The Xavier Identity: Carey talks “X-Men: Legacy”

World-class telepath Charles Xavier knows how to control your mind. Too bad he doesn’t know who he is. After being shot in the head in Marvel's "X-Men" #207, the concluding chapter of "Messiah CompleX," the X-Men founder has embarked upon a journey of self discovery, using his vast telepathic powers to piece together a past that was lost to him. Every month, writer Mike Carey and artist Scott Eaton chronicle Xavier’s travels in the renamed “X-Men: Legacy,” a title which kicks off the brand new story arc “Sins of the Father” in issue #211, in stores this week.

The previous issue, “X-Men: Legacy” #210, wrapped up the title’s first story arc which found the wounded Xavier in the care of the mutant terrorist group the Acolytes and ended with him besting their leader, Exodus, in psychic combat. During their mental duel, Exodus showed the amnesiac Xavier some of the former professor’s worst decisions and failures. This horrified Xavier and made him not only want to recover his past memories, but also be a better man than he was.

“Like all the other aspects of his personality, he has to learn it again, making moral decisions from scratch as he goes,” Mike Carey told CBR News. “We will look at some of those moral choices very explicitly as the series opens up. Will he simply fall into old patterns of behavior and thought? Or will he actually succeed in becoming someone substantially different from the old Xavier? And is that something we should want?”

Xavier’s determination to rediscover his past is clear, but his ability to emotionally endure any painful truths he might encounter is still murky. “I think his resolve probably hides a great deal of inner turmoil,” Carey explained. “Charles Xavier has never been a man to wear his heart on his sleeve. I think you can read a great deal of suppressed pain into that exchange in issue #210 between him and Amelia Voght where he says, 'I remember your name but if anything passed between us I have no idea what it was. I hope at least I didn’t cause you any unhappiness.’ I think that’s a terribly bleak moment. Xavier is suffering and I think is still in a fragile state of mind in a lot of ways.”

Curiously, former ally and frequent archenemy Erik Lensherr, aka Magneto, stood by Xavier’s side as he recovered from his head wound. “You might expect Magneto to take a certain amount of indecent satisfaction in seeing his old foe brought down like that,” Carey stated. “But I wanted to play up the similarities between Magneto and Xavier instead of the differences. They’re old soldiers who’ve been through an awful lot together. They’ve fought many battles, both against each other and on the same side, and have been through all the landmark moments in the history of mutantkind. I think Magneto was being sincere when he said, 'I just didn’t want to think people can do the things we’ve done and see the things we’ve seen and than die in the gutter.’

“That’s something which comes out in the later stories in 'Legacy’ as well. There is an 'Old Guard.’ There’s these characters who by virtue of having been around for so long, they have been a major shaping influence on the younger generation of mutants.”

At the end of “X-Men: Legacy” #210, Xavier bid Magneto and Karima Shapander (aka Omega Sentinel) farewell. In two epilogues, readers saw glimpses of characters that will cross paths with Xavier in the future. In the first, we saw former X-Men member Rogue traveling into the desolate regions of Eastern Australia. “Not to put too fine a point on it, Rogue’s trip to Australia does have something to do with the fact that the X-Men have history in that part of the world,” Carey hinted. “It also has to do with the state of mind that she’s in after the closing events of 'Messiah CompleX,’ the fact that for a brief moment she was completely clean of other personalities, powers and memories, than she touched Mystique. So that Tabula Rasa moment didn’t last. Rogue is in an interesting place right now and she’s trying to make some decisions about her immediate and her longer term future.”

However, an encounter with Xavier is not in Rogue’s immediate future. “We are definitely going to have a Rogue storyline and it will be coming up towards the end of the year,” Carey said. “We put it off a little bit longer than I would have liked to, but other things had to be done first in order to get everything in the right place.”

The second epilogue of “X-Men Legacy” #210 featured the Hellfire Club and specifically Sebastian Shaw, another member of the mutant “Old Guard.” “I thought the first ever Hellfire Club story arc was one of the best arcs Chris Claremont ever wrote because he kept piling the agony on the characters,” said Carey. “When you thought it couldn’t get any worse, he kept adding new twists. I also thought Shaw was a very, very cool character. He has a fascinating power and personality because he’s so ruthless and pragmatic. Magneto is a great foil for Xavier but I think Shaw is too in a different way. There’s not a trace of idealism in him.”

In the epilogue, Shaw appeared to be exercising quiet displeasure over the fact that Roberto da Costa had replaced him as head of the Hellfire Club’s inner circle. “We hinted in 'Endangered Species’ that Shaw is beginning to be impatient with taking a back seat and he’s thinking of doing something about it,” Carey explained. “I think Shaw is worth watching in the months to come.”

Both Shaw and the mysterious “Cronus” file he alluded to at the end of “X-Men: Legacy” #210 will be part of the next story arc, “Sins of the Father,” beginning this week in issue #211. “I know there’s been some message board speculation about the identity of this allegedly new character but Cronus is not a Who, it’s a What,” Carey stated. “Cronus was the Titan in Greek mythology who fathered Zeus. A prophecy told him that sooner or later he was going to be killed by one of his own children. So his solution was to eat his children as they were born. So it’s referring to that legend. We get to find out a lot about what is in Shaw’s Cronus file.”

