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X-Men: Battle of the Atom

Making Battle of the Atom Plans with Jason Aaron

The writer of Wolverine & the X-Men discusses his role in the major mutant event, fight scenes, Quentin Quire and more!

Wolverine & The X-Men #36 preview inks by Giuseppe Camuncoli

By Tim O’Shea & Ben Morse

If Wolverine and the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning staff and students expected to get a break after the Hellfire Saga, series writer Jason Aaron will quickly disabuse them of any such notion.

Starting in September, Aaron joins fellow writers Brian Bendis and Brian Wood in crafting the 10-part X-Men: Battle of the Atom event. To be precise his responsibility includes populating WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN issues #36 and #37—aka chapters five and nine—with plenty of time-traveling conflict and surprises.

From Aaron’s perspective, Wolverine, his students and staff will just be recovering from their battle with the Hellfire Club, before getting blindsided by the opening moments of the Battle of the Atom. In speaking to the writer about his role in the story, he reveals that the future readers glimpsed in WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #29 will be the “same future that we’re dealing with in Battle of the Atom.”

Aaron touches upon a variety of topics, including the increased impact of S.H.I.E.L.D. in WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN as well as how he sees a little of the past Wolverine in the present day Quentin Quire, in this wide-ranging discussion.

Marvel.com: Wolverine is kind of the central character of WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN. He’s a guy who usually has things pretty together. Where is his head space at, after going through the Hellfire Saga, everything he’s been through, and seeing all these unexpected faces?

Wolverine & The X-Men #36 preview inks by Giuseppe Camuncoli

Jason Aaron: I don’t want to say too much in terms of the end of the Hellfire Saga, as there’s a little twist there that I don’t want to give away. As far as the future, it’s something that’s been on his mind for a while. He’s been in an unusual position for about 30 issues in WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN as he’s headmaster of the school. That’s something he never saw himself doing and it’s a job he still struggles to do on a daily basis. We’ve seen him feel like he’s out of place, like he’s not the guy for this job, like it’s crazy for him to even consider trying to teach children. But he still labors and struggles on. We’ve also seen a few glimpses of the Jean Grey School of the future. We’ve got some idea of how things might turn out for Logan and this school. All of that plays in to the Battle of the Atom. Those glimpses that we’ve seen of the future in WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN, that’s the same future that we’re dealing with in Battle of the Atom. Different characters but as we go along, it’ll be obvious that it all ties together.

Marvel.com: You’ve been involved in a couple of events now. You were most recently involved with Avengers Vs. X-Men where you were working with several writers on the central series. With this one, it’s four titles with three writers. A lot of the time, you’re going to be writing a group of characters that you’re not usually responsible for. Most significantly, the All New X-Men. They have some major moments here, some of which will presumably take place in WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN. What’s it like when you’re working on a crossover with other people to pick up on plot points that other writers are putting in their books?

Wolverine & The X-Men #36 preview inks by Giuseppe Camuncoli

Jason Aaron: It’s wild. I think it has been similar to AVENGERS VS. X-MEN but a little more relaxed in that we’re all just writing issues of our own book instead of all of us writing one series. In some sense, with WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN, I have to put aside some of the usual cast members. Especially with the first issue, as it does not take place at the Jean Grey School. It’s not the typical setting for the book. You don’t see many of my students running around. Some of them may pop up over the course of Battle of the Atom but they’re not the main focus of the story. In some sense, a lot of it is writing characters from the other books, which is fun. In my first issue I got to write Brian [Bendis’] Uncanny X-Men. I got to write his kids and Cyclops, Emma Frost, and Magneto. That’s fun; you get to play with those toys that you don’t play with on a monthly basis. This stuff is all outlined, we do a lot of phone calls, we had a retreat. Everything goes through editor Nick Lowe, so we have a road map for this entire story. Fun little things still happen. It’s still fun when you’re going along and someone throws something down that someone picks up. There are always fun little surprises like that.

Marvel.com: Speaking of toys you don’t always get to play with, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a big presence in both of Brian Bendis’ books, ALL-NEW X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN. They’re going to be a big part of this crossover but they’ve not really shown their presence yet in WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN. How does S.H.I.E.L.D. figure in to your chapters of the story?

