarily able to.

Alonso: I remember a Marvel editorial retreat where Jason walked the room through the broad strokes of his first arc of "Wolverine," which had him literally fighting his way out of Hell. It was ten minutes of pure torture and angst, and when he was done, everybody was stunned silent until someone said, "Wow... that's a really... fun... story," and we all broke out laughing. Who would have thought that guy would write "Wolverine and the X-Men"!

Yeah, Jason's clearly got range. And in fairness, Jason always finds those comedic moments to bring levity to even his darkest stories.

RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Aaron & Garney Introduce the "Men of Wrath"

The debut of "Men of Wrath" this week marks another book in the Icon line. Icon is separate from the rest of the Marvel titles in a lot of ways, but given your background as a former Vertigo editor and having helped created the mature readers MAX imprint, how important is it for you for Marvel to maintain this presence, and put out books that are very different from superhero titles, but still part of the greater publishing roster?

Alonso: It's very important for us to maintain the Icon line because it gives us an avenue to tell completely different types of stories and keeps the door open for top-tier talent to tell creator-owned stories that speak to fans beyond their Marvel Universe work. We're selective about what we publish via Icon, but we couldn't be happier with the tremendous successes of those titles -- "Kick-Ass," "Powers," "Painkiller Jane," etc. If the reviews are any indication, Jason Aaron and Ron Garney's "Men of Wrath" looks to continue that tradition.

Wanted to talk about a couple of the other #1s from this week, starting with "Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier" by Ales Kot and Marco Rudy. Like "Elektra" or "Iron Fist: The Living Weapon," it's another book from Marvel that looks nothing like a typical superhero comic, in a very cool way. I know that's something that's important to you. Is that a big priority for Marvel as a whole right now, to push the envelope artistically and make sure the lineup is visually diverse?

Alonso: Yeah, we want our books to be visually diverse. We don't want them to look like they came off an assembly line. With "Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier," you have a writer and artist -- Ales and Marco -- who are already friends, have good chemistry, and want to work together, and this character was the perfect fit for them. Ales wrote with Marco in mind. And when offered the gig to Marco, and told him he'd be working with Ales, who's a very collaborative writer, he went ape-$#!&. And I think the results show on the page.

It's called chemistry. Up and down the line, you'll see diverse artists that we've done our best to pair with the right writer to make our new launches really have swagger: From Marco Rudy to Kaare Andrews to Phil Noto to Javier Pulido to Mike Del Mundo to Adrian Alphona, you're looking at top-notch artists with singular styles. They might not appeal to everyone, but they appeal to someone. And most importantly, we think each is appropriate for what they're drawing.

Another thing about that book -- you can definitely tell from #1 it's going to be unconventional, with lots of wild sci-fi ideas, and that's something Kot certainly seems to bend towards already. You've mentioned being a fan of his and his Image series "Zero" for a while. Is that why you saw him as the right fit for this book? A venue where he can take that inventiveness and apply it to the Marvel Universe?

Alonso: Yeah, Marvel editors do their best to play to writers' and artists' strengths. In this case, [editor] Wil Moss -- who, like myself, is a big fan of Ales' dark espionage series, "Zero" -- guessed that Ales would be drawn to the material -- that he'd like the character and be intrigued by the new status quo of the character. And Wil was right. "Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier" is Ales' best work yet for Marvel, and I think he has a bright future.

RELATED: Kot & Rudy Traverse the Marvel Universe with "The Winter Soldier"

The last of the new books from this week is "Guardians" 3000 #1, by Dan Abnett and Gerardo Sandoval. What Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning did on "Guardians of the Galaxy" stands for itself at this point, but what's really notable to me is how passionate of a fan base they have, and those books have. That vocal following -- was it part of the motivation to get this book published? Giving people that fix that they wanted?

Alonso: The reason is we offered the series to Dan is he's a terrific writer, and we thought this series offered him the challenge and opportunity to do something cool because, well, it's the original Guardians of the Galaxy. And he delivered.

At this week's general editorial meeting, I singled out "Guardians 3000" as the book that really took me by surprise this week. After I signed off on the series and the talent, it fell off my radar after that. I didn't see anything until I opened the printed book, and I was really impressed by it. The writing, the art, the coloring. It's no wonder out orders exceeded our expectations.

The art is very dynamic, definitely with a Joe Madureira vibe.

Alonso: It is. Edgar Delgado colors it, and he's one of my favorites. [Editor] Katie [Kubert] put together a nice creative team.

The characters in that book, other than Yondu, are certainly obscure at this point. They haven't been in an ongoing series in many years. Initially it seems like a risk, but then you think, Abnett and Lanning's 2008 "Guardians of the Galaxy" -- Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket, Gamora, Drax -- were all pretty obscure back then, and look at them now. Is this an example that Marvel's philosophy has changed in terms of characters the company is willing to give a chance to, now that it's been shown there's lucrative potential in a lot of less-traveled corners of the Marvel Universe?

Alonso: You're always just a great creative team with a great pitch from maximizing the potential of any character. From "Black Widow" to "Ms. Marvel" to "Inhuman" to "All-New Ghost Rider" to "Magneto" to "Rocket Raccoon" and "Legendary Star-Lord," so many of our All-New Marvel NOW! launches have connected with fans because of the unique mojo of the creative teams. No character is a dead-end. I think this is going to serve us well when we do more launches down the line. And we have some very cool ones planned.

RELATED: Abnett Heads Back to the Future With "Guardians 3000"

Let's take some fan questions: MARVELous Memories asks, beyond the last couple issues of "Hawkeye," "Does Marvel have anything lined up from Matt Fraction? Haven't seen him around Marvel for a while."

Alonso: Not at the moment, MARVELous. The door is open, we discussed some stuff, but nothing materialized.

Then Platitude asks: "Hello! Will we see any events strictly for cosmic books, something in the style of 'Annihilation'?"

Alonso: Keep your ears peeled for an announcement at the Cup O'Joe Panel at New York Comic Con, on Saturday, October 11.

We'll wrap with IndianaSummers, who asks about the return of Red Skull's daughter: "With so much going on in the Captain America arena -- Cap's aging, Falcon's promotion, Jet and Ian's activities in 616, and especially Red Skull's role in Axis -- are there any plans for a return of Sin?"

Alonso: Could be, IndianaSummers...

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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