The stars of Marvel Comics‘ “X-Men” — Storm, Psylocke, Rachel Grey, Monet and Jubilee — possess a host of powers with which they prevent villains from carrying out their nefarious plans. But will their fantastic abilities prove as effective when battling a mysterious, but seemingly natural phenomenon?
That’s one of the central questions in “The Burning World,” a four-part story by writer G. Willow Wilson and Roland Boschi that kicks off in January’s “X-Men” #23 when the book’s cast finds itself investigating a mysterious sinkhole in the Black Rock Desert. We spoke with Wilson about the tale, its connection to larger X-Men lore, and her love for the X-characters and universe.
CBR News: Your first Marvel work was a Nightcrawler story for the 2010 “Girl Comics” anthology, and Wolverine recently appeared in “Ms. Marvel.” Now, you’re getting your chance to write your first “X-Men” story. I’m guessing this is an assignment you’ve wanted for a long time.
G. Willow Wilson: Oh, yeah! X-Men was sort of my first love as a kid, comic book-wise. I started out watching the Fox Kids “X-Men” cartoon back in the ’90s, which, by the way, has not held up well. [Laughs] That was really the gateway for me to get into comics, so this really was a treat for me.
What do you find most interesting about this X-Team in particular?
It’s an interesting mix of characters. There are a lot of telepaths, there’s Storm — what’s interesting to me as a writer is that when you’ve got a team book with characters that have been around for so long, and some of whom, like Storm, are these Omega mutants that are super-overpowered, it’s really tough to put them in situations that are going to challenge them.
That’s been the big thing with me for this arc. Let’s put them somewhere new and give them something to fight that they haven’t fought a million times before. That makes it so they can’t just levitate a city or shoot something with lightning and be done with it. That’s really challenging, because these characters have really been around. They’ve faced a huge number of threats, not only in this version of the book, but previous versions of the book. It’s been a very interesting learning curve for me.
I understand the way you’re telling this story allows it to be both character and plot driven.
I thought it would be fun to take four of the core members of this line-up — Storm, Psylocke, Rachel Grey and Monet — and kind of get inside their heads each issue. There’s a bit of a hand off: The first issue is primarily from Storm’s point of view, then it’s handed off to Psylocke, handed off to Monet, and handed off to Rachel.
We really get to see the same story and the same mission unfold from these different points of view. That gets us into the group dynamic, the relationship between these characters, how they solve problems differently, and we really get to show off their power sets with these double-page splashes of things blowing up that we all know and love in superhero comics. [Laughs]
It’s going to be a lot of fun, I hope. There are a lot of nods to X-Men lore, especially the old stuff that we all remember from when we were kids. I’m hoping it’s going to be a good balance of fun and exciting, and story-driven.
I understand that Gambit will appear as well. What can you tell us about his role in the story?
He has a cameo at the beginning. This arc starts off at a Burning Man-style festival in the Black Rock Desert. I actually took to Twitter when I was planning out this story and asked people, “Who, out of all the X-Men, present or past, do you think is most likely to show up at Burning Man?”
The overwhelming consensus was Gambit. [Laughs] He’d be sort of the skeezy guy who goes around offering dubious massages, and stuff like that, so he does have a cameo at the beginning. It’s a lot of fun. I hope people are as excited about this as I am.
What I’ve read about the story suggests that the story has an almost “Twilight Zone” style feel to it. Is that fair to guess?
Yes. I was thinking about Storm in particular, who’s been a big hero of mine since I was a kid. I was thinking about her particular power set and what kind of effect, if any, there would be on her due to the fact that all over the world because of climate change, weather patterns are changing. Things are shifting. They’re not as they were. Things are very unstable.
Then, I was reading about the gigantic sinkhole that appeared in Siberia. They couldn’t figure out why it was there. It was huge and deep, almost like a bomb had gone off, and nobody could figure out what it was. Then another one appeared in a different part of Russia.
For a lot of my stories, I like to use real world touchstones as a jumping off point for the more fantastical adventures that the characters are having. In this story, there’s a giant sinkhole in the Black Rock Desert like the one in Siberia, that has caused a huge amount of destruction and kind of changed the weather in that particular area.
Very quickly, the team finds out that there’s more than meets the eye. This is not just about weird geological phenomenon. There’s something more sinister going on that not only challenges their ability to make things right, but it also challenges their sense of what you fight. It’s very easy to fight a bad guy. It’s less easy to fight the Earth. So it’s very interesting.
It sounds like a somewhat surreal story.
Yeah, it is. It will probably be more surreal to others than it is to me. [Laughs] I find that, inevitably, when I write comics, I’ll write something that seems perfectly sensible to me and people will be like, “Wow! This is super weird!”
You mentioned that the sinkhole phenomenon would have a connection to X-Men lore of the past. Can you elaborate on that?
I wanted to pull in different people for different aspects of the story, so there’s a bit of the B-story with Jubilee and Beast back at the Jean Grey School who are trying to unravel a different part of the mystery. It’s going to touch on a slightly different part of the Marvel Universe in a way that I don’t want to spoil.
Suffice to say, in their quest to discover whatever is causing this massive destruction in the Black Rock Desert, the X-Men are forced to go out of their comfort zone and call on characters from other segments of the MU. So it will be interesting to see how they resolve that.
So this is a story with a pretty big scope and scale?
Yeah. I take a lot of big ideas and boil them down into something really immediate, visceral and personal. So we’ll see how it plays out.
“The Burning World” is a four-part story, but if the opportunity to do more work on “X-Men” or other X-titles presents itself, would you be interested?
Absolutely. This is a team book that I’ve really been invested in for a huge chunk of my life. It’s been a lot of fun to see it unfold and take on so many different aspects and go through so many different iterations.
I hope people check out this story. It’s very different from what I’m doing right now in “Ms. Marvel,” but I hope I’m able to do as good a job and give people, especially long time X-Men fans, a story they can connect with.
G. Willow Wilson’s run on “X-Men” starts with issue #23, scheduled to be released in January 2015.