Rick Remender Flips Marvel's Moral Compass In Avengers & X-Men Axis: Act II - Inversion

While the first issue of Avengers & X-Men: Axis doesn’t hit store shelves until October, Marvel [...]

While the first issue of Avengers & X-Men: Axis doesn't hit store shelves until October, Marvel is already looking ahead to the crossover event's second act, which is set to turn the Marvel Universe and its characters on their head.

In Act II of Axis, readers will be introduced to the Age of Inversion, in which the moral compass of the Marvel Universe is flipped The greatest heroes of the Marvel Universe are corrupted, twisted, and transformed into nightmares, and formerly self-serving villains suddenly find themselves compelled to do good. There's a new Sorceress Supreme, the destruction of Latveria, the return of an ancient X-Men foe, and the birth of KLUH, and a new faction known as the Axis of Evil.

"The fun of something like this in my mind is to constantly subvert expectations and surprise people with exciting new things," say Axis writer Rick Remender. "The idea of having an event like this where, with the seismic shifts every three months, at the end of each Act, also sort of branch into an entirely new high concept keeps people on their toes, keeps things exciting. "It's not going to be one thing from A-Z.

"The way that things go in the first act, and how our heroes are forced to deal with the threat of the Red Onslaught, leads to the whammy that nobody is quite aware of at first. One of the things we came up with and fell in love with at the retreats is the inversion aspect, where I put on my dungeon master's cap and start twisting alignments around. Which isn't as cut and dry as you think. I think that inverting the characters kind of shows you the antithesis of what they normally are, which I think helps to shine a light on their character."

The way Remender explains it, in the Age of Inversion, those without a conscious suddenly gain one, while who had one suddenly lose it.

"An inverted character, if you're Sabretooth for example, you're no longer going to kill somebody to achieve your goals," Remender explains "you're going to save somebody and take the hit. He's basically the same person, with the same memories and everything, only that Jiminy Cricket in his head is giving him different information. His moral alignment, his guts, who he is as a human is now aligned in a different way. So, he's not capable of killing, at least not the way he used to. Imagine if you're a serial killer, and you're an amoral sociopath, and you wake up one day with an ethical compass and a conscious and you're all of a sudden recognizing that, hey, this is wrong and I am spreading pain across the world, and I'm making life awful for people, and I'm not helping. And all of a sudden, he's got the moral compass of a superhero, but he's still the same guy.

"It's not mind control. They're acting, and they're making choices, but their moral alignments and the choices that they would normally make is informed by different sets of personality traits, because what they normally have has been turned upside down. That leads to some really interesting revelations coming out of a number of things, including some X-Men stuff, and leading into the next act, which is sort of the biggest X-Men showdown I can think of, and really for everybody. It has huge ramifications for the Spider-Man world, the Avengers plan, there's really big stuff coming through this inversion that is going to affect these characters."

The reveal of the Age of Inversion helps give some context to the upcoming Carnage and Hobgoblin miniseries. Editor Tom Brevoort explained how the inversion will play into those series, and the other ongoing series with Axis tie-ins.

"You'll see the effect of those inversions in those books. It's kind of comforting now that we're talking about Act II, because Nick Lowe's been driving himself batty trying to find ways to talk about the Hobgoblin project and the Carnage project without talking about the fact that both of those characters are inverted. This will be a more morally upstanding Carnage, and a Hobgoblin who is, perhaps, a good businessman rather than a bad businessman. It takes a totally different Hobgoblin and a totally different Carnage to do stories as part of this. This will be different than any Carnage or Hobgoblin project that you've up until this, for good or ill."

Coinciding with the dawn of the Age of Inversion in issue #4 is the return of one of the X-Men's greatest foes, Apocalypse, a character that has been a recurring theme in Remender's Marvel work despite not showing up in person until now.

