Launching on October 5, the event limited series “Death of X” will finally reveal just what happened between the X-Men and the Inhumans during the eight-month gap following “Secret Wars.” The series, which comes from writers Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire and artist Aaron Kuder, will also answer questions surrounding Cyclops’ death and what happened to Emma Frost.
Talking “Death of X” with the comic press today are writers Lemire and Soule as well as editor Nick Lowe and Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso. CBR will be updating this article live with a full report of the discussion. Throughout the article, you will also get a peek at some freshly debuted pages of Kuder’s interior art from the first issue, as well as the artist’s covers for “Death of X” #1-4.
Marvel PR’s Chris D’Lando kicked off the talk by setting the stage for the event, talking about the jump ahead in time eight months following “Secret Wars.” This is of particular interest since Cyclops died during that time and a major event caused a schism between the mutants and Inhumans. D’Lando said that there will also be brief info about the upcoming “Inhumans vs. X-Men” event in the call as well.
Charles Soule said that the Cold War analogy between the two factions was very apt and discussed the Terrigen Mist, which gives Inhumans life and kills mutants. “We wanted it to feel like an intractable conflict, and in order to get there something very intense had to happen before we launched our stories,” said Soule.
Lemire added that “something really important happened involving Cyclops and he’s dead, but clearly that’s one of the central things we’re exporing — how that happened and what it means. We don’t want to spoil that here, obviously. This cold war aspect, there’s various factions within both the Inhumans and X-Men. There’s not one blanket way the X-Men react or the Inhumans react. There are different mutants that think differently about the Inhumans. You have Storm’s team which is trying to coexist and save mutants, and then there’s Magneto’s team which is more proactive and aggressive. Dennis Hopeless is writing the young X-Men who are trying to live their lives. When we see the conflict erupt, there won’t be one face for the whole group, there’ll be factions.”
“Both sides see themselves as heroic,” said Soule. “The Inhumans and X-Men would rather be saving the world than fighting. They’re on a collision course and ‘Death of X’ shows how bad it all was, and shows what it would be like if the two sides collided.”
Alonso said that the story stands on its own two feet and fills in the gaps between “Secret Wars” and the X-Books that launched last year. “This functions as a prelude to the war in ‘Inhumans vs. X-Men.’ You’ll understand in this series why this war is inevitable,” said Alonso.
Lemire’s book, “Extraordinary X-Men,” featured Storm rejecting Cyclop’s actions — actions we’ll see in “Death of X.” “We’re going back eight months before my first issue,” said Lemire. “It was a different landscape. We’ll see what caused the teams we have now to form. You’ll see Cyclops actions, which are more shocking and surprising than I think most readers could guess.”
Charles Soule’s “Inhumans” series started with Beast joining the team. Soule said he wanted his “Inhumans” series to feel like something major had happened prior to its start. “It’s all part of building up the anticipation towards ‘Death of X,” he said. “People want to know how we got there. It’s clear that Beast left the mutants to work with the Inhumans, and not everybody is happy about that. Crystal, the sister of the queen, has been sent out into the world to make sure that if war breaks out again, she’ll have as many people on the Inhumans’ side as possible. This is all coming together in a huge battle, which will be ‘IvX.'”
Artist Aaron Kuder will be making his Marvel debut with the event. “Getting Aaron over here has been a labor of love over several years,” said editor Nick Lowe. “I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. We were so glad to see him take on this book and bring his A+ game. He’s turning in the best work of his career. It’ll make people jump out of their chairs. The first issue is stunning and he’s almost done with the second issue now.”
“One thing about this book is there’s a lot of characters,” said Soule. “I think, some of that you can lose emotional context because you’re focusing on so many characters. But Aaron has a strong emotional content, you know what everyone’s feeling. He’s innovating in the way these characters are represented. It’s a fresh take on a big superhero battle.”
“He’s not so much an artist as a cartoonist, meaning he’s a strong and gifted storyteller,” said Lemire. “It’s like having a third writer on the book, the way he interprets the script in order to communicate our ideas.” Lemire said he’s had his eye on Kuder’s work since even back when both of them were working on books at DC Comics.
The series will mark the first time we’ve seen Cyclops and Emma Frost in almost a year. “I’ve been writing the X-Men for a year now and it felt like something was missing because Scott and Emma are so important,” said Lemire. “This feels like coming full circle and getting to the missing piece creatively.”
