The future of Marvel's X-line continued to roll out today as the focus of the publisher's MMXI relaunch of the books turned towards "Uncanny X-Force." Writer Rick Remender joined the talk with members of the press along with editors Nick Lowe and Jody Leheup, and CBR News was there with all the news on the future of the black ops book.
The team started out by talking about the teaser centering around May's "Uncanny X-Force" #11 (whose cover by Esad Ribic is on the right). "These characters have been off the board for a while...and we wanted to try something a little different with it," Remender said. "It's tricky because we've announced that they're coming up, but we don't want to spoil too much...we have a group of X-Men and X-Force that will go to the Age of Apocalypse world...it's connected to some of the different arcs we've done in the book."
The writer and Lowe said that the Dark Beast character from the original "Age of Apocalypse" series will play a large role not just in the coming arc but the future of "Uncanny X-Force" as a whole. "This is not just a fun 'Age of Apocalypse' story that will have no bearing on the Marvel Universe. It will have a HUGE impact on the 616," Lowe said. "You do run the risk of telling stories that don't matter," Remender added, noting that he wanted to find a story that was worthy of taking the 616 X-Men cast into the world of Apocalypse.
"I think that there are fans out there going 'This is what Marvel always says...that'll it'll change everything!' but this really does change things," Lowe said.
When asked what sets this X-Force team apart from previous versions of the franchise, Remender said that the fact that the team of five heroes can't talk about their missions makes them a unique, true X-Men family. "People who are taking it upon themselves to assassinate the very evil [of the world]...I wanted to take it upon myself to be true to how that plays out."
Apocalypse himself came up, and Remender confirmed "The version of Apocalypse we know is dead," meaning that after the first arc, the classic take on the character is not coming back, but after long talks with his editors, the writer feels that he'll be able to tap into the villain's mythology from his connection to the Celestials through his obsession with evolution and find a real purpose towards an epic story. "The first 17 issues of X-Force is one big story told in five chapters," he said.
"Apocalypse is not the big bad in this story...he's dead. They killed him," said Lowe. "That does have to have meaning in this X-Force book or any death won't mean anything...The other reason this book is so attractive is that it dances on the skinny branches. It takes a lot of risks, and that makes it very enjoyable to me."
"Early on, we wanted to make sure there wasn't a lot of murder," Remender said. "It's an ethical slippery slope...that has to be give the weight it deserves. And beyond the ethical things we deal with, we have momentum on the book. We went through the first six issues and cut out the fat. Everything was boiled down to its core."
Remender reinforced that the long planning on the series has opened him up to seeding small details in a way that brings the book more in line with his work like "Fear Agent" and "The Punisher." Fans who stick with the series will see payoff from the very first issues even as the scribe remains flexible.
"The Age of Apocalypse world will be defined for you. The rules will be defined," Remender said before adding "I never, ever assume that anybody has read another X-book besides this." As the broad story has been built, only pieces introduced within the story will play a key role rather than simply throwing fan favorite concepts into the mix simply to drum up interest.
"Archangel is not there for a reason, and it's a reason you don't expect." the writer said of the absence of the winged X-Forcer from the book's teaser and cover. He also said that they're looking for a natural way to expand the team membership. "While there are some new members coming up, I don't think people will see it coming."
The issue of Deadpool's role in that family/team dynamic and his recent deflection from pure joking mayhem addict was raised. "People who are constantly joking, it's something of a defense mechanism," said Remender. "When I get into the character, I start seeing a three-dimensional character...killing a kid for me was something he had an issue with. I know this sounds strange, but I do see a bit of vulnerability in Wade. He'd be the one who was up late at night."
An appearance by the Age of Apocalypse version of Nightcrawler came up. "There was more and more to be mined out of [this world]," the writer explained. "Beyond the high-paced version of it, there is a lot of drama here." Wolverine's relationship with the Age of Apocalypse version of Jean Grey and Nightcrawler, and the latter will be a much more violent and active character than fans might expect from Kurt Wagner as this version was raised in hell.
As for how the team makes it to the AoA world and why they go there, "
There is something in the Age of Apocalypse or someone in the Age of Apocalypse that they need for some reason. When you're dealing with dimension-hopping, one thing that is incredibly important is to find a way to make it significant," said the writer. "One thing we've spent a whole lot of time doing is that when we knew we had to go there for this mission, we also had to find a way for this to move the story forward.
"Once you see what the results are, they're long lasting. If the dimension-hopping happened too much, it wouldn't work well. It works best on a limited basis."
Continuity came up in terms of where this Age of Apocalypse story fits with previous trips to this world. "It's ten years after the 2005 series. It's been a while. The world has changed and not for the better. The person involved in it is a big deal, and [the mythology of] Apocalypse plays a major role...it puts our team in a tough spot because these are alternate version of their friends, but they've got their own mission as well." Remender added that Jean Grey's role as well as that of the Silver Samurai will help place what fans know of Age of Apocalypse.
Remender's new role as the revitalizer of '90s franchises like "X-Force" and "Venom" was discussed as he said that despite the fact he had moved on to mostly indie comics during the heyday of the '90s and stories like Age of Apocalypse "I was deeply, deeply in the scene when Venom hit and X-Force hit and Deathlok...those things are so incredibly iconic that when I was presented with the job, I immediately had a year's worth of stories. I didn't expect that to be the case, but it was."
As for art teams coming up in the book, three issues by Billy Tan will be followed by Mark Brooks for three AoA issues, and the Jerome Opeña comes back after that to be followed by Remender's recent collaborator Greg Tocchini.
Finally, the writer spoke about stories coming sooner including the appearance of Captain Britain in issue #6. Remender said that because Psylocke falls in a family where one brother is a shining superhero and the other a madman, those relationships were important for him to dig into. "One thing we're going to play with here is how she sees herself in contrast to her brothers," he said.
"Uncanny X-Force" #11 by Remender and Mark Brooks is on sale in May. Tune in tomorrow for more from Marvel's MMXI slate of news.