This December, The Avengers will face a battle with one of the most powerful forces in the Marvel Universe, and we've got an exclusive first look at how that epic struggle is about to change them, literally.
Over the summer, Marvel Comics announced "Enter The Phoenix," an upcoming event within the pages of writer Jason Aaron's massive Avengers run that will feature Earth's Mightiest Heroes facing the legendary Phoenix Force once again. But unlike past stories in which Marvel heroes have had to struggle against the overwhelming might of one or more characters who've become possessed by the cosmic power of the Phoenix, this time some of the most powerful heroes and villains in the Marvel Universe will actually be fighting for the honor of becoming the next Phoenix host. That's right, it's like Enter the Dragon: A fighting tournament that will unite some of the fiercest warriors in Marvel Comics, with the Phoenix Force at stake.
Of course, as we learned from Jean Grey's encounter with the Phoenix back in the 1970s, close contact with this legendary cosmic force usually means some kind of physical transformation. That means artist Javier Garrón — who joined Aaron for the current "Age of Khonshu" arc in Avengers and will continue on through this story — had the task of crafting all-new, Phoenix-forged costumes for numerous iconic Marvel characters. SYFY WIRE is pleased to reveal a first look at several of these designs, along with commentary from Garrón about how he put them together.
For Garrón, these new Phoenix looks began with a little bit of homework to create some consistency across other Marvel stories. In this case, he turned to the last time the Phoenix Force decided to use multiple characters as its host: The Avengers vs. X-Men event, which Aaron co-wrote, from 2012.
"I was still working on the final episode of my previous arc in the title, the Khonshu one. I was sent the first script of the Phoenix storyline and was told several characters were going to be changed by the Phoenix and designs were required in advance," Garrón explained. "So I automatically thought about the Avengers vs X-Men event crossover from 2012. In that story we had the Phoenix Five (five mutants becoming hosts of the Phoenix at the same time). Olivier Coipel, one of the A-list star artists of the event, designed those costumes and they were pure perfection. Using a common theme, shoulderpads (that will merge into the fire effect when the characters were powered up) and the Phoenix emblem merged with the costume elements, mainly in the chest area, he created extremely unique and iconic suits of each character. The kind of design you see and instantly think 'that's already a classic.' And I thought if the Phoenix is gonna choose new hosts then it would be super fun to play with continuity and go along using the same rules Coipel established. So it could be felt as an organic continuation of the same story within the same universe.
"The conversations we had in the team were super interesting, mostly character based. I'm a huge Marvel fan but let me tell you I'm a newbie in comics compared with all the knowledge Jason Aaron and Tom Brevoort (our fearless editor) have. They are basically walking, living encyclopedias. So we would shape the design not only based on the Coipel parameters but also on character personalities and their own costume history. A bold character has a bolder design. A more individualistic or power-conscious one would have less Phoenix elements in the costume. And then we would add references (or design Easter eggs we could call them too) to previous suits the character had in the past. It's a matter of building a design based on layers. Each layer is a concept, and each concept enriches the next one."
At the moment, The Avengers are still deeply embroiled in the conflict of "The Age of Khonshu," which sees them facing off against the title moon god, the deity from which Moon Knight draws his powers, as Khonshu tries to remake the world in his image. Because of that, we still don't know too many details about how the battle lines are drawn in "Enter The Phoenix." What we do know, and what helped Garrón get excited about crafting the story, is that this event will involved both the primary Avengers team and various enemies and allies from around the world, including characters we haven't seen a lot of in this particular Avengers title just yet, and some of who've already got their own long history with the Phoenix Force.
So, you've got the "Phoenix Panther" and "Captain Phoenix" emerging as part of this fight, but you've also got Wolverine and his Phoenix-flamed claws, and other characters we haven't even heard about yet. For Garrón, tackling a big cast in an event like this means taking a lot of time to really get to know the characters, whether they're basking in Phoenix fire or not.
"I haven't drawn most of the cast here and it is truly exciting to have this chance with them. They are some classic choices in the lineup but there are also some unexpected and wild picks. I may have suggested some too (though I don't know for sure by this point if they'll make it all the way to the final art). It's fun all around. It also makes me a bit nervous too," he said. "You see, the way this works for me at least, drawing characters is like meeting a person. The more time you spend with them, the more you know them. I try my best on each page, each panel. But it's inevitable that you only become comfortable with the approach you have for a character once you have some mileage working with them. Because inevitably, as part of an organic process that happens without setting yourself to it, your version of the character evolves bit by bit. Panel by panel. In the little details. How you draw the nose, or the chin, or how you draw their hair. Or the details of the costume. It's the tiny things that end up shaping your version and they kind of mold themselves through the process in a more fun and comfortable way for you. But it's something you cannot go around, you have to pass through and spend all those hours drawing."
He added: "Finding things that don't work for you (even though they do for other artists) and those that click with your style. When I drew Star-Lord it was challenging to draw the helmet. Or the visor in the case of Cyclops. You study how those elements are represented by previous artists and then you run with that. But it takes a bit for you to feel comfortable and find your way of drawing them. But in the end you have to try and make those adjustments unnoticeable for the reader. So the experience is seamless. We only want them to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! 'Enter the Phoenix' is a high octane, non-stop, thrilling action epic and readers are in for an extremely fun treat."
"Enter The Phoenix" begins in the pages of Avengers #40 this December.