In the pages of Marvel Comics "Wolverine & The X-Men," the man known as Logan started the Jean Grey School in order to protect the next generation of mutants from danger. But soon, he'll have to take them into battle anyway.
Today, Marvel held a press call for the series in advance of its "The Hellfire Saga" arc ahead of the "Battle of the Atom" event, and writer Jason Aaron joined Editor Nick Lowe to discuss the next arc focusing on the rebellious teens in the school.
The team started by talking about "The Hellfire Saga" – the next major arc in the series before "Battle" takes over the whole X-Men line. Aaron explained that this arc is the payoff for character threads that started back in issue #1 with the Hellfire kids as well as X-Men from Idie to Husk. "It's probably more characters than I've written in one single story in my life," he said promising the debut of new students at the school alongside the heroes and villains. "I'd say it's the biggest, craziest arc we've done in 'Wolverine & The X-Men.'"
The story focuses on an arms race between mutants and the Sentinels being built by the Hellfire Club who decide to escalate the long simmering conflict by starting their own school to train evil mutant kids. "They bring in a few characters from the student body of the Jean Grey School as well as some new characters...and they teach them how to be the most bad ass super mutant villains they can possibly dream up," Aaron said as Lowe called the faculty of the new school "a true murderer's row" of X-Men villains. Leading the teens will be Mystique, Sabertooth, Sauron, Dog Logan, Mondo ("Who looks alarmingly like Mojo and is female"), Weindigo and Master Pandemonium from Aaron's "Ghost Rider" run.
Lowe compared the story to the "Dark Angel Saga" from "Uncanny X-Force" as a moment that will totally shake up the book and move the cast as a whole forward.
The arc will be drawn by original "Wolverine & The X-Men" artist Nick Bradshaw who is already working on issue #33 as #31 starts the story. "He's turning in the work of his career. It's really amazing," the editor said.
SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT FROM TODAY'S ISSUE #29.
"There's a very tense scene of Wolverine discussing the future or the not future of some of the students with the other faculty," Lowe said, noting that in today's issue, Idie will defect to the Hellfire Club alongside Quentin Quire. Aaron said the conflict born of the story will end with a major reveal that drives the team towards
The writer went on to say that the core X-Men in the arc will be most of the characters he's focused on so far in the series. "While the last few arcs have been focused on the kids, the cast as been big all along...this arc certainly has all of them in there. This arc, if anything, pairs down some of the kids...it's just the ones who got sucked into the Hellfire Academy," he explained.
"The Hellfire Saga" will test Wolverine's resolve in starting the Jean Grey School to protect the kids of the mutant world. "That doesn't speak well for what he's doing there...that would definitely weigh on his mind," he said. "A big part of #31 is that we get to see the Jean Grey school 25 years in the future...overall, that'll continue to be the theme of the book. Is Wolverine doing a good job? Is this school successful? I like playing Wolverine as a fish out of water...to watch him try to be a headmaster and deal with what this means and deal with these kids is the fun of the book. But the times I can show him failing or screwing up or in over his head, we'll still look at whether this is succeeding. Can he graduate these kids and send them out into the world or not?"
Of the other side of the equation, Aaron said the villains of the piece were picked for very specific reasons. "They're all there with a very specific story in mind. It's all part of the ongoing plans."
Aaron promised a new version of the Hellions will appear in the arc, though the solo mutant known as Hellion will not show up just yet. Neither with Chamber. "I've got enough character in this story already," laughed the writer.
Asked about Wolverine's age in the 25-year future, Lowe said that old Logan's appearance in this series does in its own way match up with the story of Paul Cornell's "Wolverine" series.
As for how this Hellfire Club fits in with the previous iterations, Lowe compared the new teen group to Emma Frost's original Academy. But these are Kade Kilgore's version of a student body. "You'll be surprised by the members of it...but they're not a nice group of people by any stretch, he said, pointing out the new villain Infestation who appears on the cover to issue #31 and whose white skin breaks open to reveal that she's actually made of bugs. "She is terrifying. She haunts my dreams on a regular basis."
The appearance of Sabertooth and Mystique in both this story and "All-New X-Men" is intentional and will help in the lead up to the "Battle of the Atom" event. "All these characters are definitely in cahoots and part of the big plan coming up," Lowe said.
The call wrapped with talk of Quentin Quire's future, and Aaron said the whole question of the story will be how far some of these kids have gone and what their status will be when "The Hellfire Saga" wraps.
The story kicks off in "Wolverine & The X-Men" #31 in just a few weeks before continuing with issue #32 on June 12.