By Chris Arrant
In the long history of the X-Men, many mutants as well as creators have moved on over the years, but as we’re about to find out, both can come back.
Longtime X-Men editor and writer Louise Simonson reunites with friend and collaborator Chris Claremont to chronicle the mutant response to Chaos War in CHAOS WAR: X-MEN. This two-issue limited series pairs these two classic creators with artist Doug Braithwaite and debuts on December 29. With the Chaos King returning to Earth and an army of enslaved alien gods at his side, our heroes need all the help they can get—and you’d be surprised who answers the call.
“With all of living humanity in a coma-like trance, the dead return to walk the earth,” Simonson explains. “Not necessarily as they were when they were killed, but as their ideal selves.”
In their 40-plus year history, the X-Men have buried more than their share of teammates, but with the war in full-swing, several fallen warriors return, including Thunderbird, Banshee, Sophie and Esme Cuckoo, Moira MacTaggert and even three Jamie Madrox dupes. It’s a god from Thunderbird’s Native-American pantheon they have to thank for the invitation back to the living.
“The Native American sky deity, the Thunderbird, who has, so far, flown beneath the Chaos King’s radar, deliberately brings our dead X-Men together at the destroyed X-Mansion,” reveals Simonson. “Buried among the ruins, they locate one of the seer Destiny’s diaries. [and] inside, a prophecy that clues them in about the Chaos King and his agenda and suggest a response—a fairly cosmic one. No surprise there. The whole Chaos War story is cosmic.”
Though Destiny predominantly spent her time at the side of the villainous Mystique, her predictions always proved correct. The recovery of the diary proves invaluable for the resurrected X-Men.
"They learn that the defeat of the Chaos King is possible—if, and only if, specific goals are met by specific groups of people," Simonson notes, referring to the other series in the larger Chaos War line-up. "If even one team fails, the Chaos King will be victorious. The X-Men’s goal is to awaken the sleeping Native American deity, the One Who Dwells Above All, who will then rally heaven and earth in the form of nature’s avatars to battle the unlife that is the Chaos King."
And while the prophecies put to paper give these revived heroes a chance for success, first they must work through their own unresolved issues.
"Thunderbird died early on, before he matured into the man he was meant to be," Simonson says. "Given a second chance and aided by his military experience, he assumes leadership of the team."
The beloved Banshee sacrificed himself in X-MEN: DEADLY GENESIS, and as we learn, the Irishman carries with him regret over the events of his death.
"Sean wonders if his death was for nothing, so with this series he gets a final chance to make his life count and to define for himself, and the others, what heroism really means," promises Simonson.
While the revived Stepford Cuckoos and Multiple Men will have their roles to play as well, the non-powered Dr. MacTaggert may have the most crucial of all.
"Moira's the one who discovers Destiny's diary and, through her actions, releases Destiny herself, who will play a pivotal role in the final confrontation." Simonson reveals.
However, the Chaos King, who has been weaving his plan going all the way back to Secret Invasion and even earlier, will not do down easy, and also has another Thunderbird’s gods in his corner.
"He sends the suborned and transformed trickster god Carrion Crow to destroy the diary and these dead X-Men," says Simonson of the Chaos King’s designs. "Direct interactions with the Chaos King seem to be reserved for gods and demi-gods, but Carrion Crow: Eater of the Dead will be a challenging opponent for our crew."
CHAOS WAR: X-MEN comes as return to familiar territory for Simonson, who edited UNCANNY X-MEN in the early 1980’s and went on to write both X-FACTOR and NEW MUTANTS, co-creating such memorable characters as Apocalypse and Cable. This project also hits upon another strong suit for “Weezie,” harkening back to her years guiding the classic horror magazines Creepy and Eerie.
"I love writing dramatic stories of heroism; I love writing horror too," she shares. "But the X-Men Universe is vast and I've been away for awhile, so I hadn't actually written any of these characters except for possibly Banshee and Moira, in passing somewhere back in the day."
Even though she's found success outside of the X-Men, Louise Simonson's reunion with the X-family couldn't have been as invigorating without the help of others.
"It's both challenging and crazy, and I'm so glad Chris Claremont and I are co-writing," she says of the man she both edited and wrote alongside over two decades ago. "He's so much more up on modern day continuity than I am. And, as everyone knows, I think he's brilliant. Editors John Denning and Mark Paniccia have been especially wonderful as well, and thanks to all you crazy folks on the Internet who write tomes on the characters you love. Without your help, I'd have jumped off a roof by now!"