We bring Jen Walters to a clinical psychologist for examination!

In the pages of HULK, Jen Walters struggles with her personal aftermath from Civil War II. A fight with Thanos left her in a coma, and thus powerless to stop her cousin Bruce Banner’s death at the hands of Hawkeye. In trying to move past these events, Jen has begun work at the Law Offices of Ryu, Barber, Zucker, & Scott. But when a new client appears to be going through many of the same struggles that Jen herself now faces, she sees an opportunity to help someone and maybe to handle her own trauma.

This story arc provides a unique look at a super hero dealing with common mental health issues. We sat down with clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Letamendi to get a better of idea of what Jen’s going through and how her Hulk side is coloring her experience.

Marvel.com: Internal monologue is a very common device in comics, but it’s used even more in this book to highlight Jen’s fragile mental state following the events of Civil War II.

Andrea Letamendi: For this narrative, one of the reasons that it’s important for us to get her internal monologue is for us to see the two sides of her. We obviously know the two sides that this character is built on, but in these first few issues we’re seeing another duality. With the internal monologue, we see those constant worries, intrusive thoughts, the second-guessing and reminding herself that everything’s not normal. And that’s out of sync with her professional voice, the person she has to be on the outside.

I really appreciated Jen’s internal monologue that would include statements about what’s normal and not normal; how things moving forward would not be normal. Because that’s definitely a common experience for someone who’s been psychologically transformed after a traumatic event. And it underscores the idea that whether we want to label it or not, her mental health condition—her post-traumatic response—is not considered a disease, it’s a normal response to something that was abnormal. I love that this series is framing that for us, to let us know that yes, she’s questioning normality, but she is still intact. She’s acknowledging that she is still normal, and that helps readers to realize that what was crazy or abnormal, it wasn’t the person, but what happened to the person.

Marvel.com: In Jen’s previous solo series SHE-HULK, she was working at her own practice. But following her trauma, instead of returning to that work, she seeks to surround herself with people who can support her. Yet at the same time, these people provide a completely new source of stress…

Andrea Letamendi: I think it would be fair to say through these issues we’re seeing presentations of post-traumatic stress responses. The other people in the personal and professional aspects of her life are offering support, and are actually quite kind and gentle toward her and want to be around her and to connect with her. But she’s rejecting them because they are triggering her; they are sources of stress for her because she’s reminded of her loss and her memory of what happened to Bruce.

Her urge to get back into the office, and to get back to practicing law, is a very common reaction. She’s trying to establish normalcy again; she’s trying to get distracted with every day—almost mundane—activities so that she can reestablish what she thinks the world should look like. Of course, it’s not that simple and straightforward. She’s still going to be haunted by her past, and yet the yearning for those mundane activities, for the routine, is very relatable. She’s trying to grasp on to anything that feels like her pre-trauma life.

Marvel.com: Jen uses a series of online baking tutorials as a sort of stress-relief outlet. Would you say that’s reflective of the kind of thing that someone in this situation would lean on?

Andrea Letamendi: Yes, I thought it was quite realistic in the sense that she’s looking for something that is not just calming and neutral but a bit of a distraction from her world. There’s something about watching these videos that distracts Jen enough to get away from the memories of her pain and trauma. In many ways, having some sort of coping strategy in your back pocket—in your super hero toolbox, if you will—that’ll help manage the bad mood you’re in or the anxiety you feel or even just the thoughts that are stressing you out. On the other hand, I was really fascinated with her use of these videos because if she’s relying too much on this baking program to escape the memories of her trauma, over the long run she won’t give herself the opportunity to recover from it. So there’s almost a healthy dose of getting to a place where you can find balance, center yourself, and manage your own emotions so you can go back to what you’re doing and function well, but you still have to address the trauma at some point.

Marvel.com: Even over the course of these first four issues, you can see the videos starting to become a sort of crutch. Jen loses control in small doses when she feels like she needs to watch these videos and she’s so stressed that she “Hulks out” a bit and breaks part of her laptop or cracks her phone screen. The reader is left to worry about what could happen to Jen if she needs these videos and can’t get to them.

Andrea Letamendi: Absolutely. I found two things about her Hulk persona interesting. One is that she mentioned that it’s always there. I believe that she’s referring to both her trauma—in other words, she’s never going to be able to forget the complex trauma she’s experienced—and I also think she’s referring to her Hulk persona. She understands that this is a characteristic of herself that is always a part of her, and she’s trying to integrate her Jen-self with her Hulk-self and that’s where a lot of the struggle comes from. And the other thing that I think is quite wonderfully pointed out by this story is that she seems to be almost triggered by the transformation. In the past, the transformation was empowering and satisfying, but right now, the transformation is painful and chaotic. So she tries to repress it because it reminds her of her trauma.

Marvel.com: Prior to this, Jen had reached a sort of state of balance with her normal self and her Hulk self, so much so that she was almost always in her Hulk form. The issues that she’s grappling with now seem to stem from the fact that even in that form she didn’t have the power to stop these things from happening, throwing that balance into turmoil.

Andrea Letamendi: When we think of ways to cope with a traumatic experience, we often compartmentalize that way. Where we try to identify ourselves as different or separate from the trauma. So we try to maybe even think of a different part of ourselves as being traumatized and we try to hide that part of ourselves. And of course, as this comic is wonderfully depicting, that actually puts us in a position of experiencing more conflict and pain.

Marvel.com: This is what’s so interesting to me about exploring aspects of psychology through super heroes. When it comes to mental health, there are so many abstract concepts that can be difficult to understand. But demonstrating these things with a character like Jen allows for things like compartmentalization to become concrete; Jen is trying to lock away an actual part of herself.

Andrea Letamendi: Absolutely. I think that witnessing and understanding a super hero experience some of these things allows us to feel more secure or open to the idea that it could happen to us. So there’s that sense that if you are into super heroes, you look up to these characters. You know they’re not real, but you hold a level of closeness to them. So I think that when you see them go through something like this, you begin to normalize it and understand that as something that you could experience and accept as a part of yourself as well.

