It's Not Over Till She Sings: Greg Pak Talks "X-Men: Phoenix- Warsong"

Fri, June 2nd, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

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If you're a fan of Marvel Comics, or even just the X-Men, there's one inevitable truth: you can't keep Jean Grey dead. Sure, she's died a lot of times, but the erstwhile Marvel Girl has more lives than a cat. Call her Phoenix, Jean Grey, or whatever, but she's not a fan of graves, and staying alive just may be her real super power. In 2005, writer Greg Pak wowed readers with his resurrection of Jean Grey in the "X-Men: Phoenix- Endsong" limited series, that surprised many readers with its nuance and depth. To the delight of many fans, today at Wizard World Philadelphia, Marvel announced "X-Men: Phoenix- Warsong," the sequel to "Endsong." CBR News caught up with Pak to learn more.

The five-issue limited series launches in September, but fans don't need to run out and pick up the "Endsong" collection to jump right in. "As always, I'm doing my best to write a story that a new reader can pick up and quickly figure out and enjoy," Pak told CBR News. "But for extra special enjoyment of crunchy Phoenix goodness, I'd highly recommend reading "Endsong," Chris Claremont's classic Phoenix storyline from 'Uncanny X-Men' #100-137, and Grant Morrison's mind-blowing 'New X-Men' #114-150."

Though we made light of it earlier in this story, the Jean Grey death/return/rinse & repeat cycle is tedious to some readers who feel both the deaths and resurrections lose their luster because of the repetition. Luckily for Jean Grey diehards, Pak isn't one of those fans and explains, "I love the Jean Grey/Phoenix stories. I love the huge emotional drama and the trippy, epic, cosmic vibe. I love the big themes of whether mere human love can help a woman struggling to contend with her insanely huge powers and destiny. And I love the way writers have built on the mythology, developing notions of the purpose and destiny of the Phoenix while retaining an essential core of mystery. And "Warsong" will build on all those tremendous themes and vibes.

"But I'm going to go out on a limb and spill the beans right here: 'Warsong' is not another Jean Grey resurrection story. It's an essential Phoenix story, and therefore ultimately an essential tale for understanding Jean Grey. But we're keeping the story fresh by exploring some untapped corners of the Grant Morrison run that are giving us a fantastic way to develop our characters and themes from surprising new angles.

"Okay, I'm gonna spill some more beans: Cuckoos. I'll say no more."

Of course, CBR's Jack Bauer like interrogative methods always net us "more" and Pak was happy to discuss the perception of Jean Grey among many readers. Some see her as a nuanced, essential X-character while others dismiss her as a sex-bomb cipher. And whose side is Pak on? "I think Jean Grey is compelling for some of the same reasons that classic heroes from time immemorial have been compelling -- she's a normal person who discovers she has incredible powers and must learn how to deal with the responsibilities, temptations, and dangers which result. So she becomes interesting because of her very normalcy -- there's great drama in seeing how the girl-next-door deals with her mind-blowing new capacities. What gives the character even more resonance is that Chris Claremont brilliantly tapped into the mythic theme at her core -- she's all about love and death, about creation and destruction, about the horrifying reality that life requires death and the stunning revelation that death leads to rebirth. She personifies those contradictory notions and taps into one of those mythic truths we all know in our bones but need stories like this to help us grapple with. And that's all solid gold material to explore as a writer."

No Jean Grey/Phoenix story would be complete without her beau Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, and his current flame, Emma Frost, whom you can expect them to be front and center. Of course, after recent events in "Astonishing X-Men," there are some questions as to the place of this story in continuity and Pak has planned for that as well. "It'll be right in continuity, fitting into the other 'X-Men' books on the market when it's released. And yes, the Emma/Scott relationship will play a big role. Look for Emma to develop emotionally in other surprising ways as well -- this will be a big story for her."

As the X-Men films have so effectively demonstrated, Wolverine has a large part to play in any Jean Grey story, and "Warsong" will be no different, promises Pak. "Wolverine's big emotional moments are going to come from an unexpected, new direction. I can't reveal too much -- but exploring the origins of three blonde telepaths is going to play a huge role."

While superstar Greg Land provided the pencils in "Endsong," this time Pak is joined by former Top Cow artist Tyler Kirkham, whose style will bring a different flavor to "Warsong." "Greg's known for stunning, almost photo-realistic work which blew everyone away in 'Endsong.' Tyler comes from Top Cow and carries on that company's amazingly dynamic, Silvestri-influenced style. Individual fans will have their own preferences, but both Greg's and Tyler's methods result in stunning images and, in particular, beautiful pictures of our female leads. 'Warsong' readers won't be disappointed when they get a eyeful of Tyler's Emma and Cuckoos."

Having received lots of acclaim for his work on "Endsong," from both fans and critics, it's natural for Pak to feel pressure to do even better this time around, but he's cool as Jean Grey's corpse. "I think one of the reason 'Endsong' resonated was that we really did our best to tell a story that respected the Jean Grey/Phoenix mythos and which took seriously the emotional turmoil our characters were going through. We're continuing those efforts with 'Warsong' -- even as we take our story in unexpected new directions. So sure, there's tons of pressure! But we're just telling the best stories we can. As always, the fans will decide."

With trilogies en vogue these days, some fans already suspect that there might be a sequel to "Warsong," but Pak ain't talking. "Regarding the future, my lips are sealed. You knew I'd say that, didn't you?" he laughs.

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