EXCLUSIVE: "Secret Wars" Resurrects a Mutant Nightmare in "Years of Future Past"

In the classic "Days of Future Past" storyline, the creative team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne illustrated just how important it was for the X-Men to change the attitudes and actions of those who fear and hate the Marvel Universe's mutant population. For two issues, readers found themselves transported to a dark, dystopian, possible future, where mutants and other superhumans were hunted, killed and imprisoned by giant Sentinel robots.

An adult Kitty Pryde kicked off the short-but-impactful arc by traveling back in time in an attempt to prevent her nightmarish future -- the then-distant 2013 -- from becoming a reality. But what would have happened if time travel was never an option, forcing her instead to stay and fight to protect both her biological and extended family from extinction? Readers will get answers to this and more when "Years of Future Past" by writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Mike Norton, debuts in June. The "Secret Wars" series transports readers to the Sentinel Territories of the singular Battleworld the Marvel Multiverse has been reduced to.

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CBR News has the exclusive first conversation with Bennett about the forthcoming series, and over the course of our conversation, the writer discusses the harsh reality of life in the Sentinel Territories, her excitement and trepidation at telling a tale starring the adult Kate Pryde, and her love for the original "Days of Future Past" storyline, all while sharing a first look at Norton's depiction of the X-Men's apocalyptic Battleworld domain.

CBR News: Your lead character in this series is the adult Kitty, now going by Kate, Pryde. I believe this is your first time writing the character, correct? What can you tell us about her personality and how surviving in this nightmarish reality has changed her?

Marguerite Bennett: This is my first time writing her (...excluding a large binder of middle school fan fiction), and it's definitely my first time writing Kitty as Kate. It's very intimidating, honestly. Folks who love Kitty, myself among them, are shocked by Kate -- how hard she is, how bitter. Kitty's charm and tenderness have been scarred over, leaving someone who yearns to connect, to do the right thing, even at a terrible cost.

Beyond Kate, who is the leader of the X-Men in "Years of Future Past," who will we see in the series?

I will keep some cards close to my pretty floral sundress, but you should see most of the characters from the original "DOFP" lineup -- Wolverine, Colossus, Magneto, Storm, Rachel, Mystique and Blob. There are two major new players, though.

Your story takes place in the Sentinel Territories of the "Secret Wars" Battleworld. What events lead to its creation? What's life like there for the average mutant and average human?

We are set in the dystopian New York City that was once projected for 2013. Robert Kelly is President, and that has not remotely changed the state of affairs for the mutants of this dystopia. Without the constant Cold War escalation, the need for an industry of us-vs.-them patriotism to control the populace relies on turning citizens against their own -- in this case, mutants, "abnormals," political prisoners and the like. We get to explore the ways in which this world has been orchestrated.

What can you tell us about the events that set "Years of Future Past" in motion? What's at stake for Kate and the X-Men in your story?

The two major new players are the big change. The first actually came from something that troubled me all the way back when I was a teenager -- it's almost a throwaway line Kate makes to Colossus, where she references having been a mother, and something terrible having happened. In this future dystopia, Kitty is not an optimistic young girl with nothing left to lose -- she is a mother and wife with more to lose than ever before. No single battle rests on her -- her entire people is dwindled down to near extinction. All survival hinges on her choices.

This is a very different story from the source material. As much as I love the original story, it is perfect as it stands, and to try and repeat it would be just that: Repetitive, if I pulled it off, or diminishing, if I didn't. I wanted to explore that world without fumbling to mimic the same beats and parrot the words of masters. We've gone off the tracks.

"Years of Future Past" is bombastic and '80s in tone, but is as much about youth as age, about the search to be a force of good as much the consequences of evil. A part of me set out to write an adventure story, and instead I wrote a coming-of-age in the post-industrial military complex. And you know what? Mike [Norton] and FCO [Plascencia] killed it. We're into something wild, weird, and new.

Speaking of Mike Notrton's art, I know from his work on "Young Avengers" that Mike enjoys drawing rubble. As a fan of his creator-owned "Revival," I also know that Mike is really great at drawing horror and unsettling phenomenon. It seems like he would be a perfect artist for this book.

Mike is a doll, and I am going to ruin his street cred by saying that. He has drawn every brick of rubble and every broken window in Manhattan -- manages angles I didn't even know were possible, all while drawing multiple books a month. Mike is a beast. Buy him drinks at cons.

From the beginning, we wanted an '80s action movie vibe -- all "Blade Runner," "RoboCop," "Terminator" -- all classic costumes, a reaction to the overblown patriotism of the era. I was so pleased to get to work with him, we got on Skype early, before we even had a plot, and I asked him what it was he wanted to draw. I was prepared to tailor most anything to his needs, thinking, "Okay, action, romance, monsters, robots -- what could he ask for?"

He said, "Surprise me."

And in doing so, I think I've surprised myself, too.

We also have the phenomenal FCO on colors. I cannot glow about FCO enough. Anyone who has been reading "Batman" in the past two years knows how damn gorgeous his textures are, how bright, shocking and vivacious he can make a scene. It's bombastic, classic '80s glory. Mike and FCO are a dream, and I am so thankful to Katie Kubert and Mike Marts for making me part of this, and for Christina Harrington for seeing me through it.

We've talked in the past about how the X-Men animated series and the first feature film made you a fan of the comics. So what was you first experience with the classic "Days of Future Past" storyline? And what made you want to tackle the assignment of writing a modern day story that is inspired by and pays homage to "Days of Future Past?

I was thirteen -- Kitty Pryde's age -- the first time I read the comic. It's cemented in my head as a book about being a teenager, about seeing what the adult you becomes because you did or didn't act. Even though the story overwhelmingly features characters made even more adult -- all the grey at their temples! -- the importance of youth and the choices we make in our youth stuck out to me as much as the threat of the dystopia to follow.

As far as what made me tackle it -- very stupid love. Love for the X-Men, love for New York City where I've lived for four years, love for the person Kitty was as a girl and regretted losing when she was grown, and love for the hopelessly naïve thirteen-year-old Marguerite reading it just before and then again just after 9/11.

"Days of Future Past," by Marguerite Bennett and Mike Norton, launches in June 2013.

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