Marvel's Next Big Thing: X-Men Schism

This fall, the X-Men will be looking a little less "Uncanny" when the Marvel Comics mutant team is split in two by the events of "X-Men: Schism" - a five-part event series by writer Jason Aaron and a host of artists starting with Carlos Pacheco in issue #1. During the storyline, the long running "Uncanny X-Men" title will come to a (most likely temporary) end, and in order to suss out all the facts, Marvel has called one of their regular "Next Big Thing" conference calls with Aaron, Senior Editor Nick Lowe and Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso.

The call started revealing that Quentin Quire will return to be the catalyst that sets off the action of the story. "He's not the sole problem. He is a cog in a bigger machine," said Aaron of the Grant Morrison-created character. Aaron called Morrison's "New X-Men" his favorite X-Men run ever and was very excited to continue to play with elements from it.

Lowe explained that the conflict between Cyclops and Wolverine that explodes at the heart of the series has been brewing since "Chris Claremont wrote Wolverine in the X-Men back in the day" however the current editorial team has been thinking about the conflict for at least five years. "We hit the point of no return with the launch of 'X-Force' where we put Wolverine on a black ops team," he explained. Alsonso added "At the end of the day, these are two alpha males...their rivalry, their mutual love interests and everything will come to a head."

"Their relationship is not hanging by a thread when we start off...they're pretty rock solid," Aaron said. "Over the course of 'Schism,' something happens that makes Logan say 'We're not on the same page anymore."

Alonso said that an event will take the X-Men to an edge that their leaders will be split on whether they will cross, but it's not as clear cut as "One will kill and one won't" but a much more subtle thing. He likened it to "Civil War" in that regard. "These are two guys caught up in a moral quagmire, so readers will be able to pick sides," said Aaron.

As for the other mutants in the book, Aaron said, "'Schism' definitely has a big cast...but at the end of the day it boils down to a story about two guys." He mentioned Hope playing a large role while all the events will ripple out into the Marvel Universe. "There's also a lot of insane fighting," said Lowe, noting that Sentinels and a new version of the Hellfire Club involving a new villain. Alonso said, "Jason has created a Sentinel for the ages...I'll admit that Sentinels usually bore me to tears, but this is a lot of fun."

While the story has been discussed for many years both at the main Marvel Summits and the X-Men-specific retreats, Lowe laid the final product squarely at the feet of the current writers including Aaron and "Uncanny X-Men's" Kieron Gillen. Aaron said, "What's cool is that everybody gets excited...we throw ideas out, and the Avengers guys get excited and the Spider-Man guys get excited. The whole Marvel Universe is getting excited."

"All these status quo changes and hierarchical changes will have a very big impact on the Marvel U," said Alonso.

"I've been wanting to do a team book for a while," Aaron said of his draw to the series, nothing that he wanted to play with the X-Men specifically because of the growth in Cyclops as a character over the past few years as well as cast members like Emma Frost and the Stepford Cuckoos. Particularly, he was excited to play with Idie from "Generation Hope." "She goes through hell...she's one of the people caught up in 'Schism' in a very big way. Watching her reaction was great. Iceman was another character who's no surprise I've been wanting to play with for a while."

The floor opened up to press questions, and Aaron explained that the conflict in the series will center around the fate of all mutants and a straw that forces Wolverine to rethink Scott Summers' plan for keeping the remaining mutants in Utopia alive. "It's not something where Scott changes. It's not as though on page two, Scott starts killing pages," he said. "He looks at it as doing the same things he's always done. But for some reason they find themselves at an impasse."

Part of that impasse will come through Quentin Quire's view of Cyclops and how he views the new leader of mutants in regards to his former idol Magneto. "He's the perennial rebel without a cause, no matter what the situations."

The conflict will not, however, mirror the classic conflict between Professor X and Magneto. "The only thing that's the same is that there's two of them," said Lowe. "They're definitely not making the same arguments." Aaron explained that this story will launch the future of the philosophical debates at the heart of the entire X-Men franchise. And part of that new debate is positioning the line to be more accessible to new readers. "This story really needed the craft of one writer," Alonso said. "This would not benefit from multiple writers spanning titles...the scope is there, but it really benefitted from having Jason there at the center. It's a really sad story at the end of the day. I think everybody knows that there's no hatred you have like the hatred you have for someone who was once a good friend."

Aaron said that the cast of "Generation Hope" will play a role in the story as will Storm in some capacity, however Hope's connection the Phoenix Force will not be a major factor. "I don't even know what the Phoenix Force is...it's got something to do with Arizona, right?" joked Lowe.

As for the end of "Uncanny X-Men" in October, Lowe said "Because of the end of 'Schism,' there's no place for 'Uncanny' to exist" with Alonso added "We're not about killing people and taking big players off the board...we know where we're headed, and people will have to reel from those punches when we get there."

Xavier and Magneto will play a role in the series going forward in what Alonso called "unexpected ways." "These men are Cyclops' fathers in a lot of ways," the E-i-C added. "The fact that Magneto is currently a trusted consiglieri of Cyclops is not insignificant." Of course, Wolverine isn't leaving the franchise either as a result of the series with Aaron saying, "There will definitely be a different situation for Wolverine to be in that changes his role."

"Heavy stuff happens here, and Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are going to look at this guy different," Lowe noted of the impact the story will have on titles like "Avengers."

Overall, the state of the X-Men universe after the series may mean fans will see multiple X-Men teams, but fans should not expect things to be like the classic "Blue and Gold" teams of the '90s. "This is a definite split," said Aaron, noting that the philosophical divide will make for a broken mutant race moving forward.

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