When writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Stuart Immonen kicked off their new Marvel Comics series, “All-New X-Men,” which brought the teenage versions of the titular team’s original five members to the present day, two questions defined the title: What would the founding five make of the state of Charles Xavier’s dream in the wake of his death in “Avengers Vs. X-Men?” And when would they return to their natural time in Marvel history? Early issues of the series showed that the founding five were both terrified of and excited by the future, and the recent “Battle of the Atom” crossover answered the second question by showing that the founding five are trapped in the present.
Soon after “Battle of the Atom” wrapped, “All-New X-Men” crossed over with “Guardians of the Galaxy” for the recently concluded “The Trial of Jean Grey,” which left numerous questions in its wake. How do the original X-Men make the most of being stranded in what is their future? Has being ripped from their own time changed the founding five for the better or for worse? For the answers to these questions and more CBR News spoke with Executive Editor Mike Marts, who recently returned to editing the X-Men line of books after a stint at DC Comics, and he explained Marvel’s plans for the aftermath of the crossover including this week’s special milestone Issue #25 as well as the next arc that pits the titular team against the newest incarnation of the villainous Brotherhood.
CBR News: Mike, you were still with DC when “All-New X-Men” was announced by Marvel. What was your initial reaction upon hearing about the book? What story potential did you see in it?
Mike Marts: Marvel took a team of characters from the past into the future and not to just leave them for one story arc. They created a book around them. I thought it was extremely aggressive and risky, but it totally paid off. Fans love that they get to see the classic X-Men characters from the 1960s in adventures told with a modern method of storytelling. People totally buy into it, and they also love the interaction between the past versions of the characters and the current versions.
The main cast of characters is a big part of “All-New X-Man’s” identity, and right now they’re affiliated with Cyclops’ “Uncanny X-Men,” a team that also has several teenage members. What other elements separate “All-New X-Men” from “Uncanny” and the other X-titles?
I think both “Uncanny” and “All-New” really have distinct identities and have no problem standing on their own especially when comparing them to other Marvel Universe or X-Men titles. The fact that Brian Bendis has been able to use one book as a way of reexamining classic characters in a new modern way and the other as a forum to discover new mutants and try to work for Xavier’s dream is pretty astonishing. No pun intended. [Laughs] It really says a lot about Brian and the others working with him that they can create two books like that which really stand out and stand on their own.
Had you worked with Brian before during your first stint at Marvel?
No, actually. We got to know each other quite a bit through creative retreats and story summits, but we actually used to joke about the fact that we hadn’t worked together on any issues or any series. So this has been great because coming back to Marvel not only do I get to work with Brian on one book, but I get to work with him on three books. So that’s been extremely rewarding and the collaboration between him and I has been outstanding.
What do you feel he brings to the world of the X-Men?
It’s funny, in Brian’s first decade at Marvel he spent so much time with Spider-Man, the Ultimate characters, and the Avengers characters. So I think for a long time readers figured that Brian just wasn’t interested in the X-Men, but that was so far from being the case. He has an extreme knowledge of the X-Men. He has a lot of respect for the stories that have come before. He knows them in and out and frontwards and backwards. So he’s able to pull from the classic canon and take advantage of what’s come before, but at the same time he’s succeeded in taking the franchise in exciting new directions that I don’t think any readers would have expected.
I want to talk about Brian’s most recent story, “The Trial of Jean Grey” crossover with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” shook up the world of the “All-New X-Men” on a couple different levels. One was that the teenage Cyclops chose not to return to Earth with his teammates and instead will spin some time adventuring with his father and his band of intergalactic adventurers, the Starjammers. What inspired this decision? What do you feel it does to the dynamic of the All-New X-Men?
I think with young Cyclops the decision was based more on what the character would do rather than what the creators and editors would want to do. Here we have this young Cyclops character who really didn’t know if his father was alive or not, and now he gets a chance to meet him.
This is a younger Scott Summers. He’s not the Scott that most of us grew up with that maybe was a little jaded and had a hard opinion of his father. This is a Scott Summers who is still somewhat innocent and naÃ¯ve. He really feels like he can learn a lot from his father. I have to say the scripts I’ve seen from Greg Rucka on the new “Cyclops” series are very exciting and it really capitalizes on the relationship between Scott and Chris Summers.
What else do you want readers to know about the new “Cyclops” ongoing series? From what I’ve read it sounds like a Father-Son buddy adventure book in space.
