Marvel's latest "Next Big Thing" press conference call took place Monday afternoon, with writer Mike Carey and editor Daniel Ketchum on hand to reveal more details about the mysterious series starring Magneto, Gambit, Rogue, Hellion, and some mysterious characters who bear an uncanny resemblance to other familiar mutants. James Viscardi, Marvel's Junior Sales Administrator, moderated the discussion, in which Carey and Ketchum revealed a few more pieces of the puzzle.
The story starts with "Age of X Alpha" in January and runs through "X-Men Legacy" and "New Mutants" for the next several months, Viscardi said.
"It actually had a rather convoluted origin," Carey said of the series, noting that the idea began with consideration of the generations of mutants that have passed through Xavier academy. "I just thought it would be cool to do a story that brought all those generations back into the field." From there, though, he and Kethum became more interested in the stories they were coming up with that would effect this change, rather than the concept itself.
Carey confirmed that "X" stands for "X-Men," but that the story takes place "in a world that has never known the X-Men, in which the X-Men never came together as a team." But "there's also a character, kind of, that's called X. By the time it's over, it will have stood for several things."
Ketchum said the series will explore the original idea of "X-Men being something 'extra,'" and that the characters "will be doing new cool things with their powers" and being configured into new relationships.
Carey said that he and Ketchum discussed early on what brings these characters early, and came up with "isolation." "This is a world in which mutants have never assembled, in which there have never been mutant teams. From the very beginning, their enemies were organized and they were not."
Speaking on design, Ketchum said that artist Clay Mann considered directions characters might have taken, with Storm becoming even more of an aggressive, powerful African goddess.
At the start of the story, "There is a fortress--the whole world has become hostile territory for mutants, but there is this fortress where all the surviving mutants are invited to come," Carey said, but unlike Utopia, "it's surrounded by enemies." The area around the fortress "has been squashed flat by years of conflict." Ketchum added that the fortress emphasizes that "the battle is right at their door."
Carey said there is "a very good reason" why "Age of X" is structured in ongoing X-books, and it's set up as "a mystery thriller" that will explain why it relates to the 616 world. "We're revealing it backwards," Carey said, adding that the end would reveal why it was done this way.
Ketchum likened the structure to "Minority Report," which was "a very finite story." "This isn't an alternate reality story in the sense that 'Age of Apocalypse' was an alternate reality."
Carey said "not every major X-Man" will play a role; "there are a few notable characters who are missing." Though it's a large cast, "everyone's there or isn't there for a reason." Ketchum added that the readers will have their own mystery to solve as to what's happening, while the X-Men solve their own. "Nothing's wasted; everything's another piece of the puzzle," Ketchum said.
"The enemies, to some extent, are faceless," Carey said, noting that anti-mutant activists "have taken power and held power." The main adversaries will be augmented human armies. "It's a military situation, to a large extent."
Asked about Magneto, Carey said "Magneto is in a pivotal role--in many senses, the pivotal role." He added that the "last stand" situation is his doing. "He's the figurehead here, and he's sometimes referred to as the General."
Carey said that "the logic of these characters' personalities remains the same, but they're up against a situation they've never been in before." Ketchum added that this would help "getting back to the core of these characters and seeing what makes them tick," as well as pairing up different sets of characters who don't normally interact.
"Rogue is very much the protagonist and point of view character in the first of the three acts," Carey said, but other characters would take center stage as the situation escalates. "But she is our entry character.'"
Asked whether the blacked-out beam in Gambit's hand would be revealed, Carey laughed, "I think that's just a beam--it's part of the fortress they're building, so it's building material." Ketchum acknowledged that internet forum members had been asking about it and he realized that Clay Mann's final art had still been blacked out.
Hellion has had longer to work with his artificial arms in "Age of X," but Ketchum said that this is less important in the crossover than what this means for the regular X-Men universe.
There will be a tie-in book likely titled "Age of X: Avengers," Ketchum revealed.
Asked about the character X hinted at earlier, "We'd like you to discover X," Carey said, adding "it may be a stretch to call X a character."
Carey said there "are a number of inciting incidents, and one really crucial absence, one person, who seems to have to have not played a role at all," when asked how this anti-mutant world came about. One such incident was Phoenix destroying a town near Albany.
"This is a world without the X-Men," Ketchum added, "there was no one to mitigate all those incidence."
Ketchum said the Phoenix character "is definitely not Hope," and Carey added that Basilisk is Cyclops, wrapping up the call.
"Age of X Alpha" is released in January, with "X-Men Legacy" #245 and "New Mutants" #22 following in February.