This article contains major spoilers for "X-Men: Legacy" #245, in stores now.
When the world deems you an outsider, it can be a cruel, harsh and sometimes even deadly place, especially if you're a resident of the Marvel Universe or one of it's alternate realities. Being an outcast and an underdog is a little easier to deal with, however, if you're a member of a group of like-minded individuals. In the main Marvel reality of Earth 616, the biggest outcasts have to be mutantkind, a race of people who are almost identical to human beings save for having been born with a super power which makes mankind fear and hate them. Fortunately, mutantkind has its own defenders in the form of the mutant super team known as the X-Men, who work hard to protect both mutants and humans from evil.
In the alternate reality featured in the current "Age of X" crossover involving "X-Men: Legacy" and "New Mutants", mutants must also cope with human oppression. The difference being, in this reality they don't have the X-Men to protect them. A fierce anti-mutant coalition seized power years ago, preventing the team from coming into existence. They then consolidated their power, embarking on a wildly succesful campaign of mutant genocide, forcing the remaining physically and psychologically scarred mutants to band together in a heavily fortified fortress for one last shot at survival.
In our second installment of X-COMMUNICATED, CBR News' in-depth look at the individual "Age of X" issues, writer Mike Carey joins us for commentary and inside info on "X-Men: Legacy" #245. In the issue, Carey and artist Clay Mann kicked off the first major chapter of the crossover by showing what an average day is like for the embattled mutants of Fortress X. The issue also revealed that the mutant leader, Magneto, is hiding an explosive secret that could shatter the fragile bonds they've formed in their fight for survival.
If you missed the first installment of our feature, where Carey joined us for a look at the crossover's prologue, "Age of X: Alpha", you can catch up here. Go ahead; we'll keep an eye our for mutant hunting Exonims.
Mike, here you have Tempo leading her squad into action. Prior to this -- and I realize this is a different reality -- Tempo has generally been treated as a minor character in the X-mythos. Here you show that she's a formidable leader with a pretty impressive and dangerous mutant power.
Part of the fun of "Age of X" is that it's afforded me some chances to show the potential of minor characters. I like Tempo a lot, which is why I put her into the reformed Acolytes as led by Exodus. She has these powers that allow her to temporarily suspend time or change the flow of time, which is an extremely formidable and versatile power if you use your imagination.
I kept bringing her in to stuff. I brought her into the first "X-Men Annual" that I did, and then again when "X-Men" first transformed into "X-Men: Legacy" and was Professor X's book. So it was nice to revisit her here. Unfortunately, it was a short visit. [Laughs]
Part of the logic of Tempo's death was to show how dangerous things are and to show what Legacy, or the Reaper as some of her teammates call her, does in this world. I purposely chose a character I cared about myself: I didn't want to just pick off somebody obscure and tick the box. Of course, I know Tempo counts as obscure from some perspectives.
On this page, we have an interesting face off between two mutant leaders: Sam Guthrie (Cannonball) and Scott Summers (Basilisk). In the 616 reality, Cannonball is leader of the New Mutants and Scott, as Cyclops, is the overall leader of the X-Men. In this reality, Cannonball seems to be a much more capable and comfortable leader.
We've obviously seen them both as leaders in 616, and in this world we get a glimpse of what Sam would be like if Cyclops wasn't in that overall command role of the X-Men. He certainly has the potential to step up into the role Cyclops plays in the 616 world. We also see, in the world of "Age of X," Cyclops is not comfortable with leading mutants and he's not that great at taking orders, either. He's insubordinate, reckless and a profoundly damaged personality. The trouble that's brewing here is something we'll return to later.
In the 616 world, Scott was groomed for the role of leader of the X-Men. Professor X lined it up for him and he accepted it and obviously does a fantastic job with it. It's an open question as to why he's not leading here. Is it because of the physical and psychological damage done to him when he was imprisoned in Alcatraz? Or is it because of the associations other mutants now have with Basilisk? He is a figure of terror. He's someone who makes them all feel profoundly uneasy. It might be hard to give someone like that unquestioning loyalty or immediate obedience in a combat situation. So I think there's a logic to Basilisk not stepping up to that role. But his story here is far from over.
On this page, we see the service Legacy performs for the dying mutants of Fortress X. She seems to be almost a religious figure, because she's using her mutant power to give dying mutants the gift of eternal life through her.
That's a nice way of putting it. I was looking at it as more pragmatic, but yes there is a ritual element to it as well. There are so few mutants left that they don't want to lose anybody's memories or experiences. So what Legacy is doing in absorbing their memories in one sense recognizes that fact; every life is precious and every life needs to be memorialized. She records things. What she's doing is not necessarily a religious ceremony, but there is a ritualistic element involved. She's essentially performing last rites.
We also see that the mutants of Fortress X have another name for Legacy -- Reaper -- a code name she's grown to detest.
Legacy and Reaper are essentially two different ways of saying the same thing, but Legacy doesn't want to only be associated with death and she doesn't want to be limited to this role. She's clearly itching to get involved with the defense of Fortress X in other ways. She's considered mainly to be a resource, though, and therefore not a fighter. That hurts, and then to have this kind of boogeyman name hurts as well.
It seems like absorbing the essences of dying mutants on a regular basis might lead to some serious psychological issues.
