By Marc Strom
After breaking the X-Men apart as one of the "Messiah CompleX" writers, Mike Carey felt obligated to stick around and help put them back together again.
Currently presenting Professor X's struggle to rebuild his shattered mind after it was blown apart by Bishop in X-MEN: LEGACY, the British scribe also tackles the team's response to the Skrull armada in SECRET INVASION: X-MEN with artist Cary Nord this August.
Marvel.com spoke with the busy wordsmith to talk about what fans can expect in the coming months, as well as who he thinks would make the best Skrull reveal.
Marvel.com: What made you interested in doing a solo Professor X series?
It was more that the opportunity presented itself, and it seemed to flow very naturally out of what we were doing in "Messiah CompleX." Professor X has been through some hugely traumatic upheavals lately, and so has his reputation. It just felt like a really good time to reflect on his past and present, and his importance to the X-verse—but to do it in a way that had a direct and immediate bearing on what's happening to the X-Men now. That was the circle we were trying to square in this book. I think we've gone a long way towards succeeding.
Marvel.com: Magneto recently stepped in to help save Xavier's life. How has the relationship between the two changed since M-Day, and how will it continue to change in the coming months?
Well let's not forget that this is the first time they've actually met since M-Day. On the face of it, the fact that Magneto has been depowered ought to make a world of difference to the power dynamics within that relationship. But then, as Magneto points out, he finds Xavier comatose and almost in a vegetative state: neither of them seems, at the start of this arc, to have weathered well.
But in a sense that's what binds them. They've been touched by the same tragedies, even when they've been fighting on opposite sides. They're of the same generation, and they're survivors—two of very few survivors—from a whole lot of wars. I think they'd feel a sort of kinship, even if they didn't always feel able to acknowledge it.
Marvel.com: Without his school, and with so few mutants left in the world, what is Xavier's purpose in life these days?
That's exactly what he's trying to find out. You're right, you're absolutely right: The framework that defined Xavier for so many years—the X-Men, the mansion, the mission—it's all gone to pieces in a spectacular way. Even as the X-Men start to reform themselves, there's no real place for him within their structures any more. The institution that he formed, the X-Men, has finally outgrown him.
So we have an Xavier who is pondering those very issues: Who am I and what am I for? The answer is not going to be the obvious "I'll form a new super-team with a Y or a Z in its name…"
Marvel.com: Did your perception of Charles Xavier change as you researched X-MEN: LEGACY and began re-telling his history?
I wouldn't say it's changed, because I've grown up with a very strong sense of who Professor X is. It has allowed me to revisit and explore different aspects of his character that we don't often get to see: his childhood, his war experiences and so on. In the second arc, in particular, we see him in relation to his various father figures in ways that I think are revealing and interesting. But it's more about shining a spotlight on the psychological depth and complexity that's already there. And, in a way, of reminding modern readers why this man is great, despite some of the fatally flawed decisions we now know he's made.
Marvel.com: Your next arc is called "Sins of the Father." What brings Professor X's dead father back into his life?
It's fathers, plural. This story is about Xavier's childhood, and some of the ways in which it's influenced his later life. So yes, we'll have Brian and Sharon Xavier, his biological parents, as elements within that story. But after Brian's death, Kurt Marko was also a father to Charles. And in a different way, he had a third father figure who may have had a bigger influence than either of those two.
It's a story about how the past lives on inside us, in both good and bad ways, and how hard it is to shake off that influence when we really need to.
As for what makes Prof X go back to this time in his life, it's two things—the general desire to revisit and reclaim his past, and a more urgent need to find out whether some parts of that past are as dead as they seem to be.
Marvel.com: Rogue will make her return in the near future. What brings her into the book?
I don't want to anticipate that story too much, because it will be a few months before we get to it now, but it's a natural pairing in a lot of ways. Rogue has had her slate wiped clean by the touch of the Messiah Child: She doesn't have any other memories or personalities silting up her mind, except for what she absorbed from Mystique in that one brief contact. Now she's considering her future options very clearly, and she's gone a very long way away from anyone else in order to do it. So like Xavier, she's at a turning point, and like Xavier she's mulling over her past in order to make decisions about her future. We really wanted—more than anything else, almost—to bring them together in a way that catalyzes both of them into some important and lasting decisions.
Marvel.com: Rogue's also a character you spent a lot of time with during your X-MEN run. What is it that draws you to her?
I really can't explain it. In the past I've talked about the dialectic of passion and restraint in Rogue's nature, and I guess that is a part of it. After all, I really like Cyclops as a character, too. But there are just some fictional characters who attach themselves to you on a deep level and whose fortunes you take a more than passing interest in. I'm not sure that it's entirely a rational or explicable thing. As a writer, that translates itself into an itch to add some chapters to a certain character's story.
Marvel.com: Any teases you can give us about some familiar faces Prof. X will run into on his journey through his past, along with what else is coming up?
Some very major X-villains guest star in the "Sins of the Father" arc. We've already leaked Sebastian Shaw, but there's someone else who's both bigger and scarier—as well as a cameo from a lonnnnnng time ago, from a character who I think we last saw in X-MEN FOREVER. After that we're going to have a couple of very cool stories that will start to bring Professor X back into the orbit of the X-Men—or at least, some of the X-Men. Cyclops will be one, for reasons that are probably obvious given their backstory. And we're planning something very ambitious involving another major player in the X-verse, but I can't really say anything about that until we've gotten a little further along with the development.
Marvel.com: You're also writing SECRET INVASION: X-MEN beginning in August. Without giving anything away, of course, what's it been like writing the regular X-Men post-"Divided We Stand?"
Fantastic, on every level. SECRET INVASION: X-MEN feels like "Messiah CompleX Redux" in some ways, most obviously in that it brings together all the big players from all the different X-teams and throws them into the field against a huge and terrifying threat. It's a war story, really, with the X-Men as a platoon of soldiers fighting a rearguard action against a ruthless and seemingly unstoppable invasion force.
I love being able to do this. To some extent, I was already borrowing characters from the other books, mixing and matching, in my X-MEN run prior to #200, but to have a free run is wonderful. To have this huge cast—the richest and most diverse in mainstream comics, arguably—come together to interact as one unit—is just immensely rewarding and fun and inspiring.
Marvel.com: Are there any characters in the limited series that have surprised you so far?
I'm very much enjoying what we're doing with Nightcrawler, who has to learn about the Skrull religion and come to terms with some of its disconcerting core concepts. And I guess there are surprises in terms of the decisions made by both Cyclops and Beast at different points in the story. If we have a theme, it's "laws are silent in times of war", which I think was said by Cicero. And needless to say, it's kind of a topical theme when you look at British and U.S. foreign policy at the moment.
Marvel.com: And finally: If you could out one hero in the Marvel U. as a Skrull, who would it be and why?
Howard the Duck. It would be the last reveal anyone would see coming. And it would make that tag line "TRAPPED IN A WORLD HE NEVER MADE" resonate in a totally different way.
X-MEN: LEGACY #211 ships on May 14 while Mike Carey's Skrulltastic effort, SECRET INVASION: X-MEN, begins later this year. Revisit the debut of the X-Men with Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.