|“X-Force” #1 on sale now|
Welcome back to THE COMMENTARY TRACK. This is the somewhat weekly feature at CBR in which we invite creators to stop by and talk about their most recent releases, often in spoiler-filled detail.Go behind the scenes and into the minds of your favorite creators and flip through their comics along with them. It’s just like a DVD commentary, but without all the awkward pauses.
The original “X-Force” debuted at Marvel Comics more than fifteen years ago as a continuation of “The New Mutants,” a book that had changed dramatically from its original Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod incarnation in its final days by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza.
This week, a new “X-Force” debuted with a new mission statement:
There are lines that the X-Men have sworn never to cross. But after the shocking events of "Messiah Complex," Cyclops realizes that some enemies need to be death with permanently. . . and the X-Men can never know about it. Enter Wolverine, Warpath, X-23, and Wolfsbane. . . X-Force.
THE COMMENTARY TRACK is pleased to welcome co-writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost (formerly of “New X-Men”) to talk about the origins of the new “X-Force,” their move away from "decompressed" storytelling, Clayton Crain’s artistic contributions to the series, villainous motivations, and much more.
As always, SPOILERS follow.
Craig Kyle: The recap page is the perfect place to start our commentary, as “Messiah CompleX” is where this new version of X-Force was created. And it was at the story summit for “MC” where Chris and I first threw our hats in the ring to write the series. Mike Cary, Ed Brubaker, Peter David and half of Marvel’s editorial staff were on hand when this team first came up. We were plotting out the story beats for “Messiah” when I think [editor] Axel [Alonso] brought up the idea of a covert X-trike team. As soon as it became clear that this team would continue as an ongoing after the crossover, Chris and I pounced. We love “New X-Men” but this book was tailor made for us. Fortunately, the other writers in the room seemed to be cool with their current projects, so no weapons or threats had to be introduced into the discussion. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the writing job in the room, it took a couple of months for us to find out we landed the gig. Axel gave us the good news shortly after the San Diego Comic-Con.
Christopher Yost: I can’t talk about “New X-Men.” It’s too fresh. I don’t want to burn out my keyboard with more tears.
Another thing we pushed for here was the name, “X-Force.” The original team name was “War Pack,” which, while cool, didn’t have the same cache as an “X” title. “X-Ops” just looks weird to me.
The team coming out of “MC” was Wolverine, Warpath, Wolfsbane, X-23, Caliban and Hepzibah. Obviously, things didn’t go so well for Caliban, but Hepzibah will be making an appearance, and she has everything to do with Warpath’s current mental state. She’s not going to be a happy kitty. Or skunk. Whatever she is.
KYLE: First off, “Wow!” How about [artist Clayton] Crain?! This guy is freaking talented! We had this Colorado setting in our heads but neither one of us thought it was going to look like this. We wanted this opening to pull the readers into this new saga. We needed the beauty of Colorado, the wealth of Warren Worthington and the ongoing saga of Wolverine to play together and Clayton wove all of those elements into these first four panels beautifully. When Chris and I got our first batch of pages, we knew we were in for one hell of a ride.
YOST: Yeah, every issue has something pretty stunning in it. There’s a shot in issue three that’s just so gorgeous, it should be on a wall somewhere. I like how Wolverine looks so cranky here. This entire book is a thorn in Wolverine’s already pissed off side. Nothing about X-Force is going to make him happy. Ever.
KYLE: Chris and I have treated a lot of our comic book stories like moving pictures. Meaning we don’t write talky books and we let the artists do most of the storytelling. This has worked out real well for us because everyone we’ve worked with has been so damn talented. But fans do complain about the speed at which they can read our issues. They also tend to not like our “decompressed” type of storytelling. So with this series we reexamined our way of telling stories and changed two things. First, we cover much more story in each issue. We’re trying to put two to three issues worth of content into every issue of “X-Force.” In doing this, we create our second change, which is beefing up the dialogue and information being conveyed in every page. I think people will have a much deeper read and richer emotional experience as they move through the pages of “X-Force.”
YOST: Look how bad-ass Cyclops is here. Just looking it at him, it’s like the only reason he’s not doing the missions all by himself is because he doesn’t have time for it.
KYLE: Turns in a scene are tricky in comics. It’s really an art form that I’ve grown to respect more and more as I’ve written the books myself. You have all kinds of readers and unlike films or TV series you can’t truly control what people see and when they see it. The easiest way to have a strong moment or reveal is to push the image or information to a new page. This way the anticipation begins on the lead up page and creates more suspense as the reader turns from that page to the next. That said, I think panel #5 is a very strong reveal. The flow of the panels and the staging of the last image is very strong. I love how your eyes must move down all the weaponry and armaments to get to our villains. This sets the tone for the killing to come even though we won’t see any of it.
