By Kevin Mahadeo
It takes quite a few people to bring back hope to the present day Marvel Universe. But with the upcoming mutant crossover event Second Coming, the writers and editors of Marvel's X-Men book intend to do just that.
The upcoming epic ties an end to threads tracing back all the way to House of M, where the reality-warping Wanda Maximoff declared "no more mutants" and changed the shape of the Marvel U. The March-launching tale also acts as the final chapter in the Messiah Trilogy, which began with Messiah Complex and the birth of the first mutant baby since the Decimation, then continued in Messiah War. The race for survival and the preservation of Hope begins with the X-MEN: SECOND COMING one-shot written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost. Events then spiral into the pages of UNCANNY X-MEN, written by Matt Fraction, NEW MUTANTS by Zeb Wells, Mike Carey's X-MEN: LEGACY and X-FORCE, by Kyle and Yost.
Marvel.com spoke with the writers as well as editors Nick Lowe and Axel Alonso about the event years in the making and what the return of Hope means for the future of mutantkind.
UNCANNY X-MEN #523 cover by Adi Granov
Marvel.com: What can we expect to see from the UNCANNY title going into this and Cyclops specifically, who is basically leading the charge?
Matt Fraction: Cyclops put all of his chips on one bet, and it's this. It's this girl, and she's back and it's a big deal. So, this is it. This is everything that we've done since Messiah Complex built to this moment, and now we're going to see if he was right or if he was wrong. It's time to [pay] the piper.
Marvel.com: When Hope first appeared in Messiah Complex, it caused major problems for the X-Man and for everyone else. While this is a mutant story, are we going to see a focus on the rest of the world and their reaction?
Matt Fraction: Coming out of it, yes. For the time being, this is Hope's story. This is Cable's story. This is Scott's story. This is about the mutant population and what Hope's return means. The thing is Scott's not the only one who's been waiting for her to come back. All hell breaks loose when she does. Once we're through Second Coming, we'll see what ramifications Second Coming has for the rest of the world.
Marvel.com: We saw another return in the X-Books recently with Kitty Pryde. Does this all tie into the events of Second Coming? Will she be playing a part?
Matt Fraction: Yeah. Of course it ties in. Nothing happens by accident. [Laughs] Her return is much more about Nation X than Second Coming, but Kitty is back and we're going to be talking about that and dealing with that for a while.
Marvel.com: Besides, Cyclops, what other characters should readers watch as this progresses?
Matt Fraction: Cable and Hope. [Laughs] It's their story. It's about the three of them.
UNCANNY X-MEN #523 variant cover by David Finch
Marvel.com: Readers have had a lot of questions about Hope and her origins as well as all the other questions that surround her return. Will we get some answers here?
Matt Fraction: Yeah. This is the bookend to [Messiah Complex]. But it's the X-Men. Nothing is ever wrapped up in a tidy little package. But you will know who Hope is. You will know what she is capable of. You will have a sense of what she is going to be capable of. This is the end of all the questions that have been asked since [Messiah Complex]. Well...almost. [Laughs] It answers the questions, but asks new ones that propel us into the future.
Marvel.com: What are the general thoughts of the mutant population going into Second Coming?
Chris Yost: This is something that structurally started with Messiah Complex, but its roots go all the way back to House of M when Wanda made her proclamation and took out the majority of the mutant species. The species is actually going extinct and over the years, the enemies of the X-Men have been taking them out. It's a literal countdown to extinction. Things are getting grimmer and grimmer for mutantkind and the X-Men. Their numbers are dwindling and they're holding out for Hope to return, but [she] hasn't come back yet. This leads us to right now. Second Coming is the story of the return of Hope and everything that entails.
Marvel.com: What can you say about X-Force and the role they'll be playing in this crossover?
X-FORCE #26 cover by Adi Granov
Chris Yost: X-Force was Cyclops' dirty little secret. He knew the enemies of mutantkind were coming after them. They were in a horrible position because pretty easily, as a species, they can get wiped off the face of the Earth. So, he commissioned Wolverine and a team to go out and hit their enemies before their enemies hit them. And to use lethal force, something that was against the X-Men's rules, so to speak. In this situation, with the return of Hope, they're going to protect her no matter what. This is "all cards on the table" time here. Cyclops is going to do whatever it takes protect this girl and find her a home. Whether the X-Force team survives that or not remains to be seen, but he's going to use every gun in his arsenal and X-Force is a big one.
Marvel.com: Second Coming hits directly after the events of Necrosha, which is another X-book crossover that you and Craig helped head up. It's like back-to-back events for you. What's that like?
Chris Yost: Personally, I love it. The stories that I love are the big stories. These are the ones that are going to shake the universe to their core. X-Force isn't necessarily known for its little slice of life, day in the life of Warpath stories. They're the big ones. Every X-Force story is like a big action movie. You just happen to see six of them in a row. So, for us, it's natural to go into the next big event. And we're including Bastion in Second Coming and he was an X-Force villain. It felt like a logical progression.
