Given their evolved nature it's no surprise that change is a constant in the mutant community of the Marvel Universe. Not everyone is a fan of change though. Norman Osborn especially has a reason to fear any changes in the mutant community, because it could threaten his carefully constructed Dark Reign over the Marvel U. This November, Osborn dispatches special team to take care one of these mutant problems in the five issue “Dark X-Men” mini-series by writer Paul Cornell and artist Leonard Kirk. CBR News spoke with the creators and their Editor Nick Lowe about the project, which was announced Sunday at Marvel's X-Men panel at the Wizard World Chicago Convention.
The seeds for “Dark X-Men” were actually planted on another Cornell, Kirk, and Lowe collaboration, “Captain Britain and MI13.” “I was taken with Paul's depiction of Dracula in that series. I loved the menacing intelligence. And just generally loved working with Paul,” Nick Lowe told CBR News. “So when the Dark X-Men came about in 'Utopia' and we knew we wanted to do a miniseries centered on them afterwords, Paul jumped out as the obvious choice. His villains are unique, so with a book mainly about villains, it just seemed right. And he slipped me $20.”
As Lowe mentioned, Norman Osborn's team of Dark X-Men made their debut in “Utopia”, the currently unfolding crossover between “Dark Avengers” and “Uncanny X-Men”. The “Dark X-Men” mini-series takes place after the “Exodus” special that brings the crossover to a close. “It's a few weeks after the fact and the world is definitely shaken up,” Lowe hinted.
When “Dark X-Men” begins the title characters are supposed to be a stable team that functions well together. “At least that's what Osborn has sold. They're supposed to be able to handle this. But they're really just playing amongst the ruins, and inside they know it,” Paul Cornell remarked. “They're meant to be the go to people for mutant problems in Osborn's world, and like so many times when a dictator decides he knows the right people to do a job, he's a long way off the mark.”
Cornell had a lot of fun examining and playing with several of Osborn's Dark X-Men in the “Dark X-Men: The Beginning” mini-series, so the writer is enjoying the chance to once again probe the title characters' psyches and examine how they relate to one another. “I always enjoy team books, because I always enjoy the way team members interact. And all of the members here have big back stories and are characters that make for interesting interactions,” the writer explained. “I'd tell you about who's in it, but I don't want to spoil the end of Utopia!”
There was one “Dark X-Men” character that Cornell could talk about in some detail though. He's not a team member, he's a target. His name is Nate Grey AKA X-Man. The son of an alternate reality's Jean Grey and Cyclops, Grey first appeared in the 90's X-Men storyline “The Age of Apocalypse.” At the close of that storyline he found himself in the mainstream Marvel Universe where he put his vast mutant powers to work as a hero. During one of those exploits it looked like Nate sacrificed his life to save the world from alien invasion and “Dark X-Men” marks his return to the Marvel Universe.
“He's near omnipotent, the mutant shaman, and he's terrifying to my cast of characters,” Cornell said. “That’s because he's exactly what they don't want in play right now: a very powerful, charismatic, alternative leader of mutant affairs. And a Summers, to boot. X-Man is dreaming his way back into the world, the deadliest possible hero.”
Unfortunately for the cast of “Dark X-Men” they’ll have no choice but to confront Nate Grey because he quickly becomes part of an important mission that Osborn tasks them with. “The story is called ‘Journey to the Centre of the Goblin’, and, though it won't become clear until towards the end, that's exactly what it becomes about, getting inside Norman Osborn's head,” Cornell revealed. “On the way, we encounter the world haunted by Nate, the cult that S.H.I.E.L.D. became, and the twisted psyches of our four leads, which skew the story in ways that might surprise you.”
While S.H.I.E.L.D., the intelligence agency used technology and highly trained agents to police the world, the cult that S.H.I.ELD. has become operates in a more sinister manner. “They have a design sense and a vague ethic and limited depth perception and a horrifying group mind,” Cornell hinted.
Since “Dark X-Men” features a cast of twisted protagonists, a cult, and a mind-bending powerful mutant like X-Man, readers probably expect the series to go to some dark and ugly places. It does, but that doesn’t mean the ride to those places won’t be enjoyable. “It's sickening fun that has more impact on how the world views the X-Men than you'd hope, when you know who's left on the team. There's fun humor, and then there's darker humor, and then there are, I think, some sinews you'll find yourself treading on,” Cornell explained. “It's the sort of dark comedy that happens when people who really aren't by nature heroes try to be. And find themselves killing people even when they don't mean to.”
Cornell couldn’t be happier to have his frequent collaborator Leonard Kirk bringing to life all the twisted, chilling romp that is “Dark X-Men.” “It's great to still be working with Leonard. By this point, we know each other's game very well, and I can write while visualizing what he's going to give me,” the writer remarked. “Although he always surpasses my expectations.”
Leonard Kirk is just as pleased to be working with Cornell again. “Paul is terrific! He’s a witty, clever writer with a great eye for detail. Also, a little known secret, Paul Cornell has the second largest collection of Gregorian chant recordings in the western hemisphere. The first largest, of course, belonging to Charlton Percy of North Dakota, recently deceased,” the artist said. “I have said before and will say again that I love how open Paul is in this work. He is receptive to ideas and treats the writer/artist relationship as a true collaboration. And his personal hygiene is beyond reproach.”
The chance to work with Cornell was one of the reasons Kirk took the “Dark X-Men” assignment. The other was the characters involved. “I really look forward to drawing characters like Dark Beast.” he said. “He’s always been one of my favorites. I’m not sure if this is because of his powers or if I just have a thing for the color blue.”
Kirk couldn’t reveal much about the other characters he’ll be drawing in the mini-series but he is currently brainstorming possible looks for X-Man. “I haven’t drawn his grand entrance, yet but I suppose his look will be closer to his more recent appearance with the tattoo on his chest but there might be a few tweaks to his design. I’d rather not mess too much with it though. As much as I enjoy designing and redesigning characters, I prefer not to do it if it isn’t really necessary.”
The style Kirk is employing for “Dark X-Men” will resemble the “Namor/Norman” short story he and Cornell did for “Dark X-Men: The Beginning” #1. “I’ve considered tweaking it a little but I doubt that I will change it too much,” Kirk stated. “I like the results with Jay Leisten’s inks.”
Kirk is still in the early stages of his work on “Dark X-Men” but he can’t wait to see how the series develops. “There is a lot of fun stuff to draw in the first issue, which you can usually take to mean, ‘Lots o’ stuff blowin’ up!’", the artist said. “And I can’t wait to read the next script.”
“Dark X-Men” is a series that will take readers on a journey with one of the Marvel Universe’s more unique and unhinged teams but it will also offer some interesting insight into the man and the environment responsible for bringing together such a team. “There's going to be some serious stuff in here about what institutions have become like in the wake of Osborn's administration,” Paul Cornell said. “I like to think we're this big awkward lens that's looking into the middle of what Osborn's done to the Marvel universe, and not really liking what we see.”