Super powered mad men, sinister super natural beings, intergalactic dictators and destructive cosmic entities are just some of the threats the Marvel Universe’s defenders confront on a daily basis. Diverse problems call for diverse heroics, so it’s no surprise Marvel heroes often clash when they come face to face. Usually these clashes are brief tussles occurring due to a misunderstanding in pursuit of another menace, but sometimes it’s a fight over ideologies. When this happens the heroes don’t just slug it out — they go to war! This April, ideologies clash when two of Marvel’s premiere super teams, the X-Men and the Avengers, do battle over how best to handle the threat of the Phoenix, a powerful and destructive cosmic entity heading towards Earth.
Chronicled in the 12-issue event miniseries “Avengers Vs. X-Men” by an all-star team of Marvel creators, “AvX” promises to bring a close look into the ideological stances behind both teams. In our first edition of WHEN TWO TRIBES GO TO WAR, our in-depth look at the important elements of “AvX,” we took a look at the various loyalties which will come into play over the course of the conflict. Today, we discuss the generals of the coming conflict: Cyclops, leader of the Utopia based faction of X-Men; Wolverine, leader of the X-Men team headquartered at the Jean Gray School for Higher Learning in New York; Captain America, leader of the Avengers; and Luke Cage, leader of the New Avengers. Discussing the generals of the conflict are “Uncanny X-Men” writer Kieron Gillen, incoming “Wolverine” writer Cullen Bunn and Senior Vice President of Publishing and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort whose office oversees the Avengers family of titles.
Tom, Cap is generally recognized as one of, if not the greatest, military minds in the Marvel Universe. What is it about Cap that makes people stop and look to him for orders?
Tom Brevoort: Cap has both the practical experience — few other characters have been in an actual war, much less commanding men in one — and the personal charisma that allows him to lead people easily. It’s not just the uniform (though that was the starting point), but what Steve has done while wearing it, how he’s always comported himself, what his beliefs are and how they reflect through his actions. His indefatigable never-say-die attitude has carried him through to victory against opponents much more powerful than himself.
Does Cap expect those under his command to follow through on his orders without question or is he comfortable with others questioning his command decisions?
Brevoort: In general, Cap is democratic — he’s not looking for blind followers, but people whose ideals and idealism match his own and with whom he has common cause. That said, there’s a time and a place for dissent (though initiative is typically welcome).
Captain America is great at devising plans of attack and defense in the field but does he also have contingency plans? Does Steve Rogers sit around and come up with plans of attack and defense in his spare time?
Brevoort: Not as such, no. In his spare time, Cap works at self-improvement, maintaining and improving upon his physical skills and mental acuity. But he’s not one to have contingency plans should one of his allies go bad.
Cap went to war against his fellow heroes during “Civil War,” realizing in the end it was the wrong course of action. How comfortable is he in going to war with the X-Men at the beginning of “X-Men Vs. Avengers?” Are the events of Civil War weighing on his mind?
Brevoort: Cap is not very comfortable at having to do battle with the X-Men, but (from his point of view), as opposed to “Civil War,” in this case it’s not a principle at stake but the world and all its people. He’d happily sit down and discuss matters with Cyclops at length if he had the time — but he can’t afford such niceties with the fate of mankind at stake. He has no choice but to act.
Cap is a soldier who is presently in the position of having to be a General in both wartime and peace and those responsibilities wear on him a bit. He prefers to lead from the front and that’s not really an option when you’re the General.
Kieron, Captain America is widely regarded as the Marvel Universe’s best military mind but Cyclops is a close second. Why do you think that is and what are some of the chief similarities and differences between Cap and Cyclops?
Kieron Gillen: They are the two tactical powerhouses of the Marvel Universe. For a large portion of his life, Captain America has been the leader of the world’s premier super team and Cyclops has been a paramilitary since he was 16. Scott’s been doing this forever. So they’re both great tacticians, but Cyclops doesn’t have the likability of someone like Captain America. So he has to take a somewhat different approach.
The other major difference between Cyclops and Captain America is that on some level Cyclops has been expecting this. You could argue that Captain America is a more experienced tactician, but I don’t think that he’s been on his mind in the same way it has for Cyclops. Scott’s been thinking about what might happen if the Avengers come for him constantly. I think Cyclops is more prepared for things like this because he’s a leader of mutants. The Avengers are forces of the government and — fundamentally — the government made Sentinels.
