Professor Charles Xavier's near fatal shooting in "X-Men" #207 had a profound effect both on the character and on the title. The Marvel Comics mainstay kept its numbering, but was transformed from "X-Men" to "X-Men: Legacy," and in its pages writer Mike Carey and regular series penciller Scott Eaton began chronicling the now amnesiac X-Men founder's quest for the memories a bullet robbed him of.
It's almost a year later, and with Xavier's quest coming to an end, CBR News spoke with Mike Carey about the series' previous arc "Original Sin," the upcoming standalone issue, and "Salvage," Xavier's final movement, which kicks off in January "X-Men: Legacy" #220.
"Original Sin" was a five part cross-over between "Wolverine: Origins" and "X-Men: Legacy" that came to a conclusion in "Wolverine: Origins" #30, in stores now. In the story, it was revealed that Professor Xavier was responsible for the memory loss that defined the majority of Wolverine's appearances throughout the years, as part of an effort to free Logan from the control of the sinister masters who'd trained him as an assassin. The arc ended with Wolverine walking away from Xavier and giving his former mentor something unexpected -- forgiveness.
"Charles went into this arc largely focused on a sense of his own guilt and inadequacy. He saw Wolverine as one of the many people he'd failed over the years," Carey told CBR News. "But the events of 'Original Sin' show that what happened was more complicated than that, and the part Xavier played in Wolverine's personal history and development was perhaps more positive than Xavier realized.
"I think in a way this is a turning point in Charles's attempt to understand his own past motivations and actions in 'Legacy,' which is basically what the book has been about. To some extent he's realizing as Emma Frost said in 'Walkthrough [the arc before "Original Sin], 'You can spend all your time hand wringing about your own purity but in some cases the end does justify the means. And sometimes you have to look at the overall outcomes that you've achieved and let yourself off the hook.' Which is not to say that the moral dimension of things disappears, because it doesn't, but very few things that you do in life have a universally good or bad outcome."
Xavier's most positive interactions in "Legacy" have been with X-Men who already understand and appreciate the lesson about viewing things in shades of gray; characters like Gambit and Wolverine. "Gambit, for example, has terrible things on his own conscience and has spent a lot of his adult life searching for redemption in much the same way Xavier is now," Carey explained. "So that would make it very easy for him to identify with what Professor X is going through. Wolverine in some ways is the ultimate pragmatist; a man with a very strict moral code but also a man who when it comes down to it does what needs to be done and doesn't second-guess himself. So again, coming from that angle, it's very easy for him to understand and sympathize with Xavier."
"X-Men: Legacy" #219, in stores December 17, takes place shortly after the end of "Original Sin" and features Charles's interactions with someone with whom he has a much thornier relationship, his stepbrother Cain Marko -- The Juggernaut. "I like to think of their relationship as sort of a Cain and Abel story; two very, very different personalities competing for the same objective, which is initially the recognition and approval of the father," Carey said. "Then of course they share the trauma of the abuse, both physical and psychological, that Kurt Marko handed out to them. So there's the Cain and Abel dynamic, but they're also bound by the sense that they're both survivors of the same trauma."
In recent years, Juggernaut has appeared to reform and let go of his hatred of his stepbrother. He's gone from Charles's enemy to his ally, and even served as a member of heroic groups like the X-Men and Excalibur, which is something that Carey isn't sure ever suited the character. "I think there have been some very, very cool stories based on characters who were previously villains coming into the X-Men fold," he said. "The most obvious example is Rogue. But I wasn't a big fan of Juggernaut as an X-Man because I like the character as somebody who's outside of the big tent. He's driven by motives which can't be changed because they are so intensely personal and subjective. His hatred, resentment and mistrust of Charles are not rational. They're these crazy things hardwired into his consciousness. He is terribly damaged, which I don't think makes him any less scary.
"The Juggernaut also seemed to be a little de-aged when he was a good guy. He was emotionally vulnerable and naive in some ways. It wasn't the Juggernaut I knew and feared as a kid. That Juggernaut was always a truly scary and imposing bad guy. I'd like him to be - as he used to be - psychologically an unstoppable force in the same way that he's physically an unstoppable force.
"I guess the initial impetus for my story is Professor X wanting to know where he and Cain now stand. After the Hulk's attack Juggernaut walked out of the mansion and went off in a very grim mood. So what is the situation now between the two of them? That's what he's come to find out. And he gets his answer in no uncertain terms."
