In the Marvel Universe, death is more often than not far from the end of a hero's journey. Of course, when a hero returns from the dead, sometimes their personality changes in radical ways -- ways that frighten and confound their friends and loved ones. What happens, then, when one of the most powerful telepaths in the Marvel Universe returns after fighting a brutal war on the Astral Plane that seemingly spanned centuries?
The X-Men are wrestling with that question right now in “A Man Called X,” the current arc of writer Charles Soule's Astonishing X-Men. The team's founder, Charles Xavier, has returned from the grave in an unexpected fashion and is behaving in unsettlingly unusual ways. Worst of all, one of the X-Men's most powerful foes has followed him back: the reality warper known as Proteus.
CBR: The center of your first act of your Astonishing X-Men run is the return of team founder, Charles Xavier, and it looks like he's a large part of Act II as well. Is the larger interconnected story you're telling in Astonishing X-Men about the return of Xavier and what he means to your various characters?
Charles Soule: That’s right – Astonishing X-Men is the story of Charles Xavier’s return to the Marvel Universe after his death in the Avengers vs. X-Men event all the way back in 2012. I’ve always liked Professor X, and I think he fills an important role in the overall mutant landscape, so the opportunity to bring him back to life was an easy sell to me. Of course, as we’ve seen, just because he’s back doesn’t mean he’s exactly the same. I think that bringing a character back needs to mean something, just like killing them. There should be a reason, and they should be changed by the experience. As we’ve seen, Xavier has been through a lot since his death. Exploring that is a big part of Acts II and III of the story.
It's great to have Xavier back, but one of the things that made his return so interesting the question of whether this is a situation of be careful what you wish for. I'm getting a sense of sort of psychological horror and mystery to his resurrection, like there's something unsettling just out of focus that I can't see yet. Was that your intention?
Yes it was! Xavier spent what felt like centuries battling the Shadow King on the Astral Plane, an unending stretch of mental and psychological war. He was hanging on by his fingernails, essentially a toy for one of the vilest entities in the Marvel Universe. You don’t come out of that without paying a cost.
When we catch up with him in Astonishing X-Men #7 Charles isn't exactly the same person the X-Men knew and loved. But is he as powerful as he used to be?
Charles, or X, as he currently prefers to be called, is extremely powerful, as we’ve seen in AXM #7. He was always extremely powerful, though – omega-level, I believe. Plus, a thousand years of psychic war is bound to sharpen your skills, too. So, no problems there on the power level front – the issue might be more what he chooses to do with that power. He was always pretty grey, in my mind, using his powers to wipe minds and push people where he thought they should be in service of the larger dream. We’ll see where he lands now.