In the last month's issue of Marvel Comics' "Generation Hope" series, writer Kieron Gillen and guest artist Jamie McKelvie gave Marvel's next generation of mutants a mission. The five mutants: Laurie Tromette, Gabriel Cohuelo, Idie Okonkwo, Teon Savko, Kenji Uedo and their leader, the reputed mutant messiah Hope Summers, will now seek out and attempt to rescue mutants that recently began popping up all over the world. The story also examined Hope's relationship with the other X-Men as well as her team's relationships with each other. CBR News spoke with Gillen about the issue and the series newest storyline, which kicked off this week with the release of issue #6.
In "Generation Hope" #5, the titular character approached Cyclops with her plan for her team: to continue doing the thing that originally brought the cast of the book together by seeking out and rescuing newly active mutants who have been put in danger by the manifestation of their powers. Of course, given that Hope was raised in a variety of dystopian futures by her time traveling militaristic father, Cable, her idea of a "rescue team" might be different from other people.
"Hope feels a rescue team does whatever needs to be done to get someone rescued," Gillen told CBR News. "'Generation Hope' is an incredibly optimistic comic in some ways, but there're a lot of disturbing undertones. There's the loyalty Hope engenders and the way Hope approaches common problems. She very much is her father's daughter, in many ways. So the scene with her in issue #5, where she's teaching the other characters to fire automatic weapons, was quite funny to me. It's also disturbing. That's what I like about it. There's this idea that you can protect in different ways. The final image of Laurie with the assault rifle staying on the practice range longer and treating firearms the same way she used to treat her studies makes me both worried and entertained by the character."
After Hope laid out her vision for her team, Gillen and McKelvie ended the issue with the assembled group walking off camera, an image designed to highlight the current dynamic of the team. Teon and Gabriel are to Hope's right, apparently enthusiastic about the direction Hope has steered them in., Laurie is to Hope's left, seemingly doubtful of Gabriel's bluster. Kenji and Idie, the team's two most troubled souls, follow behind the others, not really feeling part of the moment.
"Gabriel is the upbeat Human Torch or Spider-Man type in the group. He gets on most people's nerves," Gillen said. "The thing with Laurie is, she's the one that's most aware that this isn't a normal life. This isn't what she'd normally be doing, but she finds herself compelled to do it anyway. Gabriel is the opposite of Laurie. For him it makes perfect sense that he'd try to please Hope, because he'd basically like to get her naked," Gillen said laughing. "In issue #6, you'll see Kenji is also quite vocal. So Kenji, Laurie and Gabriel are the three who spar the most.
"Kenji is about as troubled as you can get, though, and Idie is one of the hardest characters to write in 'Generation Hope,'" Gillen continued. "That's because Idie doesn't say a whole lot. I started the first issue with an Idie monologue because I was aware she wouldn't be brought out of her shell for a while. She's someone who takes a while to come into herself and she's always going to be a bit quiet. I like that because when she speaks, it's quite impactful. It's almost kind of scary. It can scare you in a funny way or a way that genuinely makes you worried for her. Or everyone else."
Gillen's long term plans for "Generation Hope" involve focusing more on the taciturn mutant from Nigeria. "Idie is the character I did the most research about. I looked into the present day situation in Nigeria and lots of stuff about the culture and history of the country. She has been a little bit of a wallflower, so she's someone I want to illuminate a bit more," Gillen explained. "Idie is the character who grows the most in issues #10 and #11, which are mainly about her, but she does some key development between now and then."
Before Gillen's Idie spotlight, he'll shed more light on the mysterious and atavistic Teon. Readers were given a glimpse into how the primal mutant's mind works in "Generation Hope" #5 when Teon surprised his team mates by grabbing a pistol and shot several bullseyes on the gun range so his team could quit target practice early and go to lunch.
"A standard riff in X-Men is dealing with a physically weird mutation -- that's sort of what Kenji is now. But with Teon, it's his mind that's completely different. He's a different sort of consciousness. Issue #5 was our first real strong hint that there's something more to Teon's thought process. It definitely comes into play in the next three issues. The Teon you know now and the Teon you'll understand at the end of issue #8 are very different people," Gillen said. "I say something about what's going on with Teon in that issue. Whether or not you choose to believe it is a different thing all together -- which is something I want people to do, as there should be question marks over all these characters. I wanted to write a character based on instinct instead of one based around conscious thought. Gabriel has described Teon as the modern primitive, and he is that, in a way. How far could you take an instinctive person in this world now, and how do we respond to someone who really isn't quite like us? That makes him more than just a hairy guy who sniffs people's butts."
"Generation Hope" #5 was about the team's relationship to the X-Men as a, group and the team's relationship to each other, but Gillen also took time though to examine the ways various X-Men felt towards Hope. The young mutant messiah has many feeling strange and heated emotions. In one surprising scene, it became quite clear that the usually haughty Emma Frost is afraid of Hope.
"We'll address Hope's relationship with Emma, which is very unique, soon. We've seen that Emma is kind of afraid of her. She kind of stumbles over herself around her," Gillen remarked. "Can you imagine her doing this with any of the other X-Characters? We'll be examining the reasons for this in the 'Fear Itself' tie-in of 'Uncanny X-Men.'"
Hope also appeared to make the normally fearless Wolverine uneasy too, but for unclear reasons. In issue #5, she confronted him about the fact that he's been avoiding her, inquiring why he's doing it. He refused to give her an answer.