Much of Xavier and the Juggernaut's interaction in "Legacy" #219 takes place in the form of a conversation in a bar. "When it's put like that it sounds like a very static story, but it emphatically isn't," Carey remarked. "A lot of it is Charles and Cain talking in this bar where Professor X has come specifically to find Cain and have some things out with him, but than it spins off in an unexpected direction and goes quite far afield."
Series artist Scott Eaton is taking a break with issue #219 and returns with issue #220. Tapped to fill in and depict the confrontation between Professor X and the Juggernaut was Phil Briones. "He brings a style with a very clean line. I think a lot of the emotional power of the first half of the story depends on the body language and the interplay between the characters," Carey said. "That's where Scott has delivered in spades in the last few arcs, but I think Briones also states the core characters very effectively and very clearly, so that their opposition has force and credibility."
On sale January 21, "Legacy" #220 kicks off "Salvage," a five-part tale that Mike Carey has wanted to tell since "Legacy" began. In the story, Professor X travels to the Australian Outback in search of another one of his former X-Men, Rogue. "Professor X knows roughly where Rogue is because she's left a trail behind her - a trail of memories in other people's minds," Carey explained. "Since he knows where she is, he suspects he knows why. You don't go into the Australian Outback if you want visitors. So he knows that she's not necessarily going to be pleased to see him; that she might need persuading in order to engage with him. So he goes to Gambit, because if she's going to trust and allow anyone to get in close to her it will be Gambit. And Gambit is not an easy sell on this because when Rogue left him as the end of 'Messiah CompleX' she said, 'If you still love me don't follow me.' Gambit tells Xavier that he has to assume that's still in force; that she doesn't want to be disturbed."
The title "Salvage" has many different thematic connotations in Carey's story. "It refers to at least three different things," the writer said. "There is obviously the moral sense of being salvaged and redeemed. There is a physical sense in that objects being reclaimed and put to a new use are said to be salvaged. And there is actually a character who is a salvage man, who collects and reclaims old stuff. I won't say any more about him. He's a new character."
Said salvage man is just one of the many new and familiar faces that make up the cast of "Salvage." "Besides Rogue and Gambit, there's at least one other character of long standing who Xavier is not expecting to meet in Australia but does meet. There are some new characters as well," Carey stated. "This older character is the main adversary for the story and the agenda the character has is directly opposed to Professor X's agenda. The new characters, by contrast, are wild cards. They come in from nowhere and try to do something different and in the process cause a lot of chaos and confusion. Things get out of control very quickly."
Part of the reason Carey wanted to tell a "Legacy" story involving Rogue was that it allowed him to continue the journey he started to take the character on when he began writing "X-Men" in 2006. "In some ways, this arc is picking up plot threads that were loose because I unstitched them in the first place about a year and a half ago. So there's a logic to that," the writer remarked. "But the more compelling logic behind telling Rogue's story in this arc of 'Legacy' is that 'Legacy' is about Charles Xavier paying his debts. As we know, he made this promise to Rogue way back when she first joined the X-Men that if she towed the line, kept her wilder impulses in check and became a productive member of the team, he would respond by helping her deal with her powers.
"We also know, from a flashback scene that we glimpsed in 'Walkthrough,' that when he made that promise he had no idea as to whether or not he could keep it." Carey continued. "He made it purely and simply in order to stop Rogue from going back to the Brotherhood and Mystique and into a course of life that he saw was profoundly damaging her. So he lied with the best intentions. It was a white lie but it was still a lie. As with Wolverine, and to a certain extent Cain, this is Professor X trying to pay old dues; to put himself right with people he feels he has an obligation to."
"Salvage" is the final large arc of Charles Xavier's story in "X-Men: Legacy," and Mike Carey promises that when the book comes to a close, Professor X will have completed his journey and be in a very different place than when he started. "There is a sense that your attempt to understand yourself never does end except when you die, but yes, he will have to come a decisive point," Carey said. "He will have reached certain conclusions about himself and the role he has to play now as events unfold. But as far as 'Legacy' is concerned, he ceases to be on the center stage."
Xavier's journey may be coming to an end, but that doesn't mean "X-Men: Legacy" is. "It stops being Professor X's book after 'Salvage,' but it's not going to go back to being the adjectiveless X-Men title," Carey confirmed. "It's going to be a different book with a different kind of dynamic. And although it's not something that's never been done before in the X-Men universe, I think it's a really sidelong and unexpected take on an established formula. I hope people won't see it coming, and I hope they'll enjoy the ride."
"X-Men: Legacy" #219 goes on sale December 17 from Marvel Comics.