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All-New Marvel NOW!

All-New Marvel NOW! Q&A: X-Force

Si Spurrier gathers a new team of rebels under Cable's command, plus see Rock-He Kim's design art!

By Paul Montgomery

The mutant Cable has spent much of his hellish life on the run, a fugitive on multiple planes, a surrogate father hunted beyond time. That changes in February as he turns on his heel and begins sprinting, stealthily, toward something. When the lid bursts wide open on a global conspiracy, Cable rallies a new X-Force squad to assert the cause of all mutants on an unprecedented scale.

Of course, this isn’t your alternate reality daddy’s vision of Utopia. Si Spurrier and Rock He-Kim paint the globe red with X-FORCE #1.

We donned a plastic sheet and spoke to Spurrier about the grisly chess game about to commence.

Marvel.com: Any collection of mutants qualifies as a band of outsiders, but you've assem-bled some true pariahs. Who's on the roll call for X-FORCE #1?

Si Spurrier: The opening line-up—and I mean that in the sense that we literally meet them mid-action, shouting and exploding and blasting superpeople’s faces off, rather than laboriously chronicling How The Team Formed during episode one—looks like this:

X-Force design art by Rock-He Kim

Cable. As in, the extraordinarily deadly grizzled old war dog and fancier of enormoguns. Slightly grimmer than the proverbial reaper.

Psylocke. Everyone’s favorite British aristocratic psi-warrior transplanted into the body of a nin-ja. Trying her best to quit killing. Not doing very well.

Fantomex. That faux-French buckler of swashes, seducer of all and liberator of other-people’s-property. Smug at a genetic level.

Marrow. The C-lister time forgot. Damaged, crazier than a shark’s shoe, more [expletive]-kickingly awesome than a unicorn made of whisky and explosions.

Marvel.com: Wait. Marrow? Are you sure?

Si Spurrier: [Laughs] I was expecting a bit of that. And yes, so, so, so sure!

It’s funny: one question I get asked quite a lot at conventions relates to bringing back lesser-known characters. Please do more with X, thanks so much for that Y cameo, I’ll literally give you money if you give a speaking part to Z, etc. Every Marvel fan has their own curious favorites—me as much as anyone—and part of the joy of my job is to try and elevate really cool but not-A-list characters into the positions they deserve.

X-Force design art by Rock-He Kim

Marrow’s one of those characters—like Chamber and, I know I know I know, Maggott—I’ve always had a weird fascination with. I never really got the opportunity to think about the “why”—what it is about the list of ingredients that make-up that character which make me feel she should be more popular than she is, in defiance of the mass-mind—until X-FORCE came along. She just slotted into place as if this had always been the intention: like she’d just been ca-pering around on the edges of my attention in a holding-pattern, waiting for this opportunity.

She’s, well, she’s awesome. On the surface she seems to be servicing a vaguely familiar trope: a bit crazy, desperate to prove herself, full of pent-up violence. She’s the group’s Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, she’s our Tank Girl. Of course you look a little deeper and there’s a lot going on under the surface: she’s a [expletive]-up, a problem-kid, traumatized, damaged, desperately looking for a place to fit in and be useful. And she’s got a really visual and very unique power-set—which, by the way, is a term I absolutely despise.

You want to get a bit hifalutin’ about it? My feeling is that the best super-powers are not only cool and exciting and visual and different, but operate as subtle manifestations of character traits. In Marrow’s case: this is a character who keeps all her damage, all her bitterness and rage, locked-away and invisible just beneath her skin. And when it comes tearing out it’s used exclu-sively to keep people at arm’s length. We all know someone like that. They’re usually surrounded by people desperate to love them, but won’t let them.

X-Force design art by Rock-He Kim

Anyway, that’s the really longwinded way of saying I think Marrow’s been criminally over-looked as a serious, and seriously important character. And I’m aiming to change that.

Also: I know. She lost her powers on M-Day. Wave the plot-point flag.

There are a few other names we’re going to see recurring: my beloved super scientist Doctor Nemesis, for instance, will be playing our existentially cantankerous Q-Branch, and one very important new face—well, sort-of face—who I can’t say much about.

Marvel.com: What's the mission statement? It's one thing to get all of these characters in the same place at the same time, but what keeps them together?

Si Spurrier: Well that’s where things get interesting.

Okay. In our world—the real world?—there’s a shadow-game being played every day. Un-manned drones circle above distant cities; government-sanctioned programs spy on your emails and listen to your calls; super-secret aircraft fly unrecorded missions; oligarchs die in London of radioactive sushi-poisoning. All that crazy spy-vs-spy espionage stuff we dismiss as exaggerated “James Bond” nonsense? That’s happening out there every day.

