Bendis Mutates "Uncanny X-Men"

With the aftermath of Marvel Comics' "Avengers Vs. X-Men" still being dealt with in Marvel NOW!, there's one perspective readers have yet to fully explore: Cyclops'. Although Scott Summers has been seen in "AvX: Consequences" and "All-New X-Men," no X-Men title has yet taken an in-depth exploration at Cyclops' new team and the mission statement behind saving and preserving mutant kind.

That's where "Uncanny X-Men" by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Chris Bachalo come in. While Bendis' "All-New X-Men" focuses on Cyclops from the past, "Uncanny" is undeniably in the present and follows the escapades of Cyclops, Magneto, Emma Frost, Magik and more in the new world order of Marvel NOW!

Bendis was on hand in a special press conference call to discuss "Uncanny X-Men," how it ties in to the writer's "All-New X-Men," the motivation driving Scott Summers to save mutant kind and more.

Sales and Communications Coordinator James Viscardi opened the call by introducing Bendis and X-Book editor extraordinaire Nick Lowe, and asked the writer for a quick conceptual overview of the series.

"Thanks to the daily shipping of 'All-New X-Men,' we've been able to lay out exactly what the X-Universe will look like," said Bendis, who stated that by the end of the first story arc of "All-New X-Men," the stage will be set for "Uncanny." "They reach across the world to rescue, save, train, rescue the new mutants that are popping up all over the place. It gives us a fantastic opportunity to re-establish what mutants mean in this new world." The writer referenced Chris Claremont's run that dealt a lot with race, and "Uncanny" is an opportunity to take a new look at that concept in a modern context with new mutants.

"This book features, may I say, the most fantastic art you'll see in a mutant book," he said. "Chris [Bachalo] is bringing in some fantastic work."

"The atmosphere he creates is so rich and vivid," said Lowe.

Bendis recalled that when he was approached with doing two X-titles, he stipulated that it would only work if the two books "were in the same clock, but boy, couldn't seem more different."

In working with Bachalo, Bendis stated the "Dark Avengers Annual" #1, which Bachalo drew, was one of the experiences that made him most happy as a creator. "We called him about 'Uncanny X-Men' because he's done so much with the X-Men, some of which I don't think he doesn't get enough credit for," Bendis said.

One of the major aspects of the book is a redesign of costumes. "When people go through a large change in life, they go through an alter of their appearance," said Bendis, stating this was an excellent opportunity to reexamine Cyclops, Emma and Magneto. "They're in a unique place. There's something going on with their powers, there's something going on with them. You have Cyclops standing up as the public face of what he calls the Mutant Revolution. Emma Frost -- I think the character has evolved dramatically over the past 10 or 15 years. ... There's so much going on with her thanks to Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon, Matt and Ed -- there's so much going on with her." Bendis stated Emma's will be the most controversial of all the costume designs. "It will still express who she is physically, because it's an important part of her, but it'll be who she sees herself as."

In terms of villains, Bendis stated there's a couple -- including a "Doctor Doom level villain." "There hasn't been a villain in an X-Men book ever before, but when you see it you think, 'Of course,'" he said. "You will see this villain showing up in the first few issues. I would like it to be a surprise."

As for the new mutants that show up, there will be some villain-type characters. "It's going to cause a lot of chaos in the Marvel Universe," he said.

Lowe stated there will be an antagonist that shows up in the first issue from "Wolverine & the X-Men."

The last page of "Uncanny" will establish the reason for the book and "completely shifts the dynamic of the X-Men universe." The page only works if everyone's surprised at the reveal, according to Bendis.

The writer also spoke about coming up with new mutants and powers for "Uncanny," stating that he's very aware as a writer that from their first debut, the first image of them is judged next to the lifetime of another character. "They look at them and say, 'Well, that's no Sunspot.' You have to show a lot right away to show why this character's different," he said. The writer likened the experience creating new characters and new powers to writing Miles Morales in the Ultimate Universe -- having new mutants allows Bendis to explore that reaction to getting powers in a modern context in the 616. However, coming up with unique powers and unique takes on powers is the most challenging thing.

