Marvel Comics is embroiled in Avengers vs. X-Men, a crossover event which follows an all-out war between the publisher’s iconic superteams. When Avengers vs. X-Men reaches its conclusion, the stage will be set for a massive restructuring of the Marvel Universe. “It’s not hype when we say that AvX is the culmination of a lot of stories we’ve done over the last several years,” says Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso. “Characters are redeemed or not. Characters are changed. The X-Men and the Avengers are both repositioned for the future. What better time to shake things up? ”
And Marvel is shaking things up. Entertainment Weekly is excited to exclusively announce Marvel NOW!, a massive new initiative that will launch new titles and relaunch old ones starting in October. Some of the company’s top storytellers are leaping from one corner of the Marvel Universe to another. Brian Michael Bendis is leaving the Avengers for a new X-Men book; Jonathan Hickman will end his run on Fantastic Four before kick-starting a new twice-monthly, jampacked Avengers book; and Rick Remender will begin work on the flagship title of the new era, Uncanny Avengers, a book that will blend Avengers and X-Men characters into one superteam. “I’m excited about taking creators out of their relative comfort zones,” says Alonso.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that a major comics publisher has inaugurated a new era with new creative teams and new #1’s: Just last year, DC Comics relaunched their entire line with The New 52. But Alonso is quick to draw a sharp contrast between DC’s initiative and Marvel NOW! “This ain’t a reboot. It’s a new beginning.” Unlike New 52, Marvel NOW! will roll out gradually over a few months, with creators finishing off their runs and then starting new ones. “I feel that it’s a much more humane approach for retailers and fans to tell them: ‘Look. In the months of October through February, every week you can go into a comic book store and find a few new jumping-on points for the Marvel Universe, a place you’re going to like visiting. Or revisiting.”
We spoke exclusively to Remender, Hickman, and Bendis about three of the books that they’ll be rolling out for Marvel NOW! Read on for more, and be sure to check out our exclusive piece of art from Marvel CEO Joe Quesada.
Uncanny Avengers: Remender describes this as “a bridge book, something that can delve into both worlds. It has a natural purpose for existing after AvX, where we can focus on human-mutant relations. The broad strokes are: Captain America comes out of AvX and recognizes that he hasn’t done enough to help the mutants.” The book will be drawn by John Cassaday, and will include heavy-hitters like Cap, Thor, and Wolverine, but Remender is also excited to focus on some less well-known characters, like Cyclops’ little brother Havok. “Havok’s always been the black sheep rock-and-roller of the Summers family. He can’t do that anymore. You’re going to see Havok become one of the biggest players in the Marvel Universe.”
Perhaps appropriate for a team that comprises a vision for the Marvel Universe’s future, the Uncanny Avengers’ first villain will be, literally, a ghost of the past. “In 1943, Arnim Zola, who was this bio-fanatic engineer, recorded the Red Skull’s consciousness, and set it to wake up 70 years later. So the Red Skull [in Uncanny] is right out of 1943-44. Prime Nazi scumbag. In his mind, he’s taking that vitriol and hate and Nazi horror and methodology, and pointing it at the mutant species.” And Remender stresses that the mash-up philosophy of Uncanny extends beyond the team’s lineup. “I’m not just smashing the heroes together, I’m smashing the villains together. It becomes something unlike anything we’ve ever seen, with stakes that are so huge, it takes a team comprised of the best Avengers and the best X-Men to go take care of it.” (Starts in October)
Avengers: Jonathan Hickman tells big stories. During his run on Fantastic Four, the writer has become known for meticulously plotting out stories years in advance in what Alonso describes as “his Unabomber-sized notebook.” And he’ll bring that maximal aesthetic to Avengers. “It’s not six Avengers, it’s 18 or more,” he teases, promising a diverse mix of popular characters, B-listers, and new characters. (Jerome Opena will have his work cut out for him as the Avengers artist.)
Unsurprisingly, Hickman’s favorite Avengers stories veer toward the cosmics: the Korvac Saga, the Kree-Skrull War, and the time-scrambling Avengers Forever. Hickman’s first story arc on Avengers is called “Avengers World,” but even the term “world” sounds a bit too micro for Hickman’s ambitions. In the wake of AvX and a new era of Marvel, “The obvious solution is for the heroes to become something bigger and larger, a more appropriate response to an ever more dangerous time.” Avengers will be published twice a month, and Hickman is currently planning to mix together longer five-to-six-issue story arcs with one-off stories that focus on individual characters. As for those characters, Hickman is mostly keeping mum about the lineup right now, but he revealed one teammate to whet our appetite. Kids, we’ve got six words for you: Shang-Chi, master of Kung Motherf—ing Fu. (Starts in December)