In our world, the real world, this endless shadow-game is played by having better technology and better intelligence than your opponent. It’s a constant race to improve, to collect, to gather resources, to get stronger and better. To keep your country’s flag flying a little higher than theirs.

X-Force design art by Rock-He Kim

In the Marvel Universe? The role is filled by superhumans. So here’s the central conceit:

Every nation in the Marvel Universe makes use of covert superhuman agents to pursue its secret agendas. And always has.

Some of them we know about: MI-13, the Secret Avengers. Most of them we’ll be meeting for the first time.

Just before the new X-FORCE begins, something happened. Something big we’re going to be finding out about little-by-little as we move forwards. We’re referring to it as “the Alexandria Incident.” What’s clear is that it’s changed the rules. It’s changed the way the world—and in particular its secret and oh-so-deadly intelligence communities—regard mutantkind. And it’s changed that way Cable sees his duty.

He’s realized that even though they have no homeland, no president, no capital city, no geo-graphical borders, and even though they spent a depressing amount of time fighting amongst themselves, the only way mutantkind is going to survive is if it starts behaving like a sovereign nation. As he puts it: it’s not just about saving the world any more. It’s about having a damn stake in it.

That means playing the shadow-game. Recruiting those best suited. Gathering tools, arming-up, destroying competitors, strengthening the mutant nation in secret.

Again, Cable says it better than I ever could: "Mutantkind needs a dirty tricks department. We’re it."

X-Force design art by Rock-He Kim

Marvel.com: While we’re in the down and dirty: Some of these folks have canoodled in the past. Will there be further canoodling? Does covert empire building allow for free time and fraternization?

Si Spurrier: Canoodlement is certainly a simmering perma-possibility. Part of the beauty of this team dynamic is that the mix of personalities lets us play with just about every iteration of Feels imaginable, on the sidelines of the more classically X-Force stuff. Ubersplodo, punching out people’s souls, extra-dimensional sniping, etc. etc. I don’t want to spoil some of the emo stuff we’re getting into, but of course the pachyderm in the palace is that Psylocke and Fantomex were a pretty serious thing for a while. Things Were Said, there were betrayals, Fantomex died then got resurrected, except split into three entities because, y’know, comics, things got complex, eve-rything fell apart, yadda yadda. It’s fair to say Betsy’s not best pleased to find herself on a team with the insufferable [expletive] she thought she’d ditched. Fantomex, being Fantomex, just as-sumes she’s still in love with him and she’ll admit it sooner or later. But [he] doesn’t have any hesitation about flirting with every woman, man, machine or alien he encounters in the mean time. It’s an exciting dynamic to watch, especially when the other team members start adding complications.

Marvel.com: If Cable's taking a more proactive role in mutant nationalism, how does that sit with existing mutant leaders and figureheads like Cyclops, Wolverine, even Magneto. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like Magneto in his past life. Is it?

X-Force design art by Rock-He Kim

Si Spurrier: This is something we’ll explore a little bit during the first arc, then much more a lit-tle bit further down the line. The basic position is that Cable has set himself beyond the sphere of all the petty rivalries which rumble ever-on inside the mutant community. He’s contacted what he regards as the current leaders of the various mutant schools—and schools-of-thought—to set out his stall. He doesn’t want their support; he doesn’t need resources or money. He just wants them to let him secretly and silently fight on their collective behalf. In this one thing they’re all agreed. It’s not quite a sanction, it’s not quite support: it’s a promise to stay out the [expletive] of his way.

I guess the obvious analogy is this: it doesn’t matter which political party is currently in power, what they’re arguing about, what petty issues they’re quibbling over; the clandestine agencies which shape the world one stolen technology, one nugget of information or one body bag at a time keep doing their thing. I’m reminded of good old Bill Hicks: “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always wins.”

Whether that’s morally justifiable or not, of course, is something we’re going to have to think about.

X-Force #1 cover by Rock-He Kim

As for Magneto, I think there’s a subtle difference between his old shenanigans and Cable’s new M.O. Cable tacitly believes in human/mutant coexistence, it’s just that he’s uncomfortably aware that if mutants aren’t represented in the shadow-game they’re going to be sidelined, scapegoated, weakened, quietly hushed-up. X-Force isn’t just a hit-squad—though that’s part of what they do—they exist specifically to make sure that mutants have the strongest presence on the interna-tional stage as is possible.

They don’t want global domination nor mutant superiority; merely to protect and strengthen the interests of The Mutant Nation. And they’ll rain thunder and flame on anyone who says differ-ent.

X-FORCE kicks off in February 2014 from Si Spurrier and Rock-He Kim

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