"Apocalypse is back, and that's part of the big pyrotechnics of issue #4," teased Remender. "It was another piece of my plan. The Uncanny X-Force outline led into the Uncanny Avengers outline led into the Axis outline, and you don't to read any of them to hop into and enjoy any of them, but they do have connective tissue. So the Kid Apocalypse and Apocalypse himself beat that we play out here is a piece of that thread, going back, that we always intended. At a certain point, I didn't even know this was going to be an event, this was just going to be in the pages of Uncanny Avengers, but it built, and then it became more inclusive, and then the X-Men had a larger role, and the Apocalypse beat blossomed into something really wonderful that I think a lot of people are going to have a lot of fun with.

"This is a beat that was in my initial notes that I'm excited about. It's a climax for me. What I'm setting up here and what I'm doing is the end of my 'things to do with Apocalypse that make me crazy excited' list. This is me getting to the end of my intended to-do list, my Apocalypse bucket list if you will. My Apoca-list."

Remender hinted that the return of this ancient X-Men villain could mean a big change of status quo for the X-Men going forward.

"You're going to see a reshuffling of things in the X-Universe…and it even builds into some of the future books that are coming out of the X-Office. What the X-Men do in this event is not something that the world can forget any time soon, and how they have to deal with things, starting with the Red Onslaught, and then leading into how they're going to deal with what the Red Skull doing, they're going to have a final reaction to what is pretty clearly an endless attempt by the universe to crush them into the mud."

The events of the inversion seem to tie-in pretty closely with the new status quo of Avengers NOW!, introducing readers to the new Tony Stark, the Superior Iron Man.

"Tony's inversion is something that I put a lot of time into, on noting, and I talked it up with Tom a great deal, and Kieron Gillen when he was still writing Iron Man had a number of idea and thoughts," says Remender. "What we're seeing with an inverted Tony Stark character attributes that he will occasionally allow to come to the foreground. What I think is interesting is that flipping his alignment turns him back into who he was, which shows the growth as a character that he's had since his first appearance. Inverting Tony lead to a number of big idea, including an interesting new use for a consumer version of Extremis, which will make Tony quite rich."

Remender also hinted at how Thor may become unworthy of his power, saying "Thor's nobility becomes selfishness, and his willingness to put himself in the way of harm becomes his ability to avoid conflict in service of others."

The new Captain America, Sam Wilson, will also have his first chance to shine as part of a Marvel crossover event.

"There was a dilemma in that I didn't want to make unnatural things happen because I love Sam and I'm writing that book," says Remender. "Sam, like a lot of the other characters, pays a pretty heavy price and has a big role in this.

You will be seeing a pretty nice, big fight between Sam Wilson Captain America and all of the X-Men,

which doesn't go great for anybody. It was a nice stage to give Sam his first dance with the larger Marvel Universe as Cap."

Remender also said that there's a big role for Sam's predecessor, Steve Rogers, to play during the Inversion, saying, ""Steve plays a huge role in this story. If Steve and Sam were at odds, that would be an interesting story, I think. Who knows what will happen? There's definitely a big Steve Rogers story happening here."

Teased on the cover of issue #4 is the introduction of Kluh, which Remender describes as "The Hulk's Hulk."

"The blackest, darkest, most evil thing that you can imagine," Remender says, describing Kluh, "that was born of the rage of an abused Bruce Banner as a child. This version of the Hulk's Hulk. We're going to see what it's like to have a Hulk who was a few times stronger and many, many times more evil."

While each act of Axis is still planned as being somewhat self-contained, Remender made clear that the inversion will have lingering effects.

"Axis will lead to a whole new book that I am writing that will have a number of characters who are very changed from the story," Remender says. "The inversion isn't going to be completely wrapped up. There's not going to be a perfect bow on this story by the end of things. It will have a nice conclusion to the immediate threat, but there will be some aspects of the inversion that carry forward moving into new stories in the Marvel Universe in a handful of titles."

Avengers & X-Men: Axis #1 goes on sale October 8.