[SPOILER WARNING: THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR "UNCANNY X-FORCE" #27, ON SALE NOW.]
In writer Rick Remender's acclaimed "Uncanny X-Force" series for Marvel Comics Wolverine leads the titular team of heroic assassins on secret missions to eliminate some of the Marvel Universe's most dangerous threats. One of the team's biggest strengths is its secret nature. It allows them to catch many of their adversaries off guard.
Knowledge is indeed power, especially when it comes to X-Force, and if knowledge of the team falls into the wrong hands it could be disastrous for them. In "Uncanny X-Force" #27," by Remender and artist Phil Noto, readers glimpsed that disaster firsthand when a new incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants used their inside knowledge of the team to launch a vicious surprise attack against them. CBR News spoke with Remender about the new Brotherhood and what their campaign of terror means for his cast.
The original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was brought together by Magneto to use as soldiers in his battle for mutant liberation and domination. So from their perspective they weren't truly evil. For this latest incarnation of the team Remender wanted to bring together a group of characters for whom the word evil would be a badge of honor instead of a pejorative.
"It's a lot of people who have come to terms with the fact that their motives are solely power and revenge. These guys aren't out to try and save or liberate mutants. They're not out to do anything but empower themselves and make an army, and I like the simplicity of that," Remender told CBR News. "It does lean more into the title Brotherhood of Evil Mutants because it is mustache twirling. The context of their relationship with the characters in X-Force was what was so important to me. If you look at the cast it's very important to me that each member of that cast have a personal connection to our heroes in some way. So X-Force being their first target makes a whole lot of sense. Their plans beyond that will be revealed.
"I started planning this out right when I was finishing writing the end of 'The Dark Angel Saga,'" Remender continued. "So if I wanted to bring a new Brotherhood in and build this I wanted to make sure it wasn't just a lot of cool characters, but that the connections and reasons were all there and to lean into the title evil."
In earlier issues of "Uncanny X-Force" Remender established connections between his cast members and Brotherhood members: The Skinless Man, Amahl Farouk AKA the Shadow King, and the Age of Apocalypse Blob. "The Shadow King was defeated by Psylocke [Betsy Braddock] and imprisoned in her mind for many years. He came face to face with X-Force in issue #8," the writer explained. "We began developing the Skinless Man in our previous 'Otherworld' arc, but I haven't shown much except for how he lost his skin and how Fantomex got those magical screaming bullets. Fantomex has a personal grudge with Skinless Man and vice versa. Those two are not friends.
"In terms of the AoA Blob, he's the big conflict for Nightcrawler. He's the big one that Nightcrawler is sticking around this dimension to kill. He's also aware of this and aware that AoA Nightcrawler is rumbling around in our world and he wants to take him out as well," Remender continued. "He's also somebody, though, who is motivated by base delights. He likes to have an army of people surrounding him and keeping him comfortable as long as they're giving him a place to live, food, and pornography on the Internet."
Several members of the new Brotherhood have connections to and an enmity against Wolverine. In "Uncanny X-Force" #26 Remender revealed how the three members of the new Omega Clan, who possess the powers of Wolverine's deceased foe Omega Red, were brainwashed into wanting him dead. Other members like Sabretooth and Mystique have a long established hatred of Wolverine. They begin working together to make his life miserable in the final arc of writer Jason Aaron's run on "Wolverine."
"Jason is a friend and we talk a lot about how to interconnect this stuff. As big X-Men fans from way back that cohesion between the various books made them feel intertwined. It was really exciting to read one book and see those story lines pop up in another. So that was fun to include and it also made sense for the story I'm telling," Remender remarked. "My sense of the current dynamic between Sabretooth and Mystique is that building off their past relationships they are more than just co-workers. It's almost a 'Wild at Heart' love affair going on with the two of them. It's not healthy and neither one of them necessarily trusts the other one and neither one of them are entirely certain of the other one's motives. They're also in league with the Hand now, and they see that by working together and starting the Brotherhood back up it's very simple. It's domination, revenge and power for them."
In "Uncanny X-Force" #27 another Brotherhood member with a deep loathing of Wolverine revealed himself when Daken, Wolverine's son informed the team that they were caught in a trap he and his fellow Brotherhood members had planned for them. Remender wrote the character once before during his "Punisher" run and is enjoying the chance to revisit the character, especially in the wake of the changes he underwent in the final arc of the "Daken: Dark Wolverine" series.
"Daken used to lean towards villainy but you would see him try to be noble and live up to his father's example in some aspects of his character and actions. So there was always a bit of gray in his actions," Remender said. "Coming out of the events of his series he has decided for a number of reasons that I don't want to spoil yet that he's done fighting his true nature. He's done with frilly suits. He's leaning into the inner feral savage. He's realized now that the person he was raised to be by Romulus and the person he's become is a savage and a monster. He's found contentment in leaning into that. He's found his true calling. He sees it as accepting himself and who he is and no longer trying to be somebody he's not."
