Marvel Comics' X-Men were brought together to help create a world where man and super powered mutants could peacefully co-exist. This optimism for a brighter tomorrow makes the future incredibly important to the Children of the Atom and they often find themselves confronted by shocking visions of what's to come and the roles of their individual members in shaping these possible futures. How they cope with and interpret these visions of destiny is a source of great drama. Do they accept their future and all it could possibly entail? Do they fight and try and change it? Is changing the future even possible?
These are some of the central questions facing a number of characters in "Tomorrow Never Learns," the introductory All-New Marvel NOW! arc of the new volume of "Wolverine & the X-Men" by writer Jason Latour and artist Mahmud Asrar. CBR News spoke with Latour about the series and its first storyline in which the rise of the Mysterious Phoenix Corporation and their ally, a time traveling Askani warrior named Faithful John has forced Quentin Quire, Evan (AKA Kid Apocalypse) and several other students and staff members of the Jean Grey School to confront their destinies. CBR spoke with Latour in an attempt to unravel the future for the X-Men and their young charges.
CBR News: Jason, we're now four chapters into "Tomorrow Never Learns," your introductory "Wolverine & the X-Men" story, and it's a tale that involves quite a lot of characters, but it seems to me that many of these characters share a lot in common thematically. Quentin Quire, Evan, and even Fantomex are all fighting what history and biology wants them to be. Plus, the flashbacks we've been shown seem to indicate that Phoenix Corp head Eden Young is like Wolverine in that he has a past full of regrets and is trying to become what he believes is a better person. Am I correct in that assumption? Is "Tomorrow Never Learns" primarily about destiny and regret or are there other, larger themes going on as well?
Jason Latour: You're very much on the right track in terms of the thrust of the book. But as much as we're dealing with the ramifications of regret, we're also, particularly in issues #5 and #6, going to be examining what hope and expectation means to these characters. Is regret or guilt always a negative motivation? Is hope always a positive one? It might not be as clean a one-to-one as you'd imagine.
We're also obviously setting all this in the context of a few, seemingly familiar X-Tropes. The X-Men have always dealt with time travel, but I think in the past we've thought of a lot of those events as either very set in stone or very fluid. With the particular timeline we're dealing with it's very relevant to ask how much we really can know about an era or a person's life if all we've seen are a few moments.
In these first four issues you've made the most of your cast, but you also brought in other prominent and fan favorite X-characters including Cyclops' "Uncanny X-Men" team and characters like Anole. Even though "Wolverine & the X-Men" is primarily about the students and faculty of the Jean Grey School, I take it it won't be an insular book? Will other X-characters and institutions as well as the larger Marvel Universe continue to be part of the series as it moves forward?
In this second arc in particular we're going to slow down a tad and veer away from the breakneck action movie kind of story that we've seen in this first story. So far we've ended on a lot of ellipsis and I'd like to have things punctuate differently in this next set of issues. That's really in an effort to spend a little more time with the characters we do have, in addition to some of the other students and faculty who'll return at some point soon. But that by no means excludes the chances we'll see the more of the larger Marvel Universe. In particular we'll be seeing Daredevil pretty soon, as Logan's going to need his help putting some things in order.
I'm pretty excited about that, as I've always loved that character and I think we found a really naturally way to make him work in the story we're telling. With any of these cameos, even the craziest of them, I don't want to force things that aren't a natural progression of where we're heading.
Let's move to some of the character and relationships that are front and center in this storyline like Storm and Wolverine. What's your sense of their relationship? And how is it impacting both characters?
The loss of Wolverine's powers and his newfound mortality are things that have had an impact on Storm as well as Logan. On one hand they're developing, or beginning to act on, a very genuine emotional connection. But on the other they've set themselves up with responsibilities that are kind of prohibitive of their own desires. It's as simple the fact that Storm can't always do what's best for Logan, not when there's a school of kids to consider. And likewise Logan can't operate as off the cuff as he once did. Not if he wants to be a responsible partner. So the question that's really going to begin to form is can they reconcile their romance with their responsibilities? We'll see a lot of that in arc two. Particularly around issue #8.
The relationship between the Jean Grey School's newest teacher Fantomex and Evan also figures pretty heavily in this story. Evan refers to Fantomex as his "Uncle Cluster" but how do you think Fantomex views him? Does he see Evan as a son? A symbol that he can be more than the killer he was programmed to be? Both of those? Or something else?
