[Editor's Note: This interview was conducted before Marvel's October 2012 solicitations revealed the publisher would end nine current titles including "X-Men Legacy."]
In 1981's "Avengers Annual" #10 by the Marvel Comics creative team of Chris Claremont and Michael Golden a new mutant was added to the ranks of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Her name was Rogue and in her debut appearance she committed a violent act that would change her life forever. She assaulted the Avenger known as Ms. Marvel and, because of the nature of Rogue's mutant ability to absorb powers and memories, she ended up permanently absorbing several of the heroine's powers and memories.
The assault would haunt Rogue for some time; first in the form of psychological problems and then guilt over what she had done. To make up for her attack on Ms. Marvel and gain better control over her power Rogue quit the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and joined the X-Men. She's served the team with distinction ever since, and several years ago her efforts at redemption were rewarded when she gained control over her power and memory absorption ability. With several X-Men members being transformed into the cosmically powered Phoenix Five in the current "Avengers Vs. X-Men" event miniseries, Rogue has been given an even greater chance to work some good at a global level.
That chance and Rogue's newfound sense of peace were both jeopardized in "X-Men Legacy" #269 by writer Christos Gage and artist David Baldeon when Ms. Marvel sought out Rogue to warn her the Phoenix Five were in danger of being corrupted by the cosmic power they wield. Rogue didn't want to hear what her former adversary had to say, but at the end of the issue she was confronted by evidence corroborating Ms. Marvel's claim. So what will Rogue do next? For the answer to that question and more CBR News spoke with Gage about his plans for "X-Men Legacy."
CBR News: So Christos, in your "X-Men Legacy" tie-in to the first act of "AvX" you had Rogue confront her past sins by having her come face to face with the Avengers. And in this story that kicked off in #269 you're having her confront her greatest sin in the form of Ms. Marvel. What's your sense of the dynamic between these two characters? They've both come a long way since Rogue attacked Ms. Marvel, but will they ever be truly comfortable around each other?
Christos Gage: I think both women have come a long way and grown a lot since their first confrontation, as traumatic and long-lasting as its effects were. So the days of their meeting being an automatic grudge match are over -- they've both moved beyond knee-jerk reactions.
However, one does not simply forget something like that. And when they're fighting over something else, it certainly colors the encounter. On the other hand, they know each other perhaps better than any other two Avengers and X-Men, which is reflected in Ms. Marvel seeking Rogue out to express her concerns over the Phoenix Five. What was great for me in writing this story was that, as a kid, "Avengers Annual" #10 was one of those amazing comics that zapped my brain with awesome and made me a comics fan for life, and with this storyline I feel like I'm getting to add to that mythology, and hopefully moving it forward. As for whether these two ladies will ever be comfortable with each other, they're going to have to try, or they'll be in big trouble next issue...
Rogue has been able to make up for some of the damage she did in her early super villain days because she's been able to do heroic deeds as part of the X-Men. So how hard is it for her to hear Ms. Marvel's words in "Legacy" #269 that the X-Men may be doing more harm to the world than good? How much of her identity is tied to being a member of the X-Men?
That's just it -- the Phoenix Five have suddenly given Rogue her dream come true. She is going all over the world not just stopping crimes and saving a life here or there, but really making real, lasting difference in people's lives -- ending wars, feeding the hungry, etc. So when Ms. Marvel tells her there's something wrong with that, it's incredibly difficult to hear. But at the end of #269, we saw Rogue face the harsh truth: Ms. Marvel was right, and now she's trapped in a hellish prison and it's Rogue's fault. And any loyalty to the X-Men aside, she is going to have to make that right.
The X-Men that Ms. Marvel came to warn Rogue about are the cosmically empowered Phoenix Five. What's it like writing these characters? What do you find most interesting about them?
It's an exploration of the old chestnut about power corrupting. Can beings with that much power, even when they set out to do nothing but good, avoid causing harm? Can they actually relate to normal human beings? Are the normal, everyday flashes of anger we all have suddenly weapons of mass destruction? For me, in writing the Phoenix Five, it's important not to depict them as wrathful gods of the "tremble, puny humans" variety. I tried to put myself in their place, and wonder what it would be like to have that much power; something that overwhelming inside me.
As you mentioned, you ended issue #269 with a cliffhanger where Magik of the Phoenix Five drops Ms. Marvel into a demonic prison that she's brought to Earth from Limbo. What can you tell us about the plot of "X-Men Legacy" #270? How much story time passes between #269 and #270?