"Wolverine's feelings towards Hope is one of the mysteries I wanted in the book. Wolverine is the spine of the X-Men, but he's literally divorcing himself from any action involving Hope," Gillen stated. "This sort of comes to a head in issue #539 of 'Uncanny X-Men,' which is a stand-alone issue. The story is basically that Hope gets kidnapped by a de-powered mutant. Since a mutant messiah is around, people are going to gravitate towards her. This is somebody who has a lot at stake and is hoping to get a future, so Wolverine goes to rescue her. That immediately forces Hope to press for an answer on what his big deal is, and by the end of the issue, the big deal is revealed. It sets the stage for their relationship going forward.
"I will say, Wolverine has really good reasons for why he's treating Hope this way. I don't think anyone has guessed what's going on yet, but when Wolverine reveals why he's doing this, I think it will make perfect sense," Gillen continued. "I'm hoping that issue will be sort of like my recent 'Batroc' one-shot in that it gives a true portrayal of how someone would feel, but it's not something they would have immediately realized in advance."
Not every member of the X-Men was frightened by Hope and her teammates, however. Kitty Pryde, for one, appeared quite interested in helping the young mutant team navigate the world of the X-Men and the larger Marvel Universe. "In issue #6, we'll establish that Rogue is no longer their liaison to the X-Men. Kitty will be," Gillen said. "There's a reason for that, which we'll also establish."
Issue #5 also showed that Hope had drawn the attention of a former member of the X-Men. In the issue, she receives a letter from Beast, who believes that the militaristic environment of Utopia is bad for her mental health and urges her to leave.
"It's interesting because Beast doesn't really know Hope. He just sort of hopes she's different. He must feel strongly to write her like this, but he doesn't tell her exactly what's going on or why she should leave the X-Men. He doesn't want to betray Scott, but he's clearly uncomfortable with someone who is supposedly as powerful as Hope being under Cyclops' power," Gillen remarked. "That was one of the first scenes I wrote for this issue. When I had the idea for this story, I sat down and wrote that letter. Beast is one of my favorite characters, and this is certainly him at his most awkward and questionable. You can imagine him sitting down to write the letter, trying to decide how he's going to do it. He must have spent hours on that letter, making sure every word is the way he wants it to be."
Gillen only had so much room in the series' fifth issue to explore Hope's relationship with various X-Men, leaving some confrontations for later. One character he'd like to have her interact with in upcoming issues of "Generation Hope" or "Uncanny X-Men" is Cannonball, a mutant who was very close to her father, Cable, when he was the leader of the original incarnation of X-Force. "Sam [Guthrie] has been really, really busy as of late," the writer said. "It would be very interesting to write some interactions between him and Hope, though."
Gillen spent the first five issues of "Generation Hope" establishing his cast of characters, their dynamic with each other and with other X-Men while defining what the team will do moving forward. In issue #6, on sale now, he and regular series artist Salva Espin send the the team on their first mission.
"The next storyline runs through issues six, seven and eight. Basically, it's their first real mission. They go to try and resolve this situation, and immediately there are problems. It begins almost cheerfuly. The team has a mission, and then it just takes on complications," Gillen said. "In issue #8, something they've done comes back and bites them. It's about Teon and examines the question of whether or not Teon should be with the group. The core questions in issue #8 are, is Teon mentally capable? And should he be returned to his family? It's primarily a courtroom drama."
"Generation Hope" #8 will be followed by special stand-alone issue that once again teams Gillen with his friend and long time collaborator, artist Jamie McKelvie. "It's an emotional issue that I feel quite anxious about writing. If I mess up, it's more than just writing a bad comic; it's writing a bad comic about something that needs to be treated seriously. The last thing I want to do is an after school special," Gillen said. "So it's Jamie and me. There's a synergy in the way we work together. This is something that's direct and emotional and plays to both strengths. Years from now, if you have to burn all your issues of 'Generation Hope' and keep just one, I think this will be the one that everyone keeps. Not to oversell it, but this is my definitive statement of what the book is about and why the characters matter. It also allows us to talk about the world at large."
In "Generation Hope" #10 Gillen kicks off a two-part tie-in with the upcoming X-Men event, "Schism." "'Generation Hope' characters are key to what happens there. It's an emotional tale that supports what Jason [Aaron] is doing in the main book. When I say emotional, it can come of as quite ambiguous, but my goal with those types of stories is to make people give a damn. At the end of issue #5, we saw the team on top, thinking they couldn't fail. When we get to issue #11, though, things are going to be really hard for them," Gillen stated. "In issue #5, Hope says to Professor X that the X-Men have moved beyond the traditional Magneto/Xavier dichotomy. This is a very much a new stage they're moving into. On the other hand, Hope doesn't know that much about mutant history because she's somebody who hasn't lived through it. By issue #11, some of the cold realities of mutants in the Marvel Universe come painfully into play."
The months ahead will be a busy and exciting time for both the cast of "Generation Hope" and the readers with the next four issues being some of Gillen's favorite work that he's done during his time at Marvel. "The book has really found its heart, and I think that's what's going to come across," the writer said. "One of the weird things about 'Generation Hope' is that issue #5 is really issue #1. Normally, you get the team together, they go on their first mission and they come back. We started on our first mission, and I think if people went back and read the first three issues now that they know the characters, they're going to get something completely different than when they were reading it through for the first time.
"Now we're moving forward and looking for way to make these young mutants upset. Because if they're X-Men, they're going to have to get used to that."