[SPOILER WARNING: THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR “BATTLE OF THE ATOM” #2, AVAILABLE NOW]
The X-Men have always had a difficult relationship with the future. As a team, they battle evil to forge a better world for both mutant and human kind, but no matter what they do, when they’re given a glimpse of what lies ahead, it’s a nightmarish, dystopian world where mutants are exploited, abused and murdered. Despite that, the Marvel’s mutant heroes fight on and try to forge a better tomorrow for both mutants and man
When writer Brian Michael Bendis kicked off “All-New X-Men,” the future became even more complex thanks to the Beast meddling with their past, bringing the team’s five original teenage members to the present. This set up a series of events which culminated in “Battle of the Atom,” a crossover between “All-New X-Men,” “X-Men,” “Uncanny X-Men” and “Wolverine & the X-Men.” The crossover also marked legendary mutant team’s 50th anniversary, bringing the X-Men of the past, present and future crashing together for one epic adventure.
The event came to a close this week with “X-Men: Battle of the Atom” #2, the bulk of which came from writer Jason Aaron and artists Esad Ribic and Giuseppe Camuncoli, though it featured epilogue chapters by several all-star X-Creators. We spoke with Aaron about the events of the issue, what they mean for the larger X-Men Universe, and how they’ll impact his X-Men titles, “Wolverine & the X-Men” and the upcoming “Amazing X-Men.”
CBR News: How does it feel to have run the anchor leg on the story celebrating the X-Men’s 50th anniversary? Was it a little easier knowing you had artists like Esad Ribic and Giuseppe Camuncoli backing you up?
Jason Aaron: Yes, and I got to work with Chris Bachalo on one of the book’s epilogues, which was cool. We haven’t worked together since the early days of “Wolverine & the X-Men.”
These kinds of crossovers are always hard to coordinate between the different writers and the editors. Plus Nick Lowe [The editor who oversees the X-Office] was having a baby. So it was a crazy time and you always have to tip your hat to the editors who pull everything together. This issue, had a lot of different writers and artists on the epilogues and that’s never easy to coordinate, but I was very happy to be a part of it.
Before we get into the event’s aftermath, let’s talk about one of the big reveals in the crossover, that the team readers originally believed to be the X-Men of the future were in fact a future incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Who came up with the idea that the first set of future X-Men we meet were actually the Brotherhood in disguise?
I don’t remember who specifically came up with that. We had a mini X-Men retreat last year or early this year — I forget — where we talked about this. Then, of course, there were many phone calls back and forth. Everybody threw ideas in and threw things out that affected their characters and books.
Then we cobbled everything together into a story that would have ramifications for all the main X-Books. We pretty quickly put together the basic framework for the two months. We knew it kicked off by focusing on the kids, the All-New X-Men, and the X-Men thinking, “We need to get these kids back to their own time. It’s too dangerous for them to be here.” Out of that, suddenly, this group of X-Men from the future have arrived and they say, “You’re right. You do need to get these kids out of here.” Things escalate from there, and we knew at the end of the first month we’d have yet another group from the future show up and turn everything we thought we knew upside down.
Now that “Battle of the Atom” has wrapped, the Brotherhood of the future is still around in the present day for all the X-writers to play with, correct?
Yes, the ones that survived are still on the loose in the present day.
Can you hint as to where they might pop up next? And what sort of state of mind is Xavier’s grandson in as he leaves the battlefield at the end of “Battle of the Atom” #2?
I think that’s good question. We obviously still have a lot of questions left by the end of “Battle of the Atom” about these characters, so there’s still a lot to explore with him.
As to where they’ll pop up next — since “All-New X-Men” is about time-displaced X-Men from the past, it might make sense that that they’d cross paths with time-displaced X-Men villains from the future. So, you might want to watch for them there, but they’ll probably pop up in other places as well.
Hank McCoy was one of the members of the Brotherhood of the future, and Beast regularly appears in “Wolverine & the X-Men,” so he’s a character you write on a regular basis. Now that “Battle of the Atom” is over, I’m curious about how he felt about the revelation that his future self has joined the X-Men’s arch enemies. Will he be haunted by this moving forward?
I think that kind of rolls off the back of present day Hank McCoy. He’s seen this before, with Dark Beast from the Age of Apocalypse, so he’s not as affected by this. He knows who he is and feels pretty confident in that.
