By Brett White
Summer has arrived at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, bringing with it new students, new teachers, new threats, and a new creative team. As part of All-New Marvel NOW!, writer Jason Latour and artist Mahmud Asrar have enrolled with WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN, and life at the Marvel Universe's premier mutant school will never be the same!
|Wolverine & The X-Men #1 cover by Mahmud Asrar|
Battle of the Atom's cataclysmic climax coincided with the school barely surviving its first academic year. There's no time for post-finals relaxation, though, because Latour and Asrar kick off WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN's summer semester with a bang.
We spoke to with Latour and Asrar about their curriculum.
Marvel.com: The previous WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN run contained as much comedy as it did action. What tone will this volume go for?
Jason Latour: In a book with kids as a big part of the cast, there’s always a certain underlying hope to the future. But as we’ve seen in Battle of the Atom, there’s finally proof that a lot of their futures are probably inescapably bleak. It’s a pretty stark reminder of just where being a mutant and one of the X-Men tends to lead. So the biggest tonal shift will be that a lot of these characters are trying to find those lighter moments in the face of what seems like certain darkness. To stay kids. Or in the adults’ case, to remind themselves of what it meant to be a kid.
There’s going to be a lot of world-shaking pathos and romance, doomed and otherwise, a lot of action and, hopefully at the end of the day, some hard earned belly laughs. The challenge for [me and] Mahmud is to try and find the heart of the book that Jason Aaron and company created, and keep it pumping as we travel down new roads.
Mahmud Asrar: This won't be a huge departure from what has come before but we're definitely looking forward to doing our own thing. After all, that should be the point of a new start and a new creative team. As for what I'm looking forward to in the book in terms of tone [with the art] is probably the social aspect of the characters. Growing up reading the original X-Men as students resonated with me, so this is a good opportunity for me to do that, but with a new generation. This time it'll be like I'll be bringing up my own batch of X-Men kids.
Marvel.com: So far, WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN has had a huge ensemble cast, but it seems like this series will take the opposite approach. Which characters are you focusing on, and how did you choose them?
|Wolverine & The X-Men #2 cover by Mahmud Asrar|
Jason Latour: As we’ve seen, this first year or so of the Jean Grey School has been a hard road. As a result we’ll begin with a lot of the teachers and students sitting on the edge of their seats just waiting for the bell to ring; for a break, for a reprieve. Some of them even want to quit. With summer in session many of them have.
Those that are left are the ones who basically have nowhere to go. So with that in mind, at the center of it all are Quire and Evan and Idie—kids who are among the most potentially powerful and dangerous mutants alive. In them we could be witnessing the growth of the next great team of X-Men, or the creation of the biggest threats the Marvel U will ever see. These kids are Logan’s legacy, but as we’ve seen up to this point he didn’t have such a great track record with that stuff even when he was at his best.
Marvel.com: Which members of the teaching staff will you be focusing on?
Jason Latour: If anyone knows what Xavier’s legacy means, it’s Storm, and she will stay on as headmistress. But with Logan weakened, Ororo finds herself in a position that we’ve seen break past X-Men leaders. The lengths she’ll go to in order to protect the school is a fear she and Logan share, and it will bring out possibly the best and worst of her. Also lurking around, seemingly usurping all authority at every turn, and playing the role of “drunk European Uncle” is Fantomex. His stake in raising Evan, his begrudged bond to Logan and his relationship to his violent past will be a big part of how our story plays out.
In addition to these familiar faces we’ll see some new characters. New kids. A new villain. This is the X-Men after all—fresh blood is always in the water.
Marvel.com: Quentin Quire was a breakout character from the previous book, thanks to his rebellious nature. Now it looks like he's ready to take on more responsibility at the Jean Grey School. What brought about that change?
Jason Latour: It’s pretty clear from the jump that Quire’s experiences with the future X-Men during Battle of the Atom have shaken him up a little bit. Most people would probably take the knowledge that they become the Phoenix and a full fledged member of the X-Men as positive signs, but it’s slowly but surely forming cracks in Quentin’s self image. He’ll be doing his best to deny it, but it’s really difficult for him to admit that his future seems to see him end up as one of the flock, and to do so with such power at his fingertips.