Marvel.com: The power of a story like this to help remove stigma from certain aspects of mental health is fascinating.

Andrea Letamendi: Yes! Apart from the arc and the narrative that Jen’s going through on a larger level, we’re seeing a pretty well-known super hero wrestling with the word “crazy” and reaching out to another person who might be going through something very similar. The value of the story is that it’s normalizing and approaching mental health in a way that’s accurate and relatable that provides a lot of validation for readers who might be experiencing something similar.

Hulk #5 cover by Jeff Dekal

Marvel.com: You brought up reaching out to someone else going through something similar, and that’s Maise Brewn, her first new client at the law firm. What are your thoughts on Maise as a foil to Jen? Experiencing something similar, but in a very different way.

Andrea Letamendi: I know Maise in her current form is intended to be seen as a little strange, but as off-putting as that character initially is, my understanding is that Jen is allowing us—through their dialogue together and through Jen’s recognition that she’s not crazy—to be brought into this connection. I do think that, even though a lot of us can relate to Jen, many people relate to Maise in that sense of no longer being a person, just being so far down or so lost following her near-death experience. So I see it as an opportunity for Jen to educate us and allow us to connect with the person whose struggle and pain is so intense that she’s not able to even reach a point of understanding. I think that’s really important for readers to see.

Marvel.com: That was what I thought of the way that we see Maise, the way that she’s drawn. We know for sure that Maise is—or at least was—human. But she appears very much like some of the other more non-human characters coming through the law firm. Something else about her has changed and it’s almost like we’re seeing that character as she now sees herself: as something less than or other than human.

Andrea Letamendi: I think it’s important to understand her backstory, once we realize that she owned this yoga studio, that she was into wellness.  To see how drastically she’s changed, I think it’s another example of that duality: because of what happened to her, she’s transformed into the opposite of the thing that she used to teach. That’s very difficult to convey, and I think how [the HULK creative team of Mariko Tamaki and Nico Leon] did this is really lovely. We’re seeing almost the death of a person. They still have a body, they’re still walking around and seeking help, but ultimately this person seems like she’s lost her soul, her meaning.

In my work, when we work with folks who have experienced a severe or intense trauma, there’s oftentimes a shift or transformation in their worldview. So in my language we’d say there’s a cognitive disturbance. These are usually in three areas: the way they think about the future, the way they think about the world, and the way they think about themselves. The way they think about the future, that’s pretty straightforward. It’s hopeless, nothing will get better—and Jen had some of these thoughts, too. “There is no normal anymore, nothing is the same.” and “I’m a failure, and I’ll continue to fail.” In terms of their view of the world around them, it’s similarly negative generalizations. Thoughts like “the world is unsafe,” “the world will harm me,” “I can’t trust people, I can’t get close to people, because if I do I might lose them and that’s too painful.” Then the thoughts about the self are incredibly damaging to the overall personhood and self-esteem. This idea that “I’m not a person anymore, I’m not valuable. The interpersonal violation against me took something away from me and so I no longer see myself as a whole person, therefore I’m not worthy of being a person or being around other people.” In a way, you see that extreme version with Maise, and you see Jen begin to wrestle and struggle with the same thoughts.

Marvel.com: One of the people that I think helps Jen a lot is her new assistant Bradley. Many people are superficially nice to Jen. They want to show that they care, they want to make her feel welcome, but there’s still sort of that distance there. But Bradley, as her assistant, not only is he helping her get back into the swing of things professionally, but he’s taking a personal interest in her well-being.

Andrea Letamendi: Bradley may be the one person that is able to see her vulnerability and still not treat her any differently. One of the important aspects of that is he’s had a recent loss, as well. So he’s able to exercise his own empathy and understand that recovery is a journey. Even though he didn’t say it in those words, I think in his assurances and the way that he supports her, we can tell that he understands she’s going to recover in her own way.

Marvel.com: To bring up another foil, the relationship that Jen’s forming with Bradley serves as a contrast to her existing relationship with Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat. We see throughout this story text messages from Patsy that go unanswered, and then the phone call that ends in the impromptu rooftop meeting. Patsy’s going through the familiar “Why are you pushing me away? I’m trying to be here for you” mentality and we get to see this other side to how people provide support when their friends are dealing with trauma.

Andrea Letamendi: It’s helpful to us as readers to see the different ways in which people extend their support. They do it in ways that they think the other person needs, so it’s ultimately very forgivable because that’s how humans work. “I know how to help you in the ways that I’ve been helped, so I’m thinking about those resources or those types of support or just even in the way that I offer support.” A lot of this is cultural, as well. In some families or communities, we ask directly “Hey, are you in pain, what can I do?” And in others, we don’t say that, but we make our appearances, we make sure to be available. That’s what Patsy does; she is insistent that she gets face to face with Jen so she can offer up herself. I like that in this story we’re seeing various ways in which people are trying to extend their support and some of them Jen can tolerate, some of them she’s very amenable to, and some of them she just rejects. So when it comes to Patsy, just because of all the emotions she brings up for Jen, she’s really unable to go to that place psychologically, so she needs to put some distance between them.

Marvel.com: As we wrap up HULK #4—having seen what her Hulk persona means for her and her mental state—we end with Jen in a position where it seems impossible that she can avoid that persona. With everything that we’ve seen, how do you think she’s going to handle that?

Andrea Letamendi: I hope there’s an element of struggle for Jen to integrate her Hulk persona again. If this is truly trying to use the parallel between “Hulk” and “trauma” and how we’re trying to preserve our personhood by integrating that trauma into our whole self, then I’d like to see that struggle there. I think it would be important for us to see that, in her transformation, she has to face some memories that are difficult to think about and feelings that are difficult to process. She may even have to face or address some of those negative, damaging thoughts about herself and her value that are now central to that persona.

