By Ben Morse
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR AGE OF X: ALPHA AHEAD, SO IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT YET, GET TO IT!
We have entered the Age of X.
From now through April in the pages of X-MEN: LEGACY, NEW MUTANTS and beyond, a strange and exciting new reality known as the Age of X will be introduced, with mysteries unfolding and a world where the X-Men never existed coming to light. After each chapter, we’ll have the event’s writer and mastermind Mike Carey here with us to discuss the latest revelations and will also preview art from the next exciting installment!
|X-MEN: LEGACY #245 cover by Leinil Francis Yu|
AGE OF X: ALPHA—on sale now—dropped those of us who thought we knew the score when it came to mutants in the Marvel Universe into a whole new ballgame. In a world where the X-Men never existed, everything once familiar has become twisted and bizarre.
To recap, in this prologue to the larger opus, we learned that Scott Summers spent years as a government-endorsed Arcade’s instrument of mutant torture before escaping to become the embittered Basilisk (and he has no eyelids); we learned that Cannonball and Husk arrived too late to save their family from a mass murder and have become estranged as a result; we learned that Doctor Kavita Rao injected a willing Wolverine with a mutant “cure” in order to eradicate it and decimated his powers in the process; and we learned that Magneto leads this world’s mutants from his Fortress X stronghold.
So all in all, quite a start.
We got a hold of writer Mike Carey for commentary on these and other revelations, as well as some teases of what comes next, including the preview art you see from X-MEN: LEGACY #245 and NEW MUTANTS #22, the next two chapters of Age of X.
Marvel.com: You put us right into the middle of the action here in AGE OF X: ALPHA with no explanation for what is clearly a very different world from the one we're used to. With these early scenes, what are we seeing? Without explaining how we got there, for lack of a better way to put it, where are we?
Mike Carey: Well, geographically we’re nowhere very special. We never do give Fortress X a specific location, beyond saying that Magneto didn’t take the skyscrapers of Manhattan “all that far.” That’s a relative term, obviously. We could be in upstate New York, or somewhere further inland. Actually, by the time we get to the climax, the exact location and the reason for it will be much clearer.
|X-MEN: LEGACY #245 preview art by Clay Mann
Right now, I guess all we can say for sure is that we’re in another world, where events appear to have fallen out very differently from the way they happened in regular Marvel continuity. But it’s not clear why or how things got to this point, even given the initial premise that the X-Men never formed and so the anti-mutant forces had things all their own way. There’s a missing chapter in the story, and we’ll tell it in its place.
Marvel.com: Where did you come up with the idea to transform Cyclops into Basilisk?
Mike Carey: I’m not sure, but certainly one of the things that was floating in the back of my mind was that moment in the Dark Phoenix saga where the X-Men are all bound and helpless and Cyclops fights back against the Hellfire Club at a point where he shouldn’t even be able to move muscle. It turns out that it’s Jean [Grey] telekinetically opening his visor. The idea of someone else taking control of Scott’s powers always struck me as a fascinating one—and the brute force way in which Arcade does it, by cutting off Scott’s eyelids so the helmet becomes the on-off switch, is a suitably grim riff for Age of X.
Marvel.com: How does shifting the X-Men's traditionally straight-laced leader into such a tortured wild card change the game on a larger level?
Mike Carey: That’s a good question. The short answer seems to be that it makes him either unfit to lead or unable to. We’re not sure whether it’s his own reservations that make him stay away from the command role, or whether it’s the associations that other mutants have when they see him, but for whatever reason, he’s in the ranks and seemingly doesn’t want to be anywhere else. Of course, that means that his strategic and tactical genius are being largely wasted; he’s a poor fit for the role of a grunt, and not just because he’s bad at taking orders.
|X-MEN: LEGACY #245 preview art by Clay Mann|
I guess because of what we know of Cyke in [the Marvel Universe proper], we’re watching him from the start and wondering what role he’s ultimately going to play here, beyond what we can see. There’s no way that this is going to be the whole of his story.
Marvel.com: Why use Arcade as you did?
