Over the years, there have been countless incarnations of the X-Men. But despite the different faces, powers and personalities the teams have displayed, for the most part they've all shared two common goals: protect the mutants of the Marvel Universe, and further Charles Xavier's dream of peaceful co-existence between man and mutant.
Bottom line is, the X-Men is very often a team of strange bedfellows, not all of them heroes all of the time. On multiple occasions, the group has welcomed some of its greatest arch-enemies into its ranks, like Magneto and Sabretooth. As such, depending on the incarnation, the X-Men is often a team where characters who hate each other suddenly find themselves fighting side by side.
This December, one of the most unlikely groupings of the team ever comes together as writer Cullen Bunn and artist Greg Land kick off an all new volume of "Uncanny X-Men." The series finds Magneto assembling his own team of titular characters, including Sabretooth, Mystique, Fantomex and Psylocke. We spoke with Bunn about the tone of the book, the methods and dynamic of Magneto's team, how the other X-teams will view his group, and how incredibly meaningful it is for him to be working on "Uncanny X-Men."
CBR News: "Magneto" was a series that followed the morally gray, and often violent, exploits of the title character as he rededicated himself to protecting mutantkind by any means necessary. How does it feel to move him to such a storied title like "Uncanny X-Men?" And could this be viewed as sort of a sequel to or a continuation of the ideas you were exploring in "Magneto?"
Cullen Bunn: "Uncanny X-Men" is a book that means a lot to me for many reasons. I've always loved these characters, ever since I was a kid. Even though my dad didn't read comics, "Uncanny" was a book we collected together. He loved going to conventions with me, hunting down issues, and bargaining with dealers. He traveled a lot for work, and during his trips he would often find comic shops and try to grab an issue or two from my want list. He knew the importance of "Giant-Sized" #1 and Issue #94. It makes me a little sad that he didn't live to see me writing the title, because I think that would have thrilled him to no end.
I suppose there are threads from "Magneto" that carry over into this book. Some of the themes will be further explored, both through the eyes of Magneto and the eyes of the other characters on the team. But I think the tone of this series is vastly different from "Magneto." That book was kind of a noir/horror/detective story with Magneto in the lead role. This book is definitely more of a super heroic action title, featuring characters you might not expect. I want this book to have the dynamism of the classic X-Men stories I loved. I want it to feature the interactions of the characters -- the making and breaking of relationships -- that make the X-Men so exciting. Yes, we're exploring these things with an unexpected group of characters. Even that -- the shocking shake-up of the team -- is an X-Men tradition.
What can you tell us about Magneto's role?
This is a new and unexpected team for the X-Men, with Magneto taking the role of leader. He saw the world come to an end in "Magneto," and his efforts to prevent the end of days -- and many of the events that have unfolded in the world post-"Secret Wars" -- have changed him in a number of ways. That's not to say he's a kinder, gentler Magneto. That's definitely not the case, but he is looking at how he has been going about his mission. He knows he can't go it alone.
What can you tell us about the reason why this team has been assembled? How will they operate, and what sorts of missions might we see them on?
Many events (about which I am sworn to secrecy) have brought this team together and set them on their missions. We'll explore how and why they came together, but not in the first few issues. We're starting the story with most of the team already in the thick of it.
As for how this team operates, they do have a "headquarters" of sorts, but it is definitely not a school. They are frequently on the move, striking at threats to mutantkind, taking a very proactive approach to handling the threats facing mutantkind -- and I don't think these threats will be expected at all.
What can you tell us about the dynamic of your "Uncanny" team? The teaser images featured some characters that don't exactly have the highest regard for each other ,like Sabretooth, Psylocke, Fantomex and Mystique. Will this group have someone or something motivating them to get along?
There will be reasons for this team to stay together and get along. Much of that I can't reveal right now, but there's not a lot of trust here, and many of these characters hate each other. That will, of course, factor into how this team operates. As I mentioned earlier, character relationships and interactions are big parts of what makes the X-Men the X-Men. We'll be seeing that here for sure.
All that said -- who's to say the "team" we saw on that promo image are working together?
I say things like that, because I'm a complete jerk.
[Laughs] What can you tell us about your general plans for the characters in the teaser? Are there certain aspects of their personality you're especially interested in exploring?
So, when I started developing this series, I did a character study for every member of the team. These studies covered the personality and motivation for the character, details on how they would interact with their fellow team members, and some mysteries and subplots that would develop over the course of the series. I have big plans for all of the characters, but I'm really, really looking forward to shaking things up for Sabretooth, Mystique -- and someone I can't mention just yet.
The teaser does not show the full line-up of the team. In fact, the cover of Issue #1 will feature a different line-up altogether, with a couple of surprise additions to the team. While the team will be "mostly" assembled when the first issue comes out, there will be a couple of people (from the teaser image) who are not with us just yet. How this group comes together as a whole is a story that will take a few issues to tell. In the end, there will be a group of seven main players on the team, with a little wiggle room built in.
What can you say about the enemies your "Uncanny X-Men" cast will be up against?
It takes a special kind of villain to really challenge this group of X-Men. My first inclination when taking over the series was to cherry pick from the classic X-villains, and we will be seeing encounters with some familiar faces. However, for the first arc I wanted to focus on a threat that is a mix of old and new. You'll be seeing some villains who haven't been around for a little while. They will have received a bit of an upgrade, making them even more dangerous. But you'll also be seeing some newer villains who haven't squared off against the X-Men yet!
Artist Greg Land, is no stranger to the world of X-Men, having drawn several previous incarnations of the group, but what made him the right artist for this particular team and book?
I'm really excited to be working with Greg on this book. The first few pages have started to roll in, and they are phenomenal. He brings dynamic, clear, exciting storytelling to this title. For a team like this, it was important (to me) that the artist could bring some superhero action to life. Greg loves the X-Men, and I think readers are gonna be wowed by his work on this book.
Finally, it seems like an X-Men team that features Magneto, Mystique, and Sabretooth might not necessarily be an "officially sanctioned" one. So what kind of relationship will they have with the other X-teams?
There are other X-Men teams?
For a little while, this team will be keeping to itself. They do, however, have a vastly different "mission statement" than the other X-teams. It's quite likely that these different agendas will put them at odds with the others. If nothing else, this group would be viewed with significant mistrust by every other X-group.