By Marc Strom
Nothing beats the originals.
Mike Carey has already proven his love of the merry mutants' history in the pages of X-MEN: LEGACY, and on September 3 he bring two of Professor Xavier's original students into the spotlight with X-MEN ORIGINS: BEAST #1 and the beginning of a four-part Iceman feature in X-MEN: MANIFEST DESTINY #1.
The last time we saw Iceman, he'd lost control of his powers during "Messiah CompleX." Now Carey, the man responsible for putting Bobby Drake through the wringer, has to help put him back together again.
"I think it's fair to say that he's still [convalescing]," Carey remarks. "Mystique's neural inhibitor is still in his system and it's wreaking havoc with his flesh-to-ice changes, and he's still troubled in his mind about some of the decisions he's made recently. He's not in a good way when we first meet him in MANIFEST DESTINY."
Like his fellow X-Men, Bobby makes the trip to San Francisco, in his case to get help with his condition.
"At the start of the story he's experiencing some very strange and unsettling symptoms—similar to the way he reacted when his power first kicked in," Carey explains. "He talks to Beast about this, and Beast suggests that it may be the toxins Mystique used on him, still working through his system and doing more and more harm along the way.
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"[The Beast] sends a Blackbird jet, on auto-pilot, so that Bobby can do a coast-to-coast hop—but this turns out to be the start of a long and arduous journey for Bobby, both in terms of distance and psychologically."
The X-Men's move from Westchester to San Francisco has impacted all mutants differently, but for Iceman, it has a far more personal effect.
"As one of the original five X-Men, he's aware of how much history is tied into the mansion, so I think on one level he's very ambivalent about the move," Carey speculates. "But he's pretty much focused on his own problems at this stage—his own role as an X-Man, his own future with the team, and whether this shift from east to west marks the point where he should call it quits."
The answers to these questions will help shape Iceman in the months and years to come, and Carey hopes that Bobby's story, continuing throughout the four issues of the MANIFEST DESTINY anthology, will make fans look at the classic character a little differently.
"We're using [MANIFEST DESTINY] as an opportunity to remind readers of how cool and how extensive Iceman's powers are," the writer promises. "In that sense it's a re-definition of the character for the post-Messiah CompleX era. It also revisits a crucial relationship that will continue to be important for Bobby going forward."
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Meanwhile, X-MEN ORIGINS: BEAST offers up a retelling of Hank McCoy's first meeting with Professor X, an encounter riddled with its fair share of drama when terrorists take the young mutant's father hostage.
"Hank's dad works for a nuclear power plant, and the kidnapping relates to that," Carey exposits. "Someone wants access to a certain item, a prototype that the plant has produced, and Mr. McCoy becomes a pawn in this villain's game—as does the young Hank McCoy."
For Carey, the opportunity to revisit Beast's origin seemed intriguing for a number of reasons.
"Beast is one of my favorite X-Men, and there's something kind of surreal about that origin as it was told back in [the] first run [of X-MEN]," the scribe remembers. "I always felt that there was something we weren't being told about [villains] the Conquistador, and I wanted to add in those beats. The changes are subtle, but they make a big difference by the time you get to the end of the story.
"The other fascinating thing about Beast's origin is how Professor X behaves at the end of it. It's one of the most awesome and extreme uses of his power in the canon."
Both Beast and Iceman helped form the original X-Men 45 years ago, and since then the two have enjoyed an enduring popularity among the mutants fan base. Carey ascribes their popularity to a number of factors.
"For me, Beast is fascinating and cool because of the crazy contradictions in his nature—because he's a genius and an aesthete in the body of an animal," he professes. "I always go back in my mind to that moment in Grant Morrison's run when he holds up his clawed hands and says to Jean, 'You knew me when I could play the guitar.'
"Bobby has been less consistently handled over the years. But his story—like Sam Guthrie's, in a lot of ways—has been the story of the apprentice who becomes a journeyman and then a master. We've seen him mature and grow into his power, and that's a very compelling process to watch."
And while Carey admits to thinking of Hank and Bobby differently than he does many of the mutants who have come after them, it's not necessarily because they were there from the beginning.
"I think of them differently because they're among my favorite X-Men, along with Rogue, Cyclops and Cannonball," Carey confesses. "It's not because they were in there from the start—Angel was, too, and I can honestly say that I don't feel such a strong connection to Angel.
"But the fact that they've got 50 years of history behind them makes you very careful about how you handle them..."
X-MEN ORIGINS: BEAST #1 and X-MEN: MANIFEST DESTINY #1 both hit stores on September 3. For more work by Mike Carey, visit Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!