By Chris Arrant
The X-Men have fought countless foes from the sewers of New York City to the outer reaches of space, but the challenge that ultimately divides them will come from within.
After the events of this summer’s X-MEN: SCHISM, mutantkind strikes out in a bold, diverting path as WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN begins in October, followed by the return of UNCANNY X-MEN the following month.
“WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN will have everything I love about the X-Men,” explains series writer Jason Aaron, who will be joined by artist Chris Bachalo. “Big crazy plots, intense character drama, love, sex, anti-mutant hysteria, man-eating aliens, all-new characters, old favorite characters, bizarre space tech, strange transformations, property damage, telepathic shenanigans, Wolverine drinking whiskey, mutants playing baseball. Except perhaps for that last part.”
The new status quo puts two teams of X-Men at odds with one another, acting as distinct and separate groups with different agendas, members and headquarters. Writer Kieron Gillen takes the flipside to the new mutant situation, carrying over his current work on UNCANNY into the re-launched #1 this November alongside artists Greg Land and Carlos Pacheco.
“To use a word, it'd be ‘pugnacious,’” says the British writer of his cast. “It's an X-Men team in public, operating on a scale we've never seen them act on before. Traditionally, the X-Men have mainly been about problems coming to mutantkind. They fight against foes who want mutants gone; the problem being [that] those victories just maintain mutantkind.”
“Over the last few years—mainly in the adjectiveless X-MEN book—we've seen the X-Men try and act more like super heroes. The idea being, we act like super heroes, maybe people will start feeling better about us. And it's worked a bit; they're certainly not hated in San Francisco as much as most of the world, but that's a town. That's region-based heroism. To change the world, they have to act on a world scale. That's what they're trying to do. UNCANNY X-MEN is the team aspiring to be the world's premier super team and everything that goes along with it.”
Although they might be trying to win over the world at large, the rival teams will not be playing nice.
“Bad enough to tear apart old friends, to separate lovers, to forever ruin the chances of there being an intramural X-Men basketball league,” Aaron quips on the state of X-Men relations coming up. “Too bad, because Logan, unlike LeBron, has a pretty sweet post-up game.”
“To quote the Buzzcocks, it's a different kind of tension,” adds Gillen. “[One] team looks at [the other] in an almost paternalistic manner. ‘Okay, you're going to go and do that? Great. It makes it harder for us, but we're going to look after you too.’ For me, the core of the disagreement is about how much of today you are willing to give up for tomorrow. Generally speaking, they think the other team is being profoundly selfish and self-indulgent in the route they're taking.”
Senior Editor Nick Lowe explains that this split is actually the first step into a wider integration between the X-Men and the Marvel Universe.
“The X-Men have been a pretty separate corner of the Marvel Universe for a long time and we’ve been working to change that and further integrate with the rest of the line,” he says. “This is another step into that. We work really hard for cohesion, most visibly through the creative summits and such, and synergy like this is the product.”
That synergy will be evident with the artists involved, from veteran Bachalo returning to the X-titles in WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN, to fellow X-alum Pacheco acting as one of two artists on UNCANNY X-MEN. Pacheco recently illustrated the special Point One issue of the series, but his history on the title goes back much further to early in his career during the mid 90’s.
“To be honest, this feels like the real X-Men,” says Pacheco. “It’s really as good as they were in the good old days.”
Joining Pacheco on the all-new UNCANNY X-MEN will be Land, who has a unique take on the schism at the center of these books:
“I guess this makes the X-Men as dysfunctional as some of the 'reality show families.’ I suppose anytime you have two strong alpha males in a group, heads will butt so it actually seems like it would have happened long ago. And since there are so many X-Men these days, it makes sense that they go separate ways with separate agendas.”
Speaking of separate agendas, the dueling personalities of Cyclops and Wolverine mirror—albeit more civilly—between competing series writers Gillen and Aaron.
“Mutual incomprehension,” describes Gillen. “Taciturn hyper-dry Alabama meets hyper-speed Brit-Midlands mumbler. It can only end badly.
“Honestly, I'm in quiet awe of Jason,” he admits. ”When I first started reading his work over with The Other Side and Scalped, I was in awe because of all the big boy writing he was doing there; understated mastery of structure and character and motivation and things which even excellent writers in other ways stumble with. However, I made myself feel less desperately insecure by filing him as "Crime Writer," which is miles away from what I did. Of course, then he came over to Marvel and has gone on to show that he can write pretty much anything. I am a seething cauldron of jealousy.
“I'm just looking forward to going head to head with him. That's all kinds of fun.”
Aaron has his own appraisal of their working relationship, explaining it as “only moderately more friendly as the one between Scott and Logan in SCHISM.”
“Actually, Kieron and I work great together. It helps that I'm such a huge fan of his work. Maybe I'm a bit biased but between Kieron's work and Rick Remender's amazing UNCANNY X-FORCE run, along with all the other X-stuff in the works, I think it's an exciting time to be an X-Men fan.”