This article contains major spoilers for "X-Men: Legacy" #247, in stores now
Because of advances in things like special effects, marketing and the way information is spread, it can be very hard to separate reality from fantasy. In the Marvel Universe, it's doubly difficult due to the existence of people who have the power to alter reality or create complex illusions with their thoughts. In the current seven-part "Age of X" crossover running through "X-Men: Legacy" and "New Mutants," the cast of characters are attempting to unravel a mystery that will tell them if their world is real or an elaborate fantasy created by a god-like being.
When "Age of X" began, it appeared to be taking place in an alternate reality ruled by a violent anti-mutant coalition who used their authority to prevent the X-Men from ever forming before embarking on a crusade to exterminate mutants. The physically and psychologically scarred survivors of the purges banded together behind a massive fortress assembled by their general, Magneto.
As the crossover unfolded, the very nature of this reality became questionable. And in "X-Men: Legacy" #247, writer Mike Carey and artist Clay Mann revealed the truth behind the mystery of what's really happening in the "Age of X." In today's installment of X-COMMUNICATED, Mike Carey joins us for commentary and inside info on the issue, the penultimate chapter of the crossover. If you're just joining us you can get caught up with these links to our discussions about "Age of X: Alpha" -- the prologue to the crossover, and parts one, two, three and four of the story. While we wait for you, we'll make sure our psychic anti-bodies are under control!
CBR News: Mike, you kick things off with an inner monologue from a character you know really well but haven't had a chance to write in a while -- Professor Charles Xavier , the original protagonist of "X-Men: Legacy." What's it like stepping back into the head of Professor X?
Mike Carey: It's always a huge pleasure. Professor X is one of my favorite X-Men for a lot of reasons. He's a very cool character to write.
I think he's one of the most sympathetic characters in the X-verse. He's terribly flawed, but his idealism, courage and vision made the X-Men possible. You can trace everything back to him. Plus, he's intelligent and I like the more intelligent and cerebral X-Men. I think his solemn voice-over plays well against big widescreen action. So yeah, it was a lot fun going back to Professor X here. He felt like the right choice for the act three narrator.
Moira and the computerized voice known only as X are revealed to be the same character. Later, this character is revealed to be the architect of the "Age of X" reality. Apparently, the title "Age of X" is a telling one after all.
Yeah, it went to the heart of things, which is why we chose it. Obviously, it referenced "Age of Apocalypse," too, and that was also very cool, but we liked it mainly because it contained a huge steer as to what was really going on in the story, who was masterminding events.
In this scene, we have another confrontation between Canonball and Basilisk, the identity that Cyclops assumed in this reality. Basilisk has active questions about this reality and wants to explore them, but Cannonball wants everyone to sort of cling to what they've become accustomed to.
I don't think it's as simple as that. I think what we're seeing here is a clash of personalities, but it's also a clash of roles, and the roles are probably the deciding factor. I think if Scott was where Sam was and had the same responsibilities on him that Sam has, he'd probably make the same call that Sam is making. But at the end of the day, Basilisk is a maverick. He's a rebel. He's somebody who chafes under authority. So it's very easy for him at this point to defy authority and say, "I want the truth."
Sam has the lives of everyone in the fortress directly resting on his shoulders and he's been part of this quasi-military structure for three years, at least in his own subjective time. He's been carrying out this role of field commander for that time, and I think for that reason it's a lot harder for him to say, "Okay. Let's try something new. Let's throw this away and look at things from a different direction."
That's interesting. It's currently unclear if any of the characters will remember the events of "Age of X," but it seems if they do, Cyclops should have a new found respect for Wolverine, since he's basically playing his role in this reality.
[Laughs] Yes, he is. That's true. So this was a fun role-reversal to write. We were playing around with a lot of that stuff; role reversals and role swapping.
Here, Gambit and Legacy/Rogue appear seriously outmatched in their fight with the Moira/X entity. The entity says, "God is omnipresent" right before it takes down Rogue. So I'm wondering, just how powerful it is? Since the entity is a product of Legion's mind, does it have all of Legion's powers?
I would say no, because if Moira had telepathy, this situation would never have arisen. She is a new Legion persona formed as a direct result of a specific stress; a specific trauma. Her power -- like Proteus' power -- is reality manipulation. Clearly, that includes a certain amount of psychological manipulation, too. She can reach inside people's heads and mess with their memories, but I don't think she can read minds on a sort of minute by minute basis. So I don't think she has the full range of Legion's powers: if she did, she really would be God. But she thinks of herself as God in a sense ,because she made this world and she owns it
The relationship between Professor X and his son Legion, David Haller, is often a contentious one, but with the second to last panel on this page, Professor X reminds Legion and the readers that it's not always been that way.
That was a flashback to their tearful reconciliation at the end of that first "New Mutants" arc which introduced Legion. And of course, while we're talking about their past history together, let's not forget why Legion carried out the actions that accidentally started the "Age of Apocalypse." That was very much because he believed in his father's vision and wanted to remove Magneto as an obstruction to that vision. So I think there has been a closeness between father and son, and I think potentially there still is.
How important do you think Legion is to his father? And when he's experiencing a moment of mental clarity, how does David feel about his dad?
We haven't seen them together very much since they both came back into the X-Men fold, as it were. I suspect Professor X is someone that's difficult to get close to in that way because there's a sense in which he's a parental figure to all of mutantkind. So I think it's harder for him than it would be for many men to actually be a father and express a fatherly love, particularly since he didn't know Legion was his son until Legion was practically an adult. I think they love each other, but I don't think it's easy for either one of them to say so or find ways of showing it.
