After "House of M," protecting a world that fears and hates mutants got a whole lot more dangerous. These perilous times call for heroes with cunning and endurance and you won't find a tougher or slyer bunch of heroes than the current cast of Marvel Comics' "X-Men." CBR News spoke with "X-Men" writer Mike Carey about the book.
The current cast of characters that Carey has assembled for X-Men includes familiar faces like Rogue and Ice Man; other X-Men related characters like Cable, Cannonball, Mystique and Sabretooth and characters that might not be too familiar to fans like Lady Mastermind and Karima Sharpandar. "Karima is otherwise known as the Omega Sentinel," Carey told CBR News. "She was used in Claremont's 'X-treme X-Men' book, although she was introduced in the 'Zero Tolerance' storyline from a few years back. She was one of the human beings that Bastion seeded with Sentinel technology."
As readers might have guessed from the line-up, Carey's X-Men are not your traditional version of the team and they play a role different than the other X-affiliated groups. "When Cyclops offered the job of team leader to Rogue he described the team as a strike force," Carey explained. "They would not be teachers; they wouldn't have any duties at the school at all. They would be free from all those responsibilities and they could basically respond to crises wherever they popped up. They're kind of the first line of defense – and attack – whenever a situation arises that could impact the mutant community."
In keeping with their unconventional line-up and role, Carey's "X-Men" also have a leader in Rogue who some readers might see as an unconventional choice. "I'll give the last word to Cyclops on this," Carey said. "When Rogue says, 'Why me?' his reply is, 'Because you're unpredictable and nobody can second guess you in a fight. You improvise in an inspired way and you're so hard to outflank and anticipate. So you're the perfect choice.'
"I loved Rogue when she was first introduced," Carey continued. "She had this dangerous edge and wildness to her. I wanted to put some of those qualities back."
Rogue's other team mates also exhibit some dangerous and unpredictable traits – especially her foster mother, the shape shifting and often treacherous Mystique. "When Rogue allows Mystique to join the team, it's explicitly so that she can watch her," Carey stated. "She doesn't trust Mystique and is sure sooner or later that she'll revert to type. We will find out more about Mystique's agenda but I can't say anything about it now."
Mystique might have a secret agenda, but that doesn't mean she's not happy to be a member of the X-Men. "I think when Mystique says that it means a lot to her to fight at Rogue's side and share danger with her it is the truth," Carey said. "It's not the whole truth, but it is the truth."
Another member of Rogue's team, Cable, is known for having far reaching agendas. He does have his own reasons for being on the team and they might not be what readers expect. "His original decision to fight with the team – and I'd put it like that, to fight alongside them rather than join – was because he saw the threat of the Children of the Vault [the enemy the team encountered in Carey's first storyline]," Carey explained. "He saw the incredible transfer of energy taking place and realized something of world threatening proportions was happening. That's why he came to the mansion and got involved in the 'Supernovas' story arc. And then there are other reasons why he hangs around for awhile after that.
"I've got this scene in an upcoming arc where Cable is talking to his friend and confidante Irene Merriweather [who plays a regular supporting role in 'Cable & Deadpool'] and she says, 'Why are you doing this?'" Carey continued. "He tells her, 'On some level it appeals to me; dealing with immediate threats instead of always taking in the big picture and thinking in the long term.' He was a soldier for many years and I do think it appeals to him to be a soldier again – to be able to tackle problems that are direct and uncomplicated. Whether that will sustain him and whether he'll stick around with the group in the longer term are obviously open questions. He's got other responsibilities, more than anybody else on the team and he's going to be pulled in other directions."
Many of those those responsibilities Cable deals with are depicted in his own book, "Cable & Deadpool," and they've made him very unpopular with forces inside the U.S. government. With Cable fighting alongside former terrorists like Mystique and professional assassins like Sabretooth, readers can expect the U.S. and other governments to be very concerned about Rogue's band of X-men. "This is another reason why they're leaving the X-Mansion," Carey said. "It's not explicitly stated but they're capable of drawing too much heat. So it makes sense for them to operate outside of U.S. soil. They're sort of peripatetic; from #194 onwards their base of operations is the Conquistador, the highly advanced flying tanker which was used by the Children.
"They do look like a terrorist group, don't they? From the outside they look very suspicious indeed and I think there will be frictions, tensions and potential flashpoints arising because of that."
At the end of issue #193, which marked the conclusion of Carey's first storyline, "Supernovas," Rogue's team just had their first big success. "They just came out of this huge conflict with the Children of the Vault and they won," Carey said. "They managed to turn a potential disaster into a pretty unequivocal victory. Of all of the X-teams, theirs was the one left standing. So I guess you could say the team is riding a high right now. Rogue must feel she's made the right choices and things are coming together, but she doesn't know what's waiting in the wings."