Now, young Hank McCoy might be different. I think seeing his evil future self did shake him to the core.
So the present day Beast knows that there is darkness in him, and knows what he needs to do to control that.
Yeah, I think he’s more comfortable with who he is. He knows he’s got the potential to go down some dark roads, and he’s always on guard against that.
The present day incarnation of Iceman went through a great amount of drama in both “Battle of the Atom” and a recent arc of Marjorie Liu’s “Astonishing X-Men.” What’s your sense of Bobby at the end of “Battle of the Atom?” Has what he’s seen, undergone and endured over the past few months caused him to grow or change?
Yeah, I think so. I think Bobby is a guy who’s changed a lot over the last few years. He tries to hide it, but I think he’s grown up a lot just by being at the Jean Grey School. That’s given him an increased responsibility and visibility. There’s also his relationship with Kitty Pryde. I think all that stuff has changed Bobby over the last few years. The question now is, where does he go from here? I think as long as I’m writing the X-Men in one book or another, he’ll be one of the characters I want to focus on and keep trying to take to new places as well as make him more and more of a force to be reckoned with among the X-Men.
If Iceman’s future self is any indication, you also want to give him a beard!
[Laughs] Well, I’d like to try and give every Marvel character a beard at some point or another. I gave one to Hulk, Thor and I’m sure I probably gave Wolverine a beard at some point. Maybe at some point I can assemble them all in book, the Beard Avengers.
[Laughs] I’d read that! Cyclops and Wolverine were also confronted by some disturbing revelations about their future in the form of the future self of the woman they loved, Jean Grey, who had joined the Brotherhood. In “Battle of the Atom” #2, she verbally tore into both of them. How did it feel for Wolverine to face an evil version of Jean?
Those scenes, to me, were about looking where the X-Men have been these last few years, going back to “Schism,” and where that’s at in relation to their entire history. Obviously, “Battle of the Atom” represents a big anniversary event, so the whole idea was for us to do something with multiple tips of the hat and nods to our favorite bits of X-Men history while also looking forward. This was literally a story that involves the X-Men of the past, present and future, coming together in one big fight.
Ultimately, it’s not about looking back and eating the bones of X-Men stories of the past. It’s about moving forward. I think Scott and Logan are at a crossroads. Things will continue to come to a head in the post-“Battle of the Atom” landscape, and now it’s a question of, where do they go from here? This story was a big deal in that it’s the first time we’ve really seen Cyclops and Wolverine stand side by side since “Schism.” I think it represents a major point in their ongoing relationship and it really affects the X-Men universe as a whole.
It doesn’t seem like Wolverine and Cyclops know how or are ready to make peace, but do you think the events of “Battle of the Atom” made them want to try and make peace with each other?
Yeah, they both want that. They haven’t forgotten all the times they fought side by side, and deep down, they both still like each other. You’re right, though. They’re like an old married couple that needs to go to therapy to learn how to talk to each other. They’re both stuck in a rut, so to speak, and can’t get out of it. Just seeing them fight side by side again is a start, though, and we’ll see where that takes us from here.
At the end of “Battle of the Atom,” it was revealed that Cyclops’ school has a new teacher in the form of Kitty Pryde, who was against sending the original X-Men back to the past. Rachel Grey, though, who agreed with Kitty, chose to stay with the Jean Grey school. Can you talk about why Rachel made that choice?
I think Rachel disagreed with what was going on, but we see X-Men disagree a lot. I don’t think it was enough for her to leave the school. Rachel has kind of found a place there. She likes what she’s doing and she’s able to contribute to the school.
With Kitty, I think it was about more than just a personal grudge. It’s also about the kids. Ultimately, the whole story of “Battle of the Atom” is about the original X-Men, the kids who are here from the past. Her decision ultimately came down to what was best for them and where they wanted to go.
It wasn’t just the original X-Men and the adult members that had big moments in “Battle of the Atom” — Quentin Quire had a bit of a shake up by meeting his future self, who was a valuable member of the future X-Men. Can you talk about what’s next for Quentin and how seeing his future self affected him and his teachers?
