On today’s Next Big Thing call with Marvel Comics we spoke to writer Brian Michael Bendis and editor Nick Lowe about the upcoming relaunch of Uncanny X-Men.
Cyclops and company believe that children are the future, and that core belief is the thrust of this slightly darker cousin to Bendis’ concurrent All-New X-Men. Based out of a renovated Weapon X facility with an all new Danger Room and Cerebro apparatus (look for an old-school cutaway diagram of the facility very soon) Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magneto, Magik and other militant mutants will seek out and foster young mutants from around the globe. It’s a more covert operation than what they’re doing down at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, making it that eastern European magic academy with the submarine viking ship to Wolverine’s Hogwarts.
Expect a bit of a scuffle between the two caps around March with Uncanny X-Men #3 and All-New X-Men #10. We’ll witness a clash at the Jean Grey School through the unique perspective of either book, Rashomon style.
“Thanks to the daily shipping of All-New X-Men we’ve been able to lay out exactly what the X-Universe will look like,” said Bendis. With this second ongoing, Bendis hopes to capture some of the magic of Chris Claremont’s storied run, examining how the landscape has changed, or in some cases remains the same, since the X-Men were positioned as an allegory for various groups all those years ago. What might mutants represent in the modern world and in the Marvel Universe. ”[The X-Men] reach across the world to rescue, save, and train the new mutants that are popping up all over the place. It gives us a fantastic opportunity to re-establish what mutants mean in this new world.”
“When people go through a large change in life, whether consciously or not, they often alter their appearance,” said Bendis of the dramatic new costume designs. Of particular interest are his comments on Cyclops and his new attire. Scott’s aggressive new look is a deliberate decision on the part of the public face for the Mutant Revolution. There is an emphasis on Cyclops’ concerted efforts to present himself and this movement in a certain light. Whether that facade is artifice or sincerely felt, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Villains? Oh, most definitely. Bendis teases that he and Lowe are pretty excited to introduce a Doctor Doom level villain from the larger Marvel U into the X-Men universe. It’s a character who’s never been associated with the X-Men before, but Bendis promises that once introduced, the juxtaposition will elicit an “Of course!” slap to the forehead.
The real drama though seems to be in the struggle for young hearts and minds. Bendis will introduce several new mutants, but not all of them will take to their new tutors. We asked the writer about the process of creating new mutant characters, whether he planned to continue the tradition of pairing power-sets with personalities and backgrounds in order to generate allegorical characters. Rogue’s inability to touch a loved one, for example. Or, as Bendis himself offered, Johnny Storm’s flighty hot-head persona mirroring his own special abilities. He mentioned the numerous possibilities, introducing a characters whose powers were directly tied to their behavior or even their fears. Or, the alternative, a character whose powers or appearance seem at odds with their temperament. We’ll likely see a combination of these two in Uncanny. Bendis seemed especially enthusiastic about the challenge, saying he’ll finally be using a number of characters he’s filed away over the years.
The real fun seems to be in the depiction of new powers and how they’re used.
“For mutants, you like to do powers where after training it becomes something else,” Bendis said. “We debuted Eva Bell in the first issue of All-New X-Men. She has that time-stopping power. That was the first time she used it. What are the extreme limits of that power?”
How dark is the book? Not quite as sinister as Dark Avengers, but there are a lot of skeletons in those closets. ”Having Magneto around, it’s this constant reminder of the ghost of Christmas past or future. If Cyclops makes the wrong decision one more time, he’s Magneto. The end. There’s no redeeming it.”
We asked Bendis if his recent experiences as a university professor has informed the way he depicts student/teacher interactions, something that will obviously come to play in this title. He joked about the hassle of paperwork and red tape being far worse for teachers than it is even for college students, but his new role has given him greater insights as well. ”Watching someone succeed and knowing you don’t have to do much but to nudge them in a direction they were already going is such a great moment,” he explained. “At the same time, watching someone not live up to their potential, just knowing from life lessons that they’re going to look back on this and be embarrassed…you live vicariously through your students’ successes and failures. At the same time, there’s only so much you can do because they have to learn.”
Some of it is by accident or at least not intentional, but Bendis says every experience he gains in the classroom goes right into the writing. “Everything.”
So, where are Cyclops and Wolverine at this stage in their stormy relationship? We’ll learn more as the series progresses, but Bendis believes Logan is far angrier at Scott than the other way around. He intended no animosity by installing the Uncanny team at Weapon X. That’s not a dig. “Unless,” says Bendis, “Cyclops finds Wolverine’s diary with all the information that would’ve helped him sort things out over the years, and just tosses it out in the trash. That’d be a dick move.”
Look for the first two issues of Uncanny X-Men in February.