YOST: We generally name people we randomly kill in the books after friends and co-workers. Nothing says “I love you” like having someone’s namesake killed in a comic.
KYLE: This page marks an important moment in the story for us. Many of the readers coming into this series will know all about the Purifiers and their motivations but what everyone needs to understand is that everything about them is changing. The Purifiers we knew in “New X-Men” and in “Messiah CompleX” will not be the same villains X-Force will be fighting. And I can tell you this time; these guys are going to achieve their goals!
YOST: Blood! Panel #3 is just a hint of what’s to come. Even Craig and I weren’t prepared for it by the time you get to X-Force’s infiltration. And we wrote it.
KYLE: When Chris and I first talked about this scene, we wanted to have all kinds of supervillain tech in the chamber to show that this was a vault where the worst and most dangerous devices were held. Obviously, Clayton didn’t agree and he went the cleaner, simpler route. Damn it if he wasn’t right. Now all of your focus is on the one containment unit, this was a smart call by the artist. Also, the motion created by the welded crashing door is just tremendous in panel #2. I truly believe that the mark of a great comic book artist is the ability to create a sense of motion in a still image. Clayton does this constantly throughout the series.
YOST: Pages #4 and #5 reflect a bit of input from editor John Barber, whom we resent greatly — because it was a good suggestion. Present day shots of Woverine and Cyclops at the bottom of the pages keep the reader anchored.
I also like this page because the first time I saw it, I thought they were keeping the object in a volcano, which I thought was tremendously cool.
KYLE: I’ve been jocking Clayton long enough; let me give a little props to my writing partner for a moment. Chris and I each have characters we’re better at writing and certain types of exchanges that we excel in. Panel #4 on this page is one of my favorites from Chris in this issue. We both had a hand in this scene but this one moment nails both Logan and Scott perfectly. This simple back and forth really speaks to who these guys are in this title.
Now that I’ve said that, I would like to formally take credit for everything else people like in this issue. Anything you hated should be credited to Chris.
YOST: And if you hated it, I did it on purpose. Just to mess with you, dear reader.
Rahne can hear everything they’re saying, of course. Is it wrong to think she looks tremendously attractive here? Probably.
I wonder how many times Cyclops and Wolverine have thrown down? It’s a tradition. And afterwards, they don’t even miss a beat. There’s something about this relationship that I love. Hate each other, but at the end of the day – although they’d never say it – they’re best friends. They both loved Jean, and they have a bond there that can’t be broken, ever.
KYLE: Earlier I spoke about turning scenes, and what happens from this panel moving on the next page is a great example of this.
KYLE: The previous scene with Scott and Logan was painted in cool and dark tones, which gave the scene an intimate and personal vibe. We move from that scene to the warm open skies of this southwest setting creating a beautiful contrast to the previous scene. This and the next page really open up the story and gives a much needed breath in the darkness shown so far. These kinds of bright and vibrant visuals are needed in a book like this, so that the stories don’t become too bleak and hopeless.
This change of staging and palette also gives you a small glimpse of the diverse locations and personal stories that we’re going to be dealing with in the series. This and the next page are my two favorites in the issue. They are just beautiful.
YOST: Craig also pulled a bunch of reference for these shots for Clayton, but damn. Crain freaks me out with this stuff. Seriously, there are images coming in the upcoming issues that are staggering.
I also love the sense of history here. This is the X-Force pretty much everyone knows. Of course, we’re bleeding all over it. Warpath has a comment on it in issue #2 or #3, I believe, about Cyclops appropriating the X-Force name. But it’s this kind of small, personal moments that makes the big, big (big) stuff that’s coming mean something.
KYLE: Love. This. Page. Looking at the image of Warpath standing inside his brother’s symbol speaks volumes for who Warpath is when we open our story. The massive size of the symbol was created intentionally to help sell the smallness of Warpath. He’s trying to live up to his brother’s legacy and this shot expresses what a daunting task that is for him.
YOST: This pretty much re-affirmed our goal of more splashes. This scene will be revisited.
KYLE: Wolverine is still under the impression that he has some say in what’s going down here but this is the moment when he finds out he doesn’t. I also like how Wolverine is forced to own up to what he’s done to X-23 by bringing her into the X-Men. He’s trying to prevent any more harm from coming X-23’s way but that’s when Scott tells him he’s already called her into action. Also I love the way Cyclops’ optics paint Wolverine in a red glow. This keeps him the focus of every shot even when we’re largely looking at Logan. This was a great choice by Clayton to keep the power in Cyclops’s hands throughout the scene.
