The recent "Schism" split the X-Men into two separate factions over the role children play in fighting for mutant rights and protecting a world that hates and fears them. Cyclops and the mutants that aligned with him believe every mutant must play a part regardless of age, while Wolverine and his X-Men believe younger mutants must be protected, trained, and allowed to choose whether they want to fight when they come of age.
To that end, Wolverine reopened the X-Men's old headquarters in Westchester, New York and christened it the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. One might think the academic setting of the Jean Grey School would lend itself to a quieter lifestyle for the X-Men who have become teachers at the school. That hasn't been the case, though, especially for Rogue, Rachel Grey, Frenzy, Gambit, Husk and Cannonball, whose exploits are chronicled by writer first issue of Gage's run these characters had to keep the demonic N'Gari from invading the school and in "X-Men Legacy" #261, in stores now, they and their fellow X-Men went toe-to-toe with the powerful mutant known as Exodus. CBR News spoke with Gage about his plans for the series which include a trip to Utopia, a story involving two members of Norman Osborn's now defunct Dark X-Men, and a tie-in to the event.
CBR News: Christos, after reading your first two issues of "X-Men Legacy" I've spotted some similarities between it and your other monthly ongoing Marvel series, "Avengers Academy." The obvious one is that both books feature a school setting, but it also seems that "X-Men Legacy," like "Avengers Academy," stars a core set of characters, but its stories often feature a whole bunch of other supporting players. Do these similarities make writing "Legacy" easier or harder?
Christos Gage: Those are indeed similarities. However, while "Legacy" is based at a school, the focus is on the adults, while in "Academy," the focus is on the students. So that different emphasis keeps it from feeling repetitive. On the other hand, my work juggling large numbers of characters in "Academy" (and before it, "Initiative") does make it easier to move supporting players in and out of the stories.
For example, the Exodus three-parter currently running in "Legacy" has a fairly prominent role for Wolverine, whereas he's absent from the subsequent two arcs. And occasionally various students come in and out. That doesn't faze me at all.
One of the chief characters in "Legacy" is Rogue, who had a hard time making up her mind which X-Men branch to join when Wolverine and Cyclops split. Now that she has, though, she seems confident, dedicated, and more self assured. That appears to be mainly because of the students. Why do you think that is? What do you think teaching does for Rogue?
I think Rogue's struggle with the "Schism" wasn't so much over what side to choose but rather the fact that it was happening at all. It hurt her to see two men she liked and respected so much in Cyclops and Wolverine disagreeing so strongly, and to see the X-Men divided. It was especially tough on her to leave Magneto in the early stages of their burgeoning yet largely undefined relationship, before she'd had a chance to sort out her feelings about him.
That said, I think she was always going to go to the Grey School. She had been working with the X-Men's younger kids for a long time, and I think it gave her a feeling of doing something positive while at the same time giving kids in situations similar to hers when she was young -- often confused and scared by their powers -- opportunities she never had. It's good for her and it's good for the kids. I think she feels better about her role in the world -- what she's doing with her life -- than maybe she ever has.
We've seen Rogue interacting with Rachel Grey quite a bit and the two seem to have become pretty close friends, but you haven't had a whole lot of time to spend with Rachel by herself. Right now she seems okay, but how did all those months in space fighting intergalactic wars as a member of the Star Jammers affect her character.
That's a good question. Rachel seems pretty solid, as you mention. That may be because she had a good relationship with Korvus while in space, but now that's apparently over. Keep an eye on both "Legacy" and "Wolverine & the X-Men" to see if any cracks develop.
Another character you've been doing interesting things with in "Legacy" is Frenzy. What do you find most interesting about her? What do you think is her primary motivation these days? And why after the heartbreak of "Age of X," where she woke up to discover her relationship with Cyclops was a lie, is she making moves on a seemingly emotionally unavailable guy like Gambit?
I've always been a sucker for characters who are seeking redemption, and Frenzy is most definitely one. I think her primary motivation right now is to be a hero, the kind of person she was in the world of "Age of X." An interesting catch is that in "Age of X" she was protecting and defending mutants, not humans. As a former mutant supremacist, she hasn't really addressed how she feels about protecting a world that hates and fears her. We'll be exploring that coming up.
I think that her struggle after discovering her relationship with Cyclops, which meant so much to her in "Age of X," was an illusion is the very reason she shared a kiss with Gambit. It was implied back in the '90s that they had met before joining the X-Men, when both were freelance mercenaries and that they were both enemies and lovers. It's not terribly uncommon for people who are emotionally vulnerable to turn to an old flame for comfort; even if they know there are probably pretty good reasons that old flame is not a current flame. I think she and Gambit are in a similar place emotionally, and it'll be intriguing to see where it goes, if anywhere.
We've also seen that Husk and Cannonball don't exactly agree on some of the smaller policy decisions being made at the Jean Grey School. So in your mind how comfortable are these two characters with teaching at a school? Is there a sense that they made the right or wrong choice?
I think the specific policy issues they've argued about are less important than Cannonball feeling his sister is avoiding dealing with problems of her own, and her wanting to be left alone. Recently she's started shedding flakes of skin almost constantly, and also changing form any time she starts to feel uncomfortable with how she feels -- in Cannonball's view, running away from her feelings rather than addressing them. He's used to tackling things head on. So even though they care about each other as siblings, there's some tension between them right now.