Hopefully, there’s this journey where she’s able to integrate herself and her traumatic experience so she achieves what could be considered post-traumatic growth. She would be able to acknowledge that she experienced something terrifying, painful, and horrific, and that becomes a part of her whole person. Right now, Maise isn’t in a place to do a lot of things. Maybe Jen’s able to be there for her, but she has to face her own trauma to really enact that.

Mariko Tamaki and Nico Leon continue the psychological examination of Jen Walters in HULK #5 on April 26!

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Take a look at exclusive WORLD WAR HULK II pages courtesy of Greg Pak and Tom Brevoort!

Marvelites, level up your weekend with a brand new episode of This Week in Marvel, the official Marvel podcast!

Take an epic look at all the comics coming this week like HAWKEYE, DOCTOR STRANGE, and CAPTAIN AMERICA, with Ryan, Ben and Tucker. Tune in for a riveting WORLD WAR HULK II chat with Ben and Greg Pak (1:05:25)! In fact, get an exclusive taste of WORLD WAR HULK II below thanks to Greg Pak and Tom Brevoort! Christine and Eric dish out some TV news from the West Coast and discuss all things Marvel Games with Tim Hernandez and Danny Koo (1:20:45). Close everything out with Ryan, Ben and Tucker answering your questions and comments (1:38:15)!

Download episode #319 of This Week in Marvel from Marvel.com, check out Marvel Podcast Centralgrab the TWiM RSS feed and subscribe to This Week in Marvel on iTunes, so you never miss an episode! We are now also on Soundcloud! Head over now to our new hub to listen to the full run of This Week in Marvel!

This Week in Marvel will focus on delivering all the Marvel info on news and new releases–from comics to video games to toys to TV to film and beyond! New episodes will be released every Friday (or so) and TWiM is co-hosted by Marvel VP & Executive Editor of Digital Media Ryan “Agent M” Penagos and Marvel Editorial Director of Digital Media Ben Morse, along with Marvel.com Editor Eric Goldman, Marvel.com Assistant Editor Christine Dinh, and Manager of Video & Content Production Blake Garris. We also want your feedback, as well as questions for us to answer on future episodes!  Tweet your questions, comments and thoughts about TWiM to @AgentM@BenJMorse@chrissypedia or @Marvel with the hashtag #ThisWeekinMarvel!

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Artist Phil Noto introduces a new take on Charles Xavier!

Series writer Charles Soule keeps throwing curveballs at his ASTONISHING X-MEN team. And they might not be ready for the latest twist heading their way.

When Part One of the new storyline “A Man Called X” begins with ASTONISHING X-MEN #7, the merry mutants must reckon with a resurgent—and slightly unfamiliar—Charles Xavier. Written by Soule with art by Phil Noto, this epic tale starts with a bang.

We caught up with Noto to discuss teaming up with his POE DAMERON partner on a different series, getting to know a few mutants better, and developing a new look for Professor X.

Marvel.com: There has been an all-star lineup of artists contributing to this run of ASTONISHING X-MEN so far. What most appealed to you about joining in on the fun?

Phil Noto: I was flattered to be included with those artists in the lineup. It’s also been awhile since I’ve worked on an X-book, so that appealed to me.

Marvel.com: This book contains a pretty eclectic group of X-Men. Did any of them offer a surprising challenge when you started digging into the issue?

Phil Noto: Well, I’ve drawn most of them in one form or another—except for Bishop. I think this might be my first official Bishop work, which has been fun because I’ve been a fan of the character since the old X-Men cartoon. Other than a few costume changes with Gambit and Rogue, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on them.

Now, creating a young Xavier definitely felt like a bit of a challenge. He’s more cocky and laid back than his future self. He’s also walking around. I just tried to make him read as X as much as I could, and I think it worked.

Marvel.com: What’s it like shining the spotlight on Professor X this way?

Phil Noto: It was fun to do a Professor-centric issue. I’ve never really spent much time drawing him. And the way Charles has written this new incarnation of Xavier is very cool!

Marvel.com: What can you tell us about the threat Professor X and his team find themselves up against as “A Man Called X” begins?

Phil Noto: After the defeat of the Shadow King, London remains swarming with psychic zombies, with Bishop being one of them. Suddenly, a young Xavier appears—dressed as Fantomex—and tells the team that it’s cool, that he’s got it under control. Next thing you know, there’s a crazy green sun, which can’t be good. Don’t want to spoil more than that!

Marvel.com: You’ve worked with Charles Soule before—how has your collaborative relationship evolved over time?

Phil Noto: Charles and I go way back. We did a THUNDERBOLTS issue together years ago. Working on POE DAMERON with him has been a delight. From planning out the initial story and characters to doing the book together, we definitely have a good rapport. It’s nice to have that kind of relationship with a writer. I usually instinctively know what he’s going for on the page. If I have any questions about something, I can just text him. I think we make a pretty good team!

Writer Charles Soule and artist Phil Noto’s ASTONISHING X-MEN #7 drops on January 3!

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The FF's fifth anniversary was marked by Doom stealing the Silver Surfer's powers.

1917 to 2017: 100 years of Kirby.

Join us to celebrate Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday by learning about the characters and stories he created that changed comics forever. To commemorate Jack’s centennial, we’ve sat down with the modern-day creators he influenced—and the decades of work he gifted us all.

Traditionally, you celebrate a fifth anniversary with a gift of wood. The Fantastic Four would have probably appreciated a discarded piece of drywall instead of the challenges Stan Lee and Jack Kirby threw at their heroes in the pages of FANTASTIC FOUR #5760!

Fantastic Four (1961) #57

Fantastic Four (1961) #57

  • Published: December 10, 1966
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: November 13, 2007
  • Penciller: Jack Kirby
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
What is Marvel Unlimited?

The adventure began with Reed, Sue and Ben getting duped into thinking Sandman and The Wizard planned on confessing to their crimes as a ruse to break out of prison. Sandman succeeded, which Wizard said was part of their plan, but the team felt blindsided by their efforts. Later, Sandman attacked the FF in their own home and made off with some of Mr. Fantastic’s equipment.