YOST: This here is essentially a talking heads page, which we were worried about. But the tension here is awesome, it really comes across.
I’m not an art guy, I don’t notice a lot of the subtleties that artists put on the page. I love art, but I just don’t have that eye that Craig does. But Clayton’s art is so freaking visceral. I feel like I can smell it. The texture, the feel, the glare of that visor, I fee like Wolverine’s bicep is going to leap off his arm and start kicking ass. I’ve never really seen anything like it.
It’s so easy to write things like “stab through the head.” But when Clayton actually does it, he brings it alive in a shocking, horrifying way. Violence is a way of life for these characters, and Clyaton is making you FEEL it. Check out page #19, if you dare.
KYLE: Here we get to see a glimpse inside of X-23. She has begun to revert back into her original living weapon persona. Life with emotions proved to be too difficult for her, so she has decided to accept that her mother was wrong. She is a weapon, not a person. As she moves through the base we get to see her using her sense of smell to track her targets, the cholesterol beat in panel #2 was Chris’s idea and I think it’s fantastic. She’s like a living CSI lab. Here we really get to hear how robotic X-23 is in her thinking. She’s doesn’t even express emotion as she discusses the Xavier Institute students that were killed right in front of her. It’s sad really.
YOST: This is the first time we get inside Laura’s head, too, something we hope to continue. I find it fascinating. What’s it like to be so emotionally disconnected? And when an emotion comes in, like in issue #4 – it’s devastating.
We used the visual representation of scent in both of X-23’s minis, and we continue the tradition here.
Her nose looks real!!!! Aaah!
KYLE: When Clayton first came up with the designs for the team, he had X-23’s head covered and in this shot you can see how important it is to see her hair and face. She’s so beautiful and innocent looking but on the inside she’s a cold and emotionless killer. If you lose that outer beauty a lot of her character contrast goes away with it. I love the staging of this shot.
For me personally, one of the most poignant moments in this issue is when X-23 says, “What is my mission?” These are words she hasn’t spoken since she escaped her creators. This speaks volumes for her as a character and paints an extremely grim outlook for her chances at becoming a normal person in the future.
YOST: Purifiers are so extreme. He shot his own head off with a shotgun. Who does that? We strive to balance them with normal religious/devout characters in “New X-Men,” like Nightcrawler and Dust, but I’m glad to have the opportunity to have Wolfsbane react to the Purifiers’ insanity in this series.
Except that she dies in issue #1.
PAGE 12, PANEL 4
KYLE: This is the panel that explains why Wolverine is a part of this team. Warpath is going in with or without them, X-23 has accepted that she is a weapon to be used and Logan is being dragged into this mess to insure the others make it out alive. He doesn’t want to lead this team, he has to. This also shows that Scott put everything in motion knowing full well what Wolverine’s reaction would be. It may not have been the nice thing to do but it was the smart choice to make given the situation.
YOST: Cyclops could have kicked Wolverine’s ass here, he just chose not to.
We have a list of things to include in each issue, and it’s growing: Cyclops’s visor, explosions, sunsets and mountains. And one other thing in issue #2 that I can’t talk about yet, but holy $#!^ does Crain bring it to life.
KYLE: This is a good place to stop the discussion and let the readers decide for themselves if this is a journey that they want to take. Unlike Cyclops, we don’t want to drag fans kicking and screaming month after month on a ride they don’t see any fun in.
And for those of you out there who firmly believe you have the series pegged on what it is now and what it will be, let me assure you, you’re wrong. Unless of course you think it’s going to kick all kinds of X-ass and be the biggest thing Chris and I have ever done in comics. If you think that, you’re right.
YOST: Craig did a great job on his commentary. You’re probably now dumber for reading mine. You’re welcome! In all seriousness, the awesomeness is only beginning. It’s lethal, it’s missions, it’s black ops, it’s ultra-violence, but it’s also the X-Men’s past coming back to bite them in a big, big way. And this issue is just the tip of the iceberg.
KYLE: Thanks for reading!
Thanks again to Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost for filling us in on their latest creation. “X-Force” #1 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.
As always, if you have any titles or creators you’d like to see featured in THE COMMENTARY TRACK, drop us a line. If you’re a creator with a book due out soon that you’d like to stop by to talk about in detail, let us know. We’re especially looking for artists/colorists/letterers who are looking to talk about their craft, as we’ve had a shortage of those so far. We’re busy behind the scenes lining up books for the weeks ahead, but there’s always room for more!
Now discuss this story in CBR’s X-Men forum.
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