By Kevin Mahadeo
Beginning with ASTONISHING X-MEN #36, writer Daniel Way joins artist Jason Pearson for a four-issue arc sending the mighty mutants of Marvel on a monstrous adventure.
The title began in 2004 with writer Joss Whedon and artist John Cassaday focusing on a smaller core group of X-Men characters. Way continues this tradition with his story, which sees Cyclops, Emma Frost, Wolverine and Armor unexpectedly caught up with events on the aptly named Monster Island.
While no stranger to Marvel's mutant population—the writer's current ongoing work consists of DEADPOOL and DAKEN: DARK WOLVERINE—Way's upcoming stint on ASTONISHING marks his first team title. We spoke with him about his upcoming plans, being forced to make the hard choices and the possibility of tackling further tales to astonish.
Marvel.com: Daniel, while obviously you're not unfamiliar with mutants, this is the first you're actually writing the X-Men as the focus of the story.
Daniel Way: Yeah. This is the first time where the focus is on them. Luckily, it's just a small group of X-Men. We only deal with about four or five, which is kind of the standard for ASTONISHING X-MEN: Small group of X-Men, huge situations, huge ramifications. The cool thing about ASTONISHING—both writing and reading it—is that while it's not separate from continuity, it's more of [an] archetypical X-Men story. If UNCANNY X-MEN is the television series, then ASTONISHING is like the feature film.
Marvel.com: Like you said, small group, big story. I wanted to talk about that group, which consists of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Wolverine and Armor. Why did you specifically choose these characters for your story?
Daniel Way: [They work] well for the story. Cyclops and Emma Frost are kind of the King and Queen of the chessboard as far as the X-Men are concerned. And Wolverine is always out there and operating. He's one of the mainstays in ASTONISHING. Armor, what's good about her is that she gives you that astonishing angle. She's new on the team. She's young. While the other X-Men in this group have seen it all and done it all, most of this is pretty new to her. As comic book readers, we take a lot of things for granted. We're used to seeing these fantastic images and completely mind-bending situations. It's nice to have a street-level view on it that kind of takes you back. Not only does it give you more of a sense of what these mutants are dealing with but you also get that little twinge of nostalgia from when you first pick up a comic book and it's like, "My god. I can't believe what I'm seeing here." That moment, when all of us became fans for life.
Marvel.com: So you're tapping into that feeling of awe with Armor?
Daniel Way: Right. Really, the heart of this story revolves around Armor. She finds herself in a really, really bad situation, where she has a tragedy in her family. And while that's going on, there's this huge, catastrophic tragedy that's also happening all around her in Japan, which is where they are [in the story]. She gets put in a position where she has to make some really hard choices. You want to stand with your family, but she's forced to make a choice about which family.
Marvel.com: I also wanted to hit on the veteran X-Men. You called Scott and Emma the King and Queen of the X-Men. While you've written Cyclops before in your other titles, what's it like tackling the character in a bigger story with a stronger focus on him?
Daniel Way: Cyclops is a great character to write. He may have always been, but I love his characterization now, where he is a general in [the] field. He has grabbed the reins of the X-Men and is not afraid to make those hard decisions. He's much more badass now. He's not the schoolboy counterpart to Wolverine. Where Cyclops would follow the rules, Wolverine would break them. Now, Cyclops is writing the rules. With Wolverine, I think we've seen in a lot of the other books that he's seeing a lot of stuff in Scott and is maybe trying to warn him away from a couple of these paths that he's beginning to walk down, just because Wolverine has been around long enough to see where those paths lead. There's going to be a couple moments in this story where Cyclops really shows his steel. He will make that hard decision. He will do what it takes to preserve his mission, which is securing safety for mutants. To boil it down, the needs of one don't trump the needs of the many, particularly when it comes to mutants.
Marvel.com: What about the other half of that equation, Emma Frost? What's your take on her and how do you approach her interactions with the other members of the team?
