The governments of the world subject their spies and soldiers to rigorous training in order for them to sneak in and out of enemy facilities and destroy hostile forces undetected. In the Marvel Universe, however, there are individuals with fantastic powers that allow them to accomplish these tasks without all that training, making these super powered individuals perfect covert ops agents for governments.
In recent years the number of covert action super teams has increased in the Marvel Universe with the emergence of squads like the Secret Avengers and Britain’s MI-13. This February, a new team covert super agents takes to the shadows when writer Simon Spurrier and artist Rock-he Kim launch an all-new “X-Force” ongoing series. CBR News spoke with Spurrier about the series which finds a new incarnation of the titular team engaging in clandestine missions to protect and advance the cause of mutant rights.
CBR News: Simon, you’ve been writing stories in the X-Men corner of the Marvel Universe for some time now, and I imagine that’s what led to Marvel offering you “X-Force.” What made the book an appealing assignment to you? What sort of potential did you see in the concept of the team?
Simon Spurrier: One of those “too good to turn down” opportunities, simply put. I had a few options on the table but when [editor] Daniel [Ketchum] mentioned X-Force it squirreled everything else away very quickly.
I guess it just plays to a lot of my fascinations and, I think, strengths. Like, it’ll come as no surprise to “X-Men Legacy” readers that I’ve always been a little cynical about some of the more saccharine manifestations of the “team-up-and-do-good-by-punching-stuff” formula. So the chance to play in the really badass end of the mutant pool was very seductive.
See, with X-Force there’s a clear mandate in place (I’ll come to that in a minute) and whether you or I agree with the whys and wherefores of what the team does, which is obviously going to be an overarching theme, there’s never any need to contrive daft threats or dumb heroic disagreements just to catalyze The Next Fight Scene. X-Force is about factionalism, it’s about control and it’s about politics. The kind that needs body bags. The oldest kind there is.
More selfishly, I get to write dialogue for some of the most amazingly distinct characters in the X-pantheon, with some of the most entertaining conflicts between them. I get to bring a dose of mutant centric weirdness and a healthy sprinkle of snark to the twilight world of global espionage. Which is basically ALL THE FOODGROUPS.
Also: I get to invent brain-blowing amazing scenes of action and Xplodo.
SEE WHAT I DID THERE? BECAUSE, LIKE, THE “X” IS PART OF THE BRAND, SO ohwhatsthepoint.
[Laughs] X-Force has played many roles in the Marvel’s and X-Men Universe. They’ve been a proactive super hero team, a high profile group of media darlings, a team of heroic assassins, and currently there are two versions of the team: one that defends Los Angeles from weird and shadowy threats and another that assists Cable in his battle against a host of apocalyptic menaces. What is the mandate and purpose of your X-Force team? What types of missions might we see them on? Will they be associated with Wolverine or Cyclops’ factions of the X-Men or will they function independently?
Here’s the basic setup: Almost every nation in the Marvel Universe secretly employs superhuman operatives to pursue its covert interests. And always has.
We’re aware of some of these groups: Secret Avengers and MI-13 spring to mind. We’re going to be meeting a lot more. These guys aren’t necessarily about saving the world, they’re about serving the interests of their own people, their own nations. Keeping the home flag flying high.
Worth saying: this stuff is going on in the real world all the time. Unmanned predator drones, civilian spying software, undeclared special-ops missions, off grid aeronautical technology, cyber invasion, bloody radioactive sushi! Switch on the news, brothers and sisters, we are adrift upon a world of shadowy espionage far more elaborate and vituperative than the most insane James Bondian excesses.
In our world this endless shadow-game is played using technology and intelligence. In the Marvel U? They have super humans.
Some stuff has happened. One event in particular — we’re calling it “the Alexandria incident” — which has shaken the international intelligence community to its roots. And mutantkind is bearing the brunt.
So Cable has been thinking. He’s realized that the only way mutantkind is going to survive is to start dealing with The Modern World on its terms. Mutants need to start thinking of themselves as a state — without borders, without government, without centralized rule, but still: a disparate country in its own right.
And for that? They need to start playing the shadow game. As Cable himself puts it: “Nation of mutantkind needs a dirty tricks department. We’re it.”
