Simonson Raises the Dead in "Chaos War: X-Men"

When most of the Marvel Universe fears and hates you, protecting it can be more than just thankless - it can be a downright dangerous job. The mutants answering Professor Charles Xavier's call to join the X-Men readily accepted that, knowing they would regularly contend with vile villains along with the despicable forces of bigotry and intolerance. Facing down those evils was important to them because they wanted to help people while encouraging humans to understand they could peacefully co-exist with mutants. Over the years, unfortunately, this desire for peace and justice has caused a number of the mutants who became X-Men to be killed.

However, death has recently become less of a limiting condition. In the current "Chaos War" miniseries by writers Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak and artist Khoi Pham, a being known as the Chaos King AKA Amatsu-Mikaboshi, the Japanese god of Chaos and Darkness, launched an assault on all of creation. In issue #3, on sale now, The Chaos King and his army of alien slave gods tore apart the various afterlives, heavens, and underworlds of the Marvel U, resulting in many dead heroes now being able to return for one last shot at saving the world. In the two issue tie-in miniseries "Chaos War: X-Men" by legendary X-book writers Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson and artist Doug Braithwaite, several fallen X-Men embark on their own mission to thwart the Chaos King's end game: the obliteration of all reality other than himself. CBR News spoke with Simonson about the project, which kicks off in December.

CBR News: Louise, You're no stranger to Marvel's mutants thanks to your run on "X-Factor," but it looks like many of the characters in "Chaos War: X-Men" either didn't live long enough to join that team, never joined that team or joined after your time in the X-Universe. So how does it feel to be working on this series? Do you feel like you're exploring new territory, working on familiar ground or a bit of both?

Louise Simonson: Heck, I don't think I've ever written any of these characters. Without Chris and the internet - and of course editors who know what they're doing - I'd probably be totally lost.

It's fun working on the series, but it is kind of like jumping into a game of double-dutch jumprope with the ropes already spinning.

When you were working on "X-Factor," Chris Claremont was still the driving writer behind the X-Men series. I imagine you guys had a chance to talk and collaborate on some of the big X-Men crossovers from that era. What's it like working with Chris again?

Back in the day, Chris and I crossed over on "Mutant Massacre," "Fall of the Mutants" (kind of), "Inferno" and "Extinction Agenda." Even though it was a while back, we've pretty much fallen into the old patterns, and, as everyone probably knows by now, I love working with Chris. He's so incredibly talented and is such a fountain of ideas! Plus, Chris (bless him!) has kept up more with the modern X-Men's continuity than I had. I had a lot of catching up to do.

Let's talk a little bit about your cast of characters for "Chaos War: X-Men." From what we know at this point, it looks like you have the original Thunderbird, Banshee and several of Madrox's duplicates. But who are the two women on the cover, and are there any team members that aren't featured in the cover art?

The women on the cover are Sophie and Esmee Cuckoo - two of five of Emma Frost's clone teen telepaths called the Stepford Cuckoos. The jealous Esme, wanting to be the dominant Cuckoo, set the stronger Sophie up to die, then later died herself. Though not team members, we are also featuring Moira McTaggert and Destiny from the X-Men cast.

What do you find most interesting about your cast of characters in "Chaos War: X-Men?"

Most interesting? The characters' personalities and conflicts, how these led to each character's death and how these traits might influence their actions within the present story. Did they learn anything by their deaths?

Thunderbird got short shrift. The poor guy's pride and impulsiveness led to his death, early on, before he matured into the man he was meant to be. It will be fun to give him another chance.

Banshee tried to save a batch of folks, but, despite his best efforts, everyone died. Was his death for nothing? He needs to come to terms with that and define for himself, and the others, what heroism really means.

We also have several sets of duplicates with opposite "needs." That's extra fun! In life, Sophie and Esme Cuckoos strove to differentiate themselves from the group and took sibling rivalry to a bad, bad end. Considering their history, it will be fun to see if they can work together.

And these Multiple Men, who were happily part of a composite, are now, in death, stuck as separate beings and long for the old unity. They don't have flashy powers. Will they be good enough?

Will this team of resurrected X-Characters have a team leader? Do they even see eye to eye on what needs to be done to stop the Chaos King?

At first, the group dynamics are a bit fractured. Only Banshee knows everyone else, and he's distracted by Moira's presence and the attack of the Chaos King's minions. And Esme and Sophie are feuding - understandably. In this crazy mix, Thunderbird assumes his role as natural leader. (Also, he is the chosen of...but that would be telling.) Banshee is a stabilizing influence.

Once they figure out what's going on, they are literally swept up in the action. In the midst of conflict, they can act like heroes against unspeakable odds or be destroyed by Chaos - and take the universe down with them.

In terms of plot and theme what is "Chaos War X-Men" about, and how important is the setting to the story? Also, since the characters are returning to the land of the living, I'd expect the locales in the mini to be especially important.

As everyone must know by now, the Chaos King has been sweeping through the universe, destroying and/or suborning pantheon after pantheon of gods. His last stop is Earth. He has attacked Earth's mightiest gods and most have fallen. But, so far, he has considered the nature gods beneath his notice, so they remain free, at least temporarily. The Native American nature deity, the ThunderBird, influences the uniting of the dead X-Men and the discovery of a prophecy that hints at the only way the Chaos King might be defeated - but only if everyone involved in the battle does their part. The failure of one will mean the failure of all.

It will be up to our heroes to become their best selves and oppose the Chaos King. If they fail, it will mean the destruction of everything. In this, Thunderbird himself is the key.

We deal with two locales in the story, and setting is important in both. The first issue takes place on the grounds of the destroyed X-Mansion; Dead X-Men/Dead X-Mansion. It works on a lot of levels. It is there our heroes discover Destiny's books of prophesy and begin to understand what they have to do.

The second setting is Muir Island - a place with its own ruins but also crisscrossed with powerful ley lines. It is one of the most magical places on Earth and our heroes are able to use this ancient magic to Earth's advantage.

With two very different locales, you need a solid artist to give them a different visualfeel, in this case, that job falls on Doug Braithwaite. What do you feel he and his art brings to this book?

Doug's art is very beautiful. It's also grounded in reality so it makes the fantastic interactions in this series seem believable. He's wonderful at expressions and gestures and has a great ability to convey subtext. He's also really good at action, and there's plenty of that as well. It's hard to imagine a more perfect artist for these issues.

What can you tell us about the obstacles and adversaries the X-Men will face in this series? Are they going to directly confront the Chaos King?

They'll confront one of his lieutenants - the trickster god, Raven, who has gone over to Chaos. The direct interactions with the Chaos King himself seem to be reserved for gods and demi-gods.

In rallying the nature spirits of the Earth - and, most of all, in awakening the sleeping One Who Dwells Above All himself - the actions of the dead X-Men influence the outcome of the war against Chaos as much as the actions of the gods themselves

What can you tell us about the supporting cast of "Chaos War: X-Men?" Will we see the team interacting with any living mutants, or are most of the X-Men immobilized by what the Chaos King did in the first issue of "Chaos War?"

Our guys don't interact with any living mutants - or living humans, for that matter - because almost every human on Earth has been cast into a magical trance. But as I mentioned Moira MacTaggert and Destiny - who are both dead - are part of the story.

This will be a really fun and epic crossover. Lots of large scale action with the very existence of the universe hanging in the balance. The Hulk books are the closest to done of the stories I've read so far and those are a hoot! Here's Hoping ours can measure up!

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