No Way Home: Liu talks "NYX"

Protecting a world that fears and hates them isn't a priority for all of the Marvel Universe's remaining mutants. Some have to use their special abilities simply to protect themselves or fight for necessities as basic as food and shelter. That's the status quo for Kiden Nixon, Tatiana Caban and Bobby Soul, the cast of "NYX." The adventures of the three hard luck mutants continue this week in issue #1 of the new six-issue miniseries "NYX: No Way Home" by "Dirk & Steele" novelist Marjorie Liu and illustrator Kalman Andrasofszky ("Legion of Monsters: Satana"). CBR News spoke with Liu about her plans for Marvel's most downtrodden mutants.

In the original "NYX" series by Joe Quesada and Josh Middleton, readers learned how Kiden Nixon ended up on the streets. When she was just a girl, Kiden witnessed the murder of her police officer father. The shock and trauma resulted in Kiden growing into a very troubled teenager. When an incident with her emerging mutant power -- the ability to alter the speed at which she moves through time -- resulted in one of her teachers getting injured, Kiden took to the streets. It was there where the ghost of her father led Kidden to future X-Force member X-23 and Tatiana Caban --AKA Catiana-- a mutant with the ability to shapeshift into any animal whose blood she touches, and Bobby Soul -- AKA Felon -- whose mutant ability allowed him to project his conscious into others' bodies and take control of them.

When "No Way Home" begins, X-23 is no longer part of Kiden, Tatiana and Bobby's circle but in some ways life is pretty good for the typically downbeat trio. "All the kids are living under the same roof, pooling their resources to pay for rent and food," Marjorie Liu told CBR News. "It's a good arrangement -- one that Bobby and Kiden probably appreciate just a little more than Tatiana, who never thought she would have to live one step away from the streets."

Liu sees Kiden as someone who can't help but be herself 100 percent of the time. "Which isn't to say that she doesn't hold back her feelings -- she's hiding a lot of grief and fear -- but she's no fake, either," the writer remarked. "She does not try to fit in.   She does not say what she thinks people want to hear.  She speaks the truth as she feels it, good or bad, and she carves her own path -- whether or not anyone is there to back her up.  She's tough, smart, stubborn -- but not hard.  Still innocent, in her own way. A dreamer. Which, when times get tough, can mean the difference between mere survival, and actually living. I suppose that's a lot of adjectives to throw at one character, but she's very complex -- at least, in my mind.

"Having said that, though, Kiden's weaknesses run parallel to her strength: she is confident enough to be herself, but not confident enough to believe that who she is might be worthy of absolute love.  She has major abandonment issues. And for good reason."

Kiden has done some growing up since readers last saw her. "She's taken a more practical approach to survival -- it's not enough to party or take drugs anymore," Liu explained. "She feels responsible for her friends. And she doesn't want to disappoint the ghost of her father, who worked from beyond the grave to bring her into the lives of Bobby and Tatiana."

Bobby is another character who's had to mature, both for his sake and his little brother, who has no one else to care for him. "He came from a home that was never entirely safe -- physically and mentally -- and it was up to him to take care of things, to be in control," Liu said. "He's still in control.  Always.  And deep down, he's tired of it. He would like to let loose, and be a kid 00 but he's too responsible. Or at least, he's responsible now. He's seen the consequences of what happens when he's not careful, because for a time he was an addict -- addicted to using his powers of possession as a means of escaping his life. He would flee into other people -- the rich, the famous -- and be someone else for a time. Soak up their fame and comfort, their money and superficial power. The cost, though, would be his memories -- and the more he possesses others, the steeper that price. Until he's reached a point where he fears that any more jumps into other people will result in permanent amnesia. For his brother's sake, he can't allow that."

When "NYX: No Way Home" kicks off, Tatiana is probably the most stable of the book's mutant protagonists. "Even though her home life wasn't great, before the original run of 'NYX' she had a family to back her up -- occasionally -- and she enjoyed the structure and promise of a better life that school offered," Liu said. "Tatiana believes in honesty and hard work. She doesn't like to bend the rules. She is afraid of being in trouble. And ever since she discovered she's a mutant -- and joined up with Kiden and Bobby -- trouble is all she's been in. That doesn't mean she wants to leave them, though. She's more afraid of being alone than living on the edge, and the dubious structure that Kiden and Bobby offer by their presence is something that Tatiana needs mentally to survive.

