Writer Marc Guggenheim returns to Marvel this August with a chilling mystery set amongst the stars. It all starts with X-MEN #18 and the arrival of an unexpected visitor.
When Deathbird appears at the Peak, orbiting headquarters of S.W.O.R.D., the warrior clings to life. Last seen in the custody of the Shi’ar, her return stokes more than curiosity from special agent Abigail Brand. An all-female squad of X-Men journey out into the black to seek out the answers to Brand’s questions as well as some of their own.
“The idea really came from the fact that I'd been jonesing for an ‘X-Men in space’ story as a reader,” says Guggenheim. “I'd been re-reading the ‘Brood Saga’ and it reminded me how much I love that concept of the X-Men in outer space. It's a milieu that suits them really well.”
Though the X-Men still trod earthly soil when Guggenheim first started reading—he cites Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s UNCANNY X-MEN #139 and the trial by fire introduction of Kitty Pryde as his first foray with the Children of the Atom—his devotion truly hit its stride with the team’s extraterrestrial exploits.
“Those early years with Byrne and [Dave] Cockrum and [Paul] Smith were my seminal reading experiences,” Guggenheim recalls. “What was cool about the ‘Brood Saga’ was it was more like ‘Star Wars’ than anything we'd seen from Marvel cosmic. It was more like ‘Aliens.’ It had a darkness to it. It opened a new corner of the Marvel Universe that was more mysterious and scary. My goal here is to do something in that vein, to do something spooky.”
In selecting his roster, Guggenheim chose to start roughly where outgoing writer Brian Wood leaves off, with the team of Monet, Jubilee, Storm, Rachel Grey and Psylocke.
“I grew up with Storm,” he says. “Her voice is so peaceful. She’s the natural leader of the X-Men. My reading experience with that group coincided with her becoming the leader of the team, so I have a soft spot for Storm.
“Rachel basically has to be in this story,” he continues, “Because while I’m attempting to tell this cool horror story in space, there has to be an emotional core. When I started thinking about characters with an emotional connection to outer space, I thought about Claremont’s third run on UNCANNY X-MEN when the Shi’ar Death Commandos exterminated Rachel’s entire family. Her presence in the story really supplies the emotional context, so it’s not just about the horrors of space, but the nature of vendetta, of vengeance.”
If Storm and Rachel represent the emotional heart, characters like Jubilee and Monet supply some levity.
“Jubilee is so much fun,” Guggenheim says. “I’m always attracted to characters that have a bit of wit about them. I also thought, ‘Vampire in outer space? There’s a lot of fun to be had there.’ I’ve always been enamored of Psylocke. I love the idea of a kick-ass ninja telekinetic telepath. That’s just a fun combination. With Monet, it’s the idea of writing someone disliked by the rest of the team. That really appeals to me. I don’t know what that says about me. She’s so powerful, but her greatest weakness is that people just find her obnoxious.”
Thematically, Guggenheim expresses great eagerness to explore the X-Men’s ever complicated relationship with the Shi’ar, especially through Rachel’s experience.
“I wanted to mine that emotional territory with her,” he says. “I felt that was untrodden territory with a lot of potential. Especially since I’ve seen stories where Rachel is shoulder-to-shoulder with the Shi’ar, and it never quite came up. I didn't expect the depth of anger that Rachel would demonstrate in the story. I very intentionally centered the story around her and her family to tap into her feelings of vengeance, but I never expected how raw those emotions would be. The story is stronger for it."
Guggenheim also hopes to play with the dynamic between Rachel and Psylocke, exploring their unique voices and demeanors through the use of their telepathic powers, and how those manifest so differently.
“It forced me to really differentiate them thought their personality,” he explains. “I thought that was a fun opportunity as a writer, digging in. The thing that I've always loved so much about the X-Men is how rich and vibrant these characters are.”
Jump aboard X-MEN in August with Marc Guggenheim!