With a new line of Marvel Knights miniseries announced by Marvel Comics, it's no surprise that the X-Men will be getting the Knights treatment this November. Bringing a new take on Marvel's mutants is writer/artist Brahm Revel, best known for his miniseries "Guerillas" (originally published by Image Comics and collected by Oni Press). Revel's "Marvel Knights: X-Men" miniseries focuses on Wolverine, Rogue and Kitty Pryde as they investigate a small backwoods town to rescue two young mutant girls from a killer. The murder mystery-like story not only allowed Revel to take on three of the X-Men's finest, but also enabled him to add two brand new mutants to the Marvel Universe.
Revel spoke with CBR News about the upcoming series, his take on the Jean Grey School instructors, creating two new mutants for the story, the challenge of constructing a murder mystery with mutants and how it stretches his creative muscles in a different way than "Guerillas."
CBR News: Brahm, what's the general idea behind your upcoming "Marvel Knights: X-Men" miniseries? Who are the main players involved and what are they up to?
Wolverine, Rogue and Kitty rush to a small backwoods town to rescue two young girls from a killer who appears to be targeting mutants. But when they get there, they are surprised to find that not only is their help not appreciated, their presence is actually causing more harm than good. Villains from the X-Men's past are turning up and disturbing the solitude of the sleepy little town.
I'm gonna leave it at that for now. There are many reveals as the series progresses and it has elements of a mystery as well, so I can't give too much away. But I think it should strike a nice balance between the dark and gritty aspects that people may expect from the Marvel Knights line as well as having some great classic superhero action.
What specifically was compelling to you about the combination of Wolverine, Kitty Pryde and Rogue? Why make them the core X-Men through which the story is told?
Well, elements of this story relate to things that happened in these mutants' pasts. Wolverine made sense because he's had a long and cloudy past, and even though he's learned more about his history in the past few years, I think there's always room for new surprises. I also feel like Wolverine is interesting to write for because he's got this uncontrollable animal side that is always simmering just beneath the surface. He's an honorable "good guy," yet he's prone to violent rages that often end in death.
For Rogue, I feel like her origin as a villain still drives a lot of her psychology. It was only after she absorbed Ms. Marvel's powers and psyche that she approached the X-Men to help her get her powers under control. And through the years, I feel like she's always viewed her own powers as a curse while her adopted powers have been seen as a blessing. As a result, I think she definitely has some identity issues stemming from her past. So she made the cut.
And I feel like Kitty has turned into a mother figure for the X-Men, especially since Professor X's death. While she seemed like an obvious choice as someone who would want to rescue two young mutants, I also thought it would be interesting to see how her and Wolverine's relationship has begun to shift as she matures into this new role. Wolverine's healing factor keeps him in a sort of ageless limbo where everyone grows up around him but he stays the same age, kinda like a vampire. I think, sometimes, he can forget that Kitty has grown up -- to him, she's still that little girl from his past.
All three of those X-Men have very physical powers, but it seems from the story description that the town is on the hunt for a murderer. How will the trio approach a problem like that given their more physical power set?
It's funny you should ask that, because in early drafts of this story, I thought it'd be funny to have a running gag where Wolverine is constantly muttering, "We should've brought a psychic." Not surprisingly, it can be kind of hard to write a mystery when psychics are involved.
In actuality, the murder is what draws them to this town, and it hangs over the story, like dark cloud, until the very end. But the meat of the story hinges on the unexpected occurrences that happen once they find these young mutants, and for that, their physical gifts will be well suited indeed.
Your story deals with finding new mutants in a world that's been without them for quite some time. What was the process like for you creating new powers for these new mutants?
Initially, I was interested in creating some new characters because I wanted blank slates to work with. I wanted a few characters that didn't have epically long histories that readers would already intimately know coming into the series. That way, as a writer, you can play with readers' expectations, and it becomes easier to build mystery and suspense around something as simple as what these characters are thinking. When you have no frame of reference, getting to know a character can be just as much of a page-turner as a good action sequence. It also became a nice way to weave this story into the current continuity.
Not only are you writing "Marvel Knights: X-Men," you're also the artist. What was the design process for you like, not just for the established X-Men, but for the new mutants as well?
I'm really not trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the design of the X-Men. I can't say that there will be any real surprises in that respect. Rogue is the only one who starts off in her costume, because her most recent green and white get-up is pretty passable for street clothes. Kitty has her blue and yellow suit under a jacket, which also makes her stick out a little less. Wolverine starts off completely in street clothes and as things start to get crazy, he transitions to his current costume. I'm mostly just trying to let logic dictate a lot of those choices. It just didn't make sense to me that they'd drive to some stranger's house and knock on someone's door dressed in their tights. But at the same time, that's part of their iconography, so later in the story there's a time and place for that too.
For the two new mutants, they're not superheroes -- at least not yet. I've come up with aliases for them if they ever turn into heroes down the line, but those names won't be used in this story. They're just two kids from a poor, backwater town, and their design reflects that.
The Marvel Knights imprint usually contains stand-alone stories that offer very distinct takes on Marvel characters. How does your version of the X-Men continue in this tradition?
Honestly, I'm not setting out to try and do anything specifically "different" with this story. I think the idea for this incarnation of Marvel Knights was to get some indie guys, whose influences are maybe a little more varied than your typical superhero creators and see what they come up with. I grew up reading Marvel Comics and it was the X-titles that resonated with me particularly, so there was a lot of nostalgia at play as I was thinking of what I could do with these characters. Really, I wanted to celebrate the things I loved about the books I grew up with as much as anything else. That being said, I think it's impossible not to bring in your other influences. This story has crime and suspense elements in it. Drugs and murder also play a part, and I tried to craft a story where there were real consequences to the characters actions. Things don't just go back to normal at the end. But I don't think that's any different than what Brian Michael Bendis or Brian Wood are doing on the main X-titles right now. So I don't know.
"Marvel Knights: X-Men" seems to be something of a departure from your work on "Guerrillas." How does a book like this stretch different creative muscles for you?
The biggest challenge for me was creating a story using characters that were already established. I know I just got done saying how much I loved the X-Men and how I've known them since I was a child. But the natural way for me to write is to come up with a story first, and then develop characters that fit the needs of that story. In "Guerillas," the main human character learns how to be a man through his interactions with a platoon of chimpanzee soldiers in Vietnam. The story dictated how that character should act, a bit like a coward, who then, through the course of the story, becomes a soldier. I couldn't have simply replaced that character with Wolverine. It would've been a completely different story. So, for me, it was a little more difficult to devise a story around a set of established characters. That was another reason I decided to invent some new mutants for the story. And really, it was those mutants and their powers that allowed me an entry way to figure this story out. Other that that, I don't see them being that different. "Guerillas" was designed to be an action comic, just like "X-Men" is. Like any good action comic, you just have to find the story elements and human drama to make those action sequences mean something.
What do you see as the biggest challenge of crafting a book like "Marvel Knights: X-Men" in a marketplace that already has a number of different takes on the X-Men?
I do my best not to think of that stuff at all. The fact that there are a lot of X-titles out there is actually a good thing. It means readers love these characters and want as many stories about them as they can get. I'm just trying to make a book that I'd want to read and hoping others will too. If you try too hard to fit in some kind of niche market, I think it's easy for the work to come off as disingenuous. Besides, being different isn't nearly as important as being good. If the work is good it shouldn't matter how many books are out there. Hopefully this'll be good.
"Marvel Knights: X-Men" #1 unravels its mysteries in November.