Big Green War Machine: Gage Talks "WWH: X-Men" & "Iron Man"

The Mutant population of the Marvel Universe consists of only 198 people and it could become a lot less if those mutants get in the way of a very angry Hulk. This is the premise of the three issue mini-series, "World War Hulk: X-Men." Meanwhile over in the pages of "The Invincible Iron Man #19-20," the Hulk's return to Earth and angry vendetta is one of the first big challenges that Tony Stark AKA Iron Man must tackle as the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Both these stories begin in June, tie into Marvel's "World War Hulk" storyline, and are written by Christos Gage. CBR News spoke with Gage about the stories.

Gage's "World War Hulk" assignments were offered to him by two different Marvel editors. "Andy Schmidt, who I worked with on both 'Union Jack' and the 'Casualties of War' special, offered me the 'World War Hulk: X-Men' gig, and it was a dream come true," Gage told CBR News. "The X-Men are what turned me from a kid who casually read comics into a lifelong collector, and to get to write a book about ALL of them fighting the Hulk – honestly, I'd pay Marvel to let me do that. (But please don't tell them.)

"As for the 'Iron Man' issues, Tom Brevoort sent me an email explaining that the Knaufs needed a short break from writing that title to take care of some TV commitments. He asked if I wanted to write the two issues that tie into 'World War Hulk.' Once again, it was not exactly a decision I agonized over! Hulk vs. Iron Man? Come on, who'd say no to that?"

The three issues of "World War Hulk: X-Men" occur during the events depicted in "World War Hulk" #1. "It takes place during a period when the Hulk is off-screen in that book," Gage explained. "That's all I can say without venturing into a spoiler minefield."

Readers of "WWH: X-Men" will discover that the Hulk headed to Westchester County, New York during his off-screen time in "World War Hulk" #1. "The series takes place at the Xavier Institute of Higher Learning - which, due to the events of M-Day de-powering most of the mutants on Earth, now houses something like one quarter of all the mutants in the world," Gage stated. "Many of them are young kids who the Hulk could kill with one stomp of his foot. That's what makes the stakes so high - to the Hulk, this is about revenge for a personal grudge, but to the X-Men, it's about preventing potential genocide."

In "WWH: X-Men," the Hulk comes to the Xavier Institute demanding an audience with the school's headmaster. "The Hulk comes calling to ask Xavier some pointed questions, and the X-Men stand between them," Gage said. "That's the basic plot, but there is a lot of subtext: the power losses of M-Day, the deaths of numerous students in the pages of 'New X-Men', the strained relationship between Xavier and some of the X-Men--it's all there thrown into the mix. I don't want to give too much away, but those are some of the story elements that'll be coming into play."

The Hulk specifically wants to ask Xavier about the role he played in a secret Illuminati of Marvel heroes, which decided that it would be best for the people of Earth if the Hulk was removed from the planet. So they shot him into space. "He is aware that Xavier wasn't with the group when the decision was made to blast him into space, but he also knows that Xavier was supposed to be there - that he was one of the elites who deemed themselves worthy of playing god with the Hulk's life," Gage explained. "And that doesn't make our jade giant very happy. He may not be as mad at Xavier as he is at, say, Iron Man, but he's none too pleased with him either."

To get to Xavier, the Hulk will have to get through the best and brightest of the Xavier Institute which will include students, graduates, and teachers. "In 'World War Hulk: X-Men,' what you'll see is essentially all the active X-teams that can realistically be present standing against the Hulk. (However, much as I'd like to see Hulk and Juggernaut go at it, I'm not sure Excalibur can make it all the way over from England in the time frame we're working with.) Of the characters that currently have their own books, when Hulk first arrives at the Institute, only the New X-Men and the Beast are home," Gage stated. "It's up to them to stop the Hulk from rampaging through the mansion that houses the younger kids. The other X-teams are alerted and will definitely show up before issue #1 is over--but the question is, will they be in time to prevent disaster?"

The Mutant community is a persecuted minority in the Marvel Universe and the Hulk has also been a victim of persecution. When asked if any mutants might empathize with Green Goliath's plight, Gage answered, "The mutants you see in this miniseries mostly don't want the Hulk to smash them; other concerns aren't nearly as pressing. However, it appears that at least one mutant - the Angel - may have thought along the same lines as you, considering he appears to be one of the heroes siding with the Hulk in the pages of his own book.

"Angel is one of the few X-Men you won't be seeing in my book," Gage continued. "As I said, our story takes place over a pretty short time span, so I believe that most of what Angel is involved with occurs after the events of our miniseries."

Warren Worthington may not be participating in "WWH: X-Men," but like Gage mentioned, readers can expect most of their favorite mutants to see some action. "There will be a handful of characters that get the spotlight, but I hope to give nearly every member of the X-Men family a chance to shine," Gage said.