Meawhile, Doctor Doom worked on a scheme of his own as he invited the Silver Surfer to visit Castle Doom. Intrigued, the spaceman accepted and demonstrated his astonishing mastery of Cosmic Power to the Latverian leader. The Surfer would live to regret this display and the trust he placed in his host as Doom distracted his guest and then stole his power!

To prove himself, Doom rode the Surfer’s board to Manhattan where he crashed through the FF’s headquarters only to find the Thing there. The ensuing battle tore through the Big Apple until the villain used Vibration Rays to slow Grimm to a standstill, turning him into a temporary statue!

Fantastic Four (1961) #58

Fantastic Four (1961) #58

  • Published: January 10, 1967
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: November 13, 2007
  • Penciller: Jack Kirby
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
What is Marvel Unlimited?

The souped up despot then made his way to the Southampton cottage the Richards’ had rented for some time away. Around this time, Lockjaw landed Johnny Storm and his pal Wyatt Wingfoot back in New York City as well. The trio had been fruitlessly searching for a way to find the Inhumans. Facing a new problem, Johnny saw the frozen Thing and then zoomed to the cottage to save his sister and brother-in-law from Doom’s attack.

Even though things got pretty hot during his fight with the Human Torch, Doom decided to simply leave the reunited Fantastic Four as they were. In his eyes, seeing Doom take over the world would prove a far worse punishment than actually killing them.

Doom’s arrogance would lead to his ultimate downfall. Richards appealed to the worlds’ governments to focus their efforts against Doom, but – after Ben gave him a walloping dose of motivation – he got to work developing a device that would weaken the villain.

Fantastic Four (1961) #59

Fantastic Four (1961) #59

  • Published: February 10, 1967
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: November 13, 2007
  • Penciler: Jack Kirby
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
What is Marvel Unlimited?

With time running out before Doom fully took over the planet and then moved on to the stars, the Fantastic Four jumped into action against the madman. Torch did his level best to fry the bad guy to no avail. Then Thing jumped into the ring to fight the foe for a second time. That gave Mr. Fantastic enough time to unleash the Anti-Cosmic Flying Wing.

The doohickey did the job of zapping and angering Doom while absorbing some of his power. However, the real reason for its presence came as it flew up into space where the bad doctor soon lost his power! As Richards explained, when Galactus stranded the Silver Surfer on Earth, that included his Cosmic Energy. When Doom passed a certain point, he lost the power! With that, Doom returned to his usual level of power and the board made its way back to the Surfer.

Fantastic Four (1961) #60

Fantastic Four (1961) #60

  • Published: March 10, 1967
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: November 13, 2007
  • Penciller: Jack Kirby
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
What is Marvel Unlimited?

It didn’t quite play into this particular story all that much, but Stan and Jack also finally released the Inhumans from their captivity. After Black Bolt told the citizens to hide underground tunnels, he unleashed the power of his voice to destroy the walls, and much of the city in the process. The Council of Elders then informed the Royal Family – that’s Black Bolt, Medusa, Gorgon, Crystal, Triton and Karnak – to return to the human world. Never let it be said that Lee and Kirby didn’t pack as much action and intrigue as possible into these big anniversary stories!

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more on Jack Kirby’s legacy and join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.

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Review the history of the Iron Spider as a new villain takes up the mantle!

Every Friday we use the powers of Marvel Unlimited to look back at the very first appearance of a major character, place or object that made waves this week.

Young heroes often look to their older counterparts for inspiration. Sometimes they need help managing a super villain or bearing the weight of responsibility, and sometimes they just need help coming up with a codename.

Taking on an identity previously held by a hero can be an act of honoring what came before—or a convenient shortcut to earning the public’s trust. That, however, usually doesn’t end up being the case with villains—their identities and gear often wind up on the black market, which is how Miles Morales’ uncle Aaron Davis became the new Iron Spider!

Having assumed his new identity, he then gathered Spot, Bombshell, the new Electro, Hobgoblin, and Sandman to form a new Sinister Six in order to harass our hero in SPIDER-MAN, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Oscar Bazaldua.

This Iron Spider sports a different color scheme than the original—black and gold instead of red and gold—and adds to the long journey the mantle has gone on since its full debut in 2006’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #529. At that point, Peter Parker had been a member of the Avengers for a while and, as a result, Tony Stark had taken an interest in the kid that he saw as a kindred spirit in the sciences. So, naturally, one technological genius gave another a bleeding edge upgrade in the costume department—and the resulting hero collaboration resulted in the Iron Spider.

Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #529

Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #529

  • Published: February 22, 2006
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: November 13, 2007
  • Rating: T+
  • Writer: Stan Lee
  • Penciller: Mike Deodato
What is Marvel Unlimited?

The first version of the suit featured a bullet and heat-resistant surface, built-in scanners, a heads-up display, GPS, a gas-resistant mask, and a mesh webbing that allowed the hero to glide through the air. By AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #530, Stark added even more goodies, like an invisible mode and the ability to look like other existing costumes.

As this story took place during the buildup to Civil War, Peter started to wonder if Tony only gave him the new costume as a means to convince him to support the Super-human Registration Act, though he supported it (and revealed his true identity to the world in the process) nonetheless. But as the world—and its super villains—seized on the innocent lives connected to Peter Parker, and thus Spider-Man, the Wallcrawler’s support for the SRA receded as he saw its potentially disastrous personal ramifications.

Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #530

Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #530

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Finally changing his mind on the matter, Parker threw down with Iron Man—and only narrowly escaped the fight when The Punisher stepped in to save him. After joining Captain America’s anti-Registration side, Parker ditched the Iron Spider costume, eventually switching to his classic black costume after Civil War ended with Steve Rogers’ death.

Flash Forward

The Iron Spider costume didn’t just gather cobwebs in Parker’s closet, however. It next appeared in AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #3 on a trio of heroes referred to as the Scarlet Spiders. Read more about the arachnid triumvirate in THE INITIATIVE #7!