#270 kicks off just moments after #269 ends. Rogue has realized that she's on the wrong side, that Magik is crossing lines, and doesn't seem to realize it's wrong. So #270 is about her trying to make right what she's done wrong.
In issue #271, you take things in a different direction by sending Rogue off to an alien world. I imagine you can't tell us how she gets there, but what can you tell us about the world she's sent too? Is this an established Marvel planet or locale? Or is this a new world you created specifically for this story?
It's a new place. I wanted to take Rogue and put her in a setting we haven't seen her in much, which is almost a fantasy, Edgar Rice Burroughs or Frank Frazetta type of story. What was fun for me was the world-building, and also playing with some of the tropes of this type of tale, but with a female protagonist rather than the traditional male.
In terms of plot and themes what is the story that runs through "Legacy" #271-273 about? Is this still tied into the action of "Avengers Vs. X-Men?"
I can't say too much about the "AvX" of it all -- but basically -- Rogue finds herself on this other world, where a war is raging between two sides, and she is caught in the middle -- not unlike "AvX." She has to figure out a way to get home, but to do that she will have to get involved in the war.
What kinds of obstacles and adversaries await Rogue when she arrives on this alien world? Which aspects of her character are you testing in this tale?
There are two dominant races on this world: the Vray, who are a bit like humanoid tigers or leopards, and the Swarm, a culture of insectoid creatures who have a hive-mind that allows them to do things like combine their bodies into a gigantic colossus. Mark Brooks, our incredible cover artist, designed them, and Rafa Sandoval has done an amazing job of depicting them and creating the world they live in.
Will Rogue have any allies on this alien world assisting her in her quest to return home?
On each side, there will be a character she interacts with -- but their status as friend or foe might change!
When Rogue arrives home you'll have her tackle more big developments by bringing her face to face with Magneto, who she's currently in a romantic relationship with. What's your current sense of the relationship between these two characters? Why do you think they're attracted to each other? And is their relationship necessarily a healthy one?
I think that since the "Schism," their relationship -- which was never especially defined -- became even less so, since they weren't around each other much. They've both been avoiding discussing it or really going anywhere with it, because they've been busy -- or perhaps for other reasons. But in issue #274, that's over with. It's time to figure out what's going on between them, and where it goes from here.
Whether their relationship is a healthy one is part of that question. I certainly don't think it's unhealthy in the sense of, say, being involved with a drug addict or someone who is abusive, but the question of "Is this the best thing for me and for the other person" has never really been looked at until now.
As for why they're attracted to each other, I think part of it is that they both understand the need for redemption; they've both made mistakes in their lives and tried to atone for them. You could say that for a number of X-Men, but I think Rogue and Magneto, both having been part of the Brotherhood, have more in common than most in that regard. And I do think each of them provides the other a safe haven where they are not judged.
We've talked a lot about story and we've touched upon the art in your alien world story, but let's start to wrap things up by talking a little more about the art in the current and upcoming "Legacy" story lines. David Baldeon is finishing your Ms. Marvel story and working on the Rogue-Magneto story, and as you mentioned, Rafa Sandoval will bring the alien world arc to life. What can people expect from their work? What do you feel they bring to these stories as artists?
Rafa has this amazing, ornate style and this alien world arc is really letting him strut his stuff. I think it's his best work on the book yet, although his Avengers vs. X-Men battle scenes were pretty terrific too. But now you'll get to see him create a world that's right out of his imagination.
David is wonderful with both action and character, which is a rare set of skills to have, and I think he shines in stories like the Rogue/Ms. Marvel story in giving some meaning to all the punching and zapping -- but he makes the punching and zapping look pretty wonderful too! And let me give a shout-out to Jordi Tarragona, whose detailed inks on both of them not only look great but provide continuity between the arcs.
Finally we touched upon your post-"AvX" plans when we talked about the relationship between Rogue and Magneto, but can you offer up any more hints or teases? Will "Legacy" have a whole new status quo in the wake of "AvX?"
I think it's safe to say that everything to do with the Avengers and the X-Men will have a new status quo after "AvX," and "Legacy" is no different -- stay tuned.
I've been lucky enough to dive right into the deep end with some big moments in X-Men history, and they're just going to keep coming -- I want to thank everyone who's expressed support and enjoyed the books!