In the Marvel Universe, super powered mutants have always struggled to co-exist with humans who hate and fear them. Often that struggle turns into a battle. When that happens it falls on the X-Men to step up and fight those battles and preserve their founder's dream of a peaceful coexistence between human and mutants.
However, these days the X-Men don't agree over how they should fight those battles. The X-Men's "Schism" caused the group to splinter into two factions operating on different coasts. Operating out of Utopia, the manmade island floating in San Francisco Bay, Cyclops' squad believes it's the duty of all mutants, regardless of their age, to fight for Professor Xavier's dream. The other faction is led by Wolverine and operates out of the X-Men's original headquarters in Westchester, NY, which has been rebuilt and once again serves as a school. They believe younger mutants must be protected from and trained for mutantkind's battles, and when they come of age reserve the right to choose if they want to fight those battles.
The adventures of Wolverine's faction and their Jean Grey School for Higher Learning are chronicled in the monthly "Wolverine & the X-Men" ongoing series written by Jason Aaron. Wolverine's X-Men are currently protecting their new school from an assault by the new, youthful and sinister Hellfire Club. CBR News spoke with Aaron about his plans for the series and the first arc which comes to a conclusion with issue #3, on sale December 21.
The first arc of "Wolverine & the X-Men" deals with the outside world knocking with explosive results on the door of the Jean Grey School, but the action in future stories won't always unfold on school grounds. "We'll see the students and Wolverine and the X-Men getting out into the world for various reasons. These characters are still X-Men and they'll still be doing the same things the X-Men have always done, but of course Wolverine's first goal and mission is to protect and provide for the school," Aaron told CBR News. "This is a book where the scope and scale will change from story to story. Plus, it has a pretty big cast and there's a lot of stuff I want to do with them. You'll see lots of short arcs and stand-alone issues. Things will move along pretty quickly. We're juggling a lot of characters including a lot of enemies, both old and new who are coming back. So there's a lot going on in general."
Balancing a large cast is never an easy thing to do and "Wolverine & the X-Men" is the first team book Aaron has written. The writer is still learning some of the intricacies involved with juggling a cast and intertwining characters' stories.
"So far I've just been trying to introduce everybody and give them at least a little moment to shine. I want to get all the characters on the table and we really won't have everybody on the table until issue #4. A couple of our students pop up for the first time in that issue," Aaron explained. "Everybody isn't going to get their moments in the first couple arcs. This is a book I'm committed to for the long haul though, and these are characters I want to explore over the course of several issues. I'm going to unfold some big character arcs so things are really just getting off the ground right now."
Those character arcs will be part of a wide variety of stories. "I consider 'Wolverine & the X-Men' a mash up of the best elements of all of the different areas of X-Men history; Going back to the original Lee-Kirby school stuff, to the fun of the Claremont-Byrne stuff and certainly the strangeness and big ideas of the Morrison run," Aaron stated. "And we have characters mixed in from even more eras than that; from the beginning all the way up until the most recent."
Aaron began the series dealing with a group of antagonists who were a major element of the most recent era of X-Men history -- the new, youthful Hellfire Club. The writer introduced the club members in the pages of his "X-Men: Schism" miniseries and the brilliant, brutal and vicious children set up the situation resulting in the X-Men's split.
"They're a lot of fun to write and they'll be the main reoccurring villains for the book going forward. They won't be the only villains though. At the end of issue #3 a big time Marvel villain makes an appearance and the arc that begins in issue #5 doesn't involve the Hellfire Club at all," Aaron said. "I like the idea of a group of evil children making money off of mutants being hated and feared, so it makes perfect sense to have them as the main opposition to a school that's trying to train mutants how to live in harmony with humans. There's still a lot to explore with these characters too in terms of who these Hellfire Club kids are.
"We did a little background on them in 'Schism.' That's something that will continue to be explored as we move forward. There are stories there for each one of those characters. They each have very specific backgrounds and history," Aaron continued. "We've already seen hints about one of the characters. We know he's a descendant of the original Doctor Frankenstein. He unleashes an army of Frankenstein monsters in issue #2 and that's not the last time we'll see a Frankenstein monster in the book."
The army of Frankenstein monsters was just one part of an onslaught the Hellfire Club unleashed on the Jean Grey School. The X-Men repelled some of the Hellfire Club's attacks, but their surprise siege on the school left its defenders on the ropes and desperately searching for a way to end the Hellfire Club's assault quickly before anyone gets hurt and the school gets destroyed. In "Wolverine & the X-Men" #3 that desperation causes them to reach out to one of the school's most powerful students for help. Unfortunately for them, that student, Quentin Quire (AKA Kid Omega), also happens to be a juvenile delinquent.
"He was always my favorite character from Morrison's run. He's one of those characters that kind of got shuffled off and lost after Morrison left, so I liked the idea of bringing him back in 'Schism' and setting him close to where he started out. He's an interesting rebel without a cause. He's a super intelligent guy and the X-Men don't even know how powerful he actually is and what all he's capable of. He may not really know himself," Aaron explained "Inside, though, there's a lot more going on. He's a lot more vulnerable and self conscious then he'd ever let on. So he's fun to play with and of course he's the guy that Wolverine blames in large part for setting up things in 'Schism.' So Wolverine brought him along to this school against his will and it's his last chance to prove himself.