But even worse, the opinion of the people around him seems to have changed. Where they once hoped for better of him, they now expect it, and a driving force of the book moving forward will be those expectations and just how Quentin lives up or down to them. Our first villain will have a particular interest in Quentin’s future, a tomorrow that we’ll soon learn Quire knows quite a bit more about than he’s letting on—a secret that threatens the folks Quentin is growing to love.
Mahmud Asrar: Quentin's got a new position at the school. Now that the tables have turned for him, it will result in a visual impact. So the way he dresses is different now, but we're intending on keeping that iconic t-shirt quote idea in other means. The statements he makes with those t-shirts is a reflection of his character so it's gotta be there. Now that he's a teacher, he'll have to restrain himself in a way, which will result in him wearing more acceptable clothing. We'll have to see how the students react to that though.
Marvel.com: Mahmud, are there any characters that you're particularly excited to work with?
Mahmud Asrar: Foremost it's Wolverine. I've been itching to work on the character, so this was a good opportunity. Quentin, however, will be a favorite it seems with him being such an interesting character, especially now with his new position at the school. Now he's not merely a student but instead he's got responsibilities, which kind of scare him. Can't move on without mentioning the Bamfs though; I feel they are very visually stimulating.
Marvel.com: What role does Wolverine play in this series, and how has his relationship with the Jean Grey School changed?
Jason Latour: Well to this point it’s all began and ended with Logan. It’s his strength that this school is built on the back of. His reputation for being the un-killable badass has been their insurance policy against threats inside and out. It’s been his desire to see Xavier’s dream continued, to see his own past atoned for that’s kept them driving forward.
But now Logan is mortal and for the first time he’s being forced to take stock of what he’s built. He’s realizing that what he saw as a school could, in the wrong hands, become a factory for the next Cyclops or Dark Phoenix or Apocalypse or Weapon X. That though people like Storm are ready and willing to take the mantle, he’s not sure that he wants to subject them to the price of that duty. So a big question we’ll be asking is who can he trust to guide the next generation of X-Men? To protect and mold them into the heroes they need to be? Do they even want that guidance? Is that even possible given what they know about tomorrow?
Marvel.com: With a new volume and a new creative team on board, how will the overall look and aesthetic of the Jean Grey School change?
Mahmud Asrar: The school itself won't change much but we'll see some variation with the look of the students. What we're intending on doing is to have a look which is essentially the same as before but with elements that are throwbacks to the familiar X-Men visual themes. It'll be more distinctive when the kids are out on missions. Most noticeable changes will be with the students who now have a new status at the school.
Marvel.com: After years spent over in the dark UNCANNY X-FORCE series, Fantomex is joining the staff. What roles will he play in the series and why does Wolverine want him on board?
Jason Latour: Well, with the mass exodus of teachers, Fantomex is, maybe somewhat surprisingly, Logan’s first choice to step into an open position. One of Logan’s greatest fears is leaving his school in the hands of men like Cyclops. Fantomex is a man who sees the world in grey, who understands what it means to be raised a weapon. As violent as he’s been, he’s shown again and again that he does know its cost. That stands in stark contrast to Cyclops and the puritanical fervor of Xavier’s dream turned toxic. It gives Logan hope that in his absence there will be someone who can do the dirty work and leave it at the office.
Mahmud Asrar: Fantomex has a unique look with the white outfit. I especially like the black zigzag pattern that adorns his all-white image. He'll play an essential role in to book, especially with Kid Apocalypse being there as a student. He will keep his looks and it will be a strong visual, as it will stand out distinctly among the group.
Jason Latour: But [Logan trusting Fantomex] doesn’t change the fact that this is a thief and an assassin we’re talking about; a man who once killed an adolescent Apocalypse as a member of X-Force. This guy is gasoline and the school doesn’t need help burning, that’s for sure.
WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN begins anew in March by Jason Latour and Mahmud Asrar!