For Charles Xavier, it all started with a dream. His dream was that one day the super-powered mutants of the Marvel Universe could have a peaceful co-existence with the humans who feared and hated them. In order to make that dream a reality, Xavier formed the X-Men, a costumed team of mutants whose mission was to protect those who hated and feared them from the most dangerous threats the Marvel Universe had to offer. For the longest time they did exactly that. Recently, the mutants of the Marvel Universe have been caught in a waking nightmare. They went from thriving to endangered species overnight, when the reality-altering powers of the Scarlet Witch decimated their numbers during House of M. Their numbers dwindling, they found themselves under assault from villains who wanted to kill or control them including the cybernetic entity known as Bastion and Norman Osborn, who tried to use his "Dark Reign" to establish his own twisted team of X-Men. The X-Men found themselves not protecting humanity from threats, but protecting mutants from extinction.
Now the nightmare of "Dark Reign" is over and a "Heroic Age" has begun. Mutantkind appears safe, which means it's time for the X-Men to return to their founder's dream. They'll start to do that in January's "X-Men" #7, which kicks off an arc entitled "Serve and Protect." CBR News spoke with writer Victor Gischler about the arc.
The current X-Men arc, "Curse of the Mutants," finds the merry mutants defending their new island home of Utopia and the surrounding city of San Francisco from an invading army of vampires. When the arc concludes in December's "X-Men" #6, the fallout from it will leave the team feeling emotionally battered, but also ready to adopt a new mandate."They do need to recover a little bit, but the X-Men have proven over the years to be very resilient. They've been in dire peril before. So they bounce back fairly quickly," Gischler told CBR News. "When we start the next arc, we don't jump right into the next story. We take a little time to sort of get an idea of what the X-Men are up to now and what their current frame of mind is. That will give you a taste of the 'Serve and Protect' mindset that the X-Men are about to adopt. So that's how we're opening up the next arc."
In "Serve and Protect," the X-Men's new mindset will take them from their new home in Northern California back to the place the team was first formed: their former stomping grounds of New York. "This is the X-Men team for the 'Heroic Age.' They're looking for opportunities to be heroes. So one of the things we're doing in the first part of the first issue is showing this set up that the X-Men have, to give them a heads up on where they might be needed," Gischler explained. "Cyclops and his team zero in on this situation that's unfolding in Manhattan and he decides, 'We are heroes! That's where we're needed. Nobody else seems to be taking care of this problem. The Fantastic Four are busy and the Avengers are doing something else. So it's up to us!' They're going to be proactive and take responsibility. They've got super powers so they're going to put them to good use and go to Manhattan and take care of this. They're on the look out for these situations now."
The X-Men team that Cyclops dispatches to Manhattan will be a smaller team composed of A-List and fan-favorite characters. "We're scaling down the team a little bit. 'Curse of the Mutants' was an 'all hands on deck' situation, but Cyclops decides to charge Storm with getting a team together and going to investigate the situation in Manhattan. So we've got a scaled down more compact team," said Gischler. "I won't reveal all the members of the team, but I know the Gambit fans out there want to know if they'll be seeing more him. I live in South Louisiana where there's a lot of Gambit fans, and since he is kind of a home town boy, I'll go ahead and say we're going to see a little more Gambit in this next arc."
Ever since they moved to San Francisco in 2009, the X-Men have spent most of their time as a team in that region and Gischler is really enjoying the chance to use Manhattan as the setting for "Serve and Protect. "I've been so steeped in Utopia and San Francisco and all of those elements that I've gotten used to it as a the new norm. That's where the X-Men belong; in Utopia and San Francisco," Gischler remarked. "New York City is a classic setting, though; not just for the X-Men, but any superhero. So it's kind of cool to have them stomping around Manhattan for this new arc."
When they begin their investigation in Manhattan, the X-Men will run into the superhero most associated with the city, the Amazing Spider-Man. "I'm currently writing the beginning stages of this story so I'm in the middle of discovering the dynamic and relationship between Spider-Man and the X-Men. One of the things fans have come to know and love though is the Spider-Man/Wolverine interaction," Gischler stated. "I guess that gives away another person that's going to Manhattan [Laughs], but that interaction is very fun to write because you've got one guy who likes to crack wise and one guy who's not terribly tolerant of the other guy cracking wise. That's just a nice set up for dialogue and interaction between the characters. I'm having fun discovering the best way to handle all of that. Hopefully that fun will translate to readers having fun reading this arc."
Gischler couldn't reveal much about the plot of "Serve and Protect" but hinted that the X-Men and Spider-Man would have to contend with several villains, one of whom will be a member of Spidey's Rogues Gallery. "When we bring in a guest in this book we want it to be appropriate In the first arc where we had vampires it was very appropriate to have Blade as our guest hero. Now it's the same deal with Spider-Man. In 'Serve and Protect,' we're facing a Spider-Man style situation, so it's appropriate that the X-Men would stumble over Spidey in the course of facing this adversary," Gischler said. "I will say this though, we have an adversary and then maybe there's another foe coming in from the side that we didn't expect. We've got a Spider-Man style conflict, but there's also an added element. We're trying to throw a few curve balls at people and obviously we can't say too much about that. This arc isn't going to be as straightforward as it might seem. It's not Spidey and the X-Men do a team-up to kick the butt of one of his villains. Things will be more complicated that that. We'll start things off with an immediately recognizable Spider-Man villain, but the reveals won't stop there."
Artist Paco Medina is currently bringing to life all the action of "Curse of the Mutants," but veteran X and Spidey artist Chris Bachalo is slated to provide interior art for "Serve and Protect." "I believe each arc of 'X-Men' we'll have a new artist. Chris' art is great. If you've seen Chris' work on 'Shed,' his recent 'Amazing Spider-Man' story, or the current 'X-Men: Curse of the Mutants:Storm & Gambit' miniseries, you know it's great. I know how that sounds because I say that about every artist I work with, but all the people I end up working with have real talent. It's always a treat for me when I start to see that artwork come in. A script is just words on a page, but when that artwork comes in it's like Christmas. I love seeing that," Gischler stated. "I'm at the point now where I feel really simpatico with Paco. I'm used to him [and] I know that he's going to deliver. It's also exciting, though, to move on to another artist and have that novelty of wondering what you're words are going to look like."
The cast of "X-Men" will become a well-traveled bunch in 2011. Gischler kicks of the new year by sending them to New York, and before the year is out they'll have visited locales all over the Marvel Universe. "You might not see it in every single issue of every single arc, but future stories will have the X-Men traveling to trouble spots all over the world," Gischler revealed. "This new adjectiveless 'X-Men' title was designed to be the adventures of the 'Heroic Age' X-Men. The title is supposed to engage the Marvel Universe in that way. In a general sense that's the direction of the book."
When Gischler began writing "X-Men" he was both excited and a little intimidated. Now, as he finishes his first arc and moves onto his second, he's become even more invested in the series and is looking forward to telling more "Heroic Age" X-Men adventures. "My work really began on the 'Death of Dracula' one-shot which set the stage for 'Curse of the Mutants' and I feel like I've grown to love all these vampire characters, and the X-Men and their related characters like Jubilee," Gischler said. "It's gone from a fun gig to a gig that's still fun, but now I feel very close with these characters. I'm appreciative to be working on the book. I'm having a hell of a good time doing it and I feel like Axel Alonso and all the people in the X-Office are holding my feet to the fire to make sure I'm turning in quality scripts and paying attention to what I'm doing. I feel like I'm giving 110% every time I sit down to do one of these scripts."