Early in writer Rick Remender’s UNCANNY AVENGERS, the Red Skull—newly imbued with Charles Xavier’s power of persuasion—offered a nightmarish glimpse at his vision for America, bending the will of ordinary citizens and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes alike. This fall, the Skull returns with his S-Men, and a contingent of the world’s most nefarious villains, in a march to AXIS that plays out in the pages of UNCANNY AVENGERS, CAPTAIN AMERICA, MAGNETO and LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD.
AXIS will serve as the realization of one warped despot’s plan to reeducate the world’s populace, starting with a number of liberty’s staunchest defenders. It will take the combined efforts of the Avengers and the X-Men to even slow the formation of Red Skull’s burgeoning Army—if only they can unite in their cause.
“Ever since [Avengers Vs. X-Men], the Avengers and the X-Men haven’t gotten along so well,” says Remender. “The story that we’ve been telling in UNCANNY AVENGERS is a learning lesson. The two teams can see that if they do not work together, if they do not unite, the world will crumble. As soon as they learn this and start to get their act together, they are put face to face with the horrible reality that the Red Skull has been working in the background to create a reeducation camp in the remains of Genosha. A few people are discovering this.
“In the pages of CAPTAIN AMERICA, we see the Red Skull working with Arnim Zola to deal with one aspect of the big plot. In UNCANNY AVENGERS, we see a number of the cast members grabbed and brought to these reeducation camps by the S-Men led by the Red Skull. In books like MAGNETO and LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD, there are other characters that have been grabbed or somehow find their way to these camps.”
As Remender explains, the morally ambiguous Magneto plays a very large role in the story. As such, much of the ground covered in March to Axis will be in the pages of the character’s solo title.
“From his earliest involvement in AXIS, Magneto starts to go through some pretty significant changes,” says MAGNETO writer Cullen Bunn. “The task he undertakes in this story falls right in line with his mission from the main series: to protect mutants at any cost and with extreme force. That's something that I really like about this event. I can still tell stories that fit in the same ‘tonal’ family as the rest of the issues in the series. But Magneto’s not expecting what he finds when he heads to Genosha, and he must take even more drastic steps to accomplish his goals. Later, you see even more drastic transformation for Magneto; even though he's often straddled the line between ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ it's his core beliefs and methodologies that go through some changes.”
The trickster god Loki, a storied villain who’s frequently straddled the line between chaotic evil and chaotic good, plays another key role in the road to AXIS. In his branch of the journey, Loki finds himself at odds with another tyrant flirting with altruism.
“AXIS comes to Loki with [LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD #6], in a story some fans have been waiting to read for a while: Loki versus Doctor Doom,” teases writer Al Ewing. “Two bad people, trying to be better people—someone’s got to be the winner. Loki's trying to slip the chains of his own future. Now that he knows he's doomed to end up as the maniacal King Loki, he's even more determined to escape predestination and be his own person. Unfortunately, Doom—as part of his work with Valeria Richards to improve the world, as detailed in FANTASTIC FOUR—has journeyed into the future, met King Loki, and decided to take him out of the picture for the good of humanity. So they're on a collision course to the death. Meanwhile, the Red Skull has some plans of his own for the world, and Latveria is right in the firing line.”
Remender promises a story of escalating and evolving threats, playing out with each new arc and new bend in the road. The waking nightmare brought about by the return of activity to Genosha proves treacherous enough, but that dirge will grow only more sonorous and terrible as Red Skull’s regime advances, claiming more and more champions to fuel its hateful machine.
“You know certain things going into this event, but where all that leads is completely unexpected,” Remender promises. “I’m doing my best to make this the most bombastic and fun event that I can in terms of keeping high velocity and to keep jerking the steering wheel left and right so that you’re never really sure where we’re taking things.”
One thing readers can expect throughout AXIS will be a deep focus on character and relationships.
“When you look at the cast and you look at who they are and how they see the world and view each other, that’s the fun of continuity,” says Remender. “That’s the good side of it. There’s so much established grist for drama between these characters to maintain the conflict. All of the action and all of the crazy events that transpire are all born of character decisions and character choices. There’s a lot of heart in it and there’s a lot of really big concept stuff, too. It’s very much akin to what I’ve done on books like UNCANNY X-FORCE and SECRET AVENGERS. It’s big, high-concept, but there’s plenty of character heart underneath it.”