As announced at its Saturday afternoon panel at New York Comic-Con, Aspen Comics brings back the magic next summer – both in terms of the latest volume of the magic-centric, future-based series “Soulfire” and in terms of writer JT Krul, who continues his tenure on the signature title.
Created by legendary comic book artist Michael Turner, “Soulfire” began in 2005 as Aspen Comics’ first maxi-series and takes place in the distant future on a world where magic long ago vanished. Grace, a beautiful but centuries old survivor of the last Age of Magic, allies herself with the orphan Malikai, who she believes could bring about the return of magic to a world overrun by technology and ruthless corporations. The original volume of “Soulfire” led to a number of spinoff limited series exploring the world’s backstory – “Dying of the Light” and “Chaos Reign” – before continuing in the miniseries “New World Order” and “Soulfire” Vol. 2, the majority of which have been written by Krul.
With the second volume of the series currently underway and almost completed, Aspen plans to release the next installment in 2011 with Krul once again behind the wheel and joined by newcomer artist Jay Fabok. CBR News spoke with the writer about his plans for the future of the series, working with Fabok and his continued stay in the Aspen universe.
CBR News: To start things off here, you’re currently working on volume two of “Soulfire.” So, in that regard, what exactly can you say about the next installment?
JT Krul: That’s a good question. [Laughs] What can I say? The big thing with “Soulfire” Vol. 3 is really trying to bring the focus of the book on Malikai and Grace. They’re really going to take center stage in the story. We’re going to be moving away from some of the other characters. As great as it’s been, there’s a lot of people involved – with Sonia and PJ and Dex and Benoist. So, I really wanted to focus on Malikai and Grace. As “Soulfire” Vol. 2 wraps up, Malikai is going to see the downside of the power that he has. It’s going to send him into a bit of a tailspin and he’s going to pull away from those closest to him and try to isolate himself. As “Soulfire” Vol. 3 picks up, we find him in that state. He’s lost in the world, if you will, trying to cope with the magic inside of him. It’s essentially a journey of self-discovery for Malikai. He’s been on this roller coaster ride since the beginning, forced into this world much larger than he thought existed. It’s starting to catch up with him. He’s starting to see the dangers of the world with magic and it’s got him more than a little bit concerned.
You mentioned that the series also focuses on Grace. How does she play into the story?
Grace is returning to the Everlands, and we’re going to see the return of a villain from volume one of “Soulfire” in Onyx. Onyx comes back in a big way. She plays a central role in volume three in terms of how the two races of magic – the Rahtumi and the Sethoru – have been able to coexist relatively peacefully in the Everlands since the last Age of Magic ended. But now that magic has returned, there is this kind of desire for some for things to return to as they once were. There’s always been this tension between the two races in that the Rahtumi thought they were a superior race and the Sethoru feeling like they were getting the short end of the stick and treated like second class citizens a little bit. So, Onyx comes back and really elevates her role in the Soulfire universe. Another Soulfire character is going to be making a return to the pages in the current story that I’m really excited about. It’s a character that appeared long ago and will be playing a primary role in what’s going on. It’s high on adventure, high on action. It’s a fun summer blowout story. All hell breaks loose in almost every issue, which is kind of fun. [Laughs]
As you said, this story focuses on Malikai and Grace. Specifically, what do you like about those two characters and why did you choose to focus on them this time around?
The simplest answer for focusing on them is that they are the two most vital characters in the Soulfire universe in terms of what’s going on. Malikai is the Samusara. He is the Bringer of Light. He is responsible for returning magic to the world. Grace has been the protector of the Samusaras for all these years and trying to help usher the next Age of Magic along. So, they’ve both played very vital roles in what’s going on. As characters, Grace is a very strong, powerful female figure, which I like writing. I like writing strong female characters. But she’s also burdened by this sense of duty that she’s carrying around. She’s always grappling with that sense of duty in terms of what she can and can’t do and in terms of what she can and can’t share. Going back to volume one, there were a lot of things going on that she knew Malikai was going to face that she felt that she couldn’t tell him. She’s still paying for that in terms of the tension between Malikai and her. I liken her a little bit to Wonder Woman in that respect. She is a warrior, but she is a bit of a loner as well, because she’s always felt alone in this duty of hers.
As far as Malikai goes, he’s great because he’s just like the rest of us. He’s this ordinary kid that gets thrown into this extraordinary situation. The thing I’m excited about doing in volume three is the flip side of that coin – that notion of “with great power comes great responsibility.” He is a very powerful individual, and it’s not necessarily something he really wants. I always think that’s interesting – writing a character who has this power but doesn’t want it. You would think everyone would jump at the notion of having that, of being special. But sometimes, you just want to be an ordinary kid. He hasn’t been able to do that for pretty much his whole life.
I also wanted to hit on the new artist on the book, Jay Fabok. What do you like about his style and what about that style lends itself to the Soulfire universe?
Jay’s just intense. He’s got a lot of energy on his pages and there’s just a tremendous amount of detail. You can see a little bit of a Turner influence there. You can see a little bit of a Finch influence there. I like the fact that it’s so high energy and there’s so much going on. And he’s been designing some new characters for this storyline that just looks amazing. So, there’s this certain edge to it that also comes into play. We’ve been really lucky – obviously starting with Mike, whose work was just tremendous – with everyone who has worked in the Soulfire universe. We’ve been lucky with the artists we’ve gotten. We saw his work in Chicago and were immediately talking to him about doing something. We’re well into the run, even though it’s not coming out for several more months, and I think people are going to really like his stuff. Like I said, I think it harkens back to Mike and the look he had for it. And he draws great women, which is great. [Laughs]
The last thing I wanted to ask about is, despite the work you’ve been doing for DC – “Green Arrow” and”Teen Titans” – the big news here is your continued work on “Soulfire” and the Aspen universe. Is this somewhere you pretty much always to be a part of, even as you continue to work elsewhere in the industry?
The thing about “Soulfire” that’s great is that I came into it very early on. They were only on issue #3 when I came on board and started writing with them. There’s something about keeping Mike’s stuff going that’s important to me, and as long as I can do it, I want to do it. We’ve been talking ahead and working on stories for so long that this story has actually been in place for a while now. Truth be told, we already have the next story broken down as well that volume three leads into.
For the last year there’s been a lot of forward thinking as far as “Soulfire” goes. It’s just one of those things where you start to work on a project and you come up with all these ideas for it and you want to see them through. In particular with “Soulfire,” the nice thing about doing volume three is, again, being able to focus on Malikai and Grace. As much as I like writing team stuff, I also like writing and focusing on one of two characters. In that sense, I get a chance to do that and focus on the individual characters. So, that’s another reason that I really want to stick around with “Soulfire.”