"We see that in the opening of issue #3. Wolverine had to lay this out to Captain America because coming out of 'Schism' Quentin Quire was a wanted terrorist," Aaron continued. "This is his last chance to avoid growing up in a jail cell in some S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. We'll have to wait and see if it works or if we end up with Quentin Quire as the X-Men's biggest villain."
Quire isn't the only at risk student at the Jean Grey School. The instructors will have to make sure several other students stay on the straight and narrow as well.
"Right now we have Idie, formerly of 'Generation Hope,' who was the heart of events in 'Schism.' She of course views herself as a monster and all mutants as an aberration. There's Brood, who is a Brood. He's a mutant sympathetic one, but he's still a Brood, which are creatures known for killing and impregnating every being they can get their hands on. And There's Kid Gladiator, who's basically Superboy, but he's as arrogant, spoiled and self centered as you can get," Aaron remarked. "Those guys combined with Quentin Quire make for what is in my eyes an interesting group of students. They could all go different directions. If this school helps them they could become some of the Marvel U's greatest heroes and if it doesn't they could become some of its biggest villains. I think that will be compounded when we see the new students in issue #4. Apparently the school has its work cut out for it."
January's "Wolverine & the X-Men" #4 will also address Wolverine's membership in the covert kill squad X-Force and how it might impact his position as headmaster of the Jean Grey School. It also serves as part two of the epilogue for "The Dark Angel Saga," the recently wrapped story arc of writer Rick Remender's "Uncanny X-Force" series.
"Rick and I talk a lot about stuff. He's picked up and ran with a lot of the threads I had laid down with Deathlok from 'Wolverine: Weapon X' and the Fantomex stuff from my 'Dark Reign' one-shot. So this is the opportunity for me to return the favor and pick up some of his threads," Aaron explained. "One of the questions we asked when we realized Wolverine would be starting a school was how does that affect X-Force? Wolverine has been running this secret squad for months now and how does that Wolverine turn around and go run a school? Thats the big question in issue #4, which ties into 'X-Force' #19. Both those issues are looking at the same question from different sides. The answer may surprise some people."
Issue #4 also features an appearance by an X-Force associate, the cyborg Deathlok Prime, who will have the honor of being the Jean Grey School's first guest lecturer. "He's the first and certainly not the last," Aaron stated. "You never know who will pop up to give a lecture or teach a class given Wolverine's connection to pretty much everybody in the Marvel Universe at this point. Anybody is fair game for a guest spot in 'Wolverine & the X-Men.'"
The unpredictable nature of "Wolverine & the X-Men" makes it a book that can be difficult to draw, but Aaron has been thrilled at the work his artistic collaborators Chris Bachalo and Nick Bradshaw have done thus far. Bachalo finishes his run on the series with issue #3 and Bradshaw takes over the book with issue #4.
"With Chris I actually started to write Marvel style for the first time, which is something I've never done. I figured he was already going with how he felt certain sequences should look so let's give him the freedom to do that for the full issue. So I started writing Marvel style, which is great. It's weird and new and something I've never done before, but when you have an artist of Chris' caliber it makes sense to give them as much freedom as possible. So that's been interesting. Issue #3 is the first issue that was full Marvel style," Aaron said. "Then Nick is a newer guy. A lot of people may not know his work yet, but he's knocking it out of the park on this book. He just seems to excel with the more stuff I give him to do. The bigger, the crazier, and the more intense things are, the better he does. Issue #5 has some of the biggest and most insane visuals in 'Wolverine and the X-Men' yet. He's doing just an amazing job."
February's "Wolverine & the X-Men" #5 kicks off an arc that sees the X-Men deal with some complications of an interstellar nature, and as the New Year continues those otherworldly problems will grow in size and intensity. "In the arc that starts with issue #5 there are a few different stories going on," Aaron explained. "Kitty Pryde is dealing with a strange medical condition. There appear to be Brood in the school, and Wolverine and Quentin Quire have gone off planet to visit an alien casino to try and win enough money to help keep the school open. All those storylines will then start to converge.
"Beyond that, the big time Marvel villain that pops his head up at the end of issue #3 returns and has a big showdown with an X-Men that we've never seen this villain face before. And beyond that, we'll be into 'Avengers Vs. X-Men' territory, which as you can imagine Wolverine will be a big part of. He's right in the middle, torn between both sides," Aaron continued. "Our book will be dealing with his place in that story and the fallout from it. How does 'Avengers Vs. X-Men' affect the school? What about the X-Men that decided to leave Utopia and stand with Wolverine? Where do they fit in to all of this? We're dealing with the Phoenix, and as you can imagine Rachel Grey has a lot of experience with that. She was an avatar for the Phoenix for many years so you can expect her to have a part to play. Characters like Kid Gladiator and Warbird are Shi'Ar and the Shi'Ar have a big connection to the Phoenix as well. There's lots of connective tissue there and it will all be explored."
"Wolverine and the X-Men" #3 by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo is on sale December 21, and #4 by Aaron and Nick Bradshaw hits in January.