Marvel's last week was explosive with the announcement of "Avengers vs. X-Men" and their live webcast on the event. Marvel kicked this week off this week in style with their Next Big Thing press conference call on a new run of "Astonishing X-Men" beginning with Issue #48 with writer Marjorie Liu and artist Mike Perkins. Liu, Perkins, X-Book editor Nick Lowe and Assistant Editor Jeanine Schaefer were all on hand to answer questions.
Junior Sales Administrator James Viscardi kicked things off by turning it over to Nick Lowe, who explained how Liu's "Astonishing" run got off the ground. "Marjorie's been aching to get some X-Men team action," said Lowe, referencing that Liu had been a fan of the old "X-Men" cartoon.
This will be the first time that Liu has written a team book, despite having written a number of solo series for Marvel. "My solo series in some ways have been rarely truly solo," she said, mentioning that her characters, such as X-23 and Black Widow, also revolve around other secondary characters.
"I've actually been on the X-Men before very briefly," said Perkins, referring to his time inking "Deadly Genesis." "The X-Men, their whole basis is setting a team feeling to the book. It's definitely a different approach as in the amount of characters per panel and the interaction of those characters."
The conversation then turned to the team lineup. "The first thing that people should know, whereas the previous arc of 'Astonishing'...this is on Wolverine's side of 'Regenesis,'" said Lowe. "The team will feature Wolverine as leader, but Lowe said that he is "far from being the heart of the book." The team consists of Warbird, who Liu was super-psyched about. Northstar, Gambit, Iceman, Cecelia Reyes and Karma will also be featured on Wolverine's "Astonishing" team.
"Originally, I wanted to keep the team really small, but as brainstorming continued ... there were certain characters that I really wanted to write and that I thought would balance well with each other," said Liu.
"I'm particularly looking forward to tackling Iceman, because he's such a visual character that we can utilize," said Perkins, mentioning that he had been enjoying how Jason Aaron was using Iceman in "Wolverine and the X-Men."
Liu spoke briefly on the first issue, saying that there was a theme of moving and movement. "We've got Northstar moving back to New York and he's going to be living with his boyfriend, Kyle," she said. "Another side of it, we've got characters like Cecelia and Gambit circling each other and [Gambit] moving into his own apartment in Westchester." The first issue will settle in the team and introduce the villains, the Marauders.
Liu has added the Vanisher and Chimera to the Marauders, but did not comment on the rest of the current team line-up. "Chimera's a villainess who [uses] telekinetic dragons," she said.
"The opening section is definitely a James Bond balls-to-the wall action sort of thing," said Perkins. "You've got these relationship parts ... but it's sandwiched by these amazing action sequences. In separate ways, they blow the Astonishing X-Men's world apart."
"We want to let people know that this is a new era of Astonishing X-Men that we're kicking off here. There are shocks and surprises coming," said Lowe.
Liu and Perkins spoke a bit more on the selection of the Marauders as the series' primary antagonists. "Mike and I have been talking about the Marauders forever," said Liu. "They have a history of wreaking havoc in the Marvel Universe. ... From my point of view, I thought this was the perfect time to bring them on. Nothing is going to be exactly what it seems, but the Marauders are going to be a big part of it."
"It comes down to visual aspect for me, " said Perkins. "To get let loose upon these action scenes is just fantastic. The Marauders bring such a visual dynamite to the piece. I'm really looking forward to this."
As for the post-"Schism" status quo, Liu said that her run of "Astonishing" will keep the major feelings and fallout off to the side. Lowe elaborated, saying,"You won't see a big Cyclops versus Wolverine fight here. That's not what this book is for. ... This is very much tied into Wolverine's side of the X-Men and the roles that [they] play at the school." Lowe elaborated, saying "Wolverine and the X-Men" centered more around the student/teacher dynamic, while "Astonishing" would focus more on the instructors as superheroes. "This is the book that's on Wolverine's side that doesn't give you the classes. That's the role that this book plays. It gives you the non-school-centric team on Wolverine's side." Lowe and Liu also clarified that the book will also feature much more adult content, but is by no means a MAX title.
Liu and Perkins also spoke to their collaborative process, mentioning how easy it was to work with each other. "When you're telling a story like this, it's really important to get along and to brainstorm," said Liu.
"Marjorie knows so much about the characters and interactions, and you can see that in her novels, as well," said Perkins. "You can just tell that she knows how a team works."
The writer also said that, despite his obvious ties to the series' big villain, Mr. Sinister won't be involved in her "Astonishing" run and that Gambit's Marauders ties won't be mentioned. "I don't plan on spending a lot of time on it," she said. "That's not the focus of the story."
The X-Editors was pretty tight lipped on where the book would be going, but Schaefer did say that what happened in the opening storyline would impact the future. "Some of the stuff that's going to happen in the first arc is really going to inform what happens next. It's really going to affect it in a big way."
Although, Perkins was able to offer how he hopes things will develop in the long run from an artistic standpoint. "From an artistic point of view, I'm looking forward to the long run and developing these characters and screwing around with them," he said.
As for X-23, Liu wasn't able to bring her onto the book for a variety of reasons, which she detailed. "Originally, I did want to bring X-23 onto the book but because Wolverine has his ideology, his mandate is that underage children are not able to fight," she said. "X-23 is still technically a child. Having her on the team would be a violation of his new mandate. Also, she's going to be a member of Avengers Academy and they're on the West Coast."
With that the call wrapped, leaving readers to look forward to the newest incarnation of "Astonishing X-Men" and the surprises in store for Wolverine's Westchester team.
Stay tuned to CBR for more details on Liu and Perkins' "Astonishing X-Men" run as they develop.