"For mutants, you like to do powers where after training it becomes something else," Bendis said. "We debuted Eva Bell in the first issue of 'All-New X-Men.' That was the first time she used it. What else can she do with that power?"

As for intersection between "Uncanny" and "All-New X-Men," Bendis stated that while there were places that it was impossible for them not to connect, it'll only happen once in a while, noting that in issue #9 of "All-New X-Men" and "Uncanny X-Men" #3, the Uncanny team shows up at the Jean Grey School and "something huge is going to happen that will affect both books." Other elements of the Marvel Universe will show up in "Uncanny" as well.

Bendis described "Uncanny" as the darker of the two X-Men books, but not nearly as dark as "Dark Avengers." "It's different than Norman Osborn's goal, which was F you!" he said. "Magneto is different in that he's made every mistake and wrapped himself around his villainous desires and been a selfish father and just done wrong. ... They get to a certain age and realize, 'I'm the asshole.' ... He didn't do right by his kids and he's trying to do his version of it with Scott and Emma and all them. It's more about that than Magneto giving Scott villain tips."

Bendis stated the conversation between Magneto and Scott in "All-New X-Men" #3 was more of a tough love conversation than advice on how to be a villain. "Having Magneto around, it's this constant reminder of the ghost of Christmas past or future. If Cyclops makes the wrong decision one more time, he's Magneto. The end. There's no redeeming it."

As for Cyclops' goals, Bendis said that was something he'll explore in the book as well as the reactions of the rest of the Marvel Universe -- and there will be a build to the 50th anniversary of the X-Men.

The Weapon X facility serves as a headquarters for Cyclops' Uncanny team and readers will have a chance to see how the team utilizes the space. The impetus for using the Weapon X headquarters was to take something horrendous and reclaiming it for something positive. "It's also not anywhere the mutants will go looking for them, which is great," Bendis said. The headquarters will get a new Danger Room, new Cerebro and upgraded tech.

The relationship between Wolverine and Cyclops has been in the works for a long time, and Lowe stated he was very pleased during the initial discussion with Bendis when the writer gravitated toward Cyclops, Emma and Magneto. "Once we were in the midst of 'Schism,' we knew 'AvX' was coming, but when we were planning 'Schism,' we didn't quite know the events of 'All-New X-Men' and 'Uncanny X-Men' were going to come together," Lowe said. "It's been cool to see how that goes and how Brian has picked up that baton in a different way. It's been really cool to see it happen."

As a teacher himself, Bendis stated the experience has helped inform how he writes teacher/student relationships. "Watching someone succeed and knowing you don't have to do much but to nudge them in a direction they were already going is such a great moment," he said. "At the same time, watching someone not live up to their potential, just knowing from life lessons that they're going to look back on this and be embarrassed -- you live vicariously through your students' successes and failures. At the same time, there's only so much you can do because they have to learn."

As for Magik, Bendis stated there was "some big, juicy stuff going on with her." Due to the drama with the Phoenix Force, all these mutants' powers have been shifted -- with Cyclops, Emma and Magneto somewhat crippled. "Magik finds herself somewhat more in control of her powers ... but what this power represents and what the cost of that power is will be a big story going forward," he said. "We're going to see her doing a lot of stuff and what it means. Also, one of the students immediately falls in love with her."

Wrapping up, the writer said Wolverine is much angrier at Cyclops than Cyclops is at Wolverine. "For those looking for some Cyclops/Wolverine interaction, you'll be seeing it in 'All-New X-Men' #9/'Uncanny X-Men' #3," he said, mentioning reappropriating Weapon X isn't meant as a jab at Wolverine and that it's almost "kind of a nice thing."

With that, the call wrapped. "Uncanny X-Men" #1 and #2 by Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo will double ship in February.

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