Even Mary Jane Watson got in on the Iron Spider action in last year’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #15, by Dan SlottChristos Gage, and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli with a stunning Alex Ross cover! She pulled it on while Iron Man and Spider-Man took on Regent, eventually attacking the villain herself, giving Spidey enough time to save a prison full of captured innocents and close out the climactic “Power Play” storyline.

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Writer Evan Narcisse uncovers T’Challa’s first days as king!

We’ve all come to know and love T’Challa as the King of Wakanda, but few Black Panther stories have shown us how he came to the throne—and how he evolved into a leader—in the first place.

On January 8, RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #1 kicks off a limited series that dives into the early days of T’Challa’s life and reign. Writers Evan Narcisse and Ta-Nehisi Coates join artist Paul Renaud to explore how the death of King T’Chaka changed both his son and the nation of Wakanda forever.

We spoke with Narcisse about his process, his collaborators, and writing an icon like Black Panther.

Marvel.com: You’re jumping from comic book journalism to writing comics themselves. How does it feel to make that transition?

Evan Narcisse: This is my first creative writing—my first published creative writing, I should say—and my first time writing comic scripts. Doing this job, I had researched what comic scripts looked like before. One of the things that was so daunting and encouraging ended up being that there’s no set format—everybody does it a little differently. Some people have really rich, florid descriptions in terms of art direction and what the characters think and feel. Some people have very lean pages. Mine probably tended more towards the former than the latter. It’s a lot harder than it looks from the outside looking in. It’s a hybrid beast that looks like a movie script but also has to do some actual storytelling in the document. You have to guide the artist but not restrict them. It’s a lot more surprising and eye opening than I thought.

Marvel.com: BLACK PANTHER writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has been working with you on this book. What’s that relationship like?

Evan Narcisse: He’s mostly consulting; the vast majority of the plot and the script come from me. I’ll run stuff by him and we’ll make sure we’re in sync in terms of whether T’Challa would do something this way or that. But, yeah, most of it comes from me. I’m a huge T’Challa fan and I have been for years, so I feel like I have a good internal sense of where I want him to be and how I want him to come across in this work.

Marvel.com: How does it feel to work with artist Paul Renaud on your first Marvel book?

Evan Narcisse: We met for the first time in New York City. I’ve seen his work around on CAPTAIN AMERICA: SAM WILSON stuff and loved it. I saw what he did on GENERATIONS: THE AMERICAS and thought it looked really great and felt super excited to find out he was going to be the guy on this book.

Marvel.com: Describe your process of creating RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER alongside Ta-Nehisi and Paul.

Evan Narcisse: The process of honing your skills happens in installments. What I’m thinking of now is, like, wanting to do things a little bit differently in an issue means you have to work ahead to iterate to see if you actually accomplished the ambitions you set for yourself or if it’ll going to put you behind schedule. It can be a really intense learning process.

I have the advantage of talking to Ta-Nehisi every day. We’re friends so we talk about comic book stuff anyway. He told me, “In a year’s time, when you’re still doing this, you’ll look back on these scripts and see how much better they could have been.” It’s been really fun just figuring out the tools and what tools work best for me and what tools I feel like I want to try out.

Also, it can be weird. I’ve realized that your fandom comes out not just textually but mechanically. So, the kind of comic book writing I’ve enjoyed since childhood has been coming out of me organically. Which isn’t to say my stuff will read like Denny O’Neil or my favorite writers, but there are certain rhythms I feel like I’m doing my own spin on.

Marvel.com: Which writers have influenced your work? Do you count any prior BLACK PANTHER scribes among them?

Evan Narcisse:  You can’t talk about BLACK PANTHER in 2017 without talking about Christopher Priest. He gave T’Challa a really intense refocusing and reimagining that is impossible to ignore. It’s masterful. As a comic book critic, I’ve written about Priest’s work many times over the years and, even though he’s been resurgent in 2017, he’s still underappreciated. I tweeted out earlier that I reread the “Storm und Drang” storyline from BLACK PANTHER #26#29, where T’Challa brings the world to the brink of war. Magneto, Dr. Doom, Deviant Lemuria, and Namor, all heads of state, powerful heads of state, jostle around each other with all these different agendas. I think it’s one of the best examples of geopolitical storytelling and the idea of statecraft in super hero comics. So, Priest for sure.

Someone who seems unsung, not in general, but in terms of shepherding a certain vision of T’Challa, is Jonathan Hickman. He wrote T’Challa in his FANTASTIC FOUR run, setting up the King of the Dead aspect of the character. That fed into NEW AVENGERS—one of the best Avengers comics ever, but a low-key T’Challa book. That version of the Illuminati met in Wakanda. Again, his wants and needs clashed with the duty he had to do as a super hero in his rivalry with Namor.

One other thing that’s important to me about Black Panther and his creative legacy is his importance as a character that black creators could touch and leave an imprint on. I feel like every time a black writer or artist or editor has worked on a Black Panther book, the sensibilities of the characters got strengthened. You can go back to Billy Graham as the artist on that amazing Don McGregor run in JUNGLE ACTION. He was a superlative artist for his time; his draftsmanship and the tools in his storytelling are all super ambitious and genius level compared to some of the other work from the 1970s. From him, to Priest, to Reginald Hudlin and now to Ta-Nehisi…it’s important. Black Panther has always been symbolically important and I think black creators feel opportunity, responsibility, and a sense of kindred energy when working on the character. I certainly do.

Marvel.com: Do writers from outside the world of comics influence you? What other writers—or even just books or films—inform your comic writing?

Evan Narcisse: Probably my favorite movie of all time is Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” this really dark, satirical fable about living in a dystopian society. Unfortunately, it feels pretty relevant, in terms of the control of information and the constant battle for political narrative supremacy, to where we find ourselves nowadays.