We've talked about your core cast. Let's talk a little bit about some of your supporting players. In recent issues that means the students at the Jean Grey School. Are there any students that you find particularly interesting and want to focus on more or develop over the next few months?
There are some students I like a lot -- Rockslide, Glob Herman, Anole, Mercury, Blindfold. And I may well incorporate them into stories. But I feel like Jason Aaron is doing a great job focusing on the school and its students in "Wolverine & the X-Men," so I'll probably keep things tilted toward the faculty, unless a specific story calls for a student to have a role -- as they often do.
You kicked off your inaugural arc in "Legacy" #261 by having the villain Exodus return to menace the X-Men. Formerly one of Magento's Acolytes, he's now a "champion" for mutant unity. Given Exodus' history as a medieval crusader, it seems like once he takes up a cause he takes it up wholeheartedly, correct? And what does that mean for the mutants of Utopia that he flew off to attack at the end of #261?
Exodus is indeed a crusader who will fight to the death for what he believes in -- his own death, or someone else's, it doesn't really matter. I felt like bringing him back seemed natural, since when we last saw him, he dissolved the Acolytes and went on [a] walkabout to deal with the fact that he had to admit it was necessary for mutants, their numbers reduced post-Decimation, to come together and unite, regardless of their varying philosophies. And now we have the Schism -- they've split up again, which he sees as a fatal mistake. So he's going to make them band together again, and he has decided the best way to do that is to kill Cyclops. He figures that without [Cyclops], the others will reunite.
Despite their disagreements, Wolverine and the other Grey School faculty don't want Cyclops killed. Wolverine would also prefer not to call Cyclops and say, "Hey, heads up, we just got you in a jam," because he feels that would bolster Cyclops' arguments and make the Schism even more pronounced. He wants to catch up to Exodus and clean up his own mess. Rogue feels differently -- she thinks it's only fair to warn Utopia of the approaching danger. So we're going to see a bit of tension in issue #262.
Just how powerful is Exodus?
It's very high. He's not omnipotent, but he's definitely one of the most powerful mutants on Earth. And looking back, I realized we'd never really seen an all-out, knock-down, drag-out fight between him and the X-Men, so I decided to write one!
What else can you tell us about the Exodus storyline which continues in "Legacy" #262-263? From the solicits it sounds like we'll see our first post-Schism interaction between the two X-Men teams.
I already alluded to the dissension between Wolverine and Rogue--and yes, this storyline will see the first direct interaction between the two X-Men camps post-Schism. The question is, which Utopia mutants will it be -- and how will that affect the relationships between the two factions?
It looks like after the Exodus storyline you're writing a tale featuring two former members of Norman Osborn's now defunct Dark X-Men, Mimic and Weapon Omega. What can you tell us about this story, and what was it about these characters that made you want to bring them into the book?
I've been a Mimic fan for ages. I just think he's an awesome character with a cool look. I'm also a sucker for characters who have failed to live up to their potential, as anyone who read my takes on Johnny Guitar, Constrictor and Taskmaster in "Avengers: The Initiative" knows, and these two fit the bill. They're tremendously powerful, but personal circumstances and aspects of their personalities have made them easily manipulated by others and prone to bad mistakes. Their abilities are also similar to Rogue's, and given that she's our lead character I thought it would be interesting to compare their similarities and differences. At its core, this is a story about two very good friends who have seen some rough times, and how far they'll go to help each other.
That story wraps up in April and then in May you kick off your "Avengers Vs. X-Men" tie-in. What does that event mean for "X-Men: Legacy?" How will you be approaching it in this series and which characters will play prominent roles?
"X-Men Legacy" will actually have at least three distinct stories over the course of "AvX." First up, we'll see what happens when a group of Avengers, including She-Hulk, arrives at the school in the wake of the battle at Utopia to see where the faculty stands in the conflict. Looking at Mark Brooks' awesome Rogue vs. She-Hulk cover, I have a feeling there'll be some punches thrown. After that, we'll do a done-in-one focusing on Frenzy, revealing some of her backstory that's never been shown before. Beyond that, I can't say anything without getting in trouble!
Fair enough. Let's finish up then by talking about your art team on the book. It looks like David Baldeon, who's drawing the current story with Exodus, will be sharing pencilling duties with Rafa Sandoval on "X-Men: Legacy." Is that the plan?
Yes. David has been blowing away the fans with his dynamic style. Rafa, my old partner in crime from "Initiative," is doing amazing work as well. Readers will see [that] in the Mimic/Omega story and the first chapter of the "AvX" issues.
What I especially like is that our indefatigable inker, Jordi Tarragona, is inking both of them and Sonia Oback is lending her amazing colors to every issue, so there's a visual consistency throughout the book, even with our frequent two-issues-a-month schedule.
And Editor Daniel Ketchum has been great to work with -- we talk on the phone all the time and bat around ideas, challenging ourselves to stretch our creative muscles, both giving the readers what they expect and surprising them. An all-out action storyline like the Exodus arc may be followed by a more character-based, introspective tale. We're giving it our best, so I hope the readers enjoy it -- I want to thank everyone who's given their feedback so far, and I hope they'll keep doing so!
"X-Men Legacy" #262 hits stores February 22.