The present day Marvel Universe is a dangerous place for those who would protect it, but being a hero in the distant past was no picnic either. Regardless of the time period, heroes have always had to contend with vile villains, hostile alien life forms and dangerous supernatural entities. For the remainder of 2010 and well into 2011, writer Mike Carey will be tackling stories set in two very different but equally dangerous eras of the Marvel Universe. In the December one-shot "Thor: Wolves of the North," Carey tells a Dark Ages set tale pitting the title character against a horde of infernal enemies, and as the regular writer of "X-Men: Legacy," Carey chronicles the present day struggles of the X-Men member known as Rogue and her interactions with the next generation of mutants. Carey is also exploring the lives of young mutants as the writer of Activision's 2011 video game "X-Men: Destiny." CBR News spoke with the writer about all three projects.
"Thor: Wolves of the North" is the first time Carey has penned a Marvel title starring Thor, but the writer was very comfortable writing the Asgardian Thunder God. "Well, it wasn't the first time, not strictly speaking. In the recent X-Men crossover, 'Second Coming,' I wrote a couple of panels featuring Thor. More to the point, having written 'Lucifer' for seven years I feel right at home tackling mythological characters," Carey told CBR News. "Another thing that made it easy to write was the fact that [the one-shot] is not tied into the current continuity of the character. It's Thor fighting against demon hordes and alongside Vikings in a past that's not mythical but is distant enough that it pretty much feels mythical."
The source of the conflict Thor finds himself embroiled in during "Wolves of the North" is none other than his old foe, the Asgardian Death Goddess, Hela. "Mike Perkins was very keen on drawing Hela and I had no problem with that," Carey joked. "This story clearly dates from a time when Hela had no inhibitions about making war against her own people. The action on Earth is kind of a side effect of a battle between the gods. That battle is very much a direct assault on Asgard. It's closed down the Rainbow Bridge, so it's very difficult for the gods to travel between the realms."
Assisting Hela in her battle are some new characters Carey has created; a powerful demon king and his army of infernal troops. "We're not explicit where the king has come from, but he's fairly impressive in terms of power," Carey explained. "Hela has raised an army of demons from a variety of sources and this guy is one of them."
In "Wolves of the North" Thor arrives on Midgard on a desperate mission to stop the movement of Hela's troops, which are using Earth as a short cut. "The story takes place almost entirely on Earth where Thor is fighting alone and handicapped," Carey said. "With Bifrost shut down, it's really difficult for him to stay on the mortal plane at all. In this story, Thor is outgunned and at a distinct disadvantage."
Thor may start out not having any Asgardians fighting side by side with him, but he won't be on his own for too long. "Thor also encounters this young Viking woman, whose father – a chieftain – has recently died. Viking communities tended to be fairly patriarchal, but in this case the dead chieftain's daughter has controversially stepped into her father's role," Carey remarked. "That idea of the line of succession, and the problems arising from it, is an element in this story."
"Wolves of the North" reunites Carey with Mike Perkins, his collaborator on the 2005 Marvel series "Spellbinders." "Mike does fantastic character studies and amazing action scenes. It was pure joy to work with him again. His work on this story is a combination of big widescreen action, horror, mythological beats and character beats," Carey described. "There's a little bit of everything. There's nothing you can give Mike that he can't run with. He was also a prime mover in plotting out the story with me. He had a lot of input into the characters we were going to use, the pacing, stuff like that."
"Wolves of the North" proved to be a highly enjoyable experience for Carey and has left the writer with a hankering to revisit the Thunder God some time in the future. "It was a huge pleasure to do. Mike and I just both happened to be free at the same time and we had a blast with it," Carey said. "I think it shows. Thor is a wonderful character and I'd write him again in a heartbeat."
In "Thor: Wolves of the North," Carey and Perkins explore the culture and mythology of the ancient Norse, but in "Collision," the current arc of "X-Men: Legacy," Carey and artist Clay Mann are chronicling what happens when the modern culture of the X-Men runs headlong into those of a traditional Indian family. While some readers have found the story to be a blend of superhero action and elements often found in the Bollywood genre of Indian cinema, Carey said this was not goal. "[Laughs] That emphatically was not my intention, but I'll take that as a compliment," Carey remarked. "I can understand that feeling, though, because we are running the family and marital intrigues alongside the cosmic threat. So it does at times flirt with a kind of melodramatic tone, which I guess is part of the Bollywood formula. We honestly weren't thinking in Bollywood terms. We were thinking it would be nice to flesh out the character and background of Indra because we've seen very, very little of his background."