Daniel Way: What I think is most fascinating about Emma right now is that we're able to see her from multiple angles. We're about to see how she's caring and tender with her relationship with Scott. As much as it hangs on the razor’s edge, there's some real emotion there. But at the same time, a lot of the other mutants are very frightened of her. She's intimidating and I don't think she realizes. You see this in a lot of the books that people are kind of put off by her because she can be down and dirty and she can also be harsh and cold. You get to see all aspects of that character in this story. You see the interaction between her and Cyclops. You see the interaction between her and Armor. The X-Men have always been equal rights as far as men and women, but Emma is a top tier character inside of this now paramilitary type organization that is the X-Men. She is someone the other female characters are looking at and saying "Is that where I'm going to end up? Am I going to end up like Emma?" You saw some of that with Kitty Pryde. And also what I think is important, and what I don't really see enough, is Emma's offensive prowess on the battlefield. She does have offense, and you're going to see that.
Marvel.com: We talked about the heroes, but what about the villain of the story? Who's pulling the strings here?
Daniel Way: Our bad guy in this story is a D-List guy. An old [Jack] Kirby villain named Mentallo. Cyclops ends up getting sideswiped by that because he doesn't give this guy enough credit. As you'll quickly see as this story unfolds, Mentallo has been waiting in the wings for a long time, and when he pulls the trigger on his plan, it's a sweeping big, end of the world type thing. And what I love about it is that it's all for money. [Laughs] This guy is willing to do whatever it takes just to line his pockets.
Marvel.com: Ah money—the one thing that especially now everyone can understand as real motivation.
Daniel Way: Yeah. That's exactly what I was going for. It really has to do with where the world is at right now and how everyone is now out to get the money to stack it under themselves so they can feel safe. And they're willing to give up anything. In our story, Japan has sold off the rights to Monster Island for money. Who does that? But in this world, it would happen.
Marvel.com: Speaking of Monster Island, what can you say about exploring this, well, basically, island full of monsters?
Daniel Way: These Kirby monsters are just…I don't know. There's a reason why he could just draw a monster and put it on the cover and it just sold. You see that monster and you're just like, "Well, I got to see what this is about." Now we have this Monster Island that is just chock full of them. It's the stuff of pulp movie legends. Once the X-Men are drawn onto Monster Island, they're immediately surrounded. Every step they take, they're taking a chance. That goes a long way toward continuous tension in this story. They're in the lion's den. And especially having Jason Pearson on hand to draw all this stuff, I just get goose bumps when I think of it.
Jason's the total package, and most importantly, he's a great storyteller. That, right there, to me and a lot of writers, we want to see the storyteller. You can make a book full of pretty pictures, but if there's no storytelling that strings them together, then it's just not comics. Jason can do it all. His fundamentals are so strong and his storytelling is so clear. And on top of that, he can just bang out killer interpretations of these Kirby monsters and also really every shot of the X-Men is a total money shot. I've been in contact with him throughout his entire process and my ears have been very
|Astonishing X-Men #36 cover by Jason Pearson|
open to any suggestions that he has because when it comes to the visual aspects about this process, I'm not going to say, "Well, Jason, I think I know a little bit more about that than you." [Laughs] You always want to see these fan favorite artists doing these fan favorite characters.
Marvel.com: What about what lies beyond this four-issue arc? Is this something you want to continue, doing a team book like this?
Daniel Way: It's possible. It all comes down to scheduling and time and availability. I love writing the X-Men, especially doing in it this context where I'm writing ASTONISHING. I'm free to remove them from current events. There's so much going on and it's an extremely rich mine right now, and as much as I love all of it, it's nice to kind of pull them out of that and take it back to those archetypal stories where you get a sense of how astonishing these characters are and how astonishing these things that they can do are. [Laughs] That was awful. I wouldn't say no to more of these stories, providing it didn't mean me having to give up other things that I've been enjoying doing right now.
ASTONISHING X-MEN #36 arrives in stores on February 2.