This September, the March to Axis begins in earnest for Marvel – and the march goes right through several of its ongoing series. The first seeds of Axis were planted almost two years ago in the inaugural arc of Uncanny Avengers, and now it’s coming back for a two-part story leading up to event series properto debut in October.
According to Marvel Senior Vice-President of Publishing Tom Brevoort, Axis all starts when the Red Skull – now fully trained in the psychic powers received from the transplant of Professor X’s dead brain – is amassing an army in the rubble of Genosha to erase mutantkind. It isn’t the first time the Red Skull tried to crush “inferior races” under his boot heel, as he served as a Nazi under Adolf Hitler during World War II.
Newsarama has learned that September Uncanny Avengers #24 will kick off the event, seeing Havok and the unified team of X-Men and Avengers go up against the Red Skull’s personal guard, the S-Men, and first learn about the machinations going on in the ruins of Genosha. Written by series writer Rick Remender (who is also writing Axis), Uncanny Avengers #24 will be illustrated by Salvador Larroca. Newsarama talked with Brevoort, who oversees that series and the Axis event, to learn more about Uncanny Avengers and plunging into Axis.
Newsarama: September begins the “March to Axis,” and one of the four titles in that march is Uncanny Avengers #24. Can you tell us about the title and how it factors into the plans for Axis?
Tom Brevoort: Uncanny Avengers #24, and its sister book Uncanny Avengers #25, are probably the most direct of the “March to Axis” books. Axis is something Rick Remender has been building to going back to the first story-arc of Uncanny Avengers. So in Uncanny Avengers #24 we see the return of the Red Skull and his S-Men as they put their nefarious plan into action. Once we get to Axis, we’ll see fully how this impacts Marvel’s heroes.
Nrama: Was Axis always in the plans as ultimate goalpost for Uncanny Avengers from the get-go?
Brevoort: It wasn’t specifically Axis, but the story existed, yes. The idea for the story was there from the beginning, but it wasn’t necessarily called Axis then; it’s gone through different names internally, even after the first issue of Uncanny Avengers. This story has changed, adapted, and been transmogrified over time, but the core, central idea has been there since the beginning. We didn’t know it’d be Axis and be 9 issues over three months, but we knew the story.
Nrama: The cover to Uncanny Avengers #24, as well as #23 before it, shows two heroes, thought deceased, presumably amongst the living: Scarlet Witch and Rogue. Can you speak on that and their status among the living or the dead?
Brevoort: [laughs] I think we’ve proven here many times at Marvel, most recently in Guardians of the Galaxy #15, that what we put on the cover isn’t necessarily what ends up in the books. People will just have to keep reading, keep hoping, and keep praying to their chosen deity for the return and re-emergence of Rogue and Wanda.
Nrama: Speaking of re-emergence, I’ve been told that Axis all begins with some rumblings from the mutant hotspot island of Genosha. What can you tell us about what’s going on there, especially with how important Genosha is to mutantkind?
Brevoort: Genosha is historic for Marvel and for mutantkind, going all the way back to the stories Chris Claremont did there in the 1980s as a sort of mutant apartheid nation. For a time, mutants were treated as an under-class, or a slave-class, but ultimately they were freed and Genosha became a mutant nation unto itself. That, however, was pretty well wiped out in the opening of Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men and now, for the most part, it’s known as the scene for one of the biggest quasi-genocides of modern times. Since then we’ve seen glimpses of Genosha such as during “Necrosha,” and it’s been shown as a pretty bleak and unappetizing place… which is probably why the Red Skull likes it’s so much.
As the Red Skull finds Genosha now, it’s his kind of country and he’ll be setting up shop there in the course of the “March to Axis” issues and will make it the headquarters from which he’ll carry out his plans. And those plans will be in keeping, sort of, with the history of Genosha. Make of that what you will.
Nrama: Dangerous. The Red Skull we’re discussing here is a villain who recently upgraded his power-set by exhuming Charles Xavier’s dead body and taking the dead telepath’s brain and infusing it with his own to take his powers. What is the Red Skull after here, exactly?