So Cyclops is the type of leader who spends his free time thinking up contingency plans?
Gillen: I don’t think Cyclops really believes in the concept of free time. [Laughs] We’ve seen his plans to take down various threats. So he’s definitely spent some time considering various situations.
Plus, Cyclops is a guy who likes to be extremely prepared and he’s also slightly paranoid. That’s because the last few years have taught him people can betray you. Wolverine, a guy who’s had your back for years, can go off and leave him hanging. He put his trust in Sadie, the mayor of San Francisco and in the end she was planning to blow up Utopia. So he’s a guy who’s been let down a lot and because of that he’ll have plans to put into action if the worst happens. Because, for mutants, it generally does.
Earlier you commented that Scott doesn’t have the likeability of Captain America. What is it about Scott’s style of leadership that’s won him followers like Magneto, who like and believe in him and Hope and Namor who don’t like him, but stuck by him in the X-Men’s recent “Schism?”
Gillen: Scott doesn’t really need to be liked and I think everybody who follows Scott realizes he’s the guy who held mutants together in their darkest hour. It’s arguable whether or not mutants would be here without him. If he didn’t do what he did in “Second Coming,” Nimrods would probably have blown up Utopia and none of them would be here. So Scott has a track record. He got results and that’s created a level of faith in him.
I did an interview about Hope for Marvel.com and they asked me, “Hope and Scott argue all the time. Why did she stick with him?” The simple answer is because she agrees with him. I imagine sometimes she wishes she didn’t agree with Scott because than her life would be a lot easier. [Laughs] She was raised as a soldier by her father who was also a soldier. So her disagreements with Scott are about him as a person not his direction.
Other characters like Namor are a little different. We take an interesting look at what Namor thinks about Scott in the first “Uncanny” issue that ties into “AvX.”
We’ve talked about the beliefs of Cyclops’ followers, but what about the man himself? Once he commits to something, is he the type of person who can back down or change his mind?
Gillen: He believes Hope is the mutant messiah and that she’s going to save the mutant race. They just have to hold on long enough. That’s a really big leap of faith. He’s put so many chips into that bet I don’t think he can possibly back down from it. We’ve seen the “AvX” preview and he’s very much in Hope’s corner. So knowing that I think he’ll be very hard to talk out of things.
He is aware he could go too far though. That’s one of the reasons he recruited Storm for his Extinction team. He knows that if things go wrong she’ll be the ethical anchor. She’ll make sure that people on the team who are a little more ethically gray will not go too far. She’s explicitly there to disagree with Scott. So he’s fine being questioned on the details of how he executes things. He’s a big picture style leader. Everything else is secondary. To Scott that big picture right now is Hope. He believes only way mutants are going to grow and survive is through Hope.
Scott led mutants through their darkest hour and he’s now trying to lead them into their future. So “AvX” is one of the biggest battles in his career. The Phoenix is coming to Earth and this is everything he’s planned for and worked towards. So he is definitely a man to watch in this story.
Tom, Luke Cage has proven to be an unorthodox, but pretty effective leader of the New Avengers. How would you describe Luke’s leadership style and why do you think it works?
Brevoort: I think Luke himself would argue with him being designated a leader. He’s the de facto leader of his Avengers squad, but not by design or desire. He’d much rather be concentrating on matters closer to home, but his unyielding integrity and dignity has cast him in a leadership role despite his desires. He’s a much more casual leader and one prone to sometimes forgetting that he is the leader. But when he stands on principle, it’s tough for people not to fall in behind him.
Luke is a guy who has no trouble speaking his mind and acting on his beliefs, but does he have trouble listening to team members telling him something he might not like to hear?
Brevoort: In the moment, perhaps, but not if what they’re saying makes sense. Luke does tend to let his passions drive him, but if you point out where he’s off-base, he’ll adjust what he’s doing if you have a point. He’s also not used to thinking as a leader, so he tends to make decisions for himself and then others follow along in his wake.
Unlike some of the other generals in this conflict, Luke Cage has a tight knit family pretty close by. Does having a family affect Luke’s effectiveness as a leader at all?
