The Marvel Universe is meant to mirror our own, but on a much larger scale. As such, there are many nations in the Marvel Universe that simply don't exist in our world, like Wakanda, Latveria, and Symkaria, to name just a few. Recently, a new new nation was added to that list. Its residents, the many mutants who compose the ranks of the different X-Men teams, call it Utopia. Floating in San Francisco Bay, it is a man-made island built out of the remains of Magneto's one-time headquarters. In the current "Nation X" storyline in "Uncanny X-Men," the title characters are discovering that bringing Utopia up from the bottom of San Francisco Bay was, in fact, the easiest thing about establishing their new home.
Now, they have to make the island into a viable and liveable community while enduring an assault by a mysterious and deadly new group of enemies. The second half of "Nation X" begins this week with the release of "Uncanny X-Men" #519 by writer Matt Fraction and artist Terry Dodson. CBR News spoke with Fraction about both "Nation X" and "Second Coming", the next major X-Men storyline.
The X-Men established Utopia as a separate nation in the climax of the recent "Utopia" crossover between "Dark Avengers" and "Uncanny X-Men." In order to do so, the residents of the island had to defend their new home against an invasion by Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers. The X-Men warded off the invasion, but not without paying a price. A sliver of The Void, the malevolent psychic entity that lives inside the Avenger known as the Sentry, wormed it's way into Emma Frost's mind. To cut off it's influence, Emma transformed into her diamond form. However, this had the side effect of cutting her off from her telepathic powers as well.
Losing Emma's telepathic abilities is costly, but the X-Men have other mind readers; Frost's three teenage proteges known as the Stepford Cuckoos. cyclops and his team were able to rely on them until the events of "Uncanny X-Men" #517 when the psychic Phoenix Force departed the Cuckoos, an event that left them comatose. "We've been seeing this happen to all the characters with fragments of the Phoenix force," Fraction told CBR News. "'Second Coming' is on its way, and with it something big. Something that answers questions like, 'Why did the Phoenix appear to Emma in her psychic dream?' Something is happening to the Phoenix. It's as if it were rising from the ashes."
The downing of the Stepford Cuckoos left the X-Men without any major telepathic members, so in "Uncanny X-Men" #518, Cyclops engaged in a desperate and risky maneuver to restore Emma Frost's telepathic abilities. He entered her mind and tried to exorcise the Void from within. In doing so, Scott Summers played right into the sinister entity's hands, because the Void left Emma's mind and took up residence in his. "Scott is the leader of the X-Men, and to The Void that's of more value. The Void wanted Scott all along because of the way his mind works; because of his ferociousness and his strategic thinking," Fraction explained. "The Void had been cooped up in the mind of that schizophrenic dumb-ass Rob Reynolds AKA The Sentry, who just cried and moaned, and here's a guy who is capable of taking on the world with the right army. So that's why the Void abandoned Emma for Scott. He saw a guy who could take over the world for him."
Cyclops hasn't been the only original X-Men member having problems during "Nation X." Henry McCoy AKA The Beast has become increasingly uncomfortable with the type of organization the X-Men have become. "He was tortured during 'Utopia,' and now he's watched his friends become militarized in the move to this island. I don't think he recognizes who they are right now," Fraction remarked. "He sees Scott making all these militaristic moves. Scott really is a general now, and Hank is a scientist. He philosophically disagrees with the kind of war footing the X-Men are standing on."
Another thing the Beast finds unsettling about the X-Men is that their former arch enemy, Magneto, has joined their ranks, and the former head of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants now appears to be sincere in his devotion to the X-Men's cause. "Scott was able to do what Magneto was never capable of, and that's bring everybody together," Fraction said. "He is not an easy person to have in your life, though. You start to see that next issue. Plus, there's also the question of, now that Magneto appears to have joined the X-Men's cause, how much initiative do you really want him to show?"
Magneto joined the X-Men just in time to be injured in an attack on Utopia by several Predator X's. There were a number of reasons why Fraction wanted to use the bio-engineered monsters in the story. "At it's rawest level, I love the idea of a monster that eats mutants [Laughs]. They're like weapons. They're mutant seeking missiles in the form of monsters. So they're kind of fascinating." Fraction remarked. "I also wanted to show how much the X-Men have grown since their last confrontation with a Predator X during 'Messiah CompleX.' Their tactics are stronger. They've trained and were ready, so when the attack happened, it wasn't the end of the world. It was also a nice way to involve almost everybody in a scene; a sort of 50 character action sequence [Laughs]."