Mike Carey: I needed a whimsical psychopath! Arcade seemed to fit because of his utter amorality and his perverse sense of showmanship. I only had a few panels in which to build up the governor into someone you really hate, and Arcade gave me a really good way in.
Marvel.com: What would you say are the big differences in character between Cannonball and Husk as illustrated by their differing actions here?
Mike Carey: It’s the command thing again, isn’t it? The willingness or ability to see beyond the immediate situation and to subordinate your own emotions and needs to something bigger. I’m not saying Paige doesn’t have that ability, just that it’s not in the ascendant at this time. She’s reacting from the heart and the gut, and I think most of us in that situation would at least feel the pull of the emotions and the instincts that are working on her. Sam not only sees the cost of that vengeance—the other side of the scales—but is able to stand back from his own emotions far enough to make the call. It’s what a leader has to do.
Marvel.com: What's the status of the Guthrie siblings' relationship in present day?
Mike Carey: Bad. Very bad. Paige never really gets over this: the grief at what she’s lost, the sense of complicity, and—strongest of all—the resentment against Sam for making her go with her better nature when she wanted to cut loose and
|X-MEN: LEGACY #245 preview art by Clay Mann|
make the enemy pay. She’s sort of stuck in that one moment of rage that she never got to express at the time: she’s remained in a stone form, refusing to be flesh and blood as though that refusal can somehow armor her against the pain, which of course it can’t.
Marvel.com: As with turning Cyclops into Basilisk, how does stripping Wolverine of much of his power alter the big picture of the X-Men?
Mike Carey: I was looking for something to do with Wolverine that readers wouldn’t see coming. Everyone expects him to be front and center in something like this, so we gave him a disability that pretty much guarantees he has to sit on the sidelines. Again, though, as with Cyclops, there’s more to it than that and there’s a pay-off down the line.
Marvel.com: How is the Magneto we're seeing here different philosophically from the one we know?
Mike Carey: I’d say not very much, really. He’s still the same uneasy mix of idealism and ruthless directness, and he’s still motivated by the same desire to lead mutantkind out of the wilderness. The big difference is a logistical one: he finds himself as the only man with the power and authority to pull the mutants together and then to lead then. That’s a huge responsibility, and I think it accounts for the differences that we can see in his leadership style and his relationships with the other core characters.
Marvel.com: We don't see Professor X at all here—any hints as to how his relationship with Magneto may have been different in this world?
Mike Carey: No hints at all! But yeah, Professor X’s absence is sort of crucial. See [X-MEN: LEGACY #245] for further details…
|X-MEN: LEGACY #245 preview art by Clay Mann|
Marvel.com: How did you come to select some of the characters we haven't seen in a bit to spotlight, such as Frenzy and Chamber?
Mike Carey: There were two guiding principles, really. The first was just me letting my inner fanboy off the leash: I chose characters who I wanted to see again and to have active again. Chamber in his classic form was a wonderful character, and man, I’ve missed him. So it was great to have an excuse—and a rationale—for bringing him back. And Frenzy has always deserved the place at the big table that she’s never got.
The second principle is one I can’t discuss just yet, but you can probably guess it if you go down the roster and think about who’s there and who isn’t; there’s a single rule, with a couple of glaring exceptions.
Marvel.com: Can you say how Namor and Storm got together?
Mike Carey: I think they just had a lot in common: he’s a king, she’s a goddess. They both know the burden of being a figurehead, and of having to maintain that public persona no matter what you’re really thinking and feeling. It made sense to me that they’d be drawn into each other’s orbit. Bear in mind that the Storm of Age of X comes direct from Africa to the Fortress; there’s no intervening time of her being an X-Man and learning to interact with the members of a team on an equal and informal footing.
Marvel.com: What's coming up next?
Mike Carey: A jail-break in the wrong direction, a speech by Scott Summers about death and dog tags, and the truth about what was on that camera…
Chapters one and two of Age of X ship February 23 in X-MEN: LEGACY #245 and NEW MUTANTS #22