Jason Aaron: That’s one of the questions that I’m dealing with right now. What is S.H.I.E.L.D. really up to, what’s their role in all of this, and how it really changes their standing with the X-Men in a huge way; for the first time, we get to see what S.H.I.E.L.D. thinks about the fact that Wolverine has a school full of teenage mutants. In terms of them just keeping tabs on what’s going on with the X-Men, that’s certainly something they’re going to be interested in and we’ll see that interest continue after Battle of the Atom in the pages of WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN. The craziness that we’ve seen over the last couple of years in WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN just adds fuel to the fire of somebody like Maria Hill standing on the outside looking at the X-Men and how everything looks so scary, weird and dangerous. It’s not something that she can relate to or understand. Wolverine running his own school does not fit in with that and it’s not something she could have envisioned or something that she knows how to grasp.

Wolverine & The X-Men #36 preview inks by Giuseppe Camuncoli

Marvel.com: You also talked a second ago about how some of your kids and cast members are going to be popping up. When you were writing the story and breaking it up, were there certain cast members of WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN that you wanted to get in there; some that you obviously felt were important and had to play a role in this story?

Jason Aaron: Certainly the heavy hitters from the X-Men are in this story all along, but in terms of the kids, there’s a little bit with one of the kids in the first month that came from something that Brian Wood set up that I followed up on. In the second month, there’s really a bit for Quentin Quire that I knew would be coming down the road. Quentin will be having a couple of really important moments in the second month of Battle of the Atom.

Marvel.com: Let’s talk about Quentin Quire for a second. He’s obviously been front and center since Schism. He’s a character that you brought back from being away for a little while and he’s been a key part of WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN. What is it about that character that clicks with you and makes you want to write him and put him in so many situations?

Jason Aaron: I think he fits so [well] in WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN because of the change I was making to Wolverine. If you go back to the original All New, All Different X-Men days, Wolverine was the rowdy guy who was coming in [as] the voice of dissent. He was the guy who was going to butt heads with the leadership. He was the guy who was going to tell whoever was in charge when he thought they were full of crap. Now, we’re elevating Wolverine to the spot where he’s the responsible one, where he’s in the headmaster position. As uncomfortable as he may find it, that’s still the position that he’s in. So I needed basically the new version of what Wolverine used to be. Quentin Quire fits that role perfectly. He’s Wolverine’s worst nightmare. He’s a super powerful telepath with this deep-seeded rebellious streak. It’s been fun to watch the two of them butt heads over the course of several issues and also start to develop some sort of weird father-son relationship.

Wolverine & The X-Men #36 variant cover by Kris Anka

Marvel.com: Big stories and big events like this also mean big fight scenes. With something like Battle of the Atom, it’s that times four. You’ve got so many characters and you’ve got these huge fight scenes. It’s one thing to write dialog for these characters, it’s another to write fight scenes. When you’re planning and plotting these out, how do you do it with the big scale stuff? You did it with AVENGERS VS. X-MEN, but what’s the process of that?

Jason Aaron: It certainly is a challenge when you’re dealing with that many characters. Usually I just feel bad for the artist when I’m writing a page and it’s got so many characters on it all interacting and talking and fighting. It can be a lot to manage. For me, the important thing is that story-wise and fight-wise, to make sure that it’s not just a mess. I want to find a firm position for whoever is fighting and that you understand where these different sides stand and what they’re fighting about. The stuff I get to do at the end of the first month of Battle of the Atom, it’s kind of the first big fight, the precursor to the final colossal melee. It’s fun. It’s fun to bounce those characters off each other. We haven’t seen Wolverine’s side and Cyclops’ side come face to face too much in recent years since Schism. We get to bring them back together in a big way with these crazy future X-Men thrown into the mix. When there are so many cool characters to play with and so many cool moving parts, so many strong personalities, it’s just a blast to throw that stuff together. Usually the only problem is that I feel I could write forty pages of this instead of just twenty.

Marvel.com: With all the time travel elements and continuity stuff, how much history did you have to research for Battle of the Atom?

Wolverine & The X-Men #37 cover by Ed Mcguinness

Jason Aaron: I didn’t have to do too much just for the sake of this story. Since I got the X-Men gig I’ve been reading as many X-Men comics as I can. A lot of stuff I’ve read over the years anyway. Thankfully, that’s the kind of research that comes easily. But yes, because this is the big anniversary story for the X-Men, we wanted to include some notable callbacks to the past that involves all the major characters of the X-Men in the present day but also spoke of what is to come. I think it makes a cool story when you combine the past, present and future all into one crazy story.

Marvel.com: Both as a writer and as a reader and a fan, what’s got you most excited about this event? 

Jason Aaron: I think it’s the future X-Men that are in the mix. They’ve been fun to explore. Some will be surprising and some will be familiar. There’s a lot of surprises there and a lot of cool stuff that we’re setting up, not just for this story, but for what we’ve got going on down the road.

X-Men: Battle of the Atom kicks off September 4 and is available for pre-order right now!

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