We don't see the psychological drawbacks here, but we know from her adventures as Rogue in the 616 world that there are definitely consequences when she uses her power in this way. This doesn't come without a price for her. When she absorbs somebody on this deep level, they kind of live in her. It's not like she has access to a data file of their memory. It's much more profound and more organic than that. If you remember, after she absorbed Ms. Marvel she sometimes found herself reacting, thinking and responding as Ms. Marvel. There are consequences, even though we don't see them here.
Does Legacy retain the powers and skills of the mutants she absorbs?
I think some skills and knowledge are certainly available to her, depending on how far she wants to surrender her own self to the sort of submerged self of a mutant she's absorbed. Whether or not she keeps their powers permanently is another question, and right now it's an open one. I suspect she couldn't keep adding powers to her template: one power taken in this way would drive out the one before it, even assuming it was something she could do voluntarily and on demand.
Here, it seems the developing mutant culture of Fortress X has celebrities in the form of the Force Warriors.
[Laughs] Yeah, they do generate some extreme responses. There's adulation there, and wild public enthusiasm. These five mutants: Legion, Revenant, Psylocke, Hellion and Unuscione keep the force walls up, which keeps Fortress X viable. That makes them public heroes, and as you say, it gives them celebrity status in this small, embattled community.
Wolverine may not be able to defend the front lines of Fortress X, but he still does his part by serving as the base bartender!
Because of the fallout from what we saw in the "Alpha" issue. He ingested the X-Gene cure in an effort to dispose of it, and his metabolism has been completely wrecked to the the point where he can't even pop his claws. If he gets in an emotionally fraught situation, he's likely to have a heart attack and die.
His view is, if he can't provide combat support, he'll provide moral support and give his fellow mutants a place to come and nurse their psychological wounds. Plus, it allows him to stay close to the fighters and fighting since he can't get directly involved.
This role might not be the best for his emotional well being. I imagine he's hearing his fellow mutants' war stories and longing to be part of them.
There is a sense of picking at a scab. It's going to hurt, but I think you can see why a man like that would be drawn to the epicenter of the action, even if it's in a way that's painful and problematic. Plus, let's not forget that beer is another one of his great loves. [Laughs]
This page also gives us a glimpse of the relationship between Basilisk and Frenzy. There appears to be a number of things involved there. It seems like part of their attraction stems from the fact that, because of her mutant power, Scott can take off his helmet around Frenzy and not hurt her. It also seems like Scott sees an emotionally damaged woman that he wants to help, and, like Emma Frost in the 616 reality, Frenzy is drawn to the innate goodness of Scott Summers.
I like that analysis a lot. What I wanted to do here is show they're in a relationship that on one level is kind of messed up. We'll see more of that later, but also at the same time I wanted to show that this is a relationship that is deeply rewarding for each of them. It's messed up, but it works. In this horrible dystopian world each of them has found the other and is able to give something to the other. So it's meant to be disturbing and touching at the same time. That's what I was aiming for.
Karma says, "If we'd met before." Is this a hint that she might be subconsciously aware that something is wrong with the world?
You could certainly read it that way. There is almost a subliminal unease here. On the other hand, everyone plays thought experiments like that; how different would it be if…? This scene was a good way to spotlight why this world is so different from regular 616 continuity. There were no organized mutant groups. There were no X-Men. So the mutants were always on the back foot.
In this scene, we also get a hint of how things got so bad for mutants in the first place when Gambit says the Sapien League would still have stolen the election. It sounds like the League seized a high political office, perhaps even the Presidency of the United States.
Yes. Then similar movements around the world got kickstarted as a result of that. It was like the first domino falling and taking down the rest.
Here, the voice of X informs Legacy that she's entering an area of the Fortress that is under "solo interdict." Does this mean that there are some no man's land style areas of the fortress?
Yes, that's right. It depends on the time of day. What X is saying to Legacy there is, "You shouldn't be out there on the battlefield now, by yourself, this close to the force walls." It's kind of like she's straying to the very edge of their territory. If something bad were to go down, that's where it would happen.
So, Fortress X has a prison, but its residents don't know the true nature of the inmates housed there.
Yes, it does look like that. It's controlled by Danger and we see Magneto, the General, going in there to deliver Katherine Pryde. It's located in an area where free mutants wouldn't normally venture and we'll explore more about how that situation goes over and how it works in later issues.
Magneto tells the other residents of the fortress that the mutants being kept here are dangerous and need to be isolated for their own good. You can draw your own conclusions as to why that is. You can see who some of them are. There's Emma, the Stepford Cuckoos, Martha Johanson and Professor Xavier -- and of course Kitty Pryde, who in many ways is the odd one out in that line-up.
CAREY'S FINAL THOUGHTS ON "X-MEN:LEGACY" #245
The big goal of this issue was to jump straight into the middle of the action and not to have set up; to have a situation that's been going on for some time and then gradually unpick it and examine its origins and the reasons why this has all come to pass. I had a title for this story in mind -- it didn't make it into the issue, but I was going to call it, "Went the Day Well." It was meant to be a portrait of one day in the life of all these mutants -- a day that starts off like any others but then goes off the rails in ways that will have huge ramifications for everyone.
I also wanted to say, Clay Mann's art on this issue is gorgeous. Clay and Steve Kurth, who's doing our "New Mutants" issues, had this amazing system of bouncing things back and forth between them. Some times one of them would get to a particular character or setting first and some times the other one would. So there was a lot of interaction between them and a lot of forward planning. The results just show that they gave it everything they had and I couldn't be happier.
Check back with CBR soon for our next installment of X-COMMUNICATED, where Carey provides insight into "New Mutants" #22, part two of "Age of X" and in stores now.