The New "X-Force" - Ready to Run Red

Mon, January 21st, 2008 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
George A. Tramountanas, Staff Writer

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"X-Force" #1 on sale February 6

The mutant world in the Marvel Universe of today looks vastly different than that of yesteryear.  The most noticeable change between then and now is the number of "homo-superiors" roaming the Marvel landscape, courtesy of the Scarlet Witch who went a bit mad (as seen in "House of M") and uttered the unforgettable phrase, "No more mutants." Consequently, most mutants lost their powers and no new mutants were born.  Except one.

The hit "Messiah CompleX" crossover event storyline told across the four main X-titles has depicted the search for the first mutant baby since the "M-Day" disaster.  Many different groups pursued the child, all with varied motives – some sinister.  To ensure the baby was recovered by the X-Men, Cyclops did the unthinkable:  he activated a special ops version of X-Force for which the normal "rules" of superheroics don't apply.

The conclusion of "Messiah CompleX" is imminent, but it appears this controversial X-Force will live on in the form of a new ongoing title written by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost (the team behind "New X-Men") with art by Clayton Crain ("Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears").  John Barber will be editing the title and, as the "man behind the curtain," gave CBR News a few minutes of his time to tell us what to expect from the newest book on the X-block.

Story continues below

John, let's start with an obvious question:  during "Messiah CompleX," Cyclops activates X-Force as a group with a very specific mission – rescue the mutant baby.  Why is it felt they are still needed post-"MC?"  And who makes this decision?  Cyclops?

Well, that's the thing – X-Force was sort of Cyclops' "nuclear option."  They were the trackers and the killers, and he knew that if he ever had to unleash them, he was crossing a line.  The "Messiah CompleX" baby was an instance where Cyke realized the stakes were high enough that he had to cross that line.

And when you cross a line once, it gets easier the next time.

When "X-Force" #1 picks up, though, X-Force is disbanded; they're dispersed around the country.  Wolverine thinks it's over.  But something happens that seems dangerous enough – seems like enough of a threat – that, yeah, Cyclops makes the call.

Page from "X-Force" #1
After the "Messiah CompleX" story concludes, the X-books are labeled "X-Men: Divided We Stand."  How does "X-Force" play into this new heading?

The landscape after "Messiah CompleX" is different.  The X-Men aren't functioning as a unit anymore; the school's gone, and it feels like everybody's on their own.  X-Force is a part of that.  But even more – they're secret. The rest of the X-family doesn't know about them.  Rahne can't tell her friends in X-Factor what she's doing.  Scott's not telling Emma – but it's harder to keep secrets from a telepath, and we'll be delving into that in "Uncanny" and "X-Force" as time goes on.

Even within the X-Force team, there are divisions.  Everybody's there for their own reasons, and that doesn't mean they'll be getting along.

Is X-Force officially a "wetworks" squad?  And if so, it seems strange for Marvel to have a book where their "heroes" are authorized to kill.  Or am I misinterpreting the intent of this team?

X-Force's mandate is to get the job done, whatever it takes.  Cyclops knows what he's asking them to do.  But are they heroes?  I don't know.  It's like Wolverine tells them in the first issue, once they cross the line they're crossing, they can't go back.  They're not X-Men anymore.  They might act like it sometimes, they might stand next to the X-Men, they might be friends with the X-Men, but deep down, Warpath, X-23 and Wolfsbane will be different.

This is something Wolverine has had to live with as long as he's been an X-Man, and he's reluctant to let anybody else go down that path.  He's always walked a dark path, but he's always bonded with people on the light side of life, like Kitty Pryde or Jubilee.  This time, though, Logan's surrounded by people willing – even eager – to embrace his path, which doesn't sit well with him.

And while we're on the topic, what would you say the group's purpose is?  Will they have an overall mission they are working on?  Or will they be assigned smaller "one-off" missions?

They're brought back together to go up against Matthew Risman's Purifiers.  Risman is the assassin that Reverend Stryker hired when he attacked the X-Mansion and killed a bunch of students in "New X-Men."  Risman is in charge of the Purifiers, and X-Force knows he's putting together something big – and something big from the Purifiers is something bad for mutants.

And X-Force is right – they just don't realize how big, how bad Risman's plan is.  Risman will be one of those big, legendary X-villains.  His scheme is potentially devastating.  So that's the initial X-Force mandate – nothing small about the missions at all.

Page from "X-Force" #1
The "X-Men" are a family and "X-Factor" is a business; how would you characterize "X-Force" in terms of group dynamics?

