Escape from the Negative Zone

James Asmus brings Steve Rogers, Namor and the X-Men together for an exotic adventure next March!

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By Tim Stevens

Just in time for Spring Break, the X-Men will be taking their first trip to the Negative Zone. While that may next seem like the ideal location for a vacation, they will have some friends along that will no doubt keep things interesting: Namor, the Sub-Mariner and Steve Rogers, Super Soldier.

UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #3 preview art by Nick Bradshaw
In March of 2011, these titans of the Marvel Universe of will cross over in X-Men/Super-Soldier: Escape from the Negative Zone, written by James Asmus with art by Nick Bradshaw and Ibraim Roberson. The story kicks off in UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #3 before moving on to STEVE ROGER: SUPER SOLDIER ANNUAL #1 and drawing to a close in NAMOR: THE FIRST MUTANT ANNUAL #1 and pivots on a conflict with a powerful Marvel villain Marvel's mutants have not tangled with in years.

"[A villain is] Blastaar," Asmus teases, "You got it out of me. But he's not the ultimate person they are going to have to face. And that's a secret, still."

While the villains might be kept fairly under wraps, no one has any problem talking about the locale. Asmus, for one, can hardly believe that this arc represents the X-Men's first trip to one of Marvel's most famous backdrops.

"The fact that they haven't gone there already is insane," he remarks. "But the appeal to me was exactly that: to tie the X-Men up in a different, very rich part of the greater Marvel Universe."

UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #3 black and white preview art by Nick Bradshaw
"The inspiration for [this story] was the Asgardian Wars story that ran in UNCANNY X-MEN and NEW MUTANTS by Chris Claremont and Art Adams," explains editor Nick Lowe. "It's such a great story and the art was out of this world. So with that in the back of my head, we were having an editorial meeting and talking about intermingling more stories between the [X-Men] side of the Marvel Universe and the Avengers side. Those two [ideas] snapped in my head and I called James Asmus.

"We are using those old Annuals as a bit of a guide for what we want to do with this. In those, there were huge changes for the New Mutants and a fw of the X-Men. Look out for what comes out of this story."

For artist Bradshaw, the Negative Zone also stood as a huge motivator to take on the project.

"I've been having a blast throwing in all kinds of weirdly designed critters and gizmos," he shares. "The best fun though is working with our colorist [Jim Charalampidis]. He always turns in these really great paint jobs on any work he does. I'm trying to leave some room in the backgrounds so he can color in some crazy space vistas and lighting effects. Getting to work With Jimmy is a treat because my art never turns out the way I imagined when I handed it off to him. I'm always surprised and giddy to open his files and see what he's come up with."

STEVE ROGERS: SUPER-SOLDIER ANNUAL #1 black and white preview art by Ibraim Roberson
As the title of the crossover makes clear, the X-Men do not explore the Negative Zone themselves; the former Captain America himself, Steve Rogers, races in close behind to rescue them from what could be a grim fate. Asmus, for his part, greatly enjoyed the chance to take on the icon.

"The moments I find most telling are when [Rogers] shifts between being a soldier and being Steve," says the writer. "And the good news is I think I found a way to write Steve that gets in a lot of his humanity and charm while still letting him be badass."

Given the X-Men's history of being feared and reviled by the population as whole, the team often ends up at odds with other heroes. While that can be interesting in some cases, Asmus strives for a bit more of a complex relationship between them and Rogers.

"Particularly between Steve Rogers and Scott Summers, there's a mutual respect," he asserts. "These are two guys who have both been fighting the good fight for a long time.  That said, though Steve has really tried to welcome the X-Men into the larger hero community, I think they're understandably hesitant."

Namor also snags a featured role in the arc, further complicating the interpersonal dynamics.

UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #3 preview art by Nick Bradshaw
"Namor has always been, and continues to be, one of the most precarious heroes you could possibly team up with," Asmus admits. "So when the X-Men get him trapped in another dimension, their alliance definitely strains.  And though he and Steve Rogers have a long history, that doesn't always earn a warm welcome from Namor.

