Paging Doctor Reyes: Liu talks NYX

Kiden Nixon, Tatiana Caban, and Bobby Soul -- the teenage cast of Marvel Comics’ six-issue miniseries, “NYX: No Way Home” -- generally use their mutant abilities to help make ends meet and simply survive on the mean streets of New York City. This usually keeps the kids away from other superpowered people, but considering the size of Manhattan and the number of individuals with powers running around, it’s bound to happen sooner or later.

That time comes in December’s “NYX: No Way Home” #4, when our heroes come face to face with fan favorite former X-Man Dr. Cecilia Reyes courtesy of writer Marjorie Liu and artist Kalman Andrasofszky. CBR News spoke with Liu to find out what fans can expect from the encounter.

Cecilia Reyes, a medical doctor whose mutant ability allowed her to create a force field around her body, debuted in 1997's “X-Men #65,” the kick-off to the “Operation Zero Tolerance” storyline. As fate would have it, that issue also happened to be Marjorie Liu's first exposure to the four-color adventures of the X-Men. “I loved [Reyes], and it was so cool for me to see this woman who was tough, smart, took no crap, and was saving lives with hard-earned skills and intelligence, as opposed to superpowers,” Liu told CBR News. “She recognized, too, the irony of the spandex-clad hero -- and in doing so, brought the X-Men down to earth in a way that I haven't really seen since.

“She was the practical outsider, the stable influence. A mutant, maybe -- but not a woman who let her mutant ability define her. Or, to put it another way, being a mutant was not her career. You know? You think about the X-Men and so many other characters in the X-Verse, and if they weren't mutants, or fighting bad guys, how would they live? What would they be good for?”

Liu feels it's that quality of not wanting to be defined by your mutant ability that makes Reyes an ideal guest star for “NYX.” “Kiden and her friends come from similar stock. Strong, tough, street-smart — kids who are not defined by these powers they were born with, or who have delusions of grandeur because of them,” the writer said. “[They’re] kids who are just trying to survive an unpredictable world where they're at the bottom of the ladder surrounded by predators. Cecilia comes from that same world, and she has the same sensibilities. She's perfect for this book.”

Reyes didn't join the X-Men after her first appearance, she wanted to live a normal life but eventually reconsidered and became an important part of the team. Naturally, her experiences as a mutant did not bring her happiness, brought the exact opposite. Reyes’ last appearance was as a prisoner in Neverland, a mutant concentration camp set up by the Weapon X Program.

“I don't address how she escaped. Not yet,” Liu teased. “But When I think about how Cecilia was affected by her time at Neverland, I remember pictures of World War II concentration camp survivors. There's a look in those faces that can hardly be described -- soul-deep weariness, shame, anger, anguish -- sometimes resolve, sometimes resignation -- but more than anything else, a hollowness that's not just physical hunger, but instead a spiritual and emotional deprivation that is a hundred times more damning. That's how Cecilia was affected, that's what she saw and battled, in herself and others -- but I think what gave her an edge, internally, was that she was still a doctor in that place. She had a purpose, a mission -- and that was to keep the other inmates alive. That's a powerful reason to stay strong -- and Cecilia's already stubborn as hell.”

When readers are reintroduced to Reyes in “NYX: No Way Home” #4, the effects of her time in Neverland will be apparent. “Cecilia is walking wounded -- she's been hurt, tremendously, in terrible ways that aren't visible to the naked eye -- but she survived, unbroken, and is still trying to do good in her small corner of the world,” Liu explained. “And it is small, because she's in hiding. She's not hard-core about it -- she hasn't changed her name, or her look --but she's definitely keeping her head down, and staying out of sight as much as possible. She has a medical practice run through homeless shelters and out of her apartment. All the best doctors I've ever known treat medicine not as a job, but as a calling, a mission. Helping people becomes all or nothing, and you do whatever it takes to keep going. Which is what she's done.”

Cecilia Reyes may still be a doctor when readers next meet her, but after M-Day, the vast depowering of the Marvel U's mutant population, some readers may be wondering if Cecilia’s still a mutant. “As for whether she's a mutant--the subject probably won't come up during this particular limited series,” Liu stated. “But that's not to say it won't be touched on later.”

Liu's decision to reintroduce readers to Cecilia Reyes came about because of a fan question at the X-Men Panel at this year's Comic-Con International in San Diego. “Someone asked whether Cecilia Reyes would be making a reappearance, and I asked [editor] Nick Lowe if I could have her,” Liu explained. “I meant it as a jest at the time, but it got me thinking. And then, suddenly, I was in the middle of writing issue #4, Tatiana needed a doctor -- and I thought, 'I have a doctor. There's no better doctor!' So, thank you to the nameless fan, whoever you are!”

As Liu hinted, it's a medical emergency that brings Reyes into the lives of the cast of “NYX,” but that doesn't mean she'll be getting along famously with the mutant teens. “Let's just say that when Tatiana gets out of the hospital, she still needs medical help,” Liu remarked. “As for the dynamic, I would call it--contentious. Cecilia has no tolerance for bullshit. And Kiden is full of it.”

At the end of “NYX: No Way Home” #3, Bobby Soul was forced to use his mutant ability to keep the tattooed “Introductions Man” from harming his little brother, and on the final page it appeared the strain of doing so had left him an amnesiac. “Kiden is a natural go-to girl. You got a problem, she'll figure out how to handle it -- like a bull in a china shop, maybe, but she'll get it done,” Liu said. “Same thing here. She's not going to wait around for Bobby to get his memories back before she starts tackling their problems. She'll just drag him along, whether he wants to go or not.”

Kiden and Bobby ran afoul of the “Introductions Man” while on a quest to find their kidnapped friend and Kiden's former teacher, Cameron Palmer. In issue #4, the mystery of Palmer's disappearance brings the kids face-to-face with some of the “Introductions Man's” comrades. “Things are going to get very ugly. Relentlessly so,” Liu stated. “ The players all come out in issue #4, and they are extremely dangerous. One of the characters, who I'll call Sniper Chick, was not in the original outline of the series, but Kalman came up with this cool design for a character that was only going to show up for a couple pages -- and that seemed like such a waste. So, I swapped out one character, and replaced him with her, and I think it changed the dynamic of the story for the better. Sniper Chick is a bad girl. And she's taking orders from someone who's worse. Depending on your point of view. Kiden and her friends are in very deep trouble, more than they can fathom.”

“NYX: No Way Home” #3 is on sale now. Issue #4 hits stands December 3 from Marvel Comics.

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