By Chris Arrant
Over the past three years writer Mike Carey has taken the cast of X-MEN LEGACY all over the globe and even to another reality in Age of X, but this fall he’s sending them into the next frontier space—and five miles south of it.
September’s X-MEN LEGACY #255 starts a new story arc by Carey and artist Steve Kurth entitled “Five Miles South of the Universe,” which sees a unique quartet of mutants setting out to rescue their long-lost friends Havok, Polaris and Marvel Girl. The retrieval team includes some of Utopia’s most powerful personnel, but also among of its most dangerous; Rogue, Magneto, Gambit and Frenzy have all at one time or another been on the wrong side of the law, but now they’re about to fall into an intergalactic war between Shi’ar and a new intergalactic race.
We talked with Carey earlier this year and now continue the conversation about what’s next as well as the evolution of the X-MEN LEGACY series over the course of his 45+ issue run.
|X-MEN LEGACY #254 cover by Mico Suayan|
Marvel.com: The big story on the horizon for X-MEN LEGACY is the September start of “Five Miles South of the Universe”; first off, is that title a nod to something else I’m not getting?
Mike Carey: No, there’s no sneaky literary reference in there, or anything like that. It’s something that one of the characters says, sardonically, to indicate that the place where much of the action occurs is extremely remote. I wanted to make it clear that this is a new locale, a long way removed from the game-changing events of the War of Kings and yet still touched by those events at one or two removes.
Marvel.com: This quartet of X-Men goes out for a simple rescue mission but find themselves in the middle of an extraterrestrial war. Tell us about the big players in this battle.
Mike Carey: The Shi’ar are directly involved—in fact the setting is a Shi’ar orbital station at the edge of what used to be the empire. The other race is one that the X-Men haven’t encountered before, the Grad Nan Holt. The dispute is a local one, that’s arisen in the aftermath of the war between the Shi’ar and the Kree. There’s an indication that it’s just one of many local skirmishes that the Shi’ar have had to deal with since the Kree won the war and they became a client state. But in this case there’s an aggravating factor, or a rogue element, which becomes apparent gradually. Someone is stirring the pot, for their own reasons.
Marvel.com: Tell us about where this all takes place, that Shi’ar orbital station.
Mike Carey: Gul Damar station is a planet-sized facility that’s home to about a billion people, predominantly Shi’ar but with a good sprinkling of other races. It’s powered by gravity fluctuation, but now its generators are damaged, the artificial gravity fields are being propagated uncontrollably, and everything in the whole solar system is slipping into the sun. The X-Men see a planet being consumed shortly after they arrive, so they can see what’s at stake. What’s harder is figuring out a way to stop it, particularly since the Shi’ar and the Grad Nan Holt won’t halt their war in order to deal with the broader threat. I know that sounds unlikely, but there are reasons why they can’t, even though the entire population of the station is at risk.
|X-MEN LEGACY #255 cover by Mico Suayan|
Marvel.com: You recently concluded the title’s biggest event yet with Age of X—what’s like for you continuing on after that with “Lost Legions” and “Five Miles South of the Universe”?
Mike Carey: One of the things that I love most about working on X-MEN LEGACY is that we keep doing this. We’ve never really had a status quo, or at least, we’ve only tended to have one for a few arcs at a time. Then either our line-up or focus changes, or the wider situation in the X-verse changes, or both, and we shift into a new mode. This is the first time that X-MEN LEGACY has been a team book, and the first time I’ve written a team book since my run on X-MEN, so that’s a big change and a big pleasure. In Age of X, I got to handle a huge cast, and it gave me a real itch to keep that momentum going and tell team-based stories, for a while at least.
Marvel.com: Over the course of your run, Rogue has evolved to become one of—if not the—key focal point of the series. How have your perceptions and inclinations for her evolved over the years?
Mike Carey: That’s a hard question to answer. I think I’ve always had a list in my head of the characters who make the most sense to me—the ones I can write with confidence, feeling like I understand what makes them tick and I can get the voice and the personality right. Then within that there’s another group of X-Men who just work really well as point-of-view characters. Rogue exists at the nexus of those two groups for me. I love writing her, I feel like I understand her, and her POV on the action is always worth having.
But “evolved” is a different issue. I don’t think my perception of Rogue has changed, although I’ve changed her situation in a lot of ways—her use of her powers, her status within the X-Men, her relationships. But I hope a coherent character, or a coherent take on a character, comes out of that. I always try to emphasize her courage, her honesty, her compassion, and at the same time her waywardness and unpredictability. In her own way, she’s as big a wild card as the X-Men have got.
|X-MEN LEGACY #254 cover by Mico Suayan|
Marvel.com: This quartet—Rogue, Magneto, Gambit and Frenzy—stands as a very intriguing bunch; how’d it come down to them?
Mike Carey: The initial team in “Lost Legions” is made up of all the characters who I was keenest to keep writing after Age of X; characters who’d come to the forefront there, or played a big part in those events, and whose stories I wanted to continue to tell. And obviously within that the triangular relationship between Rogue, Gambit and Magneto is a factor. But Frenzy is in the mix, too, as I said. This wasn’t an excuse to get Rogue and the two men who love her off to a sort of cosmic resort hotel and see what develops. It’s more that we wanted to detach Legion and Professor X for this arc, for other reasons, and keep the rest of the team together. Except that they’re not. They get separated pretty quickly, and finding each other—not to mention finding the Starjammers, who are also separated—is problematic.
Marvel.com: How would you compare and contrast Rogue’s X-Men team with the others?
Mike Carey: It’s a whole lot more unstable. It’s over-powered, but divided against itself. It says a lot that the first threat they face is made up of rogue aspects of the personality of one of the team members. Professor X is the only member of the team who hasn’t been either a villain or functionally insane. Recently. That dynamic is a lot of fun to play with.
Marvel.com: The X-MEN LEGACY title has changed a lot since you took it over back in 2006. Looking over your run on the book so far, what do you see as the big successes for you personally?
Marvel.com: Well, Age of X springs to mind. I was immensely proud of that, of being in the command center for a crossover, even if it was a relatively small one, and being responsible for all the main planks of the event.
Keeping a loyal core audience through so many changes of focus and direction is also something I’m proud of. I think the original concept of X-MEN LEGACY was something of a hard sell, and coming straight from the team format of X-MEN to a continuity-heavy solo book was potentially a very dangerous thing to do. I’m very happy that we succeeded in making that transition; that people got what we were doing and continued to buy the book.
Maybe the biggest success is to have put together a book that remakes itself on an arc-by-arc basis—that walks a crooked mile through the X-Men universe and because of that is able to incorporate anyone and anything into its trajectory!