So we’re going to see them on hits. We’re going to see them stealing intelligence, technology and weaponry from other factions. We’re going to see them truffling-out emergent threats and destroying them before they can get started. It’s broadly the same denominator of old — a black ops X-Men team — but with a lot more of an emphasis on International and inter-factional competition.
The whole thing, of course, is a grand and grim metaphor for the secret black-technology race going on under our noses every day.
Let’s take some time to chat about some of the characters that will appear in “X-Force” starting with Cable. What do you find most interesting about the group’s leader? Which aspects of his personality do you plan to explore?
Interesting place to start. I mean, obviously Cable’s been around for a long time and we’ve all got a pretty good handle on what he represents. If forced to list some words I’d start with “soldier” and work my way down via “grim,” “duty,” “grizzled” and possibly “enormogun.” But in this series there’s something a little bit odd about him. He’s even more monosyllabic than usual. He’s clearly keeping secrets about something — but what?
Writing Cable’s great fun. I just finished “Six-Gun Gorilla” for BOOM! Studios (seriously: check it out. I’m exceedingly proud of it, and it’s got a lot more going on than the title suggests) so I was already hopped-up on that kind of man-with-no-name, squint-at-the-sun, don’t-say-anything-you-don’t-have-to-say character. My feeling with Cable is that he’s carved out of rock: you never quite know what he’s thinking or feeling. But if you peer into that one-good-eye of his you’re going to see oceans of rage, pain and hope boiling bright.
I also understand Fantomex and Psylocke will be part of this series. What can you tell us about the dynamic between these two ex-lovers when your series begins? If I remember correctly, the last time we saw Fantomex he and his female incarnation wanted to join back together into one body and rekindle their relationship with Psylocke, but she spurned them. Is that correct?
Yeah, that’s about the size of it. Their current relationship is — well, Rocky.
Don’t want to give too much away because a lot of development and fun will come from how the various characters interact, and these two have got water under the bridge even before the others come along to start swirling everything up. But I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to suggest Betsy’s less than pleased to discover Fantomex is a part of the team. She’s got her own issues to contend with, and quite apart from all the broken promises, past revelations, bi-sexy fun times and catastrophic betrayals she’s simply decided she’s sick of being The Team Member Who Has Romances. She’s fed up of getting her heartstrings twanged, and intends to keep that side of her life separate from the, y’know, shootyknifeyninja black-ops stuff. Which seems pretty smart. But is probably doomed.
Fantomex, for his part, simply assumes Betsy’s still desperately in love with him and will inevitably come round. Because he’s Fantomex.
I also understand you’re bringing in a character who hasn’t been an active part of the Marvel Universe in awhile, Marrow. Why did you decide to include her in “X-Force?” When we last saw Marrow she lost her mutant abilities in the “Decimation” following “House of M. Will that still be the case when she appears in “X-Force?”
SHE LOST HER POWERS?! CANCEL EVERYTHING! IT’S ALL RUINED! [flips table, smashes laptop, storms out]
Yeah, she lost her powers. That’s sort of a plot point and a character point and a thematic point. Which makes it the best sort of point, but the worst sort of thing for me to talk about.
It’s addressed, let’s just say that.
Marrow’s — ha, Marrow’s awesome. There’s this really funny paradox when it comes to lesser-known characters. Everyone’s got their weird little favorites but they’ll react with incredulity to everyone else’s. Weirder still, we often haven’t thought too deeply about why we’ve got these odd fixations on certain characters: they just suggest themselves like old friends and we can’t quite shake the inexplicable certainty of their thunderous AWESOMENESS despite all evidence and claims to the contrary. For me it usually comes down to inventive weirdness (e.g. Maggott) or sheer visual interest (e.g. Chamber) — but when I got the chance to include a real Didn’t-See-That-Coming character in X-Force my brain went straight to Marrow.
She’s layered. She’s kind of crazy. She’s punky and she tries a bit too hard. She’s got a lot to prove, and frequently screws-up. But she’s so strong, down under all those layers of fragility she desperately doesn’t want you to see, and that’s what lies at the core of who she is. She’s a fighter, but not in the way she thinks.
Can you talk about the identities of any other members of of your X-Force team? Will Cable’s daughter Hope be part of the book? And will this series afford you another chance to write Doctor Nemesis?