“Emma is one of my favorite characters in all of X-Men canon, I’m having a blast with her,” said Soule. “Cyclops has a point of view and he’s really rich to write.”
“I’m so excited for this book to get out there,” said Lowe. “We’ve been planning this for so long. The day Jeff signed on to do the X-Men, we’ve been meeting to talk about this and ‘IvX.’ They’ve been such a joy to work with, and to bring this huge story to bear with important moments but incredibly personal moments as well, I cannot wait for it to be in everyone’s hands.”
On working with Soule, Lemire said that their process is seamless. “It seems like a very easy collaboration. The important thing is going into it, the easy way to divide the work was that I do stuff that’s X-focused and he does Inhumans focused. That’s how it started but as we’ve gone on, whoever is more excited for one scene gets it and we split it up that way. It’s pretty effortless, no big fights yet.”
Soule added that there’s lots of “getting on the phone and emailing, and letting ideas simmer and gestate before we put them down on the page. I have so much respect for Jeff. He’s a real talent, so we started the project with that feeling towards each other and it’s been easy.”
If Cyclops and Emma are the primary X-Men on one side, Soule said that Medusa and Crystal play a big part on the Inhuman side. “As far as their motivation, the Terrigen is a huge part of Inhuman society and it makes them who they are,” added Lowe. “Any time the Terrigen is involved, you know they will jump to its defense.”
Lemire said that the series will also focus on some seldom seen and obscure X-Men and Inhumans as well, not just the heavy-hitters.
Speaking to “Uncanny X-Men” #600, the last time we saw Cyclops and Emma, Lemire says that the discovery that the Terrigen is poisonous to mutants spurred him into action. “It’s so seismic that it kind of pushes back and changes everything,” said Lemire. Alonso said that readers will understand why Cyclops changed his mind from his peaceful speech in #600 to what he does in “Death of X.”
Regarding the title, Lowe said that once the “beats of the story revealed themselves, ‘Death of X’ is a very important moment for the X-Men. We live in an age where it’s hard to keep story beats secret and keep a lock down on things, but it was a cool title that fit. So we made a big marketing platform with it, with lots of covers.”
“If you heard ‘Death of X,’ would you want to read it?” joked Soule.
On the topic of Beast and Human Torch, Lemire said they both play “really big roles in ‘IvX’ — maybe more so than in ‘Death of X.'”
“I think Beast is always trying to think his way through problems,” said Soule. “This feels like a problem he should be able to solve with his mind, but we’ll see how this works out. He gets involved in ‘Death of X,’ and as far as the Human Torch, he’s Medusa’s boyfriend. He brings a lot of loyalty to Medusa, but he’s not an Inhuman. He gives a new perspective to the story.”
“The addition of Beast and Human Torch to ‘Uncanny Inhumans’ was a big shocker with that book,” said Lowe. “This sets up that move for both of them. If you remember when the Torch joined, he wanted to help the Inhumans with PR. This will show you why he needed to step in and help them.”
Nick Lowe said that one major thing has changed as they’ve gone from working on just “Death of X” to both this series and “IvX.” “That’s what’s cool about working on these in tandem, is that one can change the other,” said Lowe. Alonso added that they had an “IvX” retreat with the writers, and it has heavily involved and both stories have influenced each other.
“When I first came on, the story was in the works then and it’s been percolating and evolving for a long time,” said Lemire. “The more concrete ‘Death of X’ became, the more ‘IvX’ changed. They work in tandem that way, and it’s a great way to work.”
When asked if this is the start of putting the X-Men front-and-center again, Lowe said Marvel is always trying to make the best comics they can. Alonso added that questions like this, that presume that Marvel doesn’t care about the X-Men, are kind of insulting to the writers that work on these books — specifically citing the big “Avengers vs. X-Men” series from 2012 that put the team front and center. “We want to make all of our books popular, we didn’t lock ourselves in a room for three days because we’re disinterested in the X-Men,” said Alonso.
“One of the big things, during the eight-month gap and not seeing ‘Death of X’ right away gave us mystery, which I thought was intriguing and made them compelling,” said Lemire when talking about the decision to wait to tell this story.
Soule added that “part of the fun of being a fan of comics is talking about what the hell happened, and setting this up like a huge thing has happened has given fans time to put their own theories out there. Now it’s time to pull the curtain back.”
