SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers for “Death of X” #1 and 2, on sale now.
In the aftermath of “Secret Wars,” the newly reborn Marvel Universe faced its first great threat as Earth’s two races of superpowered beings, Inhumans and mutants, entered into a series of rapidly escalating tensions that brought them to the brink of war. Up until now, the full extent of the crisis, which appeared to have cost rogue X-Men leader Cyclops his life has only been hinted at, but in the current “Death of X” series, co-writers Jeff Lemire, Charles Soule and artist Aaron Kuder are revealing the exact events that almost led to a mutant vs Inhuman war and will certainly inform any subsequent clashes between the two races, including December’s “IvX” miniseries.
In the first two issues of “Death of X,” readers saw which fan-favorite mutant’s demise lead to the discovery that the Inhuman’s transformative Terrigen Cloud was lethal to mutants, and how Cyclops reacted to the event. The creative team also teased a mysterious secret between Emma Frost and the telepathic mutants known as the Stepford Cuckoos, and introduced Magneto into the conflict.
We spoke with Lemire and Soule about these events, the role the rest of the Marvel Universe will play in their series, and the action that’s coming up in the second half of “Death of X.”
CBR: Let’s kick off by chatting a little bit about the big death in “Death of X” #1: Jamie Madrox. What made you decide to use Multiple Man as the mutant to demonstrate the Terrigen Cloud’s lethality to mutants?
Jeff Lemire: There were a few reasons why we chose Madrox. First, he is a beloved character, and the death needed to have impact. Secondly, his power set made for a very dramatic display of the Terrigen effects.
Charles Soule: True. There was also a thought that by showing the death of one character, we could very literally show Cyclops (and the readers) the death of many characters. The sad end of Jamie Madrox was an entire mutant apocalypse in one. It’s definitely sad – I love Madrox, too – but the reaction we’re seeing online really makes us feel like it hit with the impact we needed it to.
In Issue #2, Cyclops made a clearly tactical move with his worldwide telepathic broadcast that was designed to turn mankind against the Inhumans, and perhaps have them look at the X-Men in a different light. It’s a smart move, but it’s also a brutal one, especially coming from Cyclops who has dealt with human hate and fear all his life. What’s your sense of Scott’s mental and emotional state in this issue? Is he taking time to process all the information he has, or is he lashing out?
Lemire: In Issue #1, he is definitely lashing out. He is reacting emotionally to the potential extinction of his people.
Soule: Cyclops is in a fragile state right now, but he’s also a master tactician. I think he’s reacting with fear and grief, but also seeing an opportunity (for once) to get all of humanity on the side of the mutants. If he can pull all this off, he might just save the mutants and lift up human-X relations for years to come.
After Scott’s broadcast, there’s a telepathic conversation between Emma Frost and the Stepford Cuckoos about something the Cuckoos saw with their powers. What can you tell us about that? Did they read something in the thoughts of Scott? Emma? Or perhaps someone else in the world? And will we have to wait long to learn exactly what the Cuckoos saw?
Lemire: We cannot say anything about this, sorry. But the series is only four issues and ships bi-weekly, so you will not have to wait long!
Soule: Exactly. Let us have our little bits of drama!
Fair enough. The end of “Death of X” #2 brings Magneto into the story. What’s it like writing the character against this backdrop and playing him off characters like Cyclops and Emma? And what’s Magneto’s state of mind when you pick up with him?
Lemire: Magneto is always a blast to write. He’s one of Marvel’s richest characters and one of the most important mutant characters, so he had to be involved. His state of mind is very much in line with how we have seen Cullen Bunn writing him, first in the “Magneto” solo series, and then in “Uncanny X-Men.”
Soule: I just like Magneto. Such strength and angst and conflict. He elevates every scene he’s in, as do many of the X characters.
It feels like the rapidly rising tensions between mutants and Inhumans would definitely catch the eye of some other Marvel teams like the Avengers. Do you have plans to bring in the rest of the Marvel Universe before “Death of X” is over? Or is this primarily a story about the X-Men and the Inhumans?
Lemire: This story happens very quickly. The rest of the Marvel U will only have time to react after it is all over.
Soule: Right – I’d say this whole thing takes place over the span of a few days. As both X and I teams have teleporters, and the action is global, it’s tough for the other Marvel U powers to get a lock on what’s going on before it’s all done.
Aaron Kuder has done quite a bit of work for DC Comics, but this is his first major Marvel work and he’s knocking it out of the park. What do you enjoy most about working with Aaron?
Lemire: He’s a great storyteller and has the ability to capture scale and scope in his work, but also capture emotion and humanity. That’s a rare skill set.
Soule: I also love how he can bring a sense of the strange to the book without losing the personal element. I mean, we’re dealing with genetic freaks and alien-tinkered weirdos – the book should feel like it’s happening on the fringes, that it’s a little out of control, and Aaron is incredible at that.
The other fun element of a story like this is the chance to play with characters that are normally not part of your monthly titles. So Jeff, which Inhuman characters are you really enjoying writing? And Charles, which X-Men are proving to be the most fun to play with?
Lemire: Karnak is the best. Love him. I haven’t gotten a chance to write him much in “Death of X,” but I have in “IvX,” and it’s been great. I also have a soft spot for Black Bolt.
Soule: Emma Frost. My favorite. I also really like the Cuckoos. I want to write a book about them some day. I’d call it Emma and the Kooks, and it would take the world by storm. (Just a plain old storm, though – not Storm. She probably wouldn’t be in it, except for a guest appearance or two.)
[Laughs] Finally, can you leave us with some hints and teases about the action in the second half of the series? The cover to issue #4 suggests that before everything is over, Black Bolt will become involved in a major way.
Lemire: Black Bolt will indeed play a role. All the players have not yet been introduced. Issue #2 really sets the stage for the big conflict we will see play out in “Death of X” and will start to bring all the major players together.
Soule: “Death of X” is its own, complete story, which I think will stand up against any of the work Jeff or I have ever done. I think we’re both really proud of it, especially keeping a human dimension alive against the backdrop of this operatic superhero tragedy. And then, of course… it’s “IvX!”
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