NYCC: Wacker Hears Testimony in "The Trial of Jean Grey"

Though the spaceways of the Marvel Universe are teeming with technologically advanced and powerful alien races, it's possible for the actions of a single being to echo throughout the universe -- even if that person hails from a non space faring planet like Earth. Enter Jean Grey, who, thanks to her bonding with the destructive cosmic entity known as the Phoenix, has become a name synonymous with death.

The power Grey wielded and the destruction she caused alarmed numerous galactic empires, forcing them to take action against her on several occasions, but they've been able to rest easy for the past several years, secure in the knowledge that she's dead. However, as readers of "All-New X-Men" know, a teenage version of Jean Grey recently time travelled to the present day, and this Winter, the galaxy will discover that fact.

It all happens in "The Trial of Jean Grey," a new story arc by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artists Stuart Immonen and Sarah Pichelli, taking place in the pages of "All-New X-Men" and "Guardians of the Galaxy." CBR News spoke with "Guardians" editor Steve Wacker about the story which kicks of in January's "All-New X-Men" #22.NOW and "Guardians of the Galaxy" #11.NOW.

CBR News: In our first "All-New X-Men" interview, Bendis said that the original five X-Men traveling to our present day would have repercussions that would be felt in "Guardians of the Galaxy." How long has this story been in development, and when you first heard Brian's pitch for the story, which elements immediately resonated with you?

Steve Wacker: Brian has been talking about wanting to do this since it became clear that he was taking over both books. I don't know for sure if he had the "Trial" part of the story planned, but he definitely wanted these teams to meet and felt that there was stuff coming out of "Avengers Vs. X-Men" that we could play with. So this has been cooking for a while.

Jean Grey is a mutant, but she's from Earth, and the time she travelled from is a point in X-Men history where they're a little less experienced. It gave us a very human story against this cosmic backdrop.

To see a lot of the Marvel Cosmic for the first time through the eyes of the X-Men is intriguing to me. That's the part I personally glommed on to. As Nick [Lowe, the editor who oversees the X-Office], Brian and I discussed the story, and when we found some family connections between the X-Men and the characters out in space, it made the personal story much deeper. That's what we all responded to.

Family connections?

I don't think I need to comment on that at all. I think for X-Men fans, it will be very clear what I'm alluding to.

Fair enough. How will "The Trial of Jean Grey" be structured, and how many parts is it? Will it be the traditional style crossover where the story moves back and forth between the two series?

Both "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "All-New X-Men" are jumping on points that first month, so you'll be able to pick up both or either of those comics and feel like you're coming into the beginning of the story. Brian worked with Nick and me to personally structure the issues that way.

Then it goes back and forth between the two books in February and March. It's six parts all together, and if you're a "Guardians" reader who doesn't read "All-New X-Men," you can read the "Guardians" first and be fine, and vice versa.

I think the work Stuart Immonen and Sarah Pichelli are doing blends together really well. It's all going to feel very cohesive.

This story comes in the aftermath of two events that have shook up the worlds of "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "All-New X-Men" -- "Infinity" and "Battle of the Atom." As the editor of "Guardians," can you comment at all on the state of the Marvel spaceways after "Infinity" and how their condition affects and sets up "The Trial of Jean Grey?"

I can't say too much at this point about how "Infinity" ends, but like all of our events, when we've done them right, things are shaken to the core. There will be fallout and you'll see the ramifications of what the entire universe thinks of Earth.

You won't need to know anything about that, though. What we try to do with all of our events is build up the Marvel Universe, but not make it impenetrable for new people who might be coming in. I think we're certainly building towards the excitement of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie next summer. You're going to see more and more people recognizing the characters' names and starting to check these books out. It's our job to make sure that when these people come by they've got a story they can understand and not feel like they have to do homework first.

What we've seen of "Infinity" so far suggests that when "The Trial of Jean Grey" begins that the various galactic powers will be in a state of rebuilding and reconstruction similar to what happened to Europe in the aftermath of World War II.

That's not a bad way to put it. There's a lot going on both on Earth and in space coming out of "Infinity." The Guardians might need a Marshall Plan to clean things up. [Laughs]

What can you tell us about the incident that sets the trial in motion?

Really, the incident that set this all in motion was the Phoenix coming back. That goes back to the story that Brian built with all the other guys in "AvX." What I can tell you from the Guardians' -- and a lot of the cosmic characters' -- point of view is that Earth keeps getting involved in huge messes. So many of these incredibly powerful characters live on Earth, and from what anyone can tell Earth cannot by any measure handle this power. So everyone is afraid of our cute, little planet. If you're out in the universe, you see that every day there's some conflagration coming from Earth. It's like a baby that needs its bottle constantly. Or like Brian on an airplane. Earth is this very angry baby, and there's a group of important figures "out there" that want to fix that, but you're also a little scared of that angry baby.

Basically, I'm saying Earth is an angry baby that can shoot beams out of its hands.

It's the kid from "The Twilight Zone" that can "send you into the cornfield."

[Laughs] Yeah.

Part of the fun of the arc will be the chance to see the All-New X-Men interact with the Guardians of the Galaxy. What's the dynamic like between the two groups?

I think the Guardians look at the X-Men and they see a bunch of kids with great power who are more in-the-way than they are helpful. The X-Men, on the other side, have seen a lot in their short time here. When the Guardians show up, it surprises everybody because they don't look like your normal super hero group. They look more Uncanny than the X-Kids -- with that raccoon and that talking tree.

The group dynamics are going to be very exciting and lend themselves to conflict; maybe a couple of friendships as well. There are certainly a couple of X-Men I could see getting along pretty well with the Guardians.

And not for nothing, but to me, the classic super hero team-up, the one I really loved as a kid, was when the X-Men met the Teen Titans in that book by Walt Simonson and Chris Claremont. In that vein, we'll hopefully see a similar mixture of conflict and friendships in our crossover.

Moving from friends to foes, what can you tell us about the antagonists of "The Trial of Jean Grey?" Just how many enemies are the Guardians and the X-Men up against in this story?

They'll be up against much of the galaxy. Plus, you'll see a further exploration of the amount of power Star Lord's father wields. Some of that's going to be coming to a head and it will continue into the Guardians stuff coming out of this. It's going to be a big part of next year.

Right now in "Guardians" we're in the middle of the story which introduces Angela, then we're tying into "Infinity." What Brian and Sarah have been doing on the book that's been effective for me is that they're taking these colossal themes and events and putting a "human" face on them, for lack of a better term. 
I think Sarah pretty much owns these characters. Their acting on the page speaks for itself. The fans are reacting to these characters because they're really breathing on the page. The struggle the Guardians have as a team are crises like, "Why are we together as a team? Why do we stay together? Are we doing any good?" Those kinds of things. I think that team conflict is inherent to good Marvel super hero teams.

Can you give us a final, grand overview of the scope and scale of the crossover?

It's going to be very big for both teams, but especially for the X-Men because it affects one of their main characters so directly. It could make the entire team look at Jean Grey a little differently. Then, for the Guardians, this sets up a lot of themes we're going to explore for the rest of the year.

It's going to be a huge year for "Guardians of the Galaxy" just in the comics alone -- that's not even counting the Hollywood stuff. Our mission on this book is to take this super hero team that works light years away from Earth and make them integral to everything going on in the Marvel Universe.

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