Marvel Q&A: Editor-in-Chief on ‘Age of Ultron’ and more

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 Message Boards, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!

What topics might we be covering this week? The recent victory of those dastardly Miami Heat in the NBA Finals? Axel and Kiel’s shared, secret, shameful love of ABC’s “The Bachelorette”? Of course not! This week, we’re talking the finale of Marvel’s first summer event “Age of Ultron.” Released on a rocket fueled schedule with a story that bounced from past to future to alternate presents, the series wrapped by opening a huge door in the Marvel U in the form of a broken timeline that’s wreaking havoc on the realities of the Marvel multiverse. That change will spin off into titles as varied as “Indestructible Hulk” and the incoming “Hunger” series. Axel covers all the fallout in Marvel’s publishing line while answering your questions on Quicksilver, the Ultimate Fantastic Four and more. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: We’ve arrived! “Age of Ultron” #10 is here after a lot of talk about its ending and how that impacts the Marvel U. But before we get to those parts, I wanted to ask a bit about the climactic battle with Ultron. Bryan Hitch contributed work here in scenes where the robot would theoretically have taken over the world in the timeline we started at in issue #1. Did he and Brian Bendis work on these pages at an early phase of the project — maybe even as part of the start of the story — and then decide to hold them for the finale?
Axel Alonso: Actually, those pages were originally a part of “Avengers” #12.1, the lead-in issue to “Age of Ultron.” At the time, we knew we’d be revisiting this sequence at the climax of the story, and adding additional narrative elements. In fact, while nobody especially commented on it at the time, if you look back at “Avengers” #12.1, you can see that certain aspects of the sequence’s pacing seem a little odd. Now that the missing elements have been added, it all makes sense. Planning! [Laughs]
“Avengers A.I.” covers by Dustin Weaver, Skottie Young and the 8-bit variant, plus EXCLUSIVE interior pages by Andre Lima Araujo

The central idea in this finale is that the heroes close the loop that created the Age of Ultron, but in doing so the timeline has been damaged in a way that’s causing all sorts of new problems. It’s a concept almost tailor-made for the end of an event series. What do you recall about Brian’s pitch on that idea? Was there an immediate set of stories Editorial felt would flow out of this?

Alonso: You’ll see the ripple effects of this across the Marvel Universe for the foreseeable future so scour those final few pages to see clues about where we’re headed. Right from the start, we knew that “Age of Ultron” would allow us to tee up a lot of different stories in the Marvel Universe, which is why we worked overtime to schedule it when we did.

The pages immediately after the death of Ultron contain a zillion characters and details and teases — probably my favorite is Blackbeard Thing from the original Lee/Kirby FF issues making a comeback. Can we assume that all this stuff has been put in there with very specific intent?

Alonso: Yes! Those pages are riddled with clues to what you’ll be seeing in the near future.

A few years ago, one of Marvel’s fan favorite series was “Exiles” which dealt with characters hopping across the Marvel multiverse. But this feels like maybe the first big coordinated push to play with those parallel world ideas across the publishing line. How much was that idea the attraction for this ending?

Alonso: The conclusion to “Age of Ultron” prompted a long discussion of inter-dimensional and time travel at the last summit. The first question was, Why is there so much inter-dimensional and time travel going on right now in the Marvel Universe? That spurned a lot more questions, like, is it just coincidence? Is there a reason — a driving force — behind it? Could the rifts in the space-time continuum reach critical mass?

A while ago, we talked with Mark Waid in this column about his post-“Age” plans for “Indestructible Hulk,” and he mentioned a new role for Banner trying to hold spacetime together. That seems to be coming clearer and clearer with this ending.

Alonso: Great stuff happens at the summits. Ideas flow like water…and writers ride the waves. [Laughs] Look, when we were discussing the possible ripple effects of “Age of Ultron,” Mark saw an opportunity for the Hulk to play a fascinating new role in the Marvel Universe. It’s very cool stuff. Stay tuned.

Another big element of this finale was the arrival of Galactus in the Ultimate Universe, which is what “Hunger” will focus on later this summer. For a long while, there was no crossover between the Marvel U and the Ultimate U, but since “Spider-Men” happened, have those barriers broken down a bit?

