Claremont Talks "Die By the Sword" and "New Exiles"

Saving the multiple Earths of the Marvel Universe means The Exiles have their hands more than full, but in the coming months the team of reality-hopping heroes will undergo a number of huge transformations.  The evolution of the team began in the "X-Men: Die by the Sword" miniseries, continues in December's "Exiles" #100 and explodes into January's new ongoing series, "New Exiles." CBR News spoke with the writer of all three books, Chris Claremont, about his plans for the Cross-Time Crusaders.

Claremont's grand plans for The Exiles are just coming to fruition now, but the seeds for the team's evolution were actually planted long ago. "On one level, all this was originally meant to be set in motion almost two years ago now, when I was initially assigned the writing responsibilities on 'Exiles' over the winter of 2005-2006," Chris Claremont told CBR News.

The "X-Men: Die by the Sword" miniseries, which teams the Exiles with British super team Excalibur, is where Claremont's plans kick into high gear. "Die by the Sword" embroils the teams in a war between Omniversal Guardian and Director of the Captain Britain Corps, Roma and her enemies the psychotic reality warper Jim Jaspers and his partner, Roma's father, Merlyn, who may not seem like an evil being at first glance.

"'Evil' is a hugely subjective word when applied to characters like Merlyn," Claremont explained. "One might look at the actions taken by him, not only in the stories told by Alan Davis but those that preceded them, drawn by Alan and written by Alan Moore, and conclude that they were in fact quite evil. He had no compunction back in those days of setting in motion courses of action that led to the deaths of countless individuals, whole worlds, and an entire dimension. He appeared to care nothing for the 'lesser' beings whose lives he manipulated without hesitation, including Brian [Braddock AKA Captain Britain]. In this instance, within the context of 'Die by the Sword', the conflict is simply far more personal. By his lights, his daughter has betrayed him. Those scales have to be balanced. She has to be taught a lesson, and the Corps reminded of who's really Boss. As for Jaspers, he's merely a tool enabling Merlyn to accomplish that goal."

Assaults upon reality by psychopaths and sociopaths are nothing new for some of the veteran Exiles, but some of their newest team members are still getting used to the feeling of saving all of creation's bacon on a regular basis. "The presence of Mystiq and Rogue and Cat in this story-arc is simply a function of their already being present within the body of 'Exiles' as of #99 and the reality that 'Die by the Sword' occurs hot on its heels," Claremont explained. "Too much to do, not enough space to do it in, since #100 brings the first series to an end and a whole lot of loose ends (from more than a few series) have to be tied up as best we can."

Issue #3 of "X-Men: Die by the Sword is in stores November 14 and readers should buckle up because the remaining chapters of the series are going to be a fast and wild ride full of twists and turns. "There's lots of excitement, a ridiculous amount of gratuitous mayhem, heroic moments, dynamic revelations, a possible sacrifice and all manner of appropriate revelations," Claremont confirmed. "And the passing of a Torch. Pity we didn't have 6 issues. Ah, well."

The climax of "Die by the Sword" has a fundamental impact on December's "Exiles" #100, which concludes the series and sets things in motion for January's "New Exiles" #1. "You shouldn't read #100 without picking up #1, which should follow hot on the heels of the New Year," Claremont advised.

Issue #1 of "New Exiles" finds a new version of the team assembling to protect the myriad realities of the Omniverse. "I would have to say their presence together is altogether willing, with perhaps one exception, which is more a matter of absolute necessity, and perhaps another who has nowhere else to go. They're dealt a hand, and deal with it, which I suppose makes them both very much like yet very much apart from the original grouping way back in 'Exiles' #1. Only these heroes don't have a Time Broker to give them marching orders. They have to make their own decisions, and take responsibility for their actions and all the consequences thereof.

"Their mandate remains pretty much the same: to set right the structural flaws in the Omniverse and safeguard its overall integrity," Claremont continued. "The primary difference between it and the series as it was is that now the team makes their own decisions. They don't have anyone (except I suppose, me) giving them their marching orders and as a consequence they have to take a far greater measure of responsibility for their actions."