There’s a novel from 1981 called “The Chaneysville Incident” by an author named David Bradley. A good friend in college gave it to me to read and it blew my mind. It’s this story about a black historian who goes back to his hometown in the rural South to dig into his old family history. He finds out about the way that his forbearers grew up under Jim Crow and the kind of stuff they had to endure and rebel against and the personal cost of all of that on his family. It’s a very dark book, beautifully written. It has stayed in my mind while writing RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER because the story I’m writing is, in part, a generational one. It’s about T’Challa grappling with his own history.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote a book called “Half of a Yellow Sun.” She’s an amazing Nigerian writer. One of the things I have to think about when writing BLACK PANTHER is the idea of diaspora. It may seem a little counterintuitive, because Wakanda has kept to itself and not a lot of Wakandans live outside of Wakanda, but I want to explore what it’s like when that does happen. What does it mean to come from an isolationist country? It can be exceptional and aspirational, but it’s xenophobic to a certain extent, by virtue of necessity. They’re on a continent where every other country got colonized and invaded. So there ends up being a certain warrior sociopolitical mindset that they’ve had to adopt and iterate on in order to maintain their status. But also, how long can you maintain yourself as an “island”?

That’s one of the things T’Challa has to grapple with. It’s not a spoiler to say that T’Challa’s big decision in the series will be to open up the country and declare their existence to the Western world and simultaneously deal with all the repercussions that happen internally and externally as a result.

Marvel.com: How did you land on telling the story of this liminal time in T’Challa’s life? It seems to have certain parallels with the upcoming “Black Panther” film.

Evan Narcisse: My conversations with Wil Moss, my editor, early on, were about an “early years” T’Challa story and the place I landed ended up being his first year as king. The first conversations we had were about T’Chaka and I came on the idea that T’Chaka’s assassination, his death, had to be a major political event in Wakanda’s history. It’d be like JFK’s assassination—the kind of thing that changes an entire country’s mindset. It’s the kind of event where you mark off time between everything that came before it and what comes after it. In the first issue, we explore some of what came before it, with T’Chaka in his prime—something we haven’t seen much. We’ve seen flashbacks and we’ve seen him a little older and we’ve seen him as a ghost. The “after” stuff will obviously be T’Challa’s reign. It’s an established part of the character that his father being this amazing king wears heavy on him. At the same time, he deals with threats his father never dealt with. So, that informs his decision to open up Wakanda.

And I’m super excited for the “Black Panther” movie. I can’t wait—I know this sounds corny—but I can’t wait for fans everywhere to explore this character and learn about him, because I think T’Challa is one of the best super heroes ever created. I think he’s thematically rich and an exciting character to watch evolve throughout his history. And I’m so honored to be a part of that evolution.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #1, by Evan Narcisse, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and artist Paul Renaud, kicks off on January 3!

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Chronicle the history of Jean Grey ahead of Phoenix Resurrection!

From smoke and ashes, a phoenix rises.

On December 27, Jean Grey’s enigmatic connection with the Phoenix Force rears its ugly head once again in PHOENIX RESURRECTION: THE RETURN OF JEAN GREY #1, by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Leinil Yu.

Having covered Jean’s introduction and backstory in Part One of this two-part retrospective, we now burst into flame as she finally comes face to face with…

The Phoenix Force

One of the oldest cosmic entities in existence, The Phoenix Force represents life not yet born. Acting as the nexus of all psionic energy that does, has, and could exist in all realities of the Omniverse, the Force is known as the Guardian of Creation and a guardian of the M’Kraan Crystal—which houses a gateway to another plane of existence known as the White Hot Room.

The Phoenix Force destroys all that does not work or has become stagnant in the universe—and regrows a better, healthier version as a replacement. To intervene in worlds that voluntarily become stagnant and ease them to the way of progress, The Phoenix Force can utilize host bodies…with its most famous—and powerful—connection being to Jean Grey.

When the Force felt her mind transcend the physical realm when her powers first awoke, the cosmic entity felt a kindred bond with Jean, and used its power to save her from the brink of death. Years later, as the young mutant sacrificed herself to save her X-Men teammates by piloting a radioactive space shuttle back to Earth, the Phoenix appeared to her in a form and consciousness that resembled Jean herself. The Phoenix Force absorbed a piece of her consciousness and cast the mutant into a healing cocoon. The cocoon, with the real hero inside, sat at the bottom of Jamaica Bay for years while the Phoenix manifestation of Grey took her place on the X-Men. This version possessed all of her original memories and beliefs…though in the back of her mind rested the power and fury of the Force.

When Mastermind and the Hellfire Club attacked this Jean in an attempt to alter her psionic personality, the dormant Phoenix’s sanity broke. In UNCANNY X-MEN #134, driven mad by Mastermind’s psionic tampering, the Dark Phoenix was born. This new being devoured a star in issue #135, killing five billion people on one of its planets in the process. In a moment of lucidity, during which Grey’s consciousness realizes the destruction she’s caused, she chooses to kill herself—and the Dark Phoenix—to save her loved ones from what unspeakable horrors she might do in such a state. Scott Summers, having believed this to be the real Jean Grey, was devastated.

The Phoenix Force, now untethered from its Earthly host, recalled its nature as an ancient power, but still retained Jean’s personality and memories. Utilizing its shared consciousness with Grey, the Force used this connection in a bid to try and rouse her from her cocoon. Jean refused to awaken, however, repelled by the memories of the Dark Phoenix. Though she resisted the Phoenix’s urges, FANTASTIC FOUR #286 saw the Avengers and the FF discover her healing pod in the storyline “Like a Phoenix!”

Pulling Herselves Together

After Jean finally rose from her quasi-hibernation, her friends react with shock and confusion at the reemergence of a teammate they thought to be dead. The mutant hero chose to then keep the name “Phoenix,” even though she no longer had the powers of the fiery being.