Like I said, they're each there for their own reasons -- and nobody really trusts anybody else's reasons.  I wouldn't go so far as to say they're at each other's throats, but things are tense.

With the possible exception of Wolverine, each member of the group has characteristics that make X-Force seem like the "wrong" place for them to be.   Warpath is trying to come to terms with Caliban's death, X-23 is trying to overcome her murderous "conditioning," and Rahne, well, she's always struggling with religious beliefs that were beaten into her as a child.  Why is X-Force the "right" team for these individuals?

That's Wolverine's question to them, exactly.  Those are exactly the points Wolverine raises.  That's a very good question.  And that question – answering that question – is the very core of what "X-Force," the comic, is about.

On the same subject, why is Wolverine right to lead this group?  Leadership isn't a natural role for Wolverine.  How does he take to it?  Like a concerned teacher, a drill sergeant, or a possible father-figure?

That's something that's interesting to see.  Like I said, it's Cyclops that brings these characters together.  Wolverine wouldn't do that.  On the field, he's the best there is right?  But he's a loner when he's doing this kind of work – killing work – because he doesn't want to bring those people with him.

If he were more of a leader, he probably would lead X-23, Warpath, and Wolfsbane the hell away from X-Force.  As it is, he accepts their decisions.  Well, except for Rahne.  But you'll have to read to see what I mean, there.

Logan is very matter-of-fact.  But you're right; he's not a natural leader.  And the rest of the team are not natural followers.

Writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost have had a lot of experience writing X-23, and have spun some popular tales on "New X-Men."  Their scripts and characters seem to deal a lot with characters who are "finding themselves" and are forced to deal with death and new love.  Will we see these elements in "X-Force" as well?

Yeah, Craig and Chris are amazing.  When we started "X-Force" up, I went back and reread all the "New X-Men" and X-23 stuff again – it's great stuff.  They have a great way of dealing with all the characters' histories and life-stories and everything, but still always moving forward.

In terms of characters finding themselves -- definitely. These are lost souls, the X-Force team.  At least, that's how I see them.  You might disagree.  I know the characters would disagree with me.  But I think they're all looking for something, and none of them know what it is they're looking for. Or maybe they don't even know they're looking.

In terms of death -- yeah. Lots.

In terms of new love -- these loners are forced into situations with only each other to depend on, even if they don't really trust one another.  Who knows what can happen in the heat of the battle.

The costume redesigns for the team that Clayton Crain are very cool.  What is the purpose of the redesign?  Is it to give them a team "feel?"  Do the costumes serve a functional purpose?  And how about the red lenses/goggles they wear?

Clayton's amazing, and he's doing the best work of his career here.  This might just be the book he was born to draw.  His art is so dramatic, so cool – and he thinks this stuff through.  With the costumes, for instance, Clayton literally knows what every inch of those outfits are made of. I got it wrong on the phone with him – I called something leather when it was PVC, and he corrected me and told me about how PVC reflects light differently than leather.  It was fascinating.  He's great, and like Craig and Chris, he's a lot of fun.

But the costumes – X-Force sneaks around a lot, so sometimes black makes more sense than bright yellow.  That's most of the logic.

The red eyes and belt-buckles?  Well, those are easy enough to hide, if you need to sneak.  But imagine how terrifying it would be to just see four pairs of glowing red eyes and four X's coming at you -- and that's the last thing you ever see. It gives them a psychological edge.

Page from "X-Force" #1
What is the tone the writers and artist are trying to create?  I expect things to be dark, thematically and artistically, but how dark will things get?  Will we ever see this team hanging around in the daytime?

Things are, indeed, dark.  The team doesn't really hang around together much.  They're at Angel's mansion in Colorado at first though, and we see them during the day.  But, yeah, there's a lot of nighttime in their world.

The tone is fast-paced and action-packed.  One of the marketing guys at Marvel, Arune Singh, stuck his head in my office about five minutes ago and said, "I wish more happened in this book.  I wish they didn't just stand around so much." He was joking around – even when the characters are standing around talking, the tension is so high.  I guess, in a word, tense describes the tone.

Without giving away the ending of "Messiah CompleX," what can you tell our readers about the first adventures of "X-Force?"  Where will the team be heading and what will they be doing?

Matthew Risman killed sixteen S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in less than an hour and stole something.  He has an army willing to sacrifice their lives at a moment's notice for the good of their cause, and their cause is the extermination of the two hundred or so mutants that still have powers.  X-Force is there to stop him.

How's that?

It feels… tense.  Thanks John!

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