Indeed, the story of “Sins of the Father” has much to do with the positive and negative ways fathers can shape their children. “The arc takes Professor X back to his earliest childhood,” Carey said. “When we leave him at the end of the first arc he’s trying to reintegrate his personality by finding memories of himself in other people’s minds. So he decides to go back to square one, the people who knew him at the start of his life.

“Obviously some of those people are no longer around,” Carey continued. “But some of them still are. We’ll see him talking to people who knew him as a child and that means going back to some of his father’s colleagues and looking up the various people who could claim to have been his father; the people who have had parental authority over him and have shaped his life.”

While he’s been mentioned in various stories over the years, Xavier’s father Brian, who died when Professor X was a boy, is still an enigma. “We are to some extent referencing a story early on from the adjectiveless 'X-Men’ title where someone sends Xavier a folder full of files relating to his father’s work,” Carey explained. “Fabian Nicieza also wrote some stories which filled in some gaps in Xavier’s early life. We’re not going to try and draw links between all those canonical elements and stories but we are going to reference them in a different way.”

Brian Xavier wasn’t the only father in Charles Xavier’s life. Following Brian’s passing, Charles’s mother married Kurt Marko. “Obviously he’s one of Xavier’s father figures and in this story we get to see Kurt in flashback,” Carey confirmed. “We’ll see that he had a profound influence on Xavier’s life, possibly a profoundly negative one.”

“Sins of the Father” will also feature cameo appearances by Xavier’s siblings as well, like his stepbrother Cain Marko aka The Juggernaut and his “twin sister,” Cassandra Nova, a psychic parasite the unborn Xavier exorcised from his mother’s womb before he was even born. “Xavier has an interesting conversation with her in issue #211,” Carey teased.

Rounding out the supporting cast of “Sins of the Father” is former X-Men member Gambit. “He’s coming in from a slightly odd direction,” Carey said. “For reasons of his own, he’s meeting up with Xavier and we’ll revisit certain aspects of Gambit’s back story as well.”

Mr. Sinister’s death in “Messiah CompleX” means it will be hard for the fiendish geneticist to play an active part of “Sins of the Father,” but even in death he’ll have an impact on the story. “He’s definitely dead but there’s dead and there’s DEAD,” Carey laughed. “With Sinister, you’re talking about a guy who lived for a lot longer than a century and as the foremost geneticist of his time he must have thought a lot about mortality and what it meant.”

“Sins of the Father” will also pit Xavier against the machinations of two living villains. “There is someone who’s pulling strings behind the scenes: they’re an X-Villain but they haven’t been seen much in recent years and they were never much of a major figure,” Carey said. “They’ve only been glimpsed in the background. But than behind that character is another character of greater stature and greater menace.”

The flashback sequences of “Sins of the Father” will feature a rotating team of artists and, much to Carey’s pleasure, the present day sequences will continue to feature work by Scott Eaton. “Isn’t he doing a spectacular job?” Carey remarked. “While there is a lot of on-panel action in 'Legacy,’ it is a book that really depends on character interactions; on the emotional importance of these events. And I think Scott’s doing a great job of getting us into Xavier’s head, which is where we need to be. I think he’s planting the emotional weight exactly right.”

Future story arcs of “X-Men: Legacy” will see Xavier encountering a variety of supporting characters and adversaries. “The way his odyssey works is that he needs to make contact with the people who knew him and were important in his life at different points,” Carey explained. “So it naturally lends itself to a rotating supporting cast. There are obviously people who Xavier really needs to talk to at some point. Cyclops is one and Wolverine is another and it would be really cool to get those beats in.”

Carey also has plans to address the relationships Xavier made during the portions of his life when he was not on Earth. “We’re not going to have any off-planet action in 'Legacy,’ but at some point or another pretty much every significant event in Xavier’s past will at least be touched on,” Carey stated. “So we will see his relationship with former Shi’ar empress Lilandra and we may even see his relationships with Cadre K and the Starjammers. I don’t think I’ll reference his adventures as Bald Phoenix though, at least not directly.”

Carey is finding “X-Men: Legacy” to be a difficult but rewarding title to write. “In some ways this is one of the most fascinating writing gigs I ever had,” he said. “It’s huge amounts of fun; there aren’t many jobs where you can sit and read comics for an evening and go, 'This is work.’ But it is also one of the most time consuming things I’ve ever done because there’s so much continuity to master. So it’s challenging, but it’s a fun challenge, sort of like the world’s biggest Sudoku puzzle.”

In “X-Men: Legacy,” Charles Xavier is a man on a mission, one that will eventually have a resolution. “Charles ultimate goal is to reclaim his past and make decisions about his future, which I hope people won’t see coming,” Carey said. “We have kind of a finite canvas to work on. The idea is that 'Legacy’ in its current form will last approximately a year and than lead into something else but I’m not allowed to say what it is.”

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