Later, when Wolverine chose to kill Grey in a story arc crossing NEW X-MEN #146#150, The Phoenix Force sensed her death and revived her again. After this encounter, Jean experimented with the Phoenix, trusting its powers despite her better judgment. She finally allowed the Force to possess her fully, assuming control of its cosmic might. Though, in retribution, she was soon killed by a Xorn-induced aneurism.

The next resurrection of Jean Grey took place in X-MEN: PHOENIX – ENDSONG, when The Phoenix Force made its way back to reanimate the hero from her grave, despite her protests. As the Phoenix began to take on its dark energy, Jean—now an unwilling host—asked that Wolverine kill her as a measure to stop the cosmic entity. The Force, however, made her temporarily immortal, halting the potential death. At her wit’s end, Grey dove into the icy depths of the Arctic Ocean to prevent Force from getting to her, killing herself again in the process.

Enraged by the rejection, the despondent Phoenix Force turned itself into another manifestation of Jean Grey in a vengeful attempt to win Cyclops’ love. When Scott rebuffed the Phoenix Jean, the Force merged with Emma Frost instead. The real Grey, having been raised from the dead once more, drove the flaming essence out of Emma and made peace with her permanent Phoenix union—now able to harness the power of the Phoenix even as it inhabited another host. The act of the two uniting once again nearly pushed the hero’s mind into insanity, but Frost returned to psychically link Jean (and the Force inside her) to all the people who love them, lending the strength necessary to regain her sanity. This storyline proved to be the final time that readers saw the adult Jean Grey, aside from her recent time-displaced appearance in GENERATIONS: PHOENIX AND JEAN GREY #1.

Finally, later this month, Jean Grey will face the latest twist in her long and difficult history as PHOENIX RESURRECTION: THE RETURN OF JEAN GREY begins.

Open the next chapter in PHOENIX RESURRECTION: THE RETURN OF JEAN GREY #1, by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Leinil Yu, on December 27!

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Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. meet up with the menace of A.I.M.!

1917 to 2017: 100 years of Kirby.

Join us to celebrate Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday by learning about the characters and stories he created that changed comics forever. To commemorate Jack’s centennial, we’ve sat down with the modern-day creators he influenced—and the decades of work he gifted us all.

With 1966’s STRANGE TALES #148, the formula for Nick Fury’s segment of the book got a bit of shake up when Jack Kirby not only drew layouts for Don Heck to finish, but also scripted the story with regular writer Stan Lee reportedly on vacation! The resulting story, called “Death Before Dishonor,” began with a bang as Marvel’s top spy waded through fire while S.H.I.E.L.D. agents—wearing protective gear—fought the blaze with a series of chemicals.

Though the others wrote Fury off as dead from exposure to the elements, Dum Dum Dugan plowed through, tossed his Howling Commandos leader over his shoulder and made way for the Vita-Fluid-filled Restora-Tank. Distraught over the potential loss of his friend, Dugan responded with appropriate shock when Fury appeared behind him and revealed that a Life Model Decoy floated before them.

Fury and Jasper Sitwell then recounted how the fire started in the prisoner holding area. The head honcho wanted to question the captured members of A.I.M. in person, but instead used an L.M.D. as his eyes, ears, and mouth. This proved a good call as Advanced Idea Mechanics somehow used a remote detonator to blow their own people up!

The action then shifted to the public face of A.I.M., Count Bornag Royale, watching his enemies deal with the fire from a secret base. While he left to manipulate the Free Nations’ Justice Department to bring Fury in front of their Board of Inquiry, an A.I.M. contingent promised to grab an L.M.D. for research purposes. After checking out an x-ray projecting gun and hearing from Sitwell how easy breaking into his office proved, Nick sat down for another nail in the coffin: the official summons to appear before the Board on Inquiry.

Nick agreed to appear, and on the day of the supposedly secret meeting, A.I.M. took advantage of the timing to raid the S.H.I.E.L.D. L.M.D. facility. After listening to many bad-mouth him, Fury got fed up, smashed through a window of the Helicarrier, and used a belt parachute to land on the ground where Dugan awaited his arrival.

In the next issue—which featured a script by Denny O’Neil along with Kirby layouts and Ogden Whitney finishes—Fury and his soldiers make an epic move to save their facility while also putting a huge dent in A.I.M.’s operation!

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more throughout Kirby Month and beyond! And join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.

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Marc Guggenheim leads the mutants in the fine art of fighting a god!

Some days feel harder than others. You know the ones. You miss your bus. You forgot your lunch. You lose your credit card. You have to fight a god. The usual garden variety bad day.

What? Oh…the last one seems unusual to you? While that stands to reason. Not everyone lives the kind of lives the X-Men do. For them, that situation becomes very real on January 3 in X-MEN: GOLD #19 as the team must battle a deity in the Negative Zone.

We found writer Marc Guggenheim researching alien theology and he kindly gave us some of his time to talk the X-Men’s very bad, no good, horrible deity-battling day.

Marvel.com: By X-MEN: GOLD #19, the team has now been in the Negative Zone for three issues. How, simply put, are they doing? How are they handling the environment, being away from home, and the grind of ongoing conflict?

Marc Guggenheim: Some are faring better than others. Everyone gets kicked around pretty badly in this issue, but I’d say Kurt and Logan are definitely taking the brunt of it. Kurt is in dire straits after the end of #17 and Logan, well, he’s not as young as he used to be. Oh, and the X-Men are fighting a god—so nothing is easy.

Marvel.com: Yes, right. About that god…what can you tell us, without getting too deep into spoilers, about this antagonist?

Marc Guggenheim: The guy’s name is Scythian. He is an “old god of the ancient texts” of the planet the X-Men find themselves on, which is called Dartayus. For the moment, he’s a figure shrouded in mystery. He doesn’t have any dialogue in this issue—and that’s by design. I wanted to keep him as inscrutable and mysterious a figure as possible because, well, that’s generally how deities roll.

Marvel.com: We discussed previously, when we talked about issue #16, how various artists helped craft aspects of the story. How did the look of this god figure come together and how does Lan Medina realize it on the page?