The fifth member of the team… well, let’s just say we’ll be meeting her — it’s a her — at the end of episode 1, but won’t really get to know her until episode 2. She’s…
Well, she’s a mutant. But she’s not like any mutant you’ve met so far. She’s very plugged in to a lot of the themes and connective tissues I waffled about above.
Her name’s MeMe. Make of that what you will.
Hope — [Laughs] I have to be veeeerrry careful about what I say here. Hope has a role to play in this series, yes. Pretty much all I can say about that is that I think that role is going to be a cause of some discussion amongst her fans and her detractors alike.
And my old pal Doc Nemesis?
A big “yes” on that.
What’s the initial dynamic of this team? Their ranks include members of two different X-Force groups that will meet up in January’s “Vendetta” crossover between “Uncanny X-Force” and “Cable & X-Force.” Will the fallout from that storyline color how your teammates views each other?
I have to be circumspect here because I don’t want to intrude upon or taint the exceedingly good work being done by the teams on “UXF” or “CAXF,” nor steal any thunder from what is going to be a truly epic send-off.
What I’ll say is this: my version of X-Force represents a new beginning of sorts. In some ways it’s a return to a more classic notion of what “X-Force” means; in other ways I think it’s a whole new beast with a very new set of preoccupations and themes. Either way, it’s a ground-level restart.
If you’ve been following the two current XF books then, a) congratulations on your impeccable taste, and b) I think this new book is going to roll-in and fill the void they will inevitably leave very satisfyingly. If you aren’t reading either XF book right now then don’t worry: we’re launching with a whole new set of triggers, mysteries and ideas, and you aren’t going to feel as though you’re missing out if you don’t know every last bit of the characters’ recent histories. We’ll be filling in the blanks sensitively and sandblasting you with new and exciting twists in equal measure.
You’re working with artist Rock-he Kim on “X-Force.” What do you feel he brings to the book as an artist?
Style, mood and texture. He’s got a bit of an Adi Granov thing going on, albeit with a very subtle and very attractive wisp of an Asian sensibility about it. He does great faces, great bodies, great weapons and amaaaazing super spy exploding-fist ragemonsters.
Just for instance.
Finally, what is your initial “X-Force” story? What kind of scope are we talking about?
Scope and scale: global.
Plot: cunning. I won’t give too much away, but I think the whole thing stands as an action-heavy commentary on the way exciting new technologies so quickly get appropriated as weapons of war in today’s world. Oh, and there’s a very very cool and much-missed blast from the Marvel past which you have got to see.
We’re going to be visiting every corner of the world, and blowing them up.
We’re going to see a lot of cool buildings and vehicles, then blow them up.
We’re going to meet lots of new characters, who… Y’know.
Thematically: I think I touched pretty heavily on this above. It’s about the world we live in today. It’s about how much influence on our lives the secret agencies of our governments and institutions wield. It’s about globalization, weaponization and technologization.
It’s about Spurrier’s First Rule: factions speak louder than herds.
Nor is this book purely about “good vs evil,” which I often worry is a really unhelpful and unhealthy view of reality to be peddling. We live in a very complex world after all, and trying to reduce it down to moral binaries is going to lead to ignorance at best and extremism at worst.
Partly, that’s what this iteration of X-Force is about. It’s about accepting that the whole “us vs them” thing, which has always underscored mutant centric books, isn’t always synonymous with “good vs bad.”
It’s about factionalism, ultimately. You don’t have to think someone’s evil to be functionally “against” them. It’s about grim political realities, secret agendas and people with all the right intentions behaving in a very questionable way.
In fact, I guess it’s not far off the stuff I was doing in “Legacy.” And we’ll still get a lot of the same sensibilities too. I’m very aware that just because I’m writing a book in which, for the sake of argument, someone headbutts an airplane in mid-air — cough — that doesn’t mean there isn’t infinite scope for the sort of very intimate, very personal, very feels-oriented story lines I’ve been crafting with David Haller. That’s the beauty of comics: the epic and the intimate can so easily coexist.
And then, above all, there’s the simple human side of it. A group of soldiers trying to do what they think is right even when it looks and feels wrong.
Also, guns. THE SUBTEXT IS GUNS.
“X-Force” #1 by Simon Spurrier and Rock-He Kim goes on sale in February.