Now that he's embraced his inner monster Daken has a very low tolerance for people like his father who pretend that they are something different than a savage beast. "Daken sees his father as a fraud; somebody who is a liar. His father still kills. He still lets the savage out, but he dresses himself up as a super hero to make himself feel better about it," Remender explained. "One thing that I'm trying to examine with this story is that a son will do anything for his father's respect, even kill him."
In the final arc of his self-titled series Daken appeared to have lost his healing factor, which meant he could try to kill his father, but he would not be able to involve himself in the murder in a direct and visceral way. That's no longer a problem though.
"Daken has all of his powers back so he will be able to be part of the Brotherhood's savagery and revenge," Remender said. "You're going to get a lot of him going out with the whole crew to injure his father and make sure his father watches as they kill his friends."
Watching the Brotherhood's attempt to destroy Wolverine and his friends is especially satisfying for Daken because he's the one that brought the latest incarnation of the group together. "He's the one who instigated all of this. This was all part of his decision to lean into who he is, and how better to do that than this? He encountered the Shadow King and found out about X-Force, who the Shadow King fought and knows all about having previously been inside Betsy's mind. So Daken is going to use that knowledge to destroy his father and kill his friends."
The story of Daken and his Brotherhood began in "Uncanny X-Force" #25, the first chapter of the current "Final Execution" arc. With the final line up of the Brotherhood revealed and so many of their number hating Wolverine, much of the action in the remaining chapters of the story will revolve around X-Force's leader.
"This is really a Wolverine arc. Each one of these stories has given us a big focus on one of the characters. I think 'The Dark Angel Saga' was really about Betsy, Warren, and Fantomex. Then we've had plenty of stories and moments where we've hit upon Deadpool, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler. So while everybody gets their moment in the spotlight here and it's a story about all the cast, the big deal is going to be Wolverine. He hasn't had a spotlight arc," Remender explained. "Issues #31-35 really get into his relationship with his son, with Sabretooth, with Mystique and why they so badly want to take him off the board. They each have their own reasoning for things and when you see what those reasons are and how they play out hopefully it will hit people. I think there's a lot of emotional connection there that I'm trying to play out."
The events of "Final Execution" and their impact on Wolverine will be especially important in Remender's upcoming "Uncanny Avengers" ongoing series, which features Wolverine and launches in October as part of Marvel's NOW! initiative. "The events of 'Final Execution' and 'X-Force' are 50 percent of the motivation and build up for 'Uncanny Avengers.' 'AvX' being the other half. So if you're an 'Uncanny X-Force' fan, 'Uncanny Avengers' is where those Logan threads move over to and why Wolverine is starting to change as a character in a pretty big way," Remender said. "We're going to see a lot of development in this arc that then feeds into the 'Uncanny Avengers' stuff and starts to build up over there. We've got some character stuff that unearths things about Wolverine that have always been there. It works the same way a lot of the stuff worked with Warren and Archangel. Those aspects of the character will shed a light on who he is and take a look at what he stands for as well. So it is the bridge between where Logan is in 'Uncanny X-Force' and 'Uncanny Avengers.' It's how I kind of came up with some of my 'Uncanny Avengers' stuff."
Wolverine isn't the only character experiencing revelations in "Final Execution." In issue #27 the Shadow King probed Fantomex's mind and revealed the mystery behind the character's three brains; one brain is noble, one is mischievous, and one is vile and villainous.
"Once I took on the character that was one of the things that intrigued me the most. Sublime and the Weapon Plus program created Fantomex as well as Ultimaton and a bunch of other characters to be a squad of Sentinels that would go out and kill mutants, but they would be beloved and there would be merchandise with their likenesses. So it made sense to me that if Sublime created him he would have a back up plan or plan in general. Fantomex escaping the Program and having free will never really sat well with me," Remender explained. "Not to give too much away, but there were a few people involved in his creation. There was Mother and we don't know exactly what she is. It's been insinuated that she was one of his 'misdirections,' but then we've seen her die and as we saw in 'Secret Avengers' Mother was also working with Father and Brother, who was James Braddock, on the Descendants program, which obviously would have something to do with Fantomex as well, given that he's sort of a mutant-Sentinel hybrid.