In "Collision," Indra has returned home to India for a family emergency, accompanied by Rogue, Magneto and his fellow young X-Men, Anole and Loa. When Indra arrives, he discovers his brother has been rendered comatose by violent energy storms that have been rocking the city, leaving him unable to fulfill his obligation in an arranged marriage. Indra's parents want the young mutant to step in and take on his sibling's role, which means marrying his brother's fiance. Complicating things even further is the fact that the energy storms are the handiwork of the ruthless villain group known as the Children of the Vault.
Carey created the Children of the Vault in the debut story of his run on the previous "X-Men" series, which morphed into "X-Men: Legacy" with 2008's issue #208. "I've been wanting to do more with the Children for a long time now, and they do seem to have a cheering section, which is great. They started out as a sneaky way around a plotting problem, but I really relished writing them. I came into the X-verse at a time when 'House of M' had just happened and the repercussions from it were still spreading out through Marvel continuity. It was a time when it wasn't really possible to bring in new mutant characters, so the Children of the Vault were a post-human group who were not mutants," Carey said. "It was a different way of exploring the core themes of the X-Men. The idea of outcasts being welded into a community, of finding a place where you can belong, and the sort of mistrust that can arise between different groups. Those themes are fairly close to my heart and the Children of the Vault gave me a way to explore [them].
"Plus, I was really happy with the way we introduced them," Carey continued. "You saw Sabretooth running from them. You saw this character who has never been afraid of anything in his life actually shaken and unsettled because they had found a way to beat his healing factor. They managed to lay blows on him, and he was still bearing the scars. It was a cool story that showcased the new X-Men team that I was bringing in at that time and allowed me to introduce a few characters of my own creation."
In the opening chapters of "Collision," the X-Men encountered Luz, a runaway from the Children. Rogue's team took her in, bringing her with them to the home of Indra's family. In "Legacy" #240, on sale now, the Children of the Vault launch an assault on Indra's family home in an attempt to reclaim Luz. During the course of the battle, they kidnap Rogue, Magneto, and a woman they thought was Luz. It turns out, however, that Luz used her super abilities to make herself look like the woman Indra was supposed to marry and made Indra's intended look like her. At the end of issue #240, Luz's deception has been revealed, and even though Indra is an extreme pacifist because of his religious beliefs, he was ready to charge into action to rescue his friends.
"We've seen [Indra] largely shying away from violence, or at least interpersonal violence. He's comfortable attacking robots or doing damage to property, but he's still very ambivalent about actual violence. And, of course, he's still extremely ambivalent about what he's being asked to do by his father. He's being pulled between his duty to his family and his duty to the X-Men," Carey stated. "In the past, he's been very conflicted about his role in the X-Men. He was placed in a situation where there really was no right answer, there's no good way out. He's yet to find a way to resolve that conflict of being a member of a team who, to put it bluntly, solve their problems very often by fighting, when for him there's a code of absolute non-violence that's been imposed on him by his religion."
"Collision" will also be a story that has some impact on the character of Magneto. In issue #240 the Children of the Vault explained their perspective and plans for Mumbai to Magneto and a lot of their rhetoric sounded hauntingly familiar to the former supervillain. "He's got that line in issue #240 where he comments on how they've used Mumbai as a kind of dumping ground for their own toxic effluent and says, 'That's ruthless, even by my high standards,'" Carey remarked."So yeah I think he's staring at the specter of his own past."
"X-Men: Legacy" #241 hits stores this week and brings the "Collision" arc to a close. "What I wanted to do in the final issue was to make sure that each of those conflicts comes to not necessarily a resolution, but a head, so all of the major characters in this story get their moment in the spotlight. It's a relevant moment; a moment where they have to make a choice to confront something - whether it's within themselves or between themselves and the people around them. Those moments definitely move their stories and this story a long way forward," Carey revealed. "The plot of the issue will involve both a rescue mission and some fighting with the Children of the Vault. However, seeing as the Children of the Vault are several thousand strong and they're going up against a team of a half of dozen X-Men, things are not going to be resolved by a fight. There has to be another dimension to it. There will still be plenty of action though."