Alonso: “Age of Ultron” opened up lots of inter-dimensional wormholes, so we asked what’s the biggest thing we can cram through one of them, and where should we send it? And then we thought Galactus, devourer of worlds, lands in the Ultimate Universe! [Laughs] Now, the Ultimate Universe already has its own “Gah Lak Tus,” so the first thing we’ve got to reconcile is whether or not the universe is big enough for both of them — and we’ve got some surprises planned. What happens in “Hunger” will have ramifications for both the Ultimate Universe and the Marvel Universe. In terms of pure scale, Peter Parker landing in the Ultimate Universe was like an ice cube — Galactus landing in the Ultimate Universe is like an iceberg.

And when the much ballyhooed appearance of Angela arrived in the issue, I’ve got to say that I didn’t expect her to ride in on a giant, bloody stone head.

Alonso: [Laughs] Listen, what we have planned for Angela is going to knock your socks off. We’ve had incredible conversations with Neil [Gaiman] and Brian [Bendis] about who she is, how she was always woven in the tapestry of the Marvel Universe, and what would happen if you tugged on that thread, so to speak. Angela is going to be a breakout character next year. I guarantee you that people will be shocked, delighted, pissed off. So, people: polybag those old issues of “Spawn” and “Angela” — whatever you do, don’t let oxygen touch them!

Bendis will of course be playing with Angela on the cosmic side of the equation in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but with the weakening of time in “Age of Ultron,” it seems like a natural idea to extend into his X-Men work with “Battle of the Atom” around the corner. Are these two stories talking to each other in some ways, big or subtle?

Alonso: It’s going to be subtle. Like I said, time travel was the big topic of our last retreat. The fact that Brian writes two of the books that most directly deal with the concept isn’t a coincidence — it was a factor in our decision to move forward with all of this. We know we are opening up a Pandora’s Box, but we have a good idea what’s inside.

The last piece teased at the end of this issue in terms of new projects is Waid’s “Age of Ultron” #10A.I., and that of course leads into “Avengers A.I.” In a weird way, I feel like those super science stories aren’t picking up on the broken time idea as much. How does this stuff function differently than the other projects we’ve seen?

Alonso: Not all of the ripple effects of “Age of Ultron” are like tidal waves washing over the entire Marvel Universe. Some are smaller, more character-based. “Avengers A.I.” is rooted in a character: Hank Pym, in the aftermath of “Age of Ultron.” It’s about an Avengers team unlike any you’ve seen before that flows directly out of Pym’s motivations. Maybe Hank can become a character you can root for again? Maybe he can complete a road of redemption?

Getting into fan questions, Fluffy6079 wanted to nail down some of the particulars of the finale, asking, “I have a question regarding the resolution of Age of Ultron. Are there now 2 Wolverines and 2 Invisible Women in the mainstream Marvel U? Because Ultron was defeated before he could take over, Wolvie and Sue never would have gone back in time. So, when they come back from their time traveling there should be a pair there that never left. Right?”

Alonso: So it would seem, Fluffy6079. On the other hand, we see no more of that additional Wolverine and Sue after the time-quakes hit, so it’s possible that their presence was the last straw on the back of the space-time continuum, and they were swallowed up by it, even as Angela was spat out.

In a question I think fits in well with “Hunger” talk, sage6paths asks, “Regarding the new arc of the Ultimates where we see most of the Ultimate Comics Fantastic Four have reunited is there a chance that there will be a new Ultimate Comics Fantastic four book sometime in the future?”

Alonso: It’s too early for us to say if any of the FF will survive what’s in the future of the Ultimate U, sage6paths, but we do get a lot of requests to bring back the book. Might be quite a different lineup if we did.

In other Marvel news, we’re sadly seeing some titles wrap up soon, which has Icey1999 wondering, “I’ve been noticing that a lot of Marvel Now! series- like Journey into Mystery, Red She-Hulk, Gambit, and Morbius the Living Vampire- are scheduled to be canceled as of September. With a lot of open space, is there any chance that we could see a new x-series — perhaps starring Quicksilver in it or a new series about some characters that haven’t popped up in a while?”

Alonso: There is, in fact, a pretty awesome plan in place for Quicksilver, but it’s not a solo series. Mysteries abound!

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!