In the early '90s, Marvel Comics' X-Men team had grown large enough to split into two separate groups. The adventures of the "Blue" team ,which consisted of Cyclops, Rogue, Wolverine, Psylocke, Beast and Gambit unfolded in the then-newly launched "X-Men" series, while the exploits of the "Gold" team of Storm, Archangel, Colossus, Bishop, Jean Grey and Iceman were chronicled in "Uncanny X-Men." Each group would have their own adventures while only occasionally overlapping. It was a short but fan-favorite era of X-Men history.
These days, the X-Men's roster has become even bigger than during the Blue and Gold era. thanks to most of the world's remaining mutants now living on the X-Men's island-based mutant sanctuary, Utopia. Chances are, if you live on Utopia you're a member of the X-Men or one one of its related teams. In the current "Monstrous" arc of "Astonishing X-Men," by writer Daniel Way and artist Jason Pearson, the X-Team composed of Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost and Armor are embroiled in an adventure that's taken them to dangerous locale known as Monster Island.
What happens, however, when second crisis arises that demands the X-Men's immediate attention? That question is answered in May's "Astonishing X-Men" #38, which kicks of a parallel story by writer Christos Gage and artist Juan Bobillo that stars Storm, Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Beast, Agent Brand of S.W.O.R.D. and Lockheed the dragon. CBR News spoke with Gage about the story which will rotate with Way's story on an issue by issue basis.
CBR News: Christos, you've written the X-Men playing off other characters before like Spider-Man and the Hulk. What's it like to be tackling a book where the spotlight is firmly on the team? Intimidating? Fun? Or a little bit of both?
Christos Gage: A bit of both -- this is a title that's had some pretty serious talent work on it in the past, so it's certainly intimidating to follow them -- but mostly fun. I grew up on the Claremont/Byrne X-Men -- that's what got me hooked on comics. "Astonishing" focuses on many of those characters, so it was a dream come true for me to write it. And getting to script the Kitty/Lockheed reunion was wonderful. The stories where they met, fought the Brood and first interacted are some of the most fondly remembered comics of my life.
These days, the cast of characters who can be considered X-Men is quite huge. How did you go about choosing your individual X-Men members for this story? Did you aim mainly for characters you just really wanted to write, or were other factors involved as well?
Well, the roster was dictated by looking at the traditional cast of "Astonishing X-Men," minus the ones appearing in Daniel Way's story that occurs at the same time. It just happens that the "Astonishing" characters are the X-Men I'm most attached to -- which isn't really a surprise, because Joss Whedon chose the cast and he and I grew up loving the same comics. Agent Brand is the exception -- she's a new character he created. He might just know a thing or two about creating interesting characters, because she's a lot of fun to write as well.
In addition to your three X-Men, you also have Beast, Lockheed and Agent Brand who are agents of the intelligence agency known as S.W.O.R.D. It's been a while since we've checked in with that organization. So how are things running with S.W.O.R.D. when your story begins? Is Beast making like other Marvel heroes and splitting his time between S.W.O.R.D. and Steve Rogers' Secret Avengers team? Or is he pulled back into S.W.O.R.D. for the events of this story?
S.W.O.R.D. is continuing with its mission of being the "border police" between Earth and extraterrestrial beings, really protecting both sides from each other and engaging in diplomatic activity with visitors to our planet. Beast is a member of both S.W.O.R.D. and the Avengers, much in the same way Spider-Woman is. Unlike Brand, he doesn't go to work in space everyday, but when he's needed, he responds to the call. And he's definitely needed now.
How would you describe the dynamic between the three X-Men and the three S.W.O.R.D. agents when they come together? I imagine it might be a bit contentious since Beast left the X-Men in anger and Kitty and Lockheed haven't seen each other in a while. Or is this a reunion of old friends?
Beast's conflict is really with Cyclops, so there isn't a ton of friction with the X-Men he's teaming with here. With Kitty and Lockheed, it's a different story. She found out he was deceiving her, working as a double agent for S.W.O.R.D. without telling her, and that felt like a betrayal. Then she got stuck on that giant bullet. So they haven't spoken since, even though she's been back on Earth for a bit. I think that right there shows there's some residual tension between them. Their reunion was one of the major draws of the story for me. I loved writing that scene!
Overall, what is your story about, whose perspective is it told from and how many parts is it?
It's about the greater good conflicting with the needs of individuals and the hard choices we have to make. It's about the nature of evil and how we respond to it. It's from all our heroes' perspectives and it's three issues.
The Brood are the antagonists of your story. What do you find most interesting about these characters and what what is it that makes the Brood good foils for your protagonists?
The Brood are fantastic villains because they're slimy, horrible killing machines who like to infect people with their larvae and watch them suffer an agonizing death as they turn into baby Brood creatures. That's awesome villain material right there. What is extra-compelling to me is, in this story, we're going to see that the old standby method of dealing with the Brood -- kill 'em all -- will not fly. I don't want to get into spoilers, but anyone expecting the standard Brood story is in for a surprise.
Since the Brood are involved, is this a story that takes place in outer space or is the action Earthbound?
It takes place in space, in orbit -- with the constant threat that it might spread to Earth!
Who are some of the important supporting players in this story? Specifically, will we see any of the characters from Kieron Gillen's "S.W.O.R.D." series?
Aside from Lockheed and Brand, there aren't going to be any supporting characters from that series -- there'll be S.W.O.R.D. agents, but not ones we've previously seen. The cast was big enough already!
What do you feel Juan Bobillo brings to your story as an artist?
Well, anyone who's read his "She-Hulk" stories with Dan Slott knows Juan has a distinctive style that excels in expressing character,which is crucial for a story like this. What I'm looking forward to is giving him some moments to really cut loose with action/horror elements, which I think will be a revelation to American readers.
He's an artist's artist, someone other professionals have a ton of respect for and I look forward to seeing what he does with this story. I can't wait to see his take on the Brood!
How would you describe the tone of this story? It seems like you're dealing with a tale that could be described in Hollywood speak as "X-Men" Meets James Cameron's "Aliens."
Well, I think the similarities between the Ridley Scott/James Cameron Aliens and the Brood are clear, and the story definitely begins with that kind of feel. But as I've alluded to, I wanted to do more than a "heroes hunted on a spaceship by horrible alien monsters" story. Not that there's anything wrong with those, but we've all seen it before and I thought of an interesting twist to it that ties into established Marvel continuity, so things are going to veer off the established path by our second issue. Of course, there will be some creepy alien moments along the way. I'm not made of stone.
Are you interested in sticking around and telling some more "Astonishing X-Men' stories?
Oh, I could always tell more stories with these characters if they want me back. I love these characters and I'm thrilled to be apart of this book and this story -- I hope readers enjoy it!