"Legacy" #242 hits stores in November, kicking off a new two-part arc titled "Fables of the Reconstruction," which will be drawn by Paul Davidson ("New Mutants"). "In retrospect, this is a story that I probably should have done before 'Collision' because it follows on and picks up some of the dangling threads of 'Second Coming.' In 'Second Coming,' we saw San Francisco get pretty comprehensively trashed by the battle between the Nimrods and the X-Men. 'Fables of the Reconstruction' is about the ongoing rebuilding of the city. It's being conducted by the civil authorities, but Cyclops is very keen to make sure that the X-Men play their part. There's a sense in which he feels responsible for it, at least in part, but also he realizes that this is a way of reaching out to the human community and showing them that the X-Men don't take their commitment to the area they live in lightly.
"Cyclops puts together a team who are directed to help with the rebuilding," Carey continued. "It's a team of real power house characters: Psylocke, Magneto, Colossus, Omega Sentinel, Danger, Hellion and Random. Rogue and Hope go along also. But things don't go quite according to plan and we end up with a very, very tense and dangerous situation between some of the members of that group."
Omega Sentinel played a role in Carey's run on the previous "X-Men" series and, just like the Children of the Vault, the writer has been looking for a way to bring her back into the spotlight ever since. "If you remember when the previous adjectiveless 'X-Men' title became 'X-Men: Legacy,' she was involved again then. We saw her go over to the Acolytes. It was always part of my long term plan to bring her back here," Carey explained. "Really, one of the central threads here relates to Hellion and his attempt to come to terms with the injuries that he sustained in 'Second Coming.' What I've done is put him and Omega Sentinel into a conflict that relates directly to that trauma."
Readers of "Second Coming" will recall that Hellion lost both of his hands in an assault on the X-Men by a horde of cybernetic Nimrod class Sentinels, and his notorious temper just might get the better of him during his interactions with Omega Sentinel, who is also a cyborg. "There's more going on than that, but yes, he's clearly not going to like or trust Omega Sentinel. She's based on Bastion's technology after all, so she's not a million miles away from the robots that did the harm to him," Carey said. "Omega Sentinel has problems of her own, though, and unfortunately, they bring her into opposition with Hellion: it's an opposition that doesn't do either of them any good."
While "Legacy" is essentially a solo book starring Rogue, it features a rotating cast of young mutants and older X-Men, which lends itself to a team-like atmosphere, something that will continue into 2011. " I very much like to put teams together around Rogue," Carey revealed. "As with the 'Necrosha' arc, that doesn't necessarily mean that Rogue is going to lead a team. She's not really the leader of the team in 'Collision,' either. It's just that she and Magneto are the only two adults in that group, so she's got certain responsibilities. I love the team dynamic, though, and I love playing with variations of that dynamic. It's something that's going to be very important in the arc that begins with #245."
"X-Men: Legacy" #245 hits stores in February and it's a story that Carey promises to be huge. "I had an idea for a two or three part arc which I pitched to my editor, Daniel Ketchum. He said that he and Consulting Editor Nick Lowe both really liked the idea, but they felt that two to three parts wasn't big enough. We worked it out into something bigger than that," Carey explained. "It's very cool, and when I leave the book, it may be the story that I'm most remembered for."
In 2011, "X-Men: Legacy" won't be the only place to see Carey's stories about mutants as the writer is hard at work on "X-Men: Destiny," a new Activision video game in which young mutants are the central characters. "You play one of several young mutants who've just come into their powers and are looking to find a place in the X-Men's universe," Carey revealed. "There's a lot of choice about which character you play, what power set they have and stuff like that. There's a lot of customization involved."
"Legacy" and "Destiny" may be two different mediums for telling stories about mutants in the Marvel Universe, but Carey is enjoying both projects immensely. "I'm having the time of my life on 'Legacy.' Like I said, right now I'm writing what is in some ways the biggest story I've ever told in the book. I'm really enjoying it and getting very excited about it. Clay Mann is going to be involved in the art, which is always good news as far as I'm concerned," the writer remarked. "'Destiny' is my first video game. It's really interesting and a lot of fun. I was talking to Paul Cornell about this at the Birmingham show a couple days ago. When you write a monthly book for a long time, you reach a point where in order to write one story, you kind of have to unwrite several other stories. You're closing some avenues down. The difference between that and a video game is that in a game you can sort of cover all the bases. You can show different and mutually exclusive things happening depending on the choices that the character makes. It's a different approach to storytelling."