When anti-mutant militias and Sentinel robots seized control of the southwestern United States, the mutants of Marvel Comics' Ultimate Universe were plunged into a desperate fight for survival. In response, Kitty Pryde and her fellow X-Men travelled southward, raising a mutant guerrilla army to wage war against the forces that controlled that area. Writer Brian Wood documented that struggle in the "Divided We Fall" and "United We Stand" arcs of "Ultimate Comics X-Men." Most recently, he's been documenting the war's aftermath in which Kitty and her fellow mutants, victorious in their struggle, are rewarded by new U.S. President Captain America with a sovereign mutant homeland located in the Utah desert.
A homeland has solved some of the problems faced by the series' cast, but it's also given them a whole host of new ones. Kitty Pryde's leadership and philosophy of peaceful co-existence with humanity has been repeatedly challenged by radical mutants like Mach Two and her followers. Plus, anti-mutant forces within the government now know exactly where to go in order to attack their enemies, and attack them they shall in the "Natural Resources," the title's new arc kicking off in "Ultimate Comics X-Men" #24.
CBR News: Since "Ultimate Comics X-Men" is currently focusing on the burgeoning mutant nation of Utopia, you're dealing with a pretty large cast of characters. Despite the number of mutants involved in the series, you've given individual cast members big moments over the last couple of issues. For example, Jimmy Hudson was told by Tony Stark that if Utopia is to survive and prosper on the path of non-violence, he'll have to be Kitty Pryde's enforcer. What did it mean for Jimmy to hear that from somebody like Tony Stark? ? Do you think Jimmy is capable of handling this level of responsibility?
Brian Wood: I dunno -- maybe if you need an "enforcer," you want someone hot-headed. I also think it's good to acknowledge everything these mutants have gone through recently. They may be teenagers in the literal sense, but they've fought a huge war to rid themselves of genocide. My point is, they are all seasoned warriors and are grown-ups in every other sense of the word.
Kitty's reaction to this is to go a pacifist route, a spiritual route, while Jimmy (and a lot of others) still think that they need to defend what they got with swift and decisive violence. Kitty's running Utopia, so her word is law, to use a phrase, but what Tony said to Jimmy was, you know, that's all well and good, but there will likely be a time when you (Jimmy) will have to back her up with action whether she wants it or not. No doubt Jimmy liked the vote of confidence, but this is serious stuff we're talking about here.
Beyond his words of wisdom for Jimmy, Tony's also been doing things to assist Kitty as well, like marketing the sentient seed that the mutants have developed. What did it mean for Kitty to have someone like Tony help her? And ultimately, why is Tony so interested in helping Utopia?
Well, on one level, Tony sees dollar signs when he sees the sentient seed, and sure enough he swoops in and secures distribution rights and sets up the press conference and all that. So on one hand, its all very self-serving. But you'd have to be a cold bastard to see all these mutants in so far over their head and not be compelled to at least give some advice. Kitty and all have Captain American (sort of) on their side, so he no doubt figures he can lend a hand as well.
As far as Kitty -- I don't know. Tony got her an international stage to announce her peaceful intentions, but we have yet to fully see the blowback from that. This is what "Natural Resources" is all about.
At the end of issue #22, Mach Two and the mutants aligned with her walk off to form their own community. Bobby Drake (Iceman) goes with them at the encouragement of Husk, a girl he has strong feelings for. I'm curious how much of what's going on with Bobby and Husk is his feelings for her and how much of it is Bobby simply needing a friend? Do you think he would have left if one of his close friends like Johnny Storm was still around?
I just got done saying that these people are teenagers in name only, but now I'm going to cite an exception, and that's when it comes to matters of the heart. In that sense, they are all still stupid teenagers. Bobby fell hard for Husk (such as one can only do at that age) and is seemingly ready to do whatever she says. I remember being that guy, once upon a time. I bet most of you can as well. But how long does that last?
Issue #23 took an extended look at a character you enjoy writing, both in the Marvel and Ultimate Universes -- Storm. What do you find most interesting about the Ultimate incarnation of Storm, and how does she differ from her Marvel Universe counterpart?
She's younger. They're all younger, which is the biggest difference. The Ultimate version of Storm appeals to me, because in Nick Spencer's run, around issue #10, if I recall, she had this great moment of being "born" in the revolutionary sense and cut her hair and everything, and that was basically it. That's a great starting point, and I wanted to fill in the gap between then and now, addressing what Colossus did and their friendship.
#23 is one of my favorite issues I've written on this book. It's chock full of everything I like to write about when I write young characters: complex, conflicting personalities, identity issues and drama. This issue takes us from that Nick Spencer issue right up through the Point One issue.
In March, you kick off a new arc titled "Natural Resources." What exactly is it about?
The mutants are privatized by the government. Literally, they are declared a resource and property and are denied their human rights. An attempt is made to round them up and, presumably, create things like the sentient seed as a government program. Very similar to the way a government may privatize an oil company. They figure, we made mutants, so we own them. The US needs to rebuild itself, and fast, following "Divided We Fall." They need to regain their world superpower status. That's about all I can tease up-front. We'll also see some progress on the Mach Two storyline, and some answers to the questions readers have about Psylocke.
The solicits make it sound like the X-Men will deal with both internal and external threats during "Natural Resources," including the Ultimate incarnation of General Ross. What makes him a good adversary for your cast?
This was one of those cases where editorial steps in and suggests a suitable villain. My natural inclination, not coming from a place where I know a lot about continuity, is to create new characters to fit needs. My editors will see what I'm doing and suggest an appropriate character for that situation. In this case, Ross is acting on behalf of the true villains here, and maybe he's not entirely unsympathetic. We'll see.
True villains? That suggests the Washington-based anti-mutant cabal we saw at the end of "Ultimate Comics X-Men" #22. Will we learn any more about this group in this upcoming story?
We will, indeed.
"Natural Resources" is being brought to life by artist Mahmud Asrar. What do you feel he brings to this storyline in particular?
This type of question always makes me smile, because the obvious answer is "great artwork!" That is what he brings first and foremost. I've wanted to work with Mahmud for years. "Northlanders" was cancelled before I had the chance to work with him on that, and I actually brought him on to work with me specifically on my Supergirl project at DC before I was shown the door, which always sort of burned me up because he stayed on the project. So I'm really happy that we finally made it work. I think my writing plus his art is a natural fit.
Finally, the recent developments in "Ultimate Comics X-Men" have given you a lot of story elements to play with, and on top of that, there are plot threads from the beginning of your run and earlier, like Johnny Storm's status post-"United We Stand," the two mutant cities in the SEAR and some of your cast's reactions to the new Spider-Man, Miles Morales. With all that in mind, what kind of summer do you have planned for the cast of the book?
Well, I've dealt with Johnny as much as I plan on dealing with him, so that's set. Tian and Karen Grant, these are major elements both in "Natural Resources" and going into the arc after that. It's hard to say too much without blowing some surprises, but I can say that the world of Utopia and that of Tian will come together in a big way.
These stories are the stories I originally pitched for the book way back when. We're just getting to them now, and I'm excited about that. It may not be the happiest summer of these mutant's lives, but it's one of the biggest things to happen to them in a long time.