By Chris Arrant
Despite the status quo of mutantkind being shaken to its core in X-MEN: SCHISM and the upcoming Regenesis, writer Greg Pak and artist Mike McKone aim to take ASTONISHING X-MEN back to basics.
Beginning with November’s ASTONISHING X-MEN #44, Pak and McKone unite to tell a story where Storm needs help from her longtime teammate, Cyclops. What can a weather-controlling mutant who rules an entire nation need from Scott Summers? This team-up promises to feature not just all-out action, but possibly a surprising romance.
Although Pak might be best known for his work on The Hulk, he’s ventured into the mutant of the Marvel Universe on numerous occasions with limited series focused on Magneto as well as the Phoenix Force. But his run on ASTONISHING X-MEN puts him at the heart of things, dealing with X-Men’s biggest players.
|ASTONISHING X-MEN by John Cassaday|
Marvel.com: You’ve worked on the X-Men before Greg, but never at this scale. What do you have planned for ASTONISHING X-MEN to live up to the name?
Greg Pak: While reading and re-reading X-Men stories from various eras while prepping for this project, I came to a shocking realization: No other characters in comics have a better shot at making this grown man cry. There's just something about the way they relate to each other that kills me every time. And I think that emotional resonance is a huge part of how Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's ASTONISHING X-MEN dazzled me and you and everyone else in the planet. We were astonished not just by that absolutely gorgeous Cassaday art and the snappy dialogue, but because every brilliant quip was based on deeply compelling and suspenseful conflict between characters we love.
So with this new storyline, we're striving to blow minds with Mike McKone's incredible art and a wild scenario with big ideas and shocking implications for the X-Universe. But most importantly, I'm shooting for an emotional story that remains entirely true to the characters while exploring their relationships in ways we've never seen with repercussions we never imagined.
Marvel.com: Storm’s stood on her own for years as leader of the X-Men and the Morlocks, and most recently as Queen of Wakanda. What’s the special mission that she needs Cyclops’ help for?
Greg Pak: Storm doesn't really need anyone, does she? She's monumentally powerful, both in terms of sheer firepower and strength of character. But as our story begins, she's facing a challenge that only Cyclops can help her overcome. And it absolutely tears her apart—but not for the reasons you might think. There's a huge question at the core of this book about what it means to be a hero, and the answers will draw Ororo and Cyclops closer together than they've ever been.
|ASTONISHING X-MEN #44 cover by Mike McKone|
Marvel.com: We heard about a kiss shared between Ororo and Scott. Out of all the love triangles in X-Men history, I don’t think they’ve ever locked lips—what’s going on?
Greg Pak: After Xavier, the X-Men's two greatest leaders are Scott and Ororo. They've borne responsibilities few others can conceive. And just those experiences alone should provide them [with] reasons to bond. But maybe they've just never had a moment to consider it; each has always seemed to be wrapped up in a wild romance with someone else. The current Scott/Emma and Storm/T'Challa relationships are amongst the most passionate in the Marvel Universe. So yes, what the heck is going on? I'll just say that everything that's happening is utterly inconceivable, but completely real, completely in character, and completely in continuity.
Marvel.com: In addition to Storm and Cyclops, who else plays a part in this book?
Greg Pak: The events of X-MEN: SCHISM will create an entirely new dynamic for the X-Universe. I'll just say that the ASTONISHING X-MEN book may be the only place you'll see certain heroes talking face-to-face.
Oh, and, Wolverine. I said it!
Marvel.com: So this book plays into what’s coming with the finale of X-MEN SCHISM?
Greg Pak: The book opens in the aftermath of X-MEN: SCHISM. New readers have no fear; you don't have to have read anything to jump on board. But if you've been compelled by X-MEN: SCHISM, this is a great place to follow some of its repercussions.
Marvel.com: You mentioned your collaborator on this, artist Mike McKone who’s hot off a run on AVENGERS ACADEMY. What do you hope for out of your work together?
Greg Pak: I am so ridiculously happy to be working with Mike on this book. He's tearing it up with his trademark clean lines, dynamic action, and phenomenal character work. And he's cranking up the sexy like nobody's business. Just look at that cover.
|X-MEN: MAGNETO - TESTAMENT|
Marvel.com: You did X-MEN: PHOENIX – ENDSONG and X-MEN: PHOENIX – WARSONG early in your career, and your limited series X-MEN: MAGNETO -TESTAMENT has become one of the integral books in Magneto’s history. Does your previous work play into your run on ASTONISHING X-MEN in any way?
Greg Pak: I've loved every chance I've had to work with the X-Men and very much appreciate the kind words I've heard from fans over the years. So I'm absolutely bringing the experience I've had writing these characters to the new book, but this ASTONISHING X-MEN tale is definitely its own story. New readers in particular should feel very comfortable jumping on board. While the book absolutely fits into and contributes towards ongoing X-Men continuity, you don't have to have read a thing ahead of time to enjoy the heck out of it. Back to basics and out of this world, baby. Pre-order with your local retailer today!