Today, Marvel wrapped up a week-plus of Next Big Thing press conference calls. Last week, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, and Tom Brevoort held a roundtable on "Avengers Assemble," kicking off Marvel's latest Next Big Thing extravaganza. Monday saw the unveiling of "Exiled," a "New Mutants" / "Journey Into Mystery" crossover by Kieron Gillen and Andy Lanning, and, after taking Tuesday off for a romantic Valentine's Day getaway, on Wednesday Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon spoke about "Stay Angry," their upcoming story arc in "Incredible Hulk." Yesterday, Marvel revealed that indie star and "John Carter: The Gods of Mars" writer Sam Humphries will be joining Jonathan Hickman as co-writer on "Ultimate Comics: Ultimates" before taking over solo writing chores on the series.
Friday's main event was "Uncanny X-Force," with Rick Remender, Mike McKone, and Nick Lowe talking about what's coming up for the acclaimed series. Marvel Sales and Communications Coordinator James Viscardi controlled the floor.
The arc beginning in #25 is called "Final Execution." Lowe joked that it was a "MEGA arc!" Lowe also described it as "a huge target we're painting on the wall," along the lines of "Dark Angel Saga."
"We changed one element of the 'Dark Angel Saga,' and this was born out of that," Remender said. "This is like 9-issues, this arc, and it is kind of a continuation of what we're doing-the great thing about serial comics is that the story doesn't end," he added.
"Rick's pretty far ahead on this," Lowe laughed, noting Remender had turned in script for #30.
"Some of the big points, this story deals with the brand-new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants," Remender said. "They are the toughest band of Brotherhood of Evil Mutants you've ever seen." He added that consequences of earlier story arcs will continue to snowball.
"The Otherworld story wraps up in #23, and we wanted a palate cleanser," Remender said, saying Psylocke would end up in a very different place. But with "Final Execution," things get dark-"this is probably the gnarliest thing I've ever written," Remender said.
McKone said there will be "Deadpool on a shopping spree." "I've never seen anything like that, I've certainly never drawn anything like that..." he joked.
Remender said the shopping spree will be part of a recon mission, "but whenever Deadpool goes on a recon mission, every time, he opens a door and there's Darth Vader."
Remender said that #25 "reintroduces an X-Men villain we haven't seen in quite some time," and Lowe gave him the go-ahead to reveal: the Omega Clan, built from the remains of Omega Red. The Clan runs a shop called White Sky, where one can shop for "the type of assassin you want" and other goodies.
"Mike pretty talented, I didn't go easy on him," Remender said, adding he gave McKone lots of big action and double page spreads. McKone said he enjoys Deadpool's reactions, where he "keeps his calm until he loses it completely."
Remender said his arcs fall into place naturally, with ideas for one building from the last. "Nick and I have looked for logical reasons to double and triple the nightmare these characters are going through."
The writer did say, though, that "Final Execution" was not necessarily intended from the start. "This arc started to formulate in the midst of putting together the 'Dark Angel Saga,'" he said. Lowe said it's a "thematic destination," covering the issues of responsibility at the heart of the series.
"Yeah, tonally this is what I wanted to be doing from the very beginning," Remender said.
In response to a question about members of X-Force taking dubious advantage of White Sky, Remender paused before answering. "There is going to be a thread around a weapon-any organization that's turning people into weapons is going to strike a chord with some members," Remender said. He added that X-Force doesn't just go after bad acts, like "'I heard people were doing some bad things to donkeys in Tijuana, let's go stop that'-I want that donkey to have done something to you." At this point, the call broke down into laughter as Remender haltingly rolled out more of the metaphor. Bringing things back on track, Remender reiterated that there should be personal stakes to the X-Force missions.
Speaking to the anti-hero concept, Remender noted that it had been done well in the '80s, but in the '90s "everybody went 'so hard core! jump into the jacuzzi of blood and let's murder razor blades!'" For Remender, though, the appeal of Wolverine is fighting against popping his claws "until there's an absolute necessity to do it."
"I'm a Claremont X-Men guy; that's what I grew up with," he added, saying this has influenced his storytelling, "while dipping into the Grant Morrison era, for sure" and dabbling in Jason Aaron's stories.
"Warren Worthington killing somebody became so common that we just got used to it," he said, but going forward he wants it to "mean something" when any of these characters take a life.
"Psylocke's tragectory is a big one to watch," Lowe added. Remender said that "she's the least assassin-y, but she's been in that role for a while."
Remender noted that the ascension of a new Apocalypse-"hey! It's your buddy!"-was actually not the biggest consequence of the early issues. "Congratulations, you've made a terrible decision," Remender joked. And, creatively, one of the new developments is a big arc for Wolverine. "This ends with him in a very, very different place-Betsy and him come out of this story in an entirely different place from when this series began," he said. "They will not ever be the same-until another writer comes along," he laughed.
"I cannot wait to read people's reactions to this," Lowe said. "I can't wait to see the internet explode."
Of the Brootherhood, "some we have seen in X-Force, for sure," Remender said. "The others, they're all bigs." He added that, for each character, there was a lot of thought put into why he or she would be on the team and what that character's goals might be. And the leader? "We won't see who it is for a while, and people will say, 'whoa!'"
Lowe joked about commenters on the CBR forum suggesting "The Brick" was a great villain, because heroes are always getting hit in the head with bricks. "The Brick will be the last man standing," Remender joked.
Remender said the Omega Clan would have similar powers to Omega Red, but the powers would be "tuned to X-Force" and readers would start to see this in #25. "I kind of just want Mike's amazing pages, when you see exactly what we're doing here... they're pretty crazy," Remender said.
Asked about the future of the Genesis character, Remender joked about "giving Jason Aaron a taste and then taking him back-I don't like that guy, I don't trust him, his beard, his beady eyes... in his head he's still fighting the Civil War..." More seriously, though, Remender said that Aaron has plans for the character, "and those lips will definitely play a role."
Lowe: "Now answer that question about Genesis, the band."
"It's the Peter Gabriel / Phil Collins throwdown you've been waiting for!" Remender said.
"You've just spoiled two members of the Brotherhood," Lowe rejoined.
Lowe praised McKone's storytelling ability, and said he "jumped" at the opportunity to add him to the "Uncanny X-Force" roster of artists. Remender also said Dean White's colors have maintained a consistent tone for the series.
Remender said there was "a lot of talk" about tying into "Avengers vs. X-Men," but "there was no story." "We've got this trajectory, we've got this story we're telling in 'X-Force,'" he said, and he didn't want to jeopardize that even though it would be cool to do some of the fights.
"One of the strengths of 'X-Force' is that it has stood on its own," Lowe said. "Let's go forward telling this story. "We try to do a good balance here at Marvel, things that tie in and things that don't." Remender added that it of course would have been a sales bump to cross over with "Secret Avengers," but he thinks it was the right decision to leave the run uninterrupted at this time.
Asked about the art rota, Lowe said that McKone would not be illustrating the entire arc because of the multiple double-shipping months. "It's all dream team stuff," Remender said. He joked, though, that "there's a way to mail people methamphetamines without them knowing it, and then Mike could do four pages a day, but he doesn't know why he's constantly grinding his teeth."
With that high note, a week of Marvel's Next Big Thing was complete.
"Uncanny X-Force" #25 is on sale in May.