Halfway through its rollout and one strange controversy put to bed, and the jury is still largely out on the reception to the next wave of X-Men comics.
But Marvel brought out their promotional skills to hype the faithful during the ResurrXion panel Friday at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (AKA C2E2), highlighting the recent relaunch of the publisher's mutant titles.
On hand were "X-Men: Gold" writer Marc Guggenheim, writer Charles Soule, writer Matthew Rosenberg, incoming "X-Men: Gold" artist Ken Lashley, editor Wil Moss, assistant editor Christina Harrington, executive editor Nick Lowe and the company's PR lead Chris D'Lando.
The discussion started with "X-Men: Gold" focusing on the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants coming to the story, whom Guggenheim referred to as "The Brotherhood of Self-Aware Mutants." He stressed that there's a reason for the team to have taken on the "Evil" monicker, and it's all part of the publishers stated goal for a back-to-basics approach to superhero drama. The writer explained he's drawing a lot of inspiration from the initial appearances of his team including leader Kitty Pryde. "My very first issue of 'X-Men' was 'Uncanny' #139, the 'Welcome to the X-Men' issue...so it's kind of perfect," he said. "Everybody in the book I met in my very first three issues of X-Men – even Rachel [Summers] who debuted in #141."
"Kitty is a real person to me...I've been reading her adventures for decades now, and the voice I hear in my head isn't mine. It's Kitty's," Guggenheim added.
By the end of the opening three-issue arc, a new character will debut in Cleavus – a lizard-like mutant who is in the new Brotherhood. "There's a mystery associated with him. With this character, I'm planting a seed for a storyline that won't come to fruition until around issue #20," the writer said.
The series second three-part arc will be called "Techno Superior" and be drawn by drawn by RB Silva. "Poor Gambit gets involved in this heist...and the heist goes very much awry," said Guggenheim. "Two technologies that should not end up together end up together. You'll see Sentinel inspired Artificial Intelligence combined with nanotechnology."
The pair of Guggenheim and Lashley also promised to play up the soap operatic qualities of the book when the artist arrives with issue #7. "I actually cried when I got this book. I've been around for a long time drawing comics, and X-Men is the book I always wanted," Lashley said, adding that he specifically requested to have an issue focused on occasionally star-crossed lovers Colossus and Kitty Pryde. "Because of the end of the 'Techno Superior' arc, there is going to be some stuff going on with Colossus," Guggenheim said. "A big constant in the X-Men is change. And so we're slowly but surely introducing new things in the book along with the nostalgia." The story arc will tie in to Marvel's incoming "Secret Empire" event. "It's a locked room horror story," the writer said. "We're introducing a new version of the Executioner...imagine the Punisher if he targeted mutants instead of Mafioso." The villain will trap the X-Men in their own mansion as it's thrust into the Dark Force Dimension.
The flipside of the launch found a spotlight as Harrington explained the status of the teen-focused "X-Men: Blue." "We've seen these characters a bit disparate for a little while...so this is about these characters finding themselves again and becoming the heroes they really are," she said. "With the added twist that Magneto is their dude."
The second big twist coming is the arrival of Jimmy Hudson – the son of Wolverine recently displaced from Marvel's Ultimate Universe. "Jimmy's in the same position [as the time-displaced young X-Men]. This is not his universe, and he doesn't know what's happening. There's a mysterious reason he's been brought over here, which you'll learn in issues #4 and 5," she said, adding that the book will be leaning into the love triangle between Jimmy, Jean Grey and Cyclops. "It's going to be great to see that relationship develop over the course of the series."
In July, "Astonishing X-Men" arrives from Soule and artist Jim Cheung for issue #1, though the panel said that each new issue will have a different artist including ACO, Phil Noto, Greg Land, Ramon Rosanas and Ron Garney on tap for the future.
Soule revealed that an upcoming issue will feature the return of TV star Amahl Farouk AKA the Shadow King as drawn by Dale Keown. The writer said he was enticed by the idea that the human form of the character was the first evil mutant Charles Xavier encountered and therefore his inspiration for the formation of the X-Men. "He's this incredibly ancient force of darkness – kind of a dream demon," the writer said of the Shadow King entity, which will attack the X-Men during their London-based adventure. "The book is a puzzle box, and you're not supposed to know where everything is going."
But before that story arrives, fans will get to meet the new team consisting of the likes of Old Man Logan, Mystique, Fantomex and Psylocke. "I can run the soap opera of the X-Men in different ways by looking at each of them as their archetype," said Soule. He used the example of Bishop as a man who's lived through several apocalypses. Guggenheim praised his fellow writer for introducing each of the characters by their core personalities in this new series. Soule said that his goal was to make this a book for people who didn't want to know anything else about who these characters are before they meet them on the page.
The discussion moved on to "All-New Wolverine" by Tom Taylor and Leonard Kirk which begins a new arc with the incoming issue #19. Harrington explained that the arc after that will send X-23 off into space to fight with the Guardians of the Galaxy with her clone sister Gabby in tow. "I'm very excited. They get to fight some Brood. They get to hang out with Rocket and Groot. Drax is very confused by them," she said.
Moss then explored the future of the Inhumans in "Royals" by Al Ewing and Jonboy Meyers where the Inhuman royal family have gone into space to find a way to continue their species without Terrigen. "They're weird characters, and Al's a weird guy, so he's got a bunch of insights into what makes these guys tick," the editor said. "There's a bunch of nice twists Al has packed into this arc. At the end of the first issue, we learn that Medusa is dying and has lost all her hair. And there's a twist at the end of issue #2 which just came out."
That idea led to "Black Bolt," the new solo series for the king of the Inhumans. "He just has to rely on his wits," Moss said of the powerless monarch. "It's just Black Bolt having to survive on his own in this horrible situation." The panel praised the art for the series by Christian Ward which Lowe said meshed perfectly with the story that comics newcomer and novelist Saladin Ahmed – a very different feel for Marvel but still engaging as the editor explained.
The Inhumans universe rounds out with "Secret Warriros" – a new series by Rosenberg and Javier Garrón. "They are a team in the loosest sense of the word," the writer said, noting "These guys are outsiders. That's where I want them to be, and that's where they want to be." He added that this team of young people is facing a bleak future thanks to not only the impending end of their species but also the fact that they've been abandoned by their royal family. Quake is the character who will pull the team out of that bleak ideal, he said. "She's come into her own as a spy and basically a weapon," Rosenberg explained, calling the character one of Marvel's best if most overlooked.