"All of which creates a very interesting dynamic between the kids," Liu added. "They all like each other, but each has a different and very compelling reason for sticking around -- reasons that outweigh personal affection. There's no more powerful motivator than survival."

The "NYX" cast has become a family. They've developed routines and grown comfortable in their ways. And then it's all taken away. "Everything they've worked to create for themselves is stolen, and they have to start over. Except now they're being hunted," Liu explained. "And the stress of that, and the reason **why** their lives are being methodically destroyed, will send them on a new and much darker path than anything they might have imagined for themselves."

The original "NYX" took place before "House of M" and M-Day, the vast depowering of most of the Marvel Universe's mutants, something that didn't affect Kiden, Bobby or Tatiana. And it's the trio's retention of their mutant abilities that puts them in danger in "No Way Home." "The best way to describe the obstacles facing them is the two basic questions I asked myself when thinking about this storyline," Liu explained. "First, what happens now that mutants are almost extinct? Should mutant powers be feared -- or should they be looked at as a limited and therefore valuable resource? In other words, commodities to be sought after? By any means necessary?

"Second, how do priorities change when you've got nothing -- and when what little you do have, is ripped away from you? Everything the kids have built for themselves is going to be stolen from them -- brutally -- until all they have left are each other. And if you want to talk obstacles, what happens internally and between themselves will either make or break them all."

Kiden and her friends won't be completely alone in "No Way Home." In the original "NYX," the ghost of Kiden's father would often show up and offer her cryptic hints and direction. "I don't think the appearance of her father was ever really explained," Liu said.  "So, I'm taking it upon myself to do so in this six-issue run.  Kiden's father plays a pivotal role in 'No Way Home' -- and his motivations, I promise, will be answered completely by the end of issue six."

Cameron Palmer, Kiden's former teacher who assisted her in the original "NYX," is the other major returning supporting cast member in "No Way Home." "There are, of course, fresh supporting characters -- if you count the bad guys as support -- but their sophistication and motives will be totally beyond Kiden and her friends," Liu stated. "Even up until the last page."

The tone of "No Way Home" is gritty and often times brutal. "Bad things happen," Liu said. "Which is vague, I know, but ugliness is never pretty to write about.  Even children with superpowers are vulnerable to the abuses of adults.  What makes it worse is when that abuse comes from someone you trust."

Liu is very happy to be collaborating with Kalman Andrasofszky on "No Way Home." "I'm not much of a gusher, but Kalman has been fantastic to work with.  Not only is his art delightfully perfect for the story, but he also gets what I'm trying to do," she said. "Working with someone who is on the same wavelength has made the experience one in a million."

When Marvel offered Liu the chance to write a new "NYX" series, she eagerly accepted. The writer has been reading comics for 12 years and has fond memories of the original "NYX." "I remember, very specifically, that I was in law school at the time, and totally enchanted by the art and storyline," Liu stated. "I loved how messed up all the kids were -- and yet, despite their circumstances, how heroic and compassionate they managed to be. Flawed, tragic, and lovely -- that was how I saw Kiden and the others. And that's how I still see them."

"No Way Home" isn't the first time Liu has written mutant characters. The writer earned her "NYX" assignment on the strength of her 2005 novel, "Dark Mirror," which starred the X-Men. "I'm a lucky girl.  Four years ago I mentioned to my agent that I was a huge comic book fan -- and she happened to know an editor at Pocket who was looking for authors to participate in a new line of prose novels for Marvel," Liu explained. "I managed to snag the first X-Men slot -- and went totally over the moon.  Just so happened, too, that the story was well-received at Marvel -- and because of that, I gathered up the courage to broach the topic of doing more work for them. That conversation -- after several years of going back and forth -- eventually led to 'NYX.'"

"NYX: No Way Home" is Liu's first comic book gig but it won't be her last. "This has been a wonderful experience. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect when I first jumped into this venture, but everything I have seen has merely reinforced the fact that this is a great profession to be part of," Liu said. "I love writing -- obviously -- and I love learning new methods of storytelling -- and so I feel like a sponge at the moment, simply soaking up everything Marvel has to offer. And yes, I would love to tackle some other characters. Or write something fresh and new from my own mind. We'll see what happens."

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