Here, we get a glimpse of how the Moira/X entity came about and what its true form looks like. It appears to be sort of psychic defense mechanism Legion's mind cooked up to help him deal with the pain and mental anguish brought on by the death of his other personas.
Yes, I think it's exactly that, and it's been the case all along with Legion. His new personalities are reactive. His personality disorder is a reactive disorder. When something painful, traumatic and difficult to deal with happens to him, part of his mind breaks off to take the impact of that event, whatever it might be. In this case, we're talking about an incredible level of trauma; the repeated loss of parts of his own mind and personality. Even though he's consciously consented to it, this is something that's very, very difficult for him to deal with. This creature is his subconscious response to that trauma.
We know this persona is angry and perhaps even insane with pain, but is it evil? Or do you think it's a bit more sympathetic?
That's a good question. Obviously what it does is evil, but I think its primary motivation is self defense. It's acting to protect its host, Legion. There are some scenes between Xavier and Moira next issue which explore that aspect of the situation. She feels everything she's done was justified and for the best. So at the end of the day, I think it's a tough call.
We also see on this page that the entity originally took the guise of Moira MacTaggart as a way of distracting Professor X. I assume it then kept Moira's form because it was a calming influence on Legion.
Moira isn't just a calming influence, she's someone he loves and trusts. So there's a whole range of advantages for the creature to take and keep that form. It becomes a very easy way into a close relationship of trust with Legion.
On this page, we get confirmation that the X-Men haven't been fighting a three year long battle against the human coalition in another reality. Instead, the X-Men of Earth 616, the main Marvel reality, have been prisoners in a reality constructed by Moira/X about a week ago. The divergent point of this manufactured reality was that the X-Men were never formed. Was this the entity taking a jab at Xavier?
It was a direct shot at Xavier, which I think shows that -- despite what we were saying earlier about David and Charles loving each other -- there are also subconscious reservations there. So this is some part of Legion's personality that has a grudge against Professor X and sees him as a threat rather than a friend or ally. Of course, it's wider than that: removing Prof. X weakens the bonds between the X-Men and makes it easier to control them within this invented scenario.
The X-Men may have only been trapped in this reality for seven days, but to them, it's felt like like several years. I assume that if and when things go back to normal, the memories of this reality will be pretty traumatic.
Yeah, I think it will be devastating. If you think about the relationships that have been formed, just on that level there are going to be all kinds of after-shocks. For example, the fact that Storm, who is married in the real world, has been having a relationship with another man for what feels like three years. We've also got the relationship between Cyclops and Frenzy. There's a lot of stuff like that, and it will leave scars. It has to leave scars. We'll start to see how some of the characters deal with the fall-out in "Legacy" #248.
When "Age of X" began, it appeared to be an alternate reality mystery story. Now that the mystery has been solved, we know the story was set in a distorted reality instead of an alternate one. Where did the idea to do a story like that come from?
It came out of a long and fruitful series of conversations with Daniel Ketchum, my editor on the book. He kept asking me tough questions, and I kept coming up with answers that took us to interesting places. As you know, I originally had a much smaller story in mind. It was going to be about bringing back a lot of old X-Men teams. Then we realized we would need a scenario that sort of changed the ground rules and allowed that to happen. Then I came up with the Legion idea as the MacGuffin; the plot device that would get us where we wanted to be. Daniel and I started to rough out some parameters for how that would work and what the consequences would be, and the story grew from there. It just got bigger and bigger
Here, Xavier talks about how the Moira/X entity created the "Age of X" reality as a place for Legion to be a hero. I have to wonder, though, why it chose such a dark, dystopian reality for Legion to be a hero instead of a more pleasant one.
The short answer might be because it's not a happy creature. It's mind is full of darkness and anger and rage and fear. To some extent this world is shaped on those emotions. It's actually easier for the entity to imagine this reality than for it to create a real utopia.
But I think there's a more complicated answer as well. If you think about it, what are the periods of human history that yield the most cohesive, tightly knit societies? In the UK there's a lot of talk even now, 60 odd years after the second World War, about the Dunkirk spirit and the spirit of the blitz. People back then thought that a Nazi invasion was weeks or days away, and when major cities are being bombed on a daily basis, people forgot differences of things like class and religious beliefs and worked together to do things that needed to be done. A powerful, outside threat is a way of making people come together and forget about internal differences and awkward questions to respond to the immediate crisis.
Then the other element, of course, is that in a way, this is a utopia. Legion has everything here. It's a horrible world, but he has fame, adulation and respect. People view him as a true hero. He's absolutely essential to the X-Men. He's playing a core role that he never had in the real world. So it's also a case of being careful what you wish for. The Moira entity is giving him all he ever wanted, but it's made a nightmare rather than a paradise.
CAREY'S FINAL THOUGHTS ON "X-MEN: LEGACY" #247
This was probably the hardest of the six issues to write because so many things are paying off here, and we have to cut away from the action to do the flashback. We had to think very, very hard about structure in this issue. I was really pleased with how it came out.
CAREY LOOKS AHEAD TO "NEW MUTANTS" #24, THE FINAL CHAPTER OF "AGE OF X," ON SALE APRIL 27
Next issue is the end of our story and it's structured around two simultaneous battles. One is between the X-Men and the forces of the human coalition. We now know that they're not real, but they're still there and they still have to be dealt with. Then there's another battle that's going on in a different way against the Moira entity, who still ultimately holds the balance of power here and can still choose what the fate of this world is. I think it's a very large climax and I think there's some things that people won't see coming.