The New Exiles don't have a Time Broker directing their actions but they do have a team leader; a person Claremont could only describe cryptically. "The team leader is Very Tall and Very Well Built," Claremont remarked. "The team leader is known to have a temper and is chock full of surprise. This is not a person any sane being would want to cross."

Following this ominous new leader's orders are the usual collection of old favorites characters and fresh takes on some familiar faces. "In terms of the new Exiles line-up, what you've seen is pretty much what we get, although we reserve the right to engage in some surprises along the way -- and believe me, we have a few doozies planned for the first year," Claremont said. "The primary editorial dictum for the series is that the primary cast be restricted (with one exception, Morph) to variations on those characters I've created. Which isn't really that great a restriction since it turns out I'm responsible for quite a few over the past few years. Beyond that, pretty much anything goes, as we'll make plain in the first arc.

"The number of members will be evident as we go along but while some of the faces may be familiar, that doesn't mean the characterizations will remain the same. Case in point: Mystiq. Very much like Mystique, yet wholly different. Same for Rogue. I could tell you (a whole lot) more, but that would just spoil the surprise. Read the issues for yourself and form your own judgments."

The missions of the original Exiles primarily took them to realities where divergences in Marvel history created some drastically different Earths, but the alternate worlds featured in "New Exiles" will play with reality in a variety of new ways. "From a purely structural perspective, the intent is to present as varied and interesting a view as possible of the structural possibilities of the alternate dimensions we visit," Claremont explained. "Consider this an environment where anything goes."

Protecting a chaotic environment like the Omniverse means the New Exiles will come into conflict with a horde of sinister and powerful foes. "Well, dancing from dimension to dimension is Sue Storm AKA Madame Hydra, along with her version of Wolverine and (above all) Slaymaster," Claremont stated. "They're among our list of ongoing villains. Beyond that, we've some surprises in store."

It won't be just villains that the "New Exiles" bump into as they hop from world to world and back again. "The Crystal Palace has never really been big on 'supporting cast,'" Claremont remarked. "That said, they'll be making new friends with every dimension they visit and, unlike the first series, there are no restrictions on return visits so don't be at all surprised to find us returning to worlds and people we've met along the way to add further developments and textures to the lives we present. After all, we're responsible for 16 issues a year plus an Annual! -- Which gives us a fair amount of publishing slots to fill."

The first "New Exiles" story arc kicks off the series with a bang. "It runs 4 issues and it's very exciting," Claremont said. "And based on the pencils already delivered by Tom Grummett it looks bloody brilliant. Great storytelling, eloquent visual characterization, pretty much all any writer could wish for, with a vengeance! Just to give an idea of what's in store, in the first half-dozen pages, we pretty much destroy the habitable world as we know it. Then we play some football. How's that?"

With "New Exiles," Claremont has the freedom to tell stories that leave a deep and lasting impact on the characters and the worlds they travel in because unlike many superhero titles, he had no obligation to eventually return things to the status quo. "We make up worlds and structure realities as we go along," Claremont explained. "We pay a visit, we have an adventure and in the process create a world, a reality, that perhaps is enticing enough to the audience that we consider returning, and in the process we create a whole catalogue of new worlds to explore, new lives to play with that aren't imprisoned by years of ongoing continuity, that allow us to go off in directions that might be too outrageous for the more traditional characters, in more traditional series. Without devaluing the past, we can explore a wildly, even outrageously different future. And in the process have ourselves, as creators and readers together, a whole lot of fun.

"That's the most dangerous thing about creating Exiles; you cast out folks without a thought to where they'll go or what they'll do, just so long as they're out of your hair. And sometimes, the boat'll sink, end of story. Then again, it may crash ashore on a Brave New World that'll end up turning reality as you once knew it head over heels. It's possible. And it's sure to be fun. So come along for the ride. Try something new. The Exiles will be waiting to show you the way."

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