Brevoort: I can only talk about it in the abstract at this point. But one of the things that’s sort of refreshing, in a disgusting manner, about the Red Skull, as compared with most other Marvel villains, is that he has no redeeming qualities. Other Marvel villains can be called evil, sinister, nefarious, backstabby, what have you, but they all tend to have some facet of them that’s admirable or attractive; they might fight for a good cause but use methods that are too extreme, or they have innate nobility even while crushing their heel down on someone else. Or perhaps they have a tragic, tortured past that makes readers related to them in some degree, or at least understand their pain. The Red Skull doesn’t have any of that. [laughs]
The Red Skull is as bad as they come; nothing but blackness on top of blackness. If you dug down deep… way down in his psyche, all you would find is blackness. So the Red Skull is fairly direct, and starting with Uncanny Avengers #1 and leading up to, and ultimately through, Axis, he’s proving that. Since the resurgence and restarting of the mutant race in Avengers Vs. X-Men, the revitalized mutant race is a nice target for him to paint as his scapegoat and unite others against.
That being said, I don’t know that the Red Skull particularly hates mutants more than anyone else; it’s just what happened to be going on and he saw an opportunity. The Red Skull is about as nihilistic a character as there exists. Really, he isn’t having a good day if he does not have his foot on someone’s neck; it almost doesn’t matter who that somebody is. If there’s him and someone else stuck on a desert island, his measure of how good or bad a day it is depends entirely on where that person is in relation to himself. His goals are always fairly destructive and nihilistic, rather than constructive. Sometimes he paints his motive against the backdrop of a new empire or a new status quo, but they’re all pseudo-causes of the moment in service of putting him into the position to step on other people… to crush them and bring them down.
And now as we come to “March of Axis,” the abilities he gained from Xavier’s brain have been with him long enough for him to learn how to properly use them. It’s a fairly frightening thing, even in the abstract, and just how powerful Professor Xavier would have been had he been a bad guy instead of just a somewhat flawed good guy. Many of the early Uncanny X-Men stories ended with Professor X zapping a bad guy with his brain power and putting him down; now imagine all of that power, with none of that goodness, in the hands – or head, in this case – of the Red Skull. He can read any of your thoughts, even those buried down deep. He has access to everyone’s minds and he’s not the nicest fellow, so that’s not a good recipe for the world and certainly for the Avengers and the X-Men.
Nrama: Very little has been released about Axis just yet, but some have compared it to “Acts of Vengeance” being that it’s a super-group of super villains ganging up on heroes. What would you say to that comparison?
Brevoort: It’s a logical comparison because it’s a big event story in which a lot of big, top notch villains getting together. We’ve had stories in the recent past with two or three teaming up, but not everybody; you have to go back to “Acts of Vengeance” to see a grouping this large. But that said, this isn’t “Acts of Vengeance;” they’re not going to pick on heroes one-by-one or trade opponents as they did in the past. The other villains will be coming into Axis over the course of the story, each in their own way. Those villains you saw in the image – The Red Skull, Doctor Doom, Sabretooth, Loki, Carnage – they’re all guys who play at a certain level, and all are of a status that you could build events around each of them individually as antagonists.
Nrama: The name and the logo of Axis seems to infer the Avengers and X-Men are hopefully on the same side – quite different from Avengers Vs. X-Men. Can you talk about Axis in relation to where things were at one point with Avengers Vs. X-Men?
Brevoort: The heroes’ opinions on that depends on which hero you ask. The heroes, nor the individual teams, don’t necessarily have just one opinion. With the X-Men, for instance, you have at least two with the factions. If you asked different heroes in this line-up their opinion on something, they’d have 10 different opinions, or at least shades of an opinion, on most any given subject.
That all having been said, I think the Avengers and the X-Men can all agree that the Red Skull, armed with Professor X’s brain and setting up shop in Genosha is a bad thing. It’s something they should try to stop, and so faced with essentially a common adversary/foe/threat they will no doubt put aside most all of their differences to deal with the larger problem at hand. That’s the starting point of Axis; our heroes will be linking arms that they perhaps might not have done a few days earlier.