"So each one of his brains was put in there by a different person for different reasons," Remender continued. "And the temperaments of the different brains explain a lot of his behavior. His noble actions as of late come from his heroic brain. His days of thievery stem from his more roguish brain, and when he shot the kid in issue #4 that would make sense if that was the Sublime brain taking over. The one that says, 'Kill the mutants and here's their evil messiah who wants mutants to take over the world.' So all of this has been in play literally since issue #1. I wanted to hint at that stuff for Fantomex's final scene here in issue #27. It will leave Betsy with a lot of work to decipher what was going on with Fantomex and what he was up to all this time."
Fantomex's final scene is exactly that because, in "Uncanny X-Force" #27, the Skinless Man murdered him. His death had an immediate impact on E.V.A., the robotic plane linked Fantomex's nervous system. She crash landed in the desert and exploded, but from that explosion emerged a new life form, a robotic female named EVA.
"I see that as sort of an evolution of who she is. With the death of Fantomex E.V.A. evolves and she's no longer the nervous system of another creature. And while she retains a lot of his memories and her memories, the evolution is comparable to a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. It's her being allowed to grow and become the next thing. She's no longer a part of something else. She's now her own thing. So that's the next stage and that's obviously something that wouldn't be an accident either," Remender stated. "With this kind of thing given that he was a creation there has to be some sort of intention behind all of it. That will be something that gets unraveled in the future as EVA become the character that takes Fantomex's place."
The surviving members of X-Force met EVA at the end of "Uncanny X-Force" #27, but it's unclear if they'll get a chance to get to know her. On the final page of the issue Daken freed the Sentinel known as Ultimaton from Fantomex's control and the Sentinel blew itself up in a nuclear explosion.
"I don't want to give away where we go in in issue #28. It's a nice reveal. One second they're in X-Force's base, Cavern X, and then Ultimaton blows it up. It's completely annihilated and nuked at the end of the issue," Remender explained. "Then we go into some pretty strange places. So hopefully people will be excited enough to stick around and see where we take it. Once you read the first couple of pages of #28 you've got a nice new set up for them."
Evan, the young clone of Apocalypse, was also left in dire peril at the end of issue #27. Earlier in the issue he was abducted from a Jean Grey School field trip by members of the Brotherhood. At the end of the issue the assembled Brotherhood vow to corrupt Evan and lead him down the path of villainy.
"Evan is a big, big part of the last half of 'Final Execution.' Issue #30 is an all Evan issue where we start to get an idea of exactly what the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are capable of and just how evil they are. And we start to develop Evan a little more," Remender said. "Jason Aaron has done a terrific job with the character in 'Wolverine and the X-Men,' and in issue #30 we really put a spotlight on the character as well as what it means to have so much power and be a kid. In his mind he was raised in Kansas by Ma and Pa Goodcorn to be a hero and he's got a very solid ethical compass, but with the death of Fantomex and the tampering of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants will he turn bad? Or won't he? So there's big payment coming for that story line. That's a big, big part of the story."
Evan's story is just one of many threads being explored in the second half of "Final Execution" and several different artists will bring those various story threads to life.
"For the next two issues we've got Julian Totino-Tedesco who in my mind is one of the best comic book artists we've seen in long, long time. I've been absolutely blown away by his work. You've seen him do many covers for Marvel. The first time I saw him do page work was in the 'Venom: Circle of Four' story I did with Jeff Parker and Rob Williams and it blew me away. So I'm very glad to be able to get him onboard I could literally take all the text out of Julian's issues and you would still get the story. It's so smooth and so beautiful," Remender said. "Then we have the brilliant artist's artist, Dave Williams, who is the elusive genius that you can almost never get to do an issue. We wanted him to come in and do the very special Evan issue, and he really cracks that story open. We get to see a payment for all of these things that have been bubbling in 'X-Force' and 'Wolverine and the X-Men' with Evan. Then in issues #31-35 we have the brilliant Phil Noto returning. All of this will of course also be colored by Dean White. At this point you've seen Phil and Dean work together. It's pretty well a dream team. So I'm incredibly excited to have Phil come in and do the last five issues."
For the final eight issues of "Final Extinction" Remender and his artists are telling the story of a beaten and bloodied X-Force taking on some of the most ruthless and evil villains they've ever faced. Remender promises that when everything has wrapped up "Final Execution" will be an epic on par with another colossal "Uncanny X-Force" story, the recently concluded and highly acclaimed "Dark Angel Saga."
"For fans of X-Force this is the big payout. This is everything we've been building too. As much as 'Dark Angel' was a big payout for a lot of the threads, this is the other half. We got to really focus on Warren, Fantomex, and Betsy in 'Dark Angel.' With Fantomex dead and Betsy broken this is where Wolverine stands up and this is his arc. This is all the other stuff that has been seeded and hasn't been addressed yet. So if you've been reading the book you're going to get answers and resolutions and there will be a lot of big crazy twists and turns coming up."
"Uncanny X-Force" #27 is on sale now.