"Every one of our main characters is a domineering, 'alpha' personality," he continues. "Cyclops, Namor, Doctor Nemesis, and even the newest X-Man, Hope, are all willful-aka difficult-in their own right.  It's always engaging as a writer to put strong personalities up against each other, especially if they share similar negative qualities.  And now that Cyclops has established himself as the leader of the X-Men, I wanted to see him handle an entire squad of people who refuse to follow his directions. What if that team was not at all compatible?  Suddenly, surviving becomes a very different process for Cyclops and the rest."

While things amongst the heroes might be a bit rocky, everyone seems to agree that smooth sailing proved to be an accurate description for the working relationship between those bringing the arc to fruition.

"I honestly don't know that there were any challenges," Asmus claims. "I happen to be getting some ridiculously talented artists and they have been blowing me away!"

STEVE ROGERS: SUPER-SOLDIER ANNUAL #1 black and white preview art by Ibraim Roberson
"James Asmus is a rising sar in the industry right now," asserts Lowe. "He has such a unique voice that blends drama and humor in a way that no one else does right now.

"With Nick Bradshaw, I've been trying to get him to do a full comic for months and months. I'm in love with his art. As for Ibraim Roberson, I wanted to give him something to really stretch his muscles. And boy, is he rising to the occasion. You haven't lived until you've seen his Blastaar."

"Truthfully, it's been four years since I have worked on any sequential interiors so I was a little rusty at the beginning and the team has been amazingly patient with me playing with these pages while I shake the rust off," Bradshaw confesses. "But the story is so much fun and a joy to work on that after page one I hit the ground running. When you have panel descriptions that can make you visualize your page layout after one read that's great storytelling.

 "[The other artists are] definitely are bringing the 'A' game which in the end is good for me," he further contends. "We're of different schools to be sure but it doesn't mean we're not both showcasing the fun we're having working on this project."

 

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      Comments

      10 comments
      Putera_Laut_Selatan
      Putera_Laut_Selatan

      Sean McKeever revealed that Onslaught will return in an event called "Onslaught Unleashed", slated for February 2011. The entity coming out from the N-Zone

      P-90
      P-90

      Pixie again? I know she has the 'teleportation spell' which is useful but why is this relatively boring character involved in yet another maajor storyline when far cooler young mutants get forgotten.

      sbmccloud
      sbmccloud

      I suppose im just growing out of X comic books. I have been reading them since a kid. There just.....boring to me now. Things happen but its just not that exciting anymore.

      Rheged
      Rheged

      If we're pointing out errors ... On the cover, what happened to Namor's wings? He's supposed to have FOUR wings.

      Putera_Laut_Selatan
      Putera_Laut_Selatan

      i remember in Onslaught Reborn, the villain floating in the Negative Zone. perhaps there's a chances they stumble upon onslaught again and may be this time he merges with magneto as onslaught become one with Xavier in onslaught story in the past, since magneto becoming nice know, it's time to bring back the bad mag again. good thing can be tedious last but not least "You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too". such a nice and evil quote

      Rheged
      Rheged

      I'm super excited to see this news. Not only is Namor getting an annual, but it will feature him and Cap! It will be nice to see them re-establish their relationship. I'm loving the art previewed here, and can't wait to see some pages from the the Namor annual!

      Rheged
      Rheged

      I love this sort of crossover. A three issue stand alone that is not in the main book? Heck yes! Reminds of days past when events didn't hijack the main book.

      sbmccloud
      sbmccloud

      X-men,X-force, or X whatever cannot compete with grant morrisons Batman and Robin comic book stories. They are real. When I read X comic book these days its like 90210 with action every now and then.

      sbmccloud
      sbmccloud

      I agree, this is getting ridiculous! Comics book story lines from the 90's are way better than what they have done to it now. The X universe went from a tactical rebel strike force to becoming saved by the bell. Cyclops has also become more unbarable to stand,

      stefiman
      stefiman

      This is getting ridiculous... Give it a break with all those crossovers...