“It was always our plan to take our time and tell this story,” said Lowe. “We did that jump, we had a lot of stuff we wanted to do to take advantage of that jump and give our fans a new way to enjoy the books. There’s big plans for all this kind of stuff, and it was always planned for this to come later and lead into ‘IvX.’ It was a one-two punch.”
Since this follows directly after “Secret Wars,” a question was asked if we’ll see direct ramifications from that series — which also featured the death of Cyclops. “I think it will take more than just one phone call to get into Jonathan Hickman’s time machinations before and after ‘Secret Wars,'” said Lowe. “This was in the cards since we knew ‘Secret Wars’ was coming. We knew there would be a big shake-up and that’s why we paired Jeff with Charles, who’s our Inhumans guy. You won’t see what happens in this story coming.”
“I felt a lot of responsibility writing Scott because he’s such an important character,” said Lemire of writing the story of Cyclops’ death. “We didn’t take it lightly, for sure. There’s a sense of freedom to finally tell the story we’ve been teasing for a long time. There’s a responsibility to do it right.”
“I’m having ‘Death of Wolverine’ flashbacks,” said Soule. “This is a story that will be very impactful to the X-Men in a number of ways. There’s a lot of legacy here.”
When asked directly about Emma Frost, Lemire said that they really can’t talk about her at all without giving anything away. Lowe added that her joining the X-Men was a huge moment, so getting her “back on the stage as we go into ‘Death of X’ was major. Once you see what happens in ‘Death of X’ #1, you’ll get a better idea of how she and Cyclops perceive how dangerous the situation for mutants on Earth is.”
“Especially in this story, she’s tragic, which I hope doesn’t give anything away,” said Soule. “I don’t think there’s any accident that she turns into a diamond as her secondary mutation. She makes herself very hard. In this story we see a lot of what makes her tick and what matters to her and why she makes the choices she makes. I think Emma has one of the best stories in the whole arc. A lot of characters do, but she stands out.”
But while Emma hasn’t been a part of the books in the past year, Lemire did say that following “Death of X” she will have a major role in the X-Universe moving forward.
Regarding the teen Cyclops, Lowe revealed that the young Scott of “All-New X-Men” and “Champions” will have a bigger role in “IvX” than “Death of X” — as will the rest of the time-displaced original team.
When asked if they think “Death of X” will help draw readers of one faction to the others’ books, Soule said he doesn’t think about that — he only tries to make great comics. Lemire added that he doesn’t really think about the fans so much as just writing the best story he can. “You try to write the X-Men and Inhumans as well-rounded and multi-faceted characters.”
When it comes to tone, Lemire said he told Kuder to go for the same vibe of Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” Soule agreed, saying that he thinks the genre is in line with horror due to the emotions that are felt during it. And since both sides of the book involve huge rosters, “Death of X” will feature a smaller group representing each side. “Magik plays a pretty big part, a couple of unexpected characters like Goldballs play big roles,” said Lemire. “We focused on a core group for each side.”
The conversation shifted towards the frequent use of death in recent Marvel events and comics. “We’ve put a lot of cool characters on the table right now that are gelling with readers,” said Alonso. “I don’t see the universe as shrinking or getting smaller. As you know, dead is dead in comics. We all know what could happen down the road. This is a common trope of comics. It makes our art form unique. You can do this, but you have to sell the story. But we have no plans to bring back Cyclops after this death.”
Lowe added that “one of the best things about how we craft these stories, there isn’t an event checklist on the wall. Every time a story comes up or someone suggests a character dies, it goes through a rigamarole of why. We’d rather not. You can go back to ‘Second Coming’ when Nightcrawler died. We went through all this, was it necessary to the story? We really don’t do it willy nilly or easily. You’ll see some compelling points made during the course of ‘Death of X’ or ‘IvX.'”
A major death that was coming in “IvX” was actually scrapped because it was discussed and didn’t seem necessary. “It would have been done just for the sake of doing it, so we aren’t doing it.”
“Death of X” is a self-contained four-issue closed story, with no tie-ins, and Soule said they’ve taken great pains to make it accessible to new readers. And while “IvX” will have tie-ins, it will also be accessible.
Closing up with a question about Kuder’s work process, Lowe said he’s been working on the book since March or April. “He’s moving along at a good clip, his work is incredible. This book will push him so high in the stratosphere. We got Morry Hollowell coloring him, he did the original ‘Civil War’ series. We wanted to put our biggest talent on this book.”
“Death of X” #1 arrives in stores on October 5, and will play out across four issues in October and November.
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