Brevoort: Only in that it gives him something to fight for and protect. Luke is very much guided by his ideal of how he wants his infant daughter to someday view him. He strives to be moral and worthy.
“Civil War” also drastically affected Luke Cage’s life and his relationship with his family. What’s Luke thinking about when this conflict begins? Is he ready to go to war?
Brevoort: Luke is one of the more conflicted Avengers because, as a minority member himself, the conflict with the X-Men resonates with him along civil rights lines. He knows bigotry, he’s got a healthy distrust of authority and it’s in his nature to pull for the underdog. As such, he’s got a lot of empathy for what the X-Men and the mutant community as a whole has been through. It’s not lost on him that the last time these two groups came together in a major way, an Avenger wound up neutering 98% of the mutant population. So he’s not one to blindly go along with things. Luke is on the cusp of having to make some hard decisions about what he wants out of life, so from that standpoint this crisis couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Cullen, we know Wolverine is a highly skilled covert operative and warrior, but in your opinion how much of his martial knowledge involves leading? Is Wolverine as good a general and tactician as he is a solo operator or is he more used to having someone else think about the bigger picture?
Cullen Bunn: Wolverine’s martial disciplines definitely have application for a leader and strategist, but Wolverine is far more comfortable on his own simply because he only has to worry about himself. With the current incarnation of X-Force, he probably breathes a little easier because that is a team of hard-asses. He knows they can take care of themselves. When there are people who might not be dyed-in-the-wool killers on his team, he gets a little distracted with the notion of protecting them from the horrors of war. These are things he has seen — things he is accustomed to — but we’ve seen him trying to protect “innocents” from similar sights. It’s a balance he’s coming to grips with but my guess is there is a significant learning curve.
We know Wolverine established his own branch of the X-Men to properly train the younger generation of mutants. Does that training and preparation apply to the X-Men who joined with him as well? Is Wolverine the type of leader to have contingency plans if he’s attacked?
Bunn: The Way of the Sword teaches warriors to keep both their mind and body flexible — ready to adapt — and Wolverine probably prescribes to this philosophy. He has contingency plans in place, I’d guess, but they aren’t these grand Machiavellian schemes. Instead, I think he’s always weighing several options and he’s ready to make a quick decision when the battlefield shifts.
Some generals like to surround themselves with people who may be unsure of their orders while others prefer to not have anyone question their decisions. Where do you think Wolverine falls in that spectrum?
Bunn: Wolverine doesn’t shy away from others challenging his authority. The X-Men he’s surrounded himself with — Kitty, Beast, Rachel and even Iceman — aren’t the type to blindly follow orders. That openness to ideas plays a role in the flexibility I mentioned earlier. At the same time, he’s ready to make some tough decisions and stand by his choices when the chips are down.
We’ve seen Wolverine lead X-Force and we’ve seen him lead his X-Men into battle against villains where he might not want to kill them, but probably won’t lose much sleep if he does. How comfortable do you think he will be leading a group of X-Men into battle against other heroes, where killing is not an option?
Bunn: I think this opens up a mixed bag of emotions for Wolverine. On one hand, he may feel something akin to relief. After all, he doesn’t want his teammates to be a group of killers, so a battle where killing is not an option may be more difficult but may afford him some level of comfort. On the other, he knows how quickly a fight can go terribly wrong. He’s caught in the middle of the Avengers and the X-Men. No matter which side he chooses, he’s going to be pitted against his friends. That’s not an enviable position.
Wolverine is one of the more self-reliant heroes in the Marvel Universe but he’s also a leader now. Do you think he’ll have trouble balancing his own initiative with his newfound responsibility?
Bunn: Wolverine will always be challenged to balance his inner “lone wolf” with the leadership roles he has taken on. What’s interesting is seeing how he adjusts to this new role. He’s always bristled a little at the leadership of others especially at first, but in his long life he has worked with some of the greatest leaders in the business — Captain America, Professor X, Cyclops — and his style of leadership is probably an amalgam of what he’s experienced. Still, he’s really experiencing leadership from “this side of the table” for the first time.
Check back soon for our next installment of WHEN TWO TRIBES GO TO WAR for a look at the powerhouse characters of “AvX”