Wednesday's Marvel Legacy #1 is promoted as a return to "classic Marvel" ideals and "a blockbuster story that sets the stage for the coming years of Marvel storytelling."
Leading the way for an almost line-wide "Marvel Legacy" branding of its titles, Marvel Legacy #1 keys into the nature of Big Two continuity that long-time readers know well, with changes and deaths eventually leading back to the return of classic status quos.
A classic Steve Rogers/Captain America, adult Jean Grey (as Phoenix, no less), Tony Stark/Iron Man, and the return of this character with a twist and the return of these two characters have been revealed in advance of Wednesday’s release of Marvel Legacy #1, one of which the publisher anticipates will be "the most talked about return in comics."
Marvel's Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso - who took over that role just after a similarly-themed "Heroic Age" - has talked with Newsarama about this large-scale event, what prompted it, and what to look forward to past this week's kick-off one-shot. He also talks openly about one of those Legacy #1 returns, so consider yourself spoiled-warned.
Newsarama: Axel, let's start with your own solicitaion copy for Marvel Legacy #1 - "It’s everything you’ve been longing for - and more!"
Of course, we’re not asking for some specific spoilers of the issue, but on a macro level, what in Marvel's estimation are readers longing for?
Axel Alonso: Readers long for the return of their favorite, classic characters.
Nrama: ‘Longing’ assumes a prolonged absence, so naturally the follow-up question is, why are readers longing for it?
Alonso: I think there’s a lot of anxiety in the world right now and readers find inspiration in iconic characters like Cap, Thor, Iron Man, and Wolverine - characters that speak to generations of readers.
Nrama: Have these things been lacking at Marvel in recent years, and if so, why?
Alonso: Over the past couple of years, we took a lot of our classic characters off the playing field - Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine - and replaced them with either classic characters from their stories (Jane Foster, Sam Wilson) or completely new characters (Amadeus Cho, Riri Williams). It was an aggressive move that made for some cool stories, brought new characters onto the board, and elevated others. The return of the classic characters was inevitable, of course, and we strove to find an orchestrated plan for that. Legacy is the opening salvo of that plan.
Nrama: The history of Marvel and DC continuities is cyclical, with changes and deaths eventually leading back to the return of classic status quos. “Heroes Return” and the “Heroic Age” are two Marvel examples. In 2010’s “Heroic Age” you promised hey Marvel universe with a "renewed sense of hope and optimism.” So, two-part question here:
One, given the nature of contemporary storytelling, is hopeful and optimistic a difficult tone to maintain when readers seem attracted to existential crisis, internal conflict and pathos? Is there an appetite anymore for one-off stories where happy-go-lucky Spider-Man foils a bank robbery?
Alonso: Sure, you can do that. And we do. But you can only tell so many stories in which the threats are purely physical in nature before things get stale. Some of the greatest and most memorable Marvel stories are the ones that tested the morals and core values of the hero, that threatened to rip apart the team, that tested what the hero - or heroes - actually stand for. And many of these served as metaphors for their times. Sometimes telling a great story means taking a character into a place that makes the reader feel scared, worried or uncomfortable.
Nrama: And then two, how would you say Legacy differs from the “Heroic Age,” for example?
Alonso: What makes “Legacy” unprecedented is the fact that we are bringing back so many perennial characters that have been off the playing field in such a concentrated pocket of time. Add to that the fact that they are returning to special circumstances, some of which are hinted at in Marvel Legacy #1.
Nrama: “Legacy” involves properties that are well over 50 years old, as well as concepts that are barely a couple years old (Gwenpool, Moon Girl). What - if anything - is the editorial through line that makes a “Legacy” book a “Legacy” book line-wide? What are the common elements that'll be there in September and beyond that maybe were not there in August?
Alonso: With “Legacy,” we asked our creators to go back into the vaults and excavate that jewel of a story that just blew them away as a fan - that hook, character or artifact that made their brains explode - and then do something new with it. Each and every one of them rose to the challenge.
So you’ve got Frank Castle doing damage in a War Machine armor… Asgard and Thor braced for armageddon… the Hulk investigating a distress call from the alien planet of Sakaar… Luke Cage back in jail… Captain America having to earn back not just the trust of an entire nation but the self-confidence to wear the red, white and blue uniform… Kingpin as the Mayor of New York City… Loki as Sorcerer Supreme… Logan resurrected and apparently in possession of an Infinity Stone… the Marvel Universe’s hottest bromance – Cable and Deadpool – shattered as the two go to war… the Human Torch and the Thing back in action… Gwenpool versus Doctor Doom… and Moon Girl teaming up with half of the Fantastic Four.
Nrama: As you mentioned, Logan returns in Marvel Legacy #1, and along with two other recently missing characters. Marvel seems to be in the sharing mood about tomorrow's one-shot, so is there any returns - or clues about these returns - that you can tell readers today?
Alonso: To do that would ruin the surprise. All I can say is that each of these returns were planned for months or, in the case of classic Thor and Steve Rogers, years. Jason [Aaron] always knew what story would facilitate the return of Odinson, and the groundwork for Steve Rogers’s return was laid down in the planning phases of Secret Empire for Mark Waid and Chris Samnee to tell the story of Steve’s quest for redemption in the eyes of the Marvel Universe and, to a degree, himself.
Each is its own story, and some of these stories will unfold in unexpected places, with no warning, so keep your eyes and ears peeled. There’s plenty of surprises ahead.
Nrama: You can't name something “Marvel Legacy” and not remind readers of the fact that Fantastic Four #1 was the very first Marvel comic book. From today's return spoilers of two more Marvel Legacy #1 returns, it seems this one-shot will begin to address this issue. But can Marvel provide readers any overall updates on the status quo of the Fantastic Four property as a whole? Is the world ready for the FF?
Alonso: With Reed and Sue off-planet, Marvel 2-In-One is the perfect place to give fans a taste of the Marvel Universe’s first family. Reed and Sue will cast quite a shadow over the series, maybe even more.
Nrama: Finally, since October 2016 Direct Market industry sales have been in decline for the first time in five years. “Legacy” will mark the one-year anniversary of this time period. How would you describe Marvel's 2017 so far and how much (if at all) of “Legacy” was a reaction to the last year of sales?
Alonso: We are closing strong. You have to remember that we were cycling against two historically great years. 2015 and 2016 were benchmark years for Marvel. And 2016 was a strong year for the comics industry as a whole, for a number of reasons. If we made any mistakes this year, it was underestimating the anxiety of hardcore fans that believed we had actually abandoned our classic characters. That was never the case, and “Legacy” will prove that.
We intend to do as much as possible to create excitement about the Marvel Universe during this time period and for the foreseeable future.