Now that he's the most powerful superhuman law enforcer in the Marvel Universe, Norman Osborn wants to make sure that Mutants have the same rights as everyone else. Unfortunately for mutants, that means having only the rights Osborn wants them to have.
Osborn's plan follows some familiar lines. He's already lulled humanity into a false sense of security by co-opting the legacy of the Avengers and replacing them with his own Dark Avengers. Why not do the same thing with mutants and replace their chief defenders, the X-Men, with Osborn's new Dark X-Men?
Readers will find out if Osborn's plans for the Dark X-Men succeed in the currently unfolding Uncanny X-Men/Dark Avengers crossover, "Utopia." Additionally, July 8 sees the launch of a new three-issue mini series which details how Osborn assembled the mutant team. CBR News spoke with "Dark X-Men: The Beginning" editor Nick Lowe and co-writer Paul Cornellabout the project.
"We figured out that there wouldn't be time or space in the ['Utopia'] crossover to show any of the recruitment or much of the background of the Dark X-Men, and we felt they deserved at least that much," Nick Lowe told CBR News. "We didn't feel though that each character demanded a full issue, so this seemed like the best plan."
Because each issue of "Dark X-Men: The Beginning" focuses on multiple characters, it was felt the series would be best done in an anthology style, with each issue spotlighting different mutants and the work of different creators, including Paul Cornell, who turns in tales of Cloak & and Dagger, Emma Frost and Namor, the Sub-Mariner. "It's Namor in a kind of Frost/Nixon way, just an 11-page conversation/battle of wills between the two of them that's actually called 'Namor/Norman,'" Cornell. "Then a Namor and Emma story that explores their relationship and has a look inside Namor's mind."
"[Cornell and I have] been working together for a while now, from 'Wisdom' to 'Captain Britain & MI13,'" Lowe said. "What really rocketed him to the front line of this project was how he's been writing Dracula in 'Captain Britain.' He writes a damn intelligent villain and I thought he'd have a great voice for some of the characters in the book."
It was the characters involved and the chance to writer for an anthology that made "Dark X-Men: The Beginning" such a compelling assignment for Paul Cornell. "I've always loved Emma Frost, who really ought to have honorary British citizenship. Then she could become a dame!" the writer told said. "And who could turn down the chance to write for Namor? That really puts one in a long line of quality, going right back to the start of the modern superhero era. And yeah, shorter stories were an interesting idea. Besides, I've been dying to write for something that actually had the title 'X-Men.'"
"Dark X-Men: The Beginning" features Cloak and Dagger, a superhero duo that shies away from from the bigger events of the Marvel Universe. One of Cornell's stories C&D into the larger pools of team membership and the Marvel U's biggest event, Dark Reign. "I've been a reader of those two since their first appearance," Cornell explained. "Their committed stance, their own war on drugs, makes them a tremendous contrast to Osborn's murky aims and methods. Or perhaps it doesn't as much as they thought it did. I like how together they are, how they look after each other in a dangerous world. They have a kind of mutual womb they can retreat to. Which doesn't make them entirely adults, and that's interesting too."
When it was announced that Cloak and Dagger would be among the ranks of the Dark X-Men, readers wondered why the heroes would be willing to work for someone like Norman Osborn. In the world of Osborn's Dark Reign, decisions like that aren't made lightly. Indeed, Cornell's Cloak and Dagger story is essentially about making tough decisions. "There is, as always with Osborn, a carrot and a stick," he said. "They're given some good reasons, like support for their own aims, why they'll fit right in. And then there's the dirty great gun to the head, which I won't go into the details of here. Osborn really rather knows he has them as soon as he steps out in front of them. And they offer him great value, in terms of image and powers."
For Cornell, writing interesting characters has only been half of the fun of working on "Dark X-Men: The Beginning." The other half has been the chance to work with the artists Marvel has lined up for the project, like his "Captain Britain& MI13" collaborator Leonard Kirk. "We are back working together again! It's a great pleasure to see what he's coming out with, and I'm glad we didn't get split up. For the sake of the kids," Cornell laughed.
Also included in "Dark X-Men: The Beginning" is a Mimic story written by James Asmus. "James is an up-and-comer in comics," Nick Lowe said. "He's a playwright and comedian in Chicago and has written a few things for Marvel (a one-shot and a few short stories) and he had a great pitch on Mimic, so that sold me there."
Rounding out the first issue is writer Shane McCarthy. "The first thing I read by him was a Batman story that he did with Cliff Chiang that I saw some promise in. We did an 'Astonishing Tales' story two years ago and I wanted to find another place to work with him. So he wrote an awesome Dark Beast story," Lowe said.
With the events of "Utopia" still unfolding, the fates of the Dark X-Men are currently up in the air, but Paul Cornell would love to tell further stories featuring any of the team members; including Cloak and Dagger, who generally inhabit the gritty, street level corner of the Marvel Universe, a milieu the writer isn't known for. "You know, in the end, I'd like to get to work in every corner of the Marvel Universe," Cornell said. "Or find one particular corner to make my own. This is where I find that the Marvel Universe is round at the edges, right?"
"Dark X-Men: The Beginning" #1 goes on sale July 8 from Marvel Comics.