Quentin has now seen with his own eyes that he some day becomes the Phoenix. One of, if not the most powerful X-Man. It’s an eye opening moment for him and everybody else at the Jean Grey School. I think you’ll have a lot of people who aren’t so sure they like the idea of Quentin someday growing up to become the Phoenix.
As for where he goes from here? That moment, meeting and revelation will most certainly be touched upon again. That will have big ramifications for that character.
Let’s talk a little bit about Kymera, one of the X-Men from the future who stayed behind, and her possible role in your books. Brian Wood wrote the epilogue with Kymera and her mother, Storm, so I imagine both of those characters will play roles in his series, but Storm is also a major player in your books. Might we see Kymera and Storm in both “Wolverine & the X-Men” and “Amazing X-Men?”
That remains to be seen. I don’t have any plans right now for the two of them. We will continue to see Storm, though, in “Wolverine & the X-Men” and “Amazing X-Men.”
In “Battle of the Atom” #2, it was revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. had it’s own army of Sentinels, though I noticed you didn’t reveal director Maria Hill or Dazzler’s thoughts on these robots. The big question now is, did Maria and Dazzler know about these Sentinels? Or is it possible that the Sentinels are the work of other shadowy forces within S.H.I.E.L.D. that they don’t know about?
That’s certainly one of the questions the X-Men will want answered. I think we’ll have to wait and see. The events of the finale of “Battle of the Atom” are a little complicated. It’s not as simple as S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to kill everyone. Xorn was kind of the one who pulled the trigger on all those missiles, but of course, once she did, you discover that they all had Sentinels inside them.
S.H.I.E.L.D has been making it’s own Sentinels, stockpiling them and now their Helicarriers are outfitted with them. Whether this is something Maria Hill has done herself to combat the continued threat the X-Men had posed is now a valid question. Over the course of “Battle of the Atom,” you see repeated scenes of Maria and her frustration over the X-Men and how crazy everything is with these characters. They always seem to be involved in some sort of scenario that’s on the verge of blowing up the planet. There are X-Men popping up out of the past and the future. So it’s hard to keep a handle on the X-men.
That’s why she brought in Dazzler in the first place. If you’ve been reading “Uncanny X-Men,” though, you know that Dazzler is really Mystique anyway. All the stuff with S.H.I.E.L.D. will continue to be explored in multiple books. We’ll continue to see that story in “Uncanny X-Men,” and the first post “Battle of the Atom” arc of “Wolverine & the X-Men” deals with S.H.I.E.L.D. in a very big way. We’ll see Wolverine confront Maria Hill and go after S.H.I.E.L.D. to take out their stockpile of Sentinels. That will bring Wolverine into contact with Cyclops again. The two of them are both out looking for the same thing and wind up crossing paths again
The students and faculty of the Jean Grey School have seen their far future, but can you offer up any more hints about what’s in their immediate future, both in “Wolverine & the X-Men” and your new “Amazing X-Men” series?
In “Wolverine & the X-Men,” we kind of come back to ground. We’ve been away from the school for quite a while now. We had “Battle of the Atom,” and before that we had the big Hellfire Academy story. So the first arc after “Battle of the Atom” really brings us back to normal. We’re back at the school. We pick up with our kids and we explore some areas of the school we haven’t really seen before. It really centers the book again, and like I said, we’ll also deal with some of the “Battle of the Atom” fallout with Wolverine going after S.H.I.E.L.D., and he and Cyclops coming together, which is kind of an appraisal of their relationship and where things stand with these two different factions.
As for “Amazing X-Men?” The first issue comes out on November 6, I believe, and it is its own story. You don’t have to have read anything else to jump right in to that. It’s about the quest for Nightcrawler. He may be dead, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get into trouble. So he’ll need help from the X-Men.
“Battle of the Atom” was a lot of fun. It’s a huge thrill to be part of the X-Men in the midst of their 50th Anniversary. I’m still a huge X-Men fan. I love what I’m doing.
“Wolverine & the X-Men” has been a lot of fun for me from the get go. It was always going to be a book different from what we had seen in a quite while. It was going to be a school book, which is something that the X-Men had gotten away from. I was thrilled to bring things back to the school and add the Jean Grey School to the Marvel Universe, and I’m thrilled with everything I’ve gotten to do in the book. Now, I’m also excited to be kicking of a brand new book, “Amazing X-Men,” which will hopefully be just as much fun for a long time to come.