The Predator X attack on Utopia was orchestrated by a mysterious villain named Lobe and his equally enigmatic associates. "They're new characters, and they didn't send the Predators to just kill everyone on Utopia," Fraction revealed. "So who are they? What are they doing? How did they get access to cybernetically modified Predator X's? Why did they try to drop them on Utopia? Keep reading. The core mystery throughout 'Nation X' is who these dudes are. I was interested in putting together a team of people that we hadn't seen before and weren't just mutants who wanted to kill the X-Men."
In the second half of "Nation X" Fraction will continue to develop the overall theme of the story: unification. "'Nation X' is a story about people coming together and what that means as a society; what does it mean to build a town? There are real life questions that have to be answered, like, what do the X-Men do with a dead body now that they live on an island? We also see what it means to come together as a family, a team, a culture, a people and a general and his army," Fraction stated. "This is a story about all of that, and some of these pieces aren't all going to fit. 'Nation X' is about the entire X-verse as I understand it, coming together in this place and time as one.
"In the second half of the story, we'll see people try to break that apart, but as 'Nation X' continues, we're going to see the ultimate event that brings everybody together regardless of what team they're on or what their responsibility is," Fraction continued. "This storyline is building towards an event that brings everybody together. Issue #522 is huge and should not be missed. From there we launch right into 'Second Coming.'"
The pace of the second half of 'Nation X' will be both fast and relentless. The story finds the X-Men struggling to stay above water as they're battered by wave after wave of obstacles and enemies. "Staying afloat is a literal and symbolic phrase indeed," Fraction hinted. "They're trying to keep their home afloat as well as figuratively stay afloat thanks to all the dangers they're facing."
The X-Men won't be facing these dangers alone. The second half of "Nation X" finds them allied with Fantomex, a character that both Fraction and "Wolverine: Weapon X" writer Jason Aaron love. "We've united forces, since we're the only two guys at Marvel who like Fantomex. If there are other people who like him, they're closeted and they need to come out and join us. Jason and I are united in our belief that Fantomex is an amazing character, and we went to make him even more amazing," Fraction said. "So Jason brought him back in his 'Dark Reign:The List' special, and now I'm going to play with him a little bit in this storyline. We're going to do everything we can to make the rest of the world fall as passionately in love with Fantomex as we are.
"And what isn't there to like about him?" Fraction continued. "He's an impeccably dressed, fake French art thief, with a spaceship in his mouth [laughs]. He's just this big burst of science fiction weirdness, and I love him."
Fantomex isn't the only character Fraction is hoping to provide with more screen time in upcoming issues of "Uncanny X-Men." "One of the most difficult things about writing this book is getting everybody to this place. The long range plan to get everybody here had some prime movers at the heart of it, while other characters have kind of receded, come forward, and gone back. Northstar has been one of those characters. He's shown up for action sequences but hasn't had much stage time because of the nature of the story," Fraction explained. "Coming out of 'Second Coming,' there's an opportunity for more. Things rotate around and you'll get more time for Northstar and some other characters. Plus, I think after 'Second Coming' our focus is going to narrow a little bit in terms of who our primary characters are."
"Second Coming" is the final chapter of a trilogy of X-Men event stories that began with the 2007 event story "Messiah CompleX" and continued with this year's "Messiah War." It doesn't begin until Spring 2010, but Fraction can't wait for fans to read the story. "It's an exciting time time to be into X-Men, because you're getting giant pay off after giant pay off," Fraction stated. "This is really what every X-book has been building to since 'Messiah CompleX.'"
"Second Coming" isn't the only event that will rock the Marvel Universe in 2010. January sees the beginning of "Siege," a big story that runs through the Avengers family of titles, but it's events will lead into what happens in "Second Coming." "We're going to be rolling out 'Second Coming' towards the end of 'Siege.' So they do inform and flavor each other, but they don't necessarily tie into one another," Fraction said. "That said, stay tuned for "Uncanny" #526 which features a super awesome guest star that I don't believe we've seen in 'Uncanny X-Men' in a fairly long time."