Readers should expect plenty of action in "WWH: X-Men," the three issue mini-series promises to be a darker toned superhero slugfest. "It's unquestionably a brawl, but the stakes are incredibly high and there's a lot of subtext," Gage stated. "It's not just a fight that comes out of nowhere and is unaffected by what's going on in the Marvel Universe or the X-books; quite the opposite. While this mini stands on its own, the events in the X-books and World War Hulk proper are highly significant from a character standpoint."

Bringing to life the big brawl of "World War Hulk: X-Men" is artist Andrea Divito. "I haven't seen any of Andrea's pages yet, but his work on 'Annihilation' blew me away," Gage said. "When Andy told me he'd be drawing this book, I knew I could literally throw every X-Man against the Hulk and not only would it look great, but the storytelling would be crystal clear as well. For Andrea, going from drawing entire fleets of Annihilus' bug-ships to just a few dozen X-Men should feel like a vacation!"

In "Invincible Iron Man" #19 Tony Stark will be wishing he could take a vacation from new job as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. "#19 is told through two different perspectives: Tony Stark's and Dum Dum Dugan's. Tony's fought the Hulk before, but never as Director of a global security agency, so we'll be seeing how that affects his approach," Gage explained. "In many ways it's a lot harder than just going up against the Hulk one on one."

Gage couldn't reveal whose viewpoint might be coloring the events of his second "Iron Man" issue. "#20 I'm keeping mum on," he said. "Too many spoilers."

The events of "Iron Man" #19 take place at the same time as the events of "World War Hulk" #1. "You'll see it from Iron Man's perspective," Gage explained. "You'll also see many scenes that aren't in the main WWH book, like what happens when the Hulk's spaceship goes up against Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Tony Stark's new space defenses.

"#20 takes place a bit later; I can't say much without giving away plot points," Gage continued. "But I will say that we'll be exploring the fact that Tony has been doing things to change S.H.I.E.L.D., and there are certain people who aren't too happy about that. The return of the Hulk just might be an ideal time for them to try to get rid of Tony--one way or another."

When "Iron Man" #19 begins Tony Stark is engaging in one of the most important parts of maintaining a global peacekeeping force. "He's on Capitol Hill, doing the political side of his job," Gage said. "He's still getting used to being S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Director and all that comes with it; there couldn't be a worse time for this particular gamma-irradiated skeleton to come smashing out of his closet."

After "Civil War," Iron Man is probably the most connected guy in the Marvel Universe with his ties to groups like the Avengers, The Champions, and the various groups that compose the 50 State Initiative but Gage won't be focusing on Tony Stark's ties to the hero community. "These two issues focus on Tony and S.H.I.E.L.D., though there are cameo appearances by other characters," Gage explained. "You'll see more of Iron Man interacting with others in the main 'WWH' book; my job is to tell the story of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Iron Man."

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Readers can expect Gage's two part Iron Man tale to chock full of action and intrigue. "It's part widescreen action movie (though bigger than any movie could ever be, even with the largest budget in the world); part spy thriller and part character study," Gage said.

Bringing to life Gage's "Iron Man" tale is a veteran artist who's been drawing comics for over twenty years. "I can reveal here for the first time that the artist is none other than Butch Guice!" Gage stated. "I've loved his stuff for years, so that makes me very, very happy. I haven't seen any of his pages yet, but I've seen enough of his work to know it's going to be amazing."

"Invincible Iron Man" #19-20 is a tie in to the "World War Hulk" storyline but readers should expect any big plot developments in Gage's story to impact Iron Man and his status quo rather than the larger story it's tying into. "Marvel is working very hard to make sure that readers don't feel 'forced' to buy multiple crossovers. We hope they buy them because they look entertaining, but we don't want people to feel lost because they missed a tie-in. By the same token, we don't want people who collect a specific title, like 'Iron Man', to feel they have to buy 'WWH' if they don't want to. So any bombshells dropped in these two issues will be specific to Iron Man and/or S.H.I.E.L.D. But within those parameters, this will be a significant event for both Tony and S.H.I.E.L.D. He commands an elite fighting force whose job it is to face threats like the Hulk, but can Tony send them into battle - to possibly lose their lives - over what is essentially a grudge match that he himself is responsible for? For Iron Man, this is a big deal. People who liked the way I treated the character in the 'Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War' special should like this, as I've taken a similar approach."

Gage is having a blast writing both "World War Hulk: X-Men" and "Invincible Iron-Man" #19-20 and he hopes the fun he's having penning these issues is evident. He said, "If the readers enjoy the books half as much as I'm enjoying writing them, there will be lots of happy people this summer!"

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