In late November, Marvel Comics released a teaser for something called “X-Termination” featuring Wolverine and Age of Apocalypse Nightcrawler locked in combat. The publisher has revealed that “X-Termination” is the latest crossover in the X-Men universe between Marjorie Liu’s street team “Astonishing X-Men,” Grek Pak’s reality-hopping “X-Treme X-Men” and David Lapham’s human rebels in “Age of Apocalypse.” The crossover event begins in March with a prologue written by Liu, Pak and Lapham and spans one issue of each title before concluding in an epilogue issue.
Comic Book Resources spoke exclusively with writer Marjorie Liu about the event and how Wolverine’s street team of X-Men will deal with alternate-reality Nightcrawler’s quest to return to the Age of Apocalypse — no matter what the cost — in Liu’s “Astonishing X-Men” #60 with art by Matteo Buffagani. The writer detailed the crossover itself and what to expect from the merry mutants of the Marvel U during the course of the event.
CBR News: Marjorie, what can you tell readers about “X-Termination?” What’s the central idea behind this crossover?
Marjorie Liu: The general premise is that we have these three teams: we have the “Astonishing X-Men” team, we have the X-Terminated team from “Age of Apocalypse,” we have the “X-Treme” team and all of them are in various dimensions. An event centering around AoA Nightcrawler brings them all together. Once they’re together, they’re faced with an enemy that threatens all three different dimensions. By the end of it, the repercussions of “X-Termination” are long-lasting and will stretch across the Marvel Universe.
How closely will you be working with Greg Pak and David Lapham? Will there be a lot of character crossover between the books?
Oh yeah! [Laughs] We’re working on an outline and we’re all in each other’s business. [Laughs]
You have a pretty large cast in “Astonishing,” but you’re getting your hands on some alternate-reality toys for this event. Which characters are you most looking forward to writing?
I’m really looking forward to writing AoA Nightcrawler. I think having a chance to play with AoA Sabretooth and AoA Jean Grey is just going to be a tremendous opportunity. I love “Age of Apocalypse.” I love the concept of it, but I also love the book that Dave’s been writing. It’s just a fantastic book, so is “X-Treme X-Men.” Kid Nightcrawler is one of the best characters that’s come out of “X-Treme X-Men.” I love what Greg’s been doing with Dazzler. It’s just being able to play in the same playground with them and tell the story in those voices with those characters. I’m very much looking forward to that.
Let’s talk about Nightcrawler for a moment. This is a character who was much beloved by fans and characters alike, he had a lot of established relationships with many of the “Astonishing” cast. How do you think the “Astonishing” team is going to react not only to seeing him again, but having to hunt him down?
I think I’m going to be setting the seeds for that in issue #59, because this is such a big crossover. I feel like I need to start setting the ground even earlier than the actual, official beginning of the crossover.
It’s going to be bittersweet because the 616 Nightcrawler is dead, but you see his alternate self running around and it’s like the same face, you want to believe it’s your Nightcrawler, but it’s not. It’s not. I think for those character that haven’t been aware he’s been running around — maybe they are aware, but they haven’t interacted with him in the same way Wolverine has in “Uncanny X-Force” — it’s going to be emotionally difficult.
Wolverine and Nightcrawler had a very interesting relationship in “Uncanny X-Force” and the first teaser released by Marvel shows them fighting. What are you looking forward to exploring about that relationship?
It’s still so early in the planning stages, but what it boils down to is that these are two characters who, in their own way, are basically loners and have deeply personal — but very different — goals. These are two very passionate individuals who once they set their mind on something, that’s it. That is it. The conflict between them, because their motives are very different — they’re not bad guys individually — but their motives are so different that resolving this is going to require, I think especially on Nightcrawler’s part, a real journey of self, self-exploration and conscience; who you are, what’s real, what matters to you — really exploring whether your goals or your motives are as pure and as righteous as you think they are.
You’ve spent a lot of time exploring motivations like that in your “Astonishing” run so far and building up the team dynamic and relationships. How will this event shake things up for your team?
It’s going to shake things up a lot. It really is. Coming out of this crossover, one character in particular is going to be very changed. The ramifications of this will be long term. It’s going to be very rough for members of this team. Wolverine’s seen AoA, but let’s face it — most of these characters can’t even conceive of a universe like Age of Apocalypse. To be there in that universe and to live there and see what’s happened, what could happen — is going to rattle and change a lot of the ways they view the world and how they take their relationships for granted.
Considering the size of this event, did it fall into the plans that you had for “Astonishing X-Men,” or did you have to restructure the story you wanted to tell?
A little bit of both. I had some alternate story plans for “Astonishing,” but they’re flexible enough that I can reschedule them. It actually slipped in really nicely into what’s been happening in the book and the core themes. It wasn’t something that the hammer fell and I had to scramble. It all felt very organic. I think it’s offered me an opportunity to do something with one character in particular that I’ve been thinking about. This is the perfect opportunity to throw a wrench into their life. That was just what I needed to shake things up story-wise for him.
The three books in the crossover are united by Wolverine — real Wolverine in “Astonishing,” General Howlett in “X-Treme” and Weapon X in “Age of Apocalypse” — are you looking forward to writing the interactions between these three different versions of the character?
Yeah, and just remember the whole thing of this crossover is, “What’s real?” Each of these universes, everyone in these universe — it’s real to them. There are consequences for each one of these Wolverines. Really, one of the core themes of this crossover will be exploring the idea of identity and reality. You’re asked what the limits are for your ability to sacrifice for a world that’s not yours. If it’s an alternate reality, maybe it doesn’t feel real to you, maybe it feels like television to you. It feels so remote, but there are real lives at stake. It’s all about figuring out what matters and what are the personal stakes, not just for your world, but for everyone else’s.
Marvel’s “X-Termination” crossover event kicks off in March 2013.