It's important to remember that fundamentally, Fantomex is not the same man who created Evan. The responsibility he's felt to Evan in the past was hinged on a decision he made when he had three distinct personalities operating in unison. So just how much of all this is his cross to bear alone? That's something we're going to watch him struggle with deciding.
Evan and Fantomex figure prominently in this story because a fanatical Askani warrior from the future named Faithful John has attacked the Jean Grey School and announced his intention to kill Evan because of what he believes he'll become. John has managed to test the friendship between Rockslide and Hellion by swaying Hellion to his side and causing the two friends to come to blows. I know you're juggling a huge cast in this book but how important will Hellion and Rockslide be in upcoming stories? What do you find most interesting about them and their friendship?
Well I think they are genuinely close. They've been classmates a long time, and they've got the kind of relationship that can weather a little chop busting or even a dust up or two. But now they've seen what Hellion feels is firm evidence of a really horrible future that's coming straight at them. The kind of knowledge it's pretty hard to remain isolationist in the face of. They both know that acting to stop the Apocalypse is something that one of the X-Men should probably do, it's just that they're a little torn about how to do that.
So maybe this will push them apart, or maybe it will bring them together. Either way it's the tip of a potential iceberg.
In issue #4 you use Quentin Quire to sort of explore the divide between the two schools when he seeks out Cyclops for counseling about Apocalypse and the Phoenix, and Scott gives him some honest advice. We hear a lot about the ideological divide between Wolverine and Cyclops by some of the older X-Men, but how do you think the kids of the Jean Grey School feel about the divide? Is the Schism that divides the adult teams as pronounced with their students?
I think Quentin would claim to care less about being a part of some rivalry, or picking a side. But if he was completely honest with himself he'd recognize that Logan, Xavier and Steve Rogers, the only characters that have ever shown him any real modicum of respect, brought him to this school. And the JGS is where he has built very real, meaningful connections with his classmates.
So on some level he feels some small debt of gratitude to the JGS because they've given him a real home. And even in the times when he or the other kids might sometimes more or less agree with Cyclops, it's still a lot to walk away from the life you have for something unknown.
Let's move from relationships and into the remaining chapters of "Tomorrow Never Learns." What sort of hints or teases can you offer up about "Wolverine & the X-Men" #5-6?
Well, If there's one issue that really redefines a lot of what this book is -- it's probably issue #6. It's something we've built to from the start, and I expect that love it or hate it you'll want to go back and re-read what we've done to this point just to see how all the threads did tie together. Really, I just finished it and I'm just sitting here full of nervous excitement. I really tried to push the story where it wanted to go without concern for my own well being. Even though on the surface we've been dealing with some sort of age old X-tropes, the mission statement I have for this book is to take it new places. I think by the end of this arc we've taken a big step toward doing that.
What can people expect from artist Mahmud Asrar on the final two issues of the arc? What do you think he's brought to this story as an artist?
I can't say enough about this guy. Just a pro through and through. A really great guy on top of all that. Honestly he's got it so together that he makes me sick. I believe that the last half of this arc we've started to click and I'm really excited every time his pages come in. I can't wait to see how he handles what's coming.
Finally, August solicitations were recently released and it looks like in "Wolverine and the X-Men" #7 two elements from your friend Jason Aaron's run on "Wolverine" come into play: reporter and former Wolverine love interest Melita Garner and the villainous group, the Red Right Hand. What made you want to bring these elements into the book? And is there anything you can tell us about the Red Right Hand's presence in the series? Is this a new incarnation of the group or have its old members seemingly been resurrected?
Melita is back and doing something that's very in keeping with the intrepid, do whatever it takes for the story-style spirit we've come to expect from her. She's become very aware of Logan's situation and as a result she's racing to collect something very important to them both before his time runs out. As a result she draws the attention of the Red Right Hand, who are very much linked to the original version of the group, who, like any good super villains, have found a way to operate from beyond the grave.
I mean let's keep in mind, this is a group that sent Wolverine to Hell. Good thing Daredevil's around, huh?
This first time around the block on a team book at Marvel has really taught me a lot. These have been really big shoes to fill and I'm I very appreciative of everyone that's been so vocal with their support and so open minded to the new direction we're starting to work towards. I feel really charged up and eager to try and make the second arc and beyond some of the best work I've ever done.
"Wolverine and the X-Men" #5 goes on sale June 18 from Marvel Comics.