Marc Guggenheim: Scythian was designed by Ken Lashley, but I really think that Lan did a remarkable job of bringing him to life, so to speak. There are some huge panels in this issue depicting Scythian in all his horrific glory and Lan just knocked them out of the park.

X-Men: Gold #19 cover by Ken Lashley

Marvel.com: Widening the focus on the artist, how does he handle the alien world of the Negative Zone and the X-Men’s new temporary appearances via their specialized suits?

Marc Guggenheim: Everything looks great. Lan’s pulled together the artistic visions of a multitude of artists into—what is, to my eye—a seamless whole. I’m really looking forward to when these issues are collected in a single trade. I don’t think you’ll feel all the artist changes—we’re telling one cohesive story.

Marvel.com: With what we discussed in the first question above and this new incredibly powerful antagonist, where do the X-Men find the reserves of strength—physical, emotional, psychological—to not only press on, but to take their efforts to the next level? Where do they find the ability to challenge a god?

Marc Guggenheim: I wanted to place the X-Men in a situation that they couldn’t just punch their way out of. Scythian is far too powerful for the X-Men to just take down by force. They have to use their wits and Kitty comes up with a plan that, I think, is not only unexpected—un-X-pected?—but that also requires the X-Men to work in concert with each other, utilizing their specific skills.

Marvel.com: Once again, when we discussed this arc a month or so ago, one of the things that you were excited about was taking the X-Men to a place they haven’t really been before. Now looking at them in this space for the past three issues, how does it feel to realize that goal? How much has the storyline met or exceeded your expectations?

Marc Guggenheim: Every project I write has elements that exceed my expectations, but also many which fall well short of them. Every project. That’s just the nature of the beast. I don’t think there’s anything I’ve ever written, in any medium, that didn’t have a few things—sometimes, many things—I wish I could go back and change.

That said, I’ve been very pleased with the work done by Ken and Lan and the rest of the art team and I’m very excited about how the end of #19 sets us up for #20, which is not only something of a “departure” issue, but also ends with a real game-changer moment that sets up things for at least the next 10 issues of GOLD.

Cheer on the team in X-MEN: GOLD #19 on January 3 from Marc Guggenheim and Lan Medina!

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Ed Brisson discusses the villain seeking to destroy the Living Weapon!

Choshin has proven himself to be a man not easily denied—not even by the IRON FIST creative team, writer Ed Brisson and artist Mike Perkins. Originally conceived to play a smaller part in the duo’s run on the series, the antagonist asserted himself until Brisson knew that he deserved to be one of Danny Rand’s central antagonists.

And on January 3, the villain’s influence expands even further in IRON FIST #76! With K’un-Lun under siege, even the combined might of Danny and Sabretooth may not be enough to stop Choshin and his invaders.

We caught up with Brisson to get the full background on the Iron Fist’s newest adversary.

Marvel.com: When you first began to imagine Choshin as the big bad for this run on IRON FIST, what qualities did you want to make sure he brought to the table?

Ed Brisson: Choshin’s not the most pleasant man, but I always wanted to ensure that he does what he legitimately believes to be right and good for the people of Liu-Shi. He’s stubborn, he’s pig-headed, and he’s more than a little too confident.

He brings Iron Fist to Liu-Shi initially, confident that the Seven Masters would easily best Danny. He felt it would be good for the people of Liu-Shi to see that, but of course, his plans go awry.

Choshin has tried to pivot after this. With Liu-Shi now exposed, they can no longer operate in shadows.

Marvel.com: How has the character evolved since you initially conceived of him?

Ed Brisson: Well, initially Choshin had a smaller role and wasn’t going to be one of the council members of Liu-Shi, but as we developed the story, we switched up the council members quite a bit.  We decided to give Choshin a more prominent role on the council and, thus, a larger role in the book. He’s someone who may not be the head honcho, but he certainly pulls more strings than readers may initially realize.

Marvel.com: When it came to Choshin, what role did series artist Mike Perkins’ art and design play in the realization of that character?

Ed Brisson: Everything. As mentioned above, Choshin started as a minor character and grew into something much more. I think that’s partially because of how Mike portrayed him in the book, but honestly, the writing and the art are so intertwined that it’s sometimes hard to remember what came first.

Marvel.com: How would you summarize Choshin’s general modus operandi and code of ethics?

Ed Brisson: Choshin doesn’t see himself as a villain. He’s a man who’s trying to help bring K’un-Lun back to what he sees as its past greatness. To him, Iron Fist—an outworlder who, to Choshin’s mind, has no real claim to the title—Sparrow, etc. all act as symptoms that will lead to K’un-Lun’s downfall.

And, while he works for Liu-Shi’s interests, he’s not working with Liu-Shi’s interests, if that makes sense. Not everyone in Liu-Shi sees things the same way he does, which is why he’s gone off with his own militia and not kept all of Liu-Shi involved. He knows that his actions are flying in the face of the rest of the council, but since he believes so strongly in what he’s doing, he feels that the ends will justify the means.

Marvel.com: For fans late to the book, how would you summarize Choshin’s overall goals?

Ed Brisson: Simply: Choshin wants Iron Fist dead and wants to assume control of K’un-Lun—to bring it back under Liu-Shi rule. Liu-Shi, of course, being comprised of K’un-Lun ex-pats.

Marvel.com: As the book has gone on, the path to Choshin’s endgame has grown increasingly complicated. What keeps him moving forward rather than retreating or reconsidering?

Ed Brisson: Choshin still has the element of surprise on his side. K’un-Lun doesn’t know he’s coming. But, if he waits too long, that’ll change. The time for him to act must be now.

Marvel.com: What can you tease about issue #76?

Ed Brisson: Choshin unleashes hell upon K’un-Lun. It’ll be a battle that neither side will soon forget.

Return to the snowy heights of K’un-Lun in IRON FIST #76, by Ed Brisson and artist Mike Perkins, on January 3!

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