Yeah, most definitely. It’s that. It’s a little bit of “Star Wars.” It’s a little bit of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It’s a father and son’s journey with lots of exciting supporting characters like the Starjammers. So fans of classic X-Men stories will get a lot from the book as well.
Another interesting development that arose in “The Trial of Jean Grey” is that the teenage Jean has developed a powerful new ability that seems to be a combination of her telepathic and telekinetic powers. What can you tell us about this ability and how it works?
That’s something exciting that she’s going to discover and readers will discover right along with her. This is a new aspect of her powers that she’s going to have to deal with and learn about. That might be a little difficult, too, especially dealing with someone like Emma Frost who maybe can’t help her in the same way that she was once able to help her. She’ll have to do a lot of learning on her own, and as a teenager that’s going to be pretty trying. It should lead the character into some very exciting future stories.
Will one of those future stories explore why Jean’s powers have been growing so rapidly? Should readers be alarmed by how quickly that’s been happening?
Yes, they definitely should be alarmed by that, and when you consider that the entire Shi’ar empire just put the young Jean Grey on trial for crimes that she technically had not yet committed readers are going to have to worry that her powers may become too strong too fast. You never know. Young Jean Grey may fall prey to the same dangers that her older self once did.
This week sees the release of the milestone 25th issue of “All-New X-Men.” What can you tell us about this issue? How did it come together?
That specific issue was mostly the brain child of Bendis and my predecessor on the X-Books, editor Nick Lowe. They put together a fantastic assortment of artists; perhaps the best assortment of artists in recent times.
What can you tell us about the plot of the issue? Which artists are involved?
Nick Lowe: “All-New X-Men” #25 is the adult Beast’s dark night of the soul writ do large your brain will explode. Viewed through the lens of industry legends (Arthur Adams, Paul Smith, Jill Thompson and more), cutting edge superstars (Lee Bermejo, J. Scott Campbell, J.G. Jones, Skottie Young and more), luminaries from animation and film (Bruce Timm, Ronnie Del Carmen, Dan Hipp and more), and indie and up-and-coming artists (Maris Wicks, Jason Shiga, Jake Parker and more) — and way way more incredible people!
Let’s move onto “All-New X-Men” #26. Does this issue kick off the arc that pits the team against the villainous new Brotherhood who were stranded in the past after the events of “Battle of the Atom?”
Marts: Yes, issue #26 does tie into the Brotherhood story that begins in #27. It’s starting to set the stage for what the Brotherhood story will become. There are several characters in there who will be making some surprise appearances; maybe one that we know and one that we don’t know. So issue #26 is really the tip of the iceberg for the next few issues.
What’s your sense of the Brotherhood? What do you think these guys need to be? And as an editor what do you think that name should mean in this day and age?
Marts: The Brotherhood name indicates that they’re like minded individuals getting together who are willing to almost be a family for a certain cause. So much like the X-Men come together to fight as a family for Charles Xavier’s dream, the Brotherhood has a common cause, a common dream that they feel is worth banding together for.
So in their eyes what they’re doing is just. They feel what they’re doing is right. They think they’re the good guys, but as what usually happens with the Brotherhood and the X-Men they’ll find themselves at cross purposes.
So this team doesn’t necessarily embrace the original moniker of their group, “The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants?”
Marts: That may be something that we’ll have to see as we go along.
Finally, artist Stuart Immonen will bring the Brotherhood arc to life. Stuart has many strengths as an artist and one of his biggest is a chameleon-like ability to adapt his style to exactly what the story needs. What can people expect from Stuart’s work on the Brotherhood story?
Marts: Stuart really is doing the best work of his career right now. I just had a discussion with an editor the other day about how greet Stuart is as an artist and how he grows. He’s been in the industry a long time and he continues to improve himself and improve his style. Whether it’s Superman work, “Nextwave,” “Ultimate Spider-Man,” or “All-New X-Men” he continues to get better and better, and the work that he’s done on this Brotherhood arc is incredible.
The action scenes and the fight scenes are great, but some of my favorite things from Stuart are the small quiet moments of things like young Jean Grey having a conversation with older Scott Summers. That’s my favorite stuff of all. He’s so good at capturing emotion, personality, and the human qualities of the characters.
I think “All-New X-Men” is really becoming the backbone book of the entire X-Franchise. It’s an honor to work on the book.
The star-studded “All-New X-Men” #25 is on sale now.