This article contains major spoilers for "New Mutants" #22, in stores now.
Fighting for an ideal is never easy, even in a place like the Marvel Universe where the fantastic is a regular part of reality. The mutant super hero team, the X-Men, are especially aware of this fact. For years they've been struggling to make their dream of a world where mutants and man peacefully co-exist a reality. Along the way, they've experienced numerous setbacks; members of the team have died throughout the years and the world's mutant population experienced a "decimation" that diminished their world wide numbers to under 200. The leaders of the X-Men have also occasionally had to make difficult and morally questionable decisions in the name of their dream. Professor X once had to use his telepathic powers to mind wipe his arch-enemy and former friend Magneto, and Cyclops once put together a clandestine team of assassins to secretly eliminate anti-mutant terrorists.
In the alternate reality of the current "Age of X" crossover between "X-Men: Legacy" and New Mutants", mutantkind is also struggling to realize a dream: survival. For years, they've been attacked by a violent anti-mutant coalition that seized power and have been using their political and military might to wipe them out. The anti-mutant coalition kept the X-Men from ever forming, but now the remaining physical and psychologically scarred mutants have assembled together in a heavily fortified fortress.
In today's installment of X-COMMUNICATED, our in-depth look at each issue of "Age of X", writer Mike Carey joins us for commentary and inside info on "New Mutants" #22, which is part two of the crossover. In the issue, Carey and artist Steve Kurth raised questions about the methods of the mutant leader Magneto and the very nature of reality in "Age of X". If you're just joining us you can catch up on parts one and two of our feature where Carey took us through "Age of X: Alpha", the crossover's prologue, and "X-Men: Legacy" #245, the first official chapter of the storyline. While we wait for you we'll look at some of the pictures on this digital camera we found.
CBR News: Mike, in this scene, Legacy, or Rogue as she's known in Marvel's main reality, says, "Once you start asking questions, you're like a snowball rolling downhill. It's the hardest thing in the world to stop." Given this quote and what happens later on, it seems this issue is all about faith and the importance of questioning it.
Mike Carey: Yeah, very much so. The closing lines of chapter one underlined the sense that this is the point where things start to unravel and fall apart. Legacy asking her questions is the catalyst for that, so this issue is about people living in glass houses. It's about how easy it is to upset and destroy the fragile status quo that we've already seen in chapter one. We'll see the consequences of this play out in the remaining chapters.
I guess in a situation as extreme as this, there are always going to be people who say there's no room for debate, for dissident opinion, for questioning the things that are being done. When your survival is on a knife-edge, it's easy for those things to seem like luxuries. But they never are. They're more conducive to survival than blind obedience ever could be.
Last issue, Legacy found a digital camera Kitty Pryde stashed inside Fortress X. When Legacy examined the camera, she thought it was broken because all the pictures were blank. Here, however, Madison Jeffries reveals that the camera in fact works just fine. It seems to me, the camera was a classic example of a MacGuffin.
We wanted a clue. We wanted something that could plausibly launch Legacy into asking the right questions and going to the right places. I decided quite early on that the camera and its contents would be something that would fit the bill. There is a reason why all the pictures are blank, which is tied into a lot of stuff that's coming up. It is a naked MacGuffin, you're absolutely right: the object that makes stuff happen, and gets your ducks all lined up in a row. But it's a MacGuffin with a story attached to it, and we haven't had the punchline yet.
Basilisk, or Cyclops as longtime X-fans know him, discusses with his wife, Frenzy, the reason he takes dog tags from the bodies of the government soldiers that attack Fortress X. In this reality, Basilisk has been tortured and his friends and family have been murdered by government forces. It seems as though, in spite of all that, he refuses to give in and hate his enemies.
Absolutely. He obviously does have a degree of savagery and violence in him, but that's not his emotional core. He's still Scott Summers at the end of the day.
This scene was one of the earliest I roughed out for this issue. I found the Basilisk/Frenzy relationship, messy and imperfect as it is, to be really enjoyable both to think about and to write about. If anything defines this story, it's this: a love that's compromised but very real and keeps these two damaged people standing even though they're living in the mouth of Hell.
During their discussion, Frenzy uses the word "preak," which is presumably a derogatory term the mutants of this reality use for humans.
It's short for precursor. It's what Homo Sapiens might have called Neanderthals. They were a precursor species; the ones that came before us. So yeah, the mutants of Fortress X have their own hate-speak. It's hard to blame them.
Their discussion also brings to light that something strange is going on with the soldiers that have been attacking Fortress X.
Yep. It's another bizarre anomaly, like Kitty's camera full of blank pictures. There are several puzzles in this issue that we're inviting readers to think about and come up with possible answers for. This is really where the mystery kicks into gear, hopefully -- starting as lots of separate clues spotted by different characters, and then gradually coming together.
Here, the mysteries continue as Legacy strolls through Magneto's prison and comes face to face with Blindfold, who is clad in a uniform of an organization we know never existed in the "Age of X" reality.
Good point. We don't make a big thing out of it, but Blindfold is indeed wearing her X-Men uniform. The anomalies continue to pile up.
"X-Men: Legacy" #244 was the last issue of the series before the "Age of X" crossover began, and the issue ended with Blindfold witnessing something terrifying. It seems like you're following up on that here.
It seemed like what she was seeing there was the beginnings of the 'Age of X.' If you go back and look at that closing page of #244, there's an image which was ambiguous then but should be very clear now. What it doesn't explain, of course, is who Blindfold is making that promise to: "I'll be good this time. I won't see anything..."
Here, Legacy confronts Kitty Pryde, who was imprisoned by Magneto last issue after she broke into Fortress X and planted the mysterious digital camera. Kitty is essentially the one who started Legacy on her journey into the deeper mysteries of this reality. What made you want to cast her in this role?
Mainly it was that her power set allowed her to exit the fortress and pass through the force walls. She fits the profile. She's also, like Rogue, a character who often rebels against the status quo -- as she did when she returned to the Xavier Academy and found Emma Frost acting as a teacher and administrator there.
Again, though, there are wheels within wheels. "He said to take a lot of pictures..."
Kitty's dialogue raises more questions about what's going on in the "Age of X" reality. Legacy asks her what she saw outside of the walls of Fortress X and Kitty replies that she saw nothing and she was told to take a lot of pictures. So, is it possible that the blank photographs on the digital camera are literally pictures of what Kitty actually saw outside the walls of Fortress X?
That does seem to be what Kitty is saying. And if so, it sounds like a smoking gun of some kind...
Rogue mysteriously seems to know who Professor X is just seconds after seeing his face.
Yes -- despite the fact that she's never met him before in the "Age of X" reality. So you have to assume at this point that the memories she's drawing on come from some other source, or else have been suppressed in some way. In terms of the snowball rolling downhill, she's now reached terminal velocity.
Here, Legacy is sort of coming down from using Professor's X telepathy and someone is thinking hard about smashing something. Who's actually thinking this thought?
We don't know, and I can't say -- since it's hugely relevant to the larger mystery. We do get to find out, over the next couple of chapters, what "it" is and what "smashing it" might entail. Rogue makes some guesses of her own in chapter 3, when she's describing all this to...someone else.
In the middle panel, Danger mentions that Legacy has attacked the inhabitants of Fortress X with a mutant power whose modality is unknown. Does this mean none of the Fortress X mutants have the power of telepathy?
Exactly. We've seen some mutants with telepathy, but they're all in the brig. None of the mutants in the general population, as it were, none of them who are out there interacting with each other actually have telepathy or have ever encountered telepathy. The closest they've come is through, say, Chamber, who can speak through a form of mind-sending, or Karma, who can do psychic hijacking. Pure thought-reading isn't in the mix.
In this scene, it looks like the New Mutants are getting ready to enforce the will of Magneto and Danger and take down Legacy with extreme prejudice?
It's the New Mutants minus Cannonball, but with the addition of Dust.
And it's more like they were the ones on security duty that night, so they're answering the call. You're right, though, they don't appear to be interested in taking prisoners. They're very focused and very ruthless. I love this splash, by the way!
CAREY'S FINAL THOUGHTS ON "NEW MUTANTS" #22 AND "X-MEN: LEGACY" #245.
The first issue of "Age of X" was all about defining the status quo and making readers intrigued about how the world got this way and how it operates. This is the issue where we seed clues as to what's going on and set up the puzzles that need to be solved. We've got a mixture of intriguing hints and functional clues, all of which we'll follow forward into act two.
The two issues, taken together, are centered on the character of Legacy. In act two we're going to widen the scope. She's not the point of view character any more, even though she's still central to the events moving forward. We kind of shift outwards and show other people getting involved in this same crisis in different ways. Therefore, we get different kinds of insights into what's going on.
CAREY LOOK AHEAD TO "X-MEN:LEGACY" #246", PART THREE OF "AGE OF X"
This issue is all about Legacy on the run, with the New Mutants hot on her trail with instructions to bring her down. As that process rolls out, people pick sides and the ripples spread...