Marvel.com: You mention Bastion. Can you talk a little about what he'll be up to in this crossover?
X-FORCE #27 cover by David Finch
Chris Yost: Bastion is a very committed villain. He's got a goal and he's never going to stop. He will never stop no matter what. He is the kind of guy who crosses his t's and dots his i's. Anything he does is going to be very extreme and very well thought out and thorough. The X-Men have no idea what's coming for them.
Marvel.com: Second Coming also serves as the finale to Chris and your stint on X-FORCE. What's it been like working on this event to a close your amazing run?
Chris Yost: It's funny because Messiah Complex kind of ended our run on NEW X-MEN. We were on NEW X-MEN for two years and then Messiah Complex wrapped it up. We were on X-FORCE for two years and now Second Coming is wrapping it up. It's kind of fun in certain regards because you can be a little bolder. You can throw it all on the table and do these insane things. And insane things are going to happen, trust me. Not that we want to leave the next writer in a bad situation, but we love coming on board when something horrible has happened. We love that kind of stuff.
Marvel.com: For LEGACY, what affect does Hope's return have?
Mike Carey: LEGACY has swung around now to focus on the lives and concerns of the younger mutants and on Rogue's role as a counselor or
|X-MEN: LEGACY #235 variant cover by David Finch|
Marvel.com: How do you see the character of Hope? What's her mindset right now?
Mike Carey: I would see her as being ambivalent about a lot of things. She's met a number of the mutants from our time now in the events of Messiah War and she's curious about that. She's curious about the time that she's come from and she knows that it's assumed by everybody around her that she'll go back there. I think she wants to do that, but she's also afraid. The burden she carries is an enormous one and she's a bit uncertain of her ability to carry it. Particularly since there is still this question mark about what she can do.
Marvel.com: That's an interesting dichotomy of feelings for someone who is supposed to be the savior of mutantkind.
Mike Carey: Yeah, but that's a label that's been put on her from outside. She certainly doesn't see herself in those terms.
Marvel.com: You mention the big part Rogue plays in the title. That said, will we be seeing her take center stage in LEGACY during the event or will we see other characters come into play?
X-MEN: LEGACY #236 cover by Adi Granov
Mike Carey: It won't be a sole focus on Rogue. The structural template for Second Coming is very similar to the template that we had in Messiah Complex. All the books that are participating will be chapters in a larger story. So, my story will no more be just about Rogue than the UNCANNY chapters will be just about UNCANNY characters. All the characters from all the books are to a very large extent involved in this.
Marvel.com: Second Coming changes a lot for the mutant universe. That said what can we expect from the LEGACY title moving forward?
Mike Carey: This is a game changing moment for everybody involved and for Rogue no less than most. She's going to be profoundly affected by these events. That sense of her role is going to be changed. Her relationships with some of the other characters are going to be very substantially and significantly going to be changed. She's going to come out of it on a new trajectory. Still involved with the younger mutants, but with a new sense of what it is that she has to do and a new set of priorities.
Marvel.com: For the New Mutants, what does the return of Hope mean to them?
Zeb Wells: I think, especially with Sam [Guthrie aka Cannonball] leading the team, the return of Hope means whatever it means to Cyclops. Sam is really concerned with being a good soldier, leading a good team of X-Men, [so] he's going to do whatever Cyclops tells him. So, when Hope arrives, Cyclops mobilizes all the X-Men and the New Mutants, under Sam, want to do whatever they can to help Cyclops reach his goals.
Marvel.com: Cyclops has put a lot of faith in this one person. Do they find it risky that he's taking such a huge gamble?
NEW MUTANTS #12 cover by Adi Granov
Zeb Wells: Yeah, definitely. With the team of New Mutants, there are so many different points of view and each of them is going to have a different take on Hope and whether or not Hope is worth the trouble or whether or not Cyclops' faith is warranted. That's what makes Sam's job so hard. It's his job to make sure those questions don't affect the effectiveness of the team. It's not the soldier's job to question the general's reasoning when it comes to orders. It's the soldier's job to make sure those orders are carried out. So, that's what Sam has to do. He has to make sure that his team stays focused and doesn't let those questions get in the way of the mission.
Marvel.com: What can you say about what part the New Mutants will be playing in the events of Second Coming?
Zeb Wells: Well, Cyclops honestly believes that Hope is the future of mutantkind, where her living makes the difference between mutantkind surviving and mutantkind dying. So, as soon as Hope shows up, any danger that she finds herself in is going to be met with a huge reaction from Cyclops. Basically, an attack on Hope would be considered an attack on mutantkind. So, he is going to throw everything he possibly can to making sure Hope is safe and that she is in a place where she can be protected.
Marvel.com: What can you say about the how the events will play out book-to-book?
Zeb Wells: It is one big story, and everyone who works on all the books worked on that story. Everyone knows where it's going, agrees with the story, likes the story and wants to tell it effectively. So, the focus of everyone's book is going to be telling the story of Second Coming. What we tried to [do] was put beats in each person's issue that put a spotlight on the characters of that book.
Marvel.com: What's it like participating in such a huge story with massive ramifications and working with everyone on it?
NEW MUTANTS #13 cover by Adi Granov
Zeb Wells: It's definitely intimidating at first. But when you get all those writers into a room, it becomes fun trying to attack these huge problems and telling this huge story. So, all the pressure to telling the story lit a fire under everybody and it ended up making it a whole lot of fun.
Marvel.com: We know that some characters are not coming out of this alive. Can you confirm or deny this for NEW MUTANTS?
Zeb Wells: I can neither confirm [nor] deny, but I can say the team will look different at the end of this than it does going into it.
Marvel.com: As an editor, what's it been like working on this massive project and putting this all together for the past few years?
Nick Lowe: It's been a pretty Herculean task I have to say. It's probably the hardest thing we do here. It is much easier editing four separate books than it is editing one big event together. With the separate books, you have different creative teams, you can keep everything isolated and the writer can keep on top of it. But when there's this many moving parts, it gets pretty crazy. But it's coming together great and our plans have really come to fruition. It is a badass crossover.
Marvel.com: Hope coming back to the present day means a lot of things for a lot of different people. What does that mean for you, besides more work, that is?
Nick Lowe: [Laughs] The first thing is that it's really exciting because we've been building up to this for so long and it's finally coming to fruition. We've been building toward this since 2005, 2006. So there's a big sigh of
|X-MEN: SECOND COMING #1 cover by David Finch|
Marvel.com: There have been a lot of changes in the X-Books over the last few years and changes for the mutant species as a whole. Looking forward, what's the direction you guys want to move in with this crossover and beyond?
Nick Lowe: Our big instruction when Axel Alonso came in as our group editor was to simplify the line in a lot of ways and make it that each book has a pretty distinctive identity and each one has a mission statement you can identity. That's still going to be it-maintaining these "simple mission statement books"-but on the other end of it, what we're pushing back is to the core X-Men "hated and feared" and the differences between people and what makes you special. But we've been in a really dark tunnel in a way ever since "no more mutants." It's been a really dark time with no real hope for the future. Like Cyclops, in editorial we'd like to go beyond that dread of extinction.
Marvel.com: What is it that you hope for in the return of Hope?
Nick Lowe: It's kind of hard to say. I'm just hoping we keep these books as good as they have been. We've got really great creators involved. They bring such strength. Between Matt Fraction and Mike Carey and Craig Kyle and Chris Yost and Zeb Wells, it's been a really exciting time. As far as the characters, I really do look forward to them getting a chance to step back and take a breath before the next shoe drops. It's the X-Men, they're always going to be in trouble, but I'm looking forward to more exciting stories that we can share with everyone that we've got lined up.
X-MEN: SECOND COMING #1 cover by Adi Granov
Marvel.com: Second Coming kicks off in a few weeks. After years of planning, what's it like coming to this point in this huge story that you've been working on?
Axel Alonso: Well, it's obviously very exciting because we've been building to this for so long. So many people were involved, writing so many books that will taper into this really exciting conclusion. This is why you do the job.
Marvel.com: What does the character of Hope mean for the present?
Axel Alonso: Everything hinges on Hope. Back in Messiah Complex, Cyclops, acting on nothing more than faith, allowed Cable to jump with this girl into the time stream with no plan other than "bring her back when she's ready and when it's safe." Since that time, he has had to live with that decision and ponder everything, from the mortality of the mutant species to choices he had to make to ensure survival. Understand that he's been operating on nothing more than faith. There's no proof that Hope means anything to mutants. And as any reader of the books knows, there's more than a faint flicker of danger. Red hair, green eyes. Say no more. Really, the overarching theme of the X-Men for the last couple of years has been faith. What do they believe in? What do they stand for? And at the center of that storm has been Cyclops. If you've been reading CABLE, you know that two heroes, Bishop and Cable, have two very different ideas of who Hope is and what she means for the mutant race. For Cable, she's salvation. For Bishop, she's destruction. Maybe both are true. That's what Cyclops has to ponder and what readers have to ponder when we bring her back. By the end of Second Coming, readers will fully understand who Hope is and what she means for mutants.
Marvel.com: You mention that the major theme for the X-Books for the past few years has been hope and faith. Looking forward, what will be the theme and goal for the titles post-Second Coming?
UNCANNY X-MEN #524 cover by Adi Granov
Axel Alonso: Let's just say that there's going to be a shakeup. Long and short of it, not everyone is going to make it out alive. In Second Coming, mutants will face, not "quite possibly" but "definitely" the biggest threat to their survival on the face of the planet. This is the endgame. What I will say, whereas faith has been the overarching theme of the last few years, it's not going to completely vanish from the books. The long and short of it is that Hope will be back. There will large explosions. There will be revelations. There will be happiness. There will be regret. And at the end of the day, the X-Men that are alive and standing will have to sit through this and breathe and figure out what's next. They're about to enter a very big boxing match that will determine everything.
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