As readers could guess by the end of issue #193, the Children of the Vault continue to be one of the menaces waiting in the wings but in issue #194 (which hit stores on December 28 th ) a new story "Primary Infection," begins and a new threat rears its head. "Basically both 'Primary Infection' and the following arc 'Condition Critical' pick up on hints that were seeded in the 'Supernovas arc," Carey explained. "At the start of the 'Supernovas' arc, the X-Men retrieve Karima Shapandar and Lady Mastermind from the John Fordyce Clinic; this strange hospital/experimental laboratory in Upstate New York. They trash the place and at that time they learn that the clinic was run by a being who is referred to as Pan, but they don't have any time to investigate the clinic any further because of the intervention of the Children. In 'Primary Infection' we see that investigation finally taking place. And we see Lady Mastermind and Karima in the forefront of it because basically for them it's personal."
For Pan or Pandemic, the villain of "Critical Condition," his encounter with the X-Men (and one member in particular) is also personal. "Pandemic is a new character - someone from Rogue's past, but not someone we've ever met on-panel before," Carey stated. "That may sound like a bit of a finagle, but to be brutally honest his earlier encounter with Rogue was so fleeting and so trivial that she wouldn't have thought it significant in any case. But for Pandemic, it was a turning point in his life and it's come to define him to a very scary and unhealthy extent. So we're talking about an obsessive man, and Rogue is the subject of his obsession. There's more to it than that, but that's the basic scenario: a guy who finds the very idea of Rogue and of what she can do irresistibly fascinating, and has made some fateful decisions as a result."
The decisions made in "Primary Infection" have a huge impact on "Critical Condition," the story arc after that, and send the X-Men to one of the nations that Cable leads. "In 'Condition Critical' they go back to Providence," Carey said. "It's the story that will lead into this sort of X-over, the one that will change Cable's status and set up a dilemma for him, which will spill over into 'Cable & Deadpool' and will have far reaching consequences for him for years to come."
Carey is a fan of writer Fabian Nicieza's work on "Cable & Deadpool" ("The Burnt Offering" story arc being one of his favorites) and the two have been coordinating their future story plans for Nathan Summers. "I think what both Fabian and I want to do with Cable is put him in a situation where his power levels are going to be raised again," Carey explained. "He's going to come out of 'Condition Critical' with access to powers on a scale that he hasn't had for awhile. But as always there's a price. And in this case the price is potentially awful."
"Cable & Deadpool" readers will find the "Condition Critical" arc of "X-Men" a good jumping on point; besides taking place in a familiar locale, Providence, and focusing on Cable, the story also features an appearance by a familiar face. "Irene Merriweather makes an appearance," Carey stated. "I wanted to use both Prestor John and Deadpool, too. But, you know, 'Cable & Deadpool' is such a unique book with such a unique voice and Deadpool in particular is a character with such an indelible set of associations to him. I was afraid he would pull the story too far in a different direction. It's hard to give Deadpool a cameo without everything sort of changing around him. It's like adding chili to a stew: even a little bit changes the flavour a lot. So there might be some sort of sly references to him, but we probably won't see him on-panel."
There are big things in store for "Cable" in both "X-Men" and "Cable & Deadpool" and there appear to be big developments in store for another "X-Men" cast member, Sabretooth, in upcoming issues of "Wolverine." "Those developments will definitely have an impact on Sabretooth's status within the X-Men team," Carey agreed. "We're coming up to issue #200 and in that issue a lot of things happen that will affect the make up of the team in the latter part of 2007 and into the future."
In recent issues and upcoming arcs, The X-Men have dealt with new menaces but old school X-fans shouldn't worry. Carey has definite plans for some of the more notorious members of the X-Men's rogue's gallery. "We've got a classic villain showing up in the annual." Carey said. "It's Exodus, as people probably know by now – and he's got some other familiar faces in tow. Then we have a whole bunch of classic villains showing up in #200, which I think will be really exciting for long term readers. I always like to keep a mix; to revisit the really iconic villains that the X-Men have faced in the past but also introduce new characters and keep readers guessing."
Carey has been having a blast chronicling the adventures of the Children of the Vault and urges fans who have enjoyed his run so far to buckle up because the fun is just starting. "It's been sort of a wild and exhilarating ride so far," he said. "There's nothing else like it. I've had plenty of other comic gigs but there's no preparation for this. It's something completely special and unique to write an X-book.
"And I think 2007 is going to be an amazing year for readers of the X-Men line. From January onwards the pace is going to start hotting